Historical criticism has proved that the original teachings of Buddha can never be known. It seems that Gautama Buddha’s teachings were memorized by his disciples. After Buddha’s death a council was held at Rajagaha so that the words of Buddha could be recited and agreed upon. There were differences of opinion and conflicting memories in the council. Opinion of Kayshapa and Ananda who were prominent disciples of Buddha were given preference. A hundred years later, a second council at Vesali was held. Only after 400 years, after the death of Buddha were his teachings and doctrines written down. Little attention was paid regarding its authenticity, genuineness and purity.
Buddhist Scriptures can be divided into Pali and Sanskrit Literature:
A. Pali Literature:
The Pali literature was monopolized by the Hinayana sect of Buddhism.
The most important of all Buddhist scriptures is the TRI-PITAKA which is in Pali text. It is supposed to be the earliest recorded Buddhist literature which was written in the 1st Century B.C.
The TRI-PITAKA or Three Baskets of law is composed of 3 books:
1. Vinaya Pitaka: ‘Rules of Conduct’
his is a boTok of discipline and mainly deals with rules of the order.
2. Sutta Pitaka: ‘Discourses’
It is a collection of sermons and discourses of Gautama Buddha and the incidents in his life. It is the most important Pitaka and consists of five divisions known as Nikayas. Dhammapada is the most famous Pali literature and contains aphorisms and short statements covering the truth.
3. Abhidhamma: ‘Analysis of Doctrine’
This third basket contains meta physical doctrines and is known as Buddhist meta physicals. It is an analytical and logical elaboration of the first two pitakas. It contains analysis and exposition of Buddhist doctrine.
B. Sanskrit Literature:
Sanskrit literature was preferred by the Mahayana. Sanskrit literature has not been reduced to a collection or in Cannon like the Pali literature. Thus much of the original Sanskrit literature has been lost. Some were translated into other languages like Chinese and are now being re-translated into Sanskrit.
1. Maha vastu: ‘Sublime Story’
Mahavastu is the most famous work in Sanskrit which has been restored from its Chinese translation. It consists of voluminous collection of legendary stories.
Lalitavistara is one of the holiest of the Sanskrit literature. It belongs to the first century C.E., 500 years after the death of Buddha. It contains the miracles which the superstition loving people have attributed to Buddha.
II. TEACHINGS OF BUDDHA:
A. Noble Truths:
The principal teachings of Gautama Buddha can be summarised in what the Buddhists call the ‘Four Noble Truths’:
First – There is suffering and misery in life .
Second – The cause of this suffering and misery is desire.
Third – Suffering and misery can be removed by removing desire.
Fourth – Desire can be removed by following the Eight Fold Path.
B. The Noble Eight Fold Path:
(i) Right Views
(ii) Right Thoughts
(iii) Right Speech
(iv) Right Actions
(v) Right Livelihood
(vi) Right Efforts
(vii) Right Mindfulness
(viii) Right Meditation
Nirvana’ literally means “blowing out” or “extinction”. According to Buddhism, this is the ultimate goal of life and can be described in various words. It is a cessation of all sorrows, which can be achieved by removing desire by following the Eight Fold Path.
III. PHILOSOPHY OF BUDDHISM IS SELF – CONTRADICTORY:
As mentioned earlier, the main teachings of Buddhism are summarised in the Four Noble Truths:
(i) There is suffering and misery in life.
(ii) The cause of suffering and misery is desire.
(iii) Suffering and misery can be removed by removing desire.
(iv) Desire can be removed by following the Eight Fold Path.
This Philosophy of Buddhism is self-contradictory or self-defeating because the third truth says ‘suffering and misery can be removed by removing desire’ and the fourth truth says that ‘desire can be removed by following the Eight Fold Path’.
Now, for any person to follow Buddhism he should first have the desire to follow the Four Noble Truths and the Eight Fold Path. The Third great Noble Truth says that desire should be removed. Once you remove desire, how can we follow the Fourth Noble truth i.e. follow the Eight Fold Path unless we have a desire to follow the Eight Fold Path. In short desire can only be removed by having a desire to follow the Eight Fold Path. If you do not follow the Eight Fold Path, desire cannot be removed. It is self contradicting as well as self-defeating to say that desire will only be removed by continuously having a desire.