Who is the founder of Mahayana Buddhism

The historical origins of Mahayana Buddhism



1. The monk and nun community (samgha) in primitive Buddhism

2. Stupa worship, lay movement and the beginnings of Mahayana

3. The Council of Rajagrha (about 480 BC)

4. The Council of Vaisali (approx. 380 BC)

5. King Asoka (268 BC - 232/3 BC)

6. Forest monkhood

7. The Council of Pataliputra (c. 250 BC)

8. Buddhism in India at the turn of the times

9. The Council of Kashmir (2nd century AD)

10. The school of the Mahasanghikas and the novelties in their teaching

Conclusion: Outlook on the further development and spread of Mahayana Buddhism


During my research into the historical origins of Mahayana Buddhism, I found that the existing German and English-language literature on it is very sparse. The information about the early Buddhist period was also littered with the words “possibly”, “circa”, “not sure”, etc. For the following work I searched through countless books and then tried to use the scientifically often unconfirmed material obtained from them to bring some order into the historical process. Mahayana Buddhism did not develop out of a particular fact or view. Many factors, such as divergent views in the monasteries about Buddhist doctrine, the resulting divisions of the order, the first four councils, the lay movement and the influence of the kings Ashoka and Kaniska, created the prerequisites for the emergence of Mahayana Buddhism. This is reported in the following:

1. The monk and nun community (samgha) in primitive Buddhism

Up until the time of the historical Buddha Shakyamuni (approx. 460 BC - approx. 480 BC) there were no monasteries in ancient India. The religious landscape was shaped by Brahmin beggars who led a hermit existence. After Buddha under the bodhi After Baum had received enlightenment, he preached to the five men who had stood by him during his previous asceticism. These became his disciples and founded the first mendicant monk order. More monks (bhiksu) and also lay people (upasaka) joined the new religious founder. At the urging of his nephew Anandas, the Buddha unwillingly agreed to found an order of nuns. In order to distinguish themselves from the secular believers, the religious initially renounced permanent housing. The main purpose of her life was to learn about the teachings of the Buddha (dharma) to meditate and gradually get rid of their passions. They received food and clothing as alms from the laypeople, to whom they received this in return dharma brought close. The order also received real estate as a gift early on and built the first monasteries there, to which the wandering monks withdrew during the three-month long rainy season. The rules (vinaya) for their religious community (samgha) were considered to have been established by Buddha and were passed on orally. In the 1st century BC Was the discipline of the order (vinayapitaka) next to the teachings of the Buddha (suttapitaka) and the scholastic versions (abhidharmapitaka) in the so-called "three basket" (tripitaka) put down in writing. The religious lay people voluntarily undertook to abstain from murder, theft, unlawful sexual acts, lying and negligence as a result of intoxicating drinks. The observance of these rules and the practice of virtues, such as generosity, promised them rebirth as monks and thus the chance to move on to the next life Nirvana to be able to enter. Unlike the laity, the monks made a vow (pratimoksa) to comply with the 250 rules - 350 for nuns. It was divided into eight categories:

- parajika
including chastity, not stealing, murdering or lying
- sanghadisea
i.a. no slander against other monks; no attempts to split the order
* Two rules regarding lighter attacks / contacts by monks too
- naihsaryika-prayascittika
regulated what a monk was allowed to own
- patayantika
referred to less severe attacks, such as harsh
Talking or lying
- pratidesaniya
Regulations regarding food
- saiksa
Rules of behavior, for example for begging, eating and preaching
- adhikarana-samatha

Possible solutions to a dispute

There were also the following basic rules for monastic life: A bhiksu was only allowed to eat alms, only wear used, ragged clothes, had to sleep under trees apart from the rainy season and was only allowed to use the urine of cows as a remedy for his wounds.

In the event of a violation of the rules, the person concerned could be pardoned, reprimanded or temporarily / permanently excluded by his religious community within the framework of legal proceedings. At the end of the annual rainy season, each monk had to confess his wrongdoings to another and vow to get better. In the subsequent pravarana During the ceremony, all members of the order had to confess their innocence three times after the head of the monastery had recited the pratimoksa. A newly ordained bhiksu was taught the discipline by a moral teacher and the Buddha's teaching by a spiritual teacher for ten years. During this time he lived with them and served them. The vow was not binding for life. The monks were free to return to the laity. This opportunity was primarily intended for those who had only joined the order for “secular” reasons, such as fleeing poverty. The Buddha allowed everyone, regardless of their caste, to become monks or nuns. Very soon, however, certain groups such as criminals, the indebted or the sick were excluded from admission to the order.

2. Stupa worship, lay movement and the beginnings of Mahayana

Popular and lay piety played a major role in the development of Mahayana Buddhism and the associated way of life. I have already mentioned the original position of the laity towards the monks above. It should also be noted that they administered the property of the religious that had acquired through donations, as they were forbidden to handle money. Over time, people's need grew for a protector to whom they could bring their requests and whom they could venerate. Who better suited the devout Buddhists than Buddha himself? That Gautama Shakyamuni is already in nirvana received and, strictly speaking, according to his own doctrine, was no longer within reach of anyone, did not bother the laity. After the death of the founder of the religion, there were eight of his remains stupas been distributed in central India. Both stupas it was a semicircular mound of earth with a stick in the middle, under which the ashes of the deceased were kept in pre-Buddhist times. They now became centers for pious laypeople who came there to worship the Buddha. The term “Mahayana” did not arise until a few hundred years later, but there were already alternative perspectives to the original teaching among the original Buddhists, which can be described as mahayana-philosophical. So some believers did not see it as their main goal, their own Nirvana to realize; rather they wanted than Bodhisattvas Liberate as many people as possible from suffering and lead them to redemption. They believed that lay people as well as monks could become Buddhas. The stupas now offered the space to be instructed by secular teachers in this new view and the Bodhisattvas to be worshiped as heroes and role models. Initially, others became independent from the monastic orders stupas built with preference at large crossroads in order to reach as many people as possible. More and more monks and nuns visited these places and made offerings. In response to the popularity of the stupa Worship were stupas now also built inside the monasteries. Individual cult acts, such as dance, music and theater, were forbidden for religious and were reserved for lay people. Mahayana Buddhism later adopted these elements. The monasteries were due to the stupas to places of worship; however, the lay people, who were influenced by Mahayana Buddhist ideas, increasingly questioned the privileges of the monks and demanded equality of rights vis-à-vis them. In some Mahayana texts, the way of the layman is even rated higher than that of the religious, on the grounds that the former is not through all vinaya -Rules protected from life's numerous temptations.


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