Buddhism history is a result of the cultural concepts existing in ancient India as this is where the Buddha was born, and ultimately, taught his distinct and revealing truths.
Many people think of Tibet, China or Japan when they think of Buddhism, or the origins of Buddhism. Or, they think of the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, or other popular Buddhists.
These people and places, and others, are where Buddhism beliefs spread to, not where they originated! The Buddha was born in what is now Nepal, and he wandered the Indian countryside teaching his dharma.
Brahmanism, the pre-Hindu religion that existed at the time of Gautama Buddha is often thought to have contributed to the beliefs of Buddhism.
There are some current-day Hindu beliefs that Gautama Buddha is a Hindu God.
While it is true that Buddhism and Brahmanism, or what is now Hinduism, share similar beliefs such as reincarnation and karma, some scholars believe early Buddhism did not see these beliefs in the same way.
We can go deeper into the culture of ancient India to be able to understand Buddhism history.
In fact, the Indus Valley civilization is a great place to start. This magnificent ancient civilization flourished in the Indus River valley from about 2800 B.C.E to 1800 B.C.E.
Archaeological excavations of the Indus Valley civilization show a number of similarities in the religious and cultural beliefs of Buddhism. These include the Bodhi tree, and animals such as elephants and deer.
Also is the discovery of a human figure that is seated cross-legged, back straight, hands resting on knees, and eyes narrowed. The figure is that of a man in the classic meditation posture.
From the written record of the Aryans of the Indus Valley culture we know the wandering ascetic is common to both cultures. That is, the Aryan culture and later, at the time of Buddhist India.
Aspects of other Buddhism beliefs such as renunciation, meditation, rebirth, karma, and liberation were a part of the religion and culture of the Indus Valley people too.
Certainly this great civilization had at least a minor affect concerning the history of Buddhism as it is tradition.
Gautama Buddha taught that the path is an ancient path and the goal an ancient goal. Gautama Buddha taught that he was not the first Buddha.
There were at least six Buddhas before him. Maybe Gautama understood the impact of previous teachings that arose from the ancestors of India.
There is more understanding required in order to feel comfortable with Buddhism history at this level. That is, Gautama Buddha realized dependent arising.
He knew directly that the cultural and religious beliefs of his day were carried forward to future generations from past generations.
He also realized that these powerful cultural beliefs could cause harm, or, at least were wrong as they included beliefs such as the caste system.
In this way the Buddha realized much more than his fellow practitioners (Brahamins, ascetics, et cetera) could possibly understand or realize.
He saw through these 'cultural' beliefs as a result of great insight and understanding that arose within.
The first teaching, the turning of the 'wheel of dharma', Gautama's earth-shattering understanding, and ultimately 'Buddhism' itself arose in this manner through the keen mind of one man: Siddhartha Gautama.
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