Every religion always impacted positively or negatively to any society. And, it does this through its teachings. However, Buddhism is merely a way of life and, it does not include the concept of God. The existence of God is neither confirmed nor denied instead it is a non-theistic system.
Hence, Buddhism continues to mold the thoughts of many countries and contributed largely towards the growth of their culture in its various aspects.
Thus, these aspects include:
- Promotion of social equality and social justice
- The opposition of the Caste system
- Character Building
- Impact on Simple Religion and Traditions.
- Role on Education
- Impact on great Personality
- Influence in Writing and printing
- Art and Architectural Influence
- Influence in Commerce
- Development of language and Literature
- Respect for Animal life
- Development of University
- Establishment of contact between foreign countries
Promotion Of Social Equality And Social Justice
The ethical code of Buddhism systematically bases on charity, purity, self-sacrifice, truthfulness, and control over passions. Most importantly, it lays great emphasis on love, equality, and non-violence of a given society. Therefore, it was devoid of any elaborate idea of God and inspired institutional changes in many countries such as India.
Buddha’s disciples belonged to all strata of the society and popularised the creed of ‘Ahimsa Paramo Dharma’ in India. Also, it raised the status and position of the women in society by ensuring their recognition and appointment into the ruling positions of the country.
In addition, Buddhism ensured that the issue of male chauvinism was a thing of the past. As a result, it allows women to have the full rights of their children and properties even after the demise of their husband.
Lastly, it eradicated the caste system which brought a lot of menace in the society.
Basically, before the rise of Buddhism, there was a society called varna (caste system). Certainly, Buddhism opposed the superiority of this group on the ground of birth. For example, in India, a social class called Upali, who were barbers by caste, occupied an essential position in the sangha.
The Opposition Of The Caste System
Buddha vehemently opposed the caste system in the society which was an ugly practice during the remote phase of history. Due to this opposition, the complexity of caste system vanished from society. As a result, society breathed a healthy atmosphere. And, as well it was adopted as a principle and it became a favorite side of society.
What Was The Caste System Then?
It is a system that involves any of the hereditary, social classes, and subclasses of South Asian societies. This system perpetuated a lot of evil including rituals based on animal sacrifices, conservation, fasting, and pilgrim. Simply put, Buddhism preached for the total equality of all mankind.
The character is the moral strength of a being, Buddhism taught many good qualities like truthfulness, non-violence, non-possession, honesty, compassion, and the relationship of brotherhood etc. All these potentials were to build up human character. Therefore, people in society mostly cultivated these qualities. Also, it helped to grow noble thought. And, it created a healthy relationship amongst them.
Furthermore, referring to Buddhist philosophy about character building, it reminded us of the following points:
- Never Lose Hope: It is crucial to keep hope, even in a tough time of our life. However, change is constant and nothing is fixed not even our identity.
- Help others as much as possible: By applying this virtue of focusing on other people instead of our own, it will make us feel better about ourselves and enjoy the benefits that follow.
- Forgiveness: This quality will help improve our lives instead of bearing grudges that end up hindering our progress.
- Understanding: We need to show compassion and thoughtfulness for people who have a different view than us. Through such habit, progress will ensure in the society.
- Trust your sense: The only route to self-development is believing ourselves and not putting our belief into the algorithm of self-acclaimed experts.
- Transfer of Aggression: Buddhism teaches us to refrain from transferring our anger on others, instead a critical thinking and common sense can save us of such stress.
Impact On Simple Religion And Traditions
Although, Buddhism is a way of life and never that of religion, however, it also impacted profoundly on the tradition and religion of those practicing it.
What Is Tradition?
Tradition is the belief systems of the people. That is to say, it is how people think and behave, philosophically and religiously.
What Was The Critical Factor That Helped Buddhism Impact Traditionally And Religiously?
In understanding Buddhist belief systems, it is important to observe that the word “religion” for example, did not exist in the Chinese dictionary until the 19th century. Therefore, regarding the complexity of the Chinese belief system, it is crucial to understand that Buddhism was the force that helped shape China and other Buddhism practicing countries. One of the key forces that helped the success of Buddhism was Daoism.
What Is Daoism?
Simply, it is a religious or philosophical tradition of Chinese origin which teaches humility and living in oneness with each other.
How Did Daoism Come To China?
Daoism as a cultural system of beliefs and practices based on principles of compassion originated in the sixth century BCE in what is today Nepal. It was brought to China by Buddhist monks from India during the latter part of the Han dynasty (ca. 150 CE) and it took over a century to become assimilated and practiced into Chinese culture.
How did Daoism help implement Buddhism?
Indeed, to help the Chinese comprehend Buddhist concepts, Buddhists borrowed ideas from Daoism in the Chinese language. Therefore, both Buddhism and Daoism benefited from this exchange. Through this medium Daoists expanded their ideas about the universe and ways to structure their monastic orders. As a result, Buddhists gained a dictionary that made it easier to teach their tradition.
Also, over time Buddhism