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Buddhism Teachings Summary - UPSC

Buddhism and its teachings is a very important topic for UPSC, both for UPSC Prelims and Mains, Lets Learn about it in detail.


Teachings of the Buddha The basic teachings of the Buddha are contained in:

The Four Noble Truths, and The Eight-Fold Path.


The following are the Four Noble Truths:

1) The world is full of suffering.

2) All sufferings have a cause; desire, ignorance and attachment are the causes of sufferings.

3) The suffering could be removed by destroying its cause.

4) In order to end suffering one must know the right path.


This path is the Eight-Fold Path (Ashtangika Marga).


The Eight-Fold Path consists of the following principles:


  1. Right View. It is to understand that the world is filled with sorrow generated by desire. The ending of desire will lead to the liberation of the soul.

  2. Right aim. It seeks to avoid the enjoyment of the senses and luxury. It aims to love humanity and increase the happiness of others.

  3. Right speech, which seeks to emphasize the speaking of truth always.

  4. Right action, which is understood to be unselfish action.

  5. Right livelihood. It instructs that a man should live by honest means.

  6. Right effort. It is the proper way of controlling one’s senses so as to prevent bad thoughts. It is through correct mental exercises that one can destroy desire and attachment.

  7. Right mindfulness. It is the understanding of the idea that the body is impermanent, and meditation is the means for the removal of worldly evils.

  8. Right concentration. The observation of it will lead to peace. Meditation will unravel the Real Truth.


Buddhism laid great emphasis on the law of karma.

According to this law the present is determined by past actions. The condition of man in this life and the next depends upon his own actions. Every individual is maker of his own destiny. Thus, the doctrine of karma is the essential part of the teachings of the Buddha.


The Buddha preached nirvana, the ultimate goal in the life of a man. It means the shedding of all desires, and ending of sufferings, which finally leads to freedom from rebirth.


By a process of elimination of desire, one can attain ‘nirvana’. Prayers and sacrifices will not end the desire. So, unlike the emphasis on rituals and ceremonies in the Vedic religion he laid emphasis on the moral life of an individual.


The Buddha neither accepted nor rejected the existence of God. He was more concerned about the individual and his actions.


Buddhism also did not believe in the existence of soul.


Other Core Concepts of Buddhism:-


The Buddha emphasized on the spirit of love. Love could be expressed towards all living beings by following ‘ahimsa’ (non-killing).


Though the principle was well understood, it was not emphasized as much as in Jainism.


An individual should pursue the middle path and both severe asceticism as well as luxurious life are to be avoided.


Buddhism in a very short period emerged into an organized religion and the Buddha’s teachings were codified.


The Buddhist canon (collection of teachings) is divided into three sections namely:


1) The Sutta Pitaka consists of five sections (nikayas) of religious discourses and sayings of the Buddha. The fifth section contains the Jataka tales (birth stories of the Buddha).


2) The Vinaya Pitaka contains the rules of monastic discipline.


3) The Abhidhamma Pitaka contains the philosophical ideas of teachings of the Buddha. It is written in the form of questions and answers.


Buddhism Summary in one photograph

Which one of the following describes best the concept of Nirvana in Buddhism?

  • The extinction of the flame of desire 

  • The complete annihilation of self

  • A state of bliss and rest

  • A mental stage beyond all comprehension


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