Friday, March 19, 2010

The Early beginnings...

The Brahmanical religious system had its beginning in early Vedic literature. The term Brahmana is derived from the root “Brh” to grow, expand, evolve and swell the spirit of soul. The priests, who were the custodians of such prayers, assumed a very high degree of spiritual supremacy in Vedic society. The Pali Buddhist cannon suggests there was another stream of cultural current that prevailed at that time, and was quite independent of the Brahmanical or Vedic current. The other stream was called Sramana; it was generally assumed that Brahmins go north of Ganges towards Himalaya, as the origin of Ganga and its proximity was considered sacred. Buddha however traveled south and crossed the river Ganges as any Sramana would do and reached Magadhan capital Rajgir, the place where the Sramana movement was flourishing in the community.

The word Sramana is derived from "Sram" to exert effort, labour, or to perform austerity, but is mixed in meaning with “Sam” a wandered, recluse. One who performs acts of mortification or austerity is called “Sramana”. Sometimes the term Samana is used in Pali literature, as an adjective showing respect towards the designated teacher. The Buddha himself is called Mahasamana, and his followers Sakyaputtiya Samanas

As mentioned before many schools of thoughts were practiced and most of the shramans were Brahmins and majority of their disciples were Brahmin too. The goal of every person following such a lifestyle was to discover a path to escape from the cycles of rebirth. Each school of Sramanas preached its own way of salvation but they all agreed in one respect, namely, in discounting ritual as a means of emancipation and establishing a path of moral, mental and spiritual development as the only means of escaping from the misery of Samsara

For a better understanding about the Buddhist heritage of Rajgir and around we try to document the events associated with Buddha with help of the Buddhist literature which were translated into English from the original Pali language and sought help form these two websites.

The references of the travelogues are taken from,
1. “Records of Buddhist Kingdom By Fahien” translated by James Legge, 1886
2. The life of Xuanzang (“Life”)- Shaman Hwui Li by Samuel Beal in 1911
3. On Yuan chwang’s travels in India (“Travels”) - Thomas watters in 1904-05

Next Post: Names and their Variations

No comments: