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Religions in India Sample

India is known as the land of philosophy and spirituality, and many religions were born in this country. Most of the religions that started in India long time ago exist in the world today. These religions include Buddhism, Hinduism, Jainism, and Sikhism. Buddhism, Hinduism, and Jainism are the three ancient religions that are seen to have molded the philosophy of India. 

Buddhism is defined as a philosophy and religion covering a number of beliefs, practices and traditions, broadly grounded on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, usually referred to as the Buddha. From the history of Buddhism it has been found that the term Buddha meant the one who is awakened.  The Buddha dwelt in the northeastern subcontinent of India during the time between 6th and 4th centuries BCE and it is in this northern subcontinent of India where he was teaching. He is actually distinguished as an enlightened or awakened teacher by the Buddhists as he is seen to have shared his thoughts to assist sentient beings to come out of suffering, accomplish nirvana, and get out of what is perceived as a cycle of distress and Renaissance (Keown pg.163).  

Today, Buddhism exists in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, China, Laos, Japan, and in particular parts of Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh, also in USA and the European countries. As believe, the Buddhist population is about five hundred million and over. In the world today, more than four types of Buddhism exist. The first type is referred to as authentic Buddhism, the second is religious Buddhism, the third is the philosophical study of the teachings of Buddha, and the fourth type is externalist and deviant Buddhism (Keown pg.136).          

Hinduism is defined as a diverse body of philosophy, religion, and cultural practice that is native to India. In India today, Hinduism the religion that most dominates. By research findings, it is clear that about 80% of Indians belong to the Hinduism religion. Hinduism is seen as a colorful religion having a huge gallery of Gods and Goddesses. Hinduism is believed to have come into existence about 5000 years ago. It was after the development of Hinduism that the rest of the religions came into existence in India.  Hinduism was evolved from the Vedic religion that existed in ancient India, and it has got two major branches namely, Shaivism and Vaishnavism. Of great importance to Hinduism, is the faith in a cosmic principle of an absolute reality that is referred to us Brahman and its identity with atman. It is believed that all creatures undergo a cycle of reincarnation which can get broken by spiritual self-fulfillment after which liberation is achieved (Flood pg.232).

Jainism is the Indian religion that authorizes a path of non-violence toward all beings living in the world. The practice and philosophy of Jainism stresses the importance of self-effort to direct the soul toward divine liberation and consciousness. The soul that has suppressed its inner enemies and attained a state of Supreme Being is referred to us Jina. The followers of Jainism consider that it has always existed, but the reality is that, Jainism came into existence before 3000 B.C. and before the Indo-Aryan culture began. It is believed that the organized Jainism arose between the 9th and 6th centuries B.C.E. But some researchers have speculated that Jainism may have come into existence in a much earlier time. In the world today, the religion has about 4.2 million followers within India. Jainism has to a greater extent contributed to and influenced political, economic and ethical spheres in India (Titze pg. 145).  

Schism is a monotheistic religion that was founded in the fifteenth century. It was founded on the precepts of Guru Nanak Dev Ji and the ten subsequent Sikh Gurus. Schism has been found to be the fifth largest worldwide and is among the fast growing religions. Schism is a system of religious expression and philosophy that has been referred to as Gurmat.  In spite of Schism, which is a monotheistic religion, monotheism has failed to develop in India. This is because the Indians want a choice; they don’t want to depend on only one God. The Hindu gods and goddesses are just like candidates contesting for a seat in a democracy. These gods and goddesses have to promote themselves claiming about the good things they are going to do after they are sworn in. Hindus would be very distressed by that god who puts a man to an unnatural deed only to test his trueness (Korte and Maaike pg.240). For example, the story of Abraham in the Old Testament of a Bible, as God instructed him to sacrifice his son as an offering.            

Disappearance of Buddhism from India and its status today

Buddhism is defined as a philosophy and religion covering a number of beliefs, practices and traditions, broadly grounded on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, usually referred to as the Buddha. From the history of Buddhism it has been found that the term Buddha meant the one who is awakened.  The Buddha dwelt in the northeastern subcontinent of India during the time between 6th and 4th centuries BCE and it is in this northern subcontinent of India where he was teaching (Keay pg.567). He is actually distinguished as an enlightened or awakened teacher by the Buddhists as he is seen to have shared his thoughts to assist sentient beings to come out of suffering, accomplish nirvana, and get out of what is perceived as a cycle of distress and Renaissance (Keown pg.163).   

Buddhism is divided into to major branches namely, Theravada and Mahayana. Theravada is the oldest existing branch and widespread in Southeast Asia and Sir Lanka where it was referred to as “The School of the Elders”. Mahayana was widespread all over East Asia and it encompasses those traditions of Zen, Tibetan Buddhism, and Pure Land. It has been seen from some other classifications that Vajrayana is Mahayana’s subcategory which is practiced in Mongolia and Tibet, and is considered a third branch. As Buddhism remains popular in Asia, the three branches are spread throughout the world (Sikora pg.96).

