SOME THOUGHTS ON THE CIVIL SERVICES EXAMS — (SERIES ARTICLE 15—Ancient India Buddhism )

 

Whoever sees me sees the teaching—BUDDHA.

The way is not in the sky it is in the heart. – Buddha.

“ Buddha has always had a great appeal for me. It is difficult for me to analyze this appeal, but it is not a religious appeal, and I am not interested in the dogmas that have grown up round Buddhism. It is the personality that has drawn me. So also the personality of Christ has attracted me greatly”.— Jawaharlal Nehru in his autobiography.

While studying History and various personalities it is always better if one brings the characters out of mists of time, fill them with blood and flesh as if we are witnessing those people in our era, visualizing in our own unique way it gets imprinted in our mind.

Buddhism is very important as far as preliminary exams are concerned, they ask mainly the concepts as what Buddha preached, like the following some examples.

What is Buddhism?

The name Buddhism comes from the word ‘budhi’ which means ‘to wake up’ and thus Buddhism is the philosophy of awakening. This philosophy has its origins in the experience of the man Siddhartha Gotama, known as the Buddha, who was himself awakened at the age of 35. Buddhism is now 2,500 years old and has about 300 million followers worldwide. Until a hundred years ago Buddhism was mainly an Asian philosophy but increasingly it is gaining adherents in Europe, Australia and America.

  1. The First Noble Truth is that life is suffering.
  2. The Second Noble Truth is that all suffering is caused by craving
  3. The Third Noble Truth is that suffering can be overcome and happiness attained. This is perhaps the most important of the Four Noble Truths because in it the Buddha reassures us that true happiness and contentment are possible. When we give up useless craving and learn to live each day at a time, enjoying without restlessly wanting the experiences that life offers us, patiently enduring the problems that life involves, without fear, hatred and anger, then we become happy and free. Then, and then only, do we begin to live fully. Because we are no longer obsessed with satisfying our own selfish wants, we find that we have so much time to help others fulfill their needs. This state is called Nirvana. We are free from psychological suffering.

 

  1. The Fourth Noble Truth is the Path leading to the overcoming of suffering. This path is called the Noble Eightfold Path and consists of Perfect Understanding, Perfect Thought, Perfect Speech, Perfect Action, Perfect Livelihood, Perfect Effort, Perfect Mindfulness, and Perfect Concentration. Buddhist practice consist of practicing these eight things until they become more complete. You will notice that the steps on the Noble Eightfold Path cover every aspect of life: the intellectual, the ethical and economic and the psychological and therefore contains everything a person needs to lead a good life and to develop spiritually.

 

  1. What or where is Nirvana?

It is a dimension transcending time and space and thus is difficult to talk about or even think about. Words and thoughts being only suited to describe the time-space dimension. But because Nirvana is beyond time, there is no movement and so no aging or dying. Thus Nirvana is eternal because it is beyond space, there is no causation, no boundary, no concept of self and not-self and thus Nirvana is infinite. The Buddha also assures us that Nirvana is an experience of great happiness. He says:

Nirvana is the highest happiness.

Dhammapada 204

  1. The sacred book of Buddhism is called the Tipitaka. It is written in an ancient Indian language called Pali which is very close to the language that the Buddha himself spoke. The Tripitaka is a very large book. The English translation of it takes up nearly forty volumes.

 

  1. The Dhammapada is one of the smallest works in the first sections of the Tipitaka. The name could be translated as ‘The Way of Truth’ or ‘Verses of Truth’. It consists of 423 verses, some pithy, some profound, some containing appealing similes, some of considerable beauty, all spoken by the Buddha. Consequently the Dhammapada is the most popular piece of Buddhist literature. It has been translated into most major languages and is recognized as one of the masterpieces of world religious literature.

Let us see the kinds of questions which are asked.—as under.

  1. Lord Buddha’s image is sometimes shown with the hand gesture called ‘Bhumisparsha Mudra’. It symbolizes

(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

  1. With reference to the history of ancient India, which of the following

Was /were common to both Buddhism and Jainism?

  1. Avoidance of extremities of penance and enjoyment
  2. Indifference to the authority of the Vedas
  3. Denial of efficacy of rituals

Select the correct answer using the codes given below

(a) 1 only         (b) 2 and 3 only   (c) 1 and 3 only    (d) 1, 2 and 3

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I thought I will quote a few great verses from the famous book of Light of Asia on Buddha by Edwin Arnold which is in full poems. He says “I have put the poems in Buddha’s mouth”. Though this may not be useful for our exams, I was tempted as the lines are irresistible which are as follows—

“ Om, Amitaya! Measure not with words

Th’ Immeasurable; nor sink the string of thought

Into the Fathomless. Who asks doth err.

Who answers, errs. Say nought!

 

The Books teach Darkness was, at first of all,

And Brahma, sole meditating in that Night;

Look not for Brahma and the Beginning there!

Nor him, not any light.

Shall any gazer see with mortal eyes,

Or any searcher know by mortal mind;

Veil after veil will lift—but there must be

Veil upon veil behind.

 

Stars sweep and question not. This is enough

That life and death and joy and woe abide;

And cause and sequence, and the course of time,

And Being’s ceasless tide,

 

Which, ever changing, runs, linked like a river

By ripples following ripples, fast or slow—

The same yet not the same—from far-of fountain

To where its waters flow.”

Tomorrow we will see Jainism and Bhakti movements of medieval India.

In civil services preparations the journey is the reward. Persist on the journey and greatness is yours! All the best!!!

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