Buddhism – UPSC Prelims

  • Buddhism is 2,500 years old.
  • It is one of the important religions of South and South-Eastern Asian countries.
  • Buddhism arose as a result of Siddhartha Gautama’s quest for Enlightenment in around the 6th Century BC.
  • There is no belief in a personal God. It is not centred on the relationship between humanity and God.
  • Buddhists believe that nothing is fixed or permanent – change is always possible.
  • The two main Buddhist sects are Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism, but there are many more.
  • The path to Enlightenment is through the practice and development of morality, meditation and wisdom.
  • The religion is based upon the teachings, life experiences of its founder Siddhartha Gautam, born in circa 563 BCE.
Siddhartha Gautam:
  • He was born into the royal family of the Sakya clan who ruled from Kapilvastu, in Lumbini which is situated near the Indo-Nepal Border.
  • At the age of 29, Gautama left home and rejected his life of riches and embraced a lifestyle of asceticism, or extreme self-discipline.
  • After 49 consecutive days of meditation, Gautama attained Bodhi (enlightenment) under a pipal tree at Bodhgaya a village in Bihar.
  • Buddha gave his first sermon in the village of Sarnath, near the city of Benares in UP. This event is known as Dharma-Chakra-Pravartana (turning of the wheel of law).
  • He died at the age of 80 in 483 BCE at a place called Kushinagara, a town in UP. The event is known as Mahaparinibban.
Previous Year Questions:
Q 1.) With reference to Indian history, who among the following is a future Buddha, yet to come to save the world? (2018)
(a) Avalokiteshvara
(b) Lokesvara
(c) Maitreya
(d) Padmapani
Ans: (c)
  • According to Buddhist history and tradition, Maitreya Buddha is believed to be a Bodhisattva, who will appear on the Earth in the future, will achieve Nirvana and will teach the people of Earth the pure Dharma just like Shakyamuni Buddha did.
Q 2.) Which one of the following describes best the concept of Nirvana in Buddhism? (2013)
(a) The extinction of the flame of desire
(b) The complete annihilation of self
(c) A state of bliss and rest
(d) A mental stage beyond all comprehension
Ans: (a)
  • Roughly translated, Nirvana means “to snuff out”, in the way one extinguishes a fire of desire.
  • In Buddhism, Nirvana has no negative connotations, rather it means moving to another plane of existence by extinguishing the flames of desire, delusion, anger and hatred.
Q 3.) Lord Buddha’s image is sometimes shown with the hand gesture called ‘Bhumisparsha Mudra’. It symbolizes (2012)
(a) Buddha’s calling of the Earth to watch over Mara and to prevent Mara from disturbing his meditation
(b) Buddha’s calling of the Earth to witness his purity and chastity despite the temptations of Mara
(c) Buddha’s reminder to his followers that they all arise from the Earth and finally dissolve into the Earth, and thus this life is transitory
(d) Both the statements (a) and (b) are correct in this context
Ans: (b)
  • Lord Buddha in Bhumisparsha Mudra is seen seated with his right hand as a pendant over the right knee, reaching toward the ground with the palm inward while touching the lotus throne. In the meantime, the left hand can be seen with the palm upright in his lap.
  • This gesture (Mudra) represents the moment of the Buddha’s awakening as he claims the Earth as the witness of his victory over demon king Mara and enlightenment.
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