The Buddhist schools are seen to deviate from one another on the precise nature of the way to liberation, the significance and canonicity of the assorted scriptures and teachings, and particularly their various practices. Buddhist practice and tradition is founded by the Buddha, the Sangha, and the Dharma (Kinnard pg.42). Hiding in the triple gem was traditionally been seen as commitment and declaration to being on way of Buddhist and this was used to distinguish a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist. The other practices includes ethical precepts, the practice of meditation and the development of mindfulness, devotional practices, study of scriptures, ceremonies, discernment and refinement of higher wisdom, and the invocation of bodhisattvas and buddhas (Keown pg.167).

The disappearing of Buddhism from India which is its land of birth becomes a supreme irony. Most scholars of Hinduism, Indian history, Buddhism, and of religion have shown a devotion of finding out how this happened and why. It has been seen that there is no complete consensus on the issue, while some scholars have argued that Buddhism did not disappear as such from its land of birth, but was simply altered in its form, or the Hindu practices absorbed it. Buddhism disappeared because of the dominance of reformed Hinduism. Some scholars view that the Buddhists were persecuted by the Brahmins, who were enthusiastic to put forward their caste domination (Conze pg.234).

The major cause that resulted into Buddhism disappearing from India was that the monks neglected its life and values. As the Buddhism monks came to understand that there was no one who was fit or could be a monk or nun, they closely considered only to the monk’s life but not the householder’s life, and this was one of the exteriority. The Buddhist philosophers started to teach about this life being a value of misery and tears. Particular forms of Vedanta instructed people concerning the same philosophy; Mimamsa’s attitude and the Epics salvaged Hinduism from the destiny that overcame Buddhism in India (Keay pg.540).

Women were admitted into monasteries and there were more haphazard conversion of women and men into nuns and monks. This was another reason to why Buddhism disappeared from India. As true celibacy and renunciation were appreciated, people required to see them proficient. While people defended these monasteries with the little money they struggled to acquire, they were against its residents living in enjoyment and luxury as these were the condemned virtues. If nuns and monks had lived according to the rules they were instructed, people would have defended them despite any adversity which they had to encounter (Conze pg.225).    

Deterioration in the economic and political life of the country was another cause of Buddhism disappearing from India.  Monasteries were defended by the people as well as the Kings such as Asoka. If unfortunately a king died or a dynasty fell, the next in line would most likely not provide similar extent of support. The thinkers of the king recognized that their defeat was attributed to the death of their excellent leaders, fighters, who had been ranked as monks. This made it easy for the foreign invader to get into the country and took over. Through studies, the first foreign invasion in India was by the Greeks and this invasion occurred in 327 B.C. which was a number of centuries after the peace movement of Emperor Asoka (Keown pg.152).Buddhism was practiced in the monasteries and missed a moral code. By the time when monasteries disappeared, the Buddhism also disappeared. The Muslims invaded North India and the Buddhist monasteries were ruthlessly destroyed. As a result, the lamp of Buddhism was extinguished in the Northern parts of India.  The motiveless destruction of Bihar as the great monastery and the wholesale butcher of its monks, can enable one understand the way other great monasteries of Vikramasira and Nalanda tragically came to an end (Hirakawa and Paul pg.332).  

The uttermost severity popularized and practiced by both Jainism and Buddhism distressed India’s social life. Magadha, which was the seat of several imperial dynasties, turned Bihar, which was the land of monasteries. In these religions, there was nothing to stress the significance of life in the present world. These brought about a bloodless insurrection by the orthodox during the eight-century A.D. The insurrection was staged from the Upanisadic and the Brahmanic. Sankara was the ruled in the former and Kumarila ruled in the latter. Fortunately, Kumarila came through in revitalizing substantial positive feelings toward the world. Sankara, on the other hand, saw that all the good things in Buddhism were also found in the Upanishads hence, Sankara absorbed and assimilated Buddhism. Therefore, the separate existence of Buddhism in India was not justified. Buddhism lacked social ethics and a result could not have hold over the society. Buddhism failed to stand alone just like a spiritual discipline since it was absorbed and became part of the Upanishads (Conze pg.217).   

Today, Buddhism exists in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, China, Laos, Japan, and in particular parts of Pakistan, India, Nepal and Bangladesh, also in USA and the European countries. As believe, the Buddhist population is about five hundred million and over. In the world today, more than four types of Buddhism exist. The first type is referred to as authentic Buddhism, the second is religious Buddhism, the third is the philosophical study of the teachings of Buddha, and the fourth type is externalist and deviant Buddhism (Keown pg.136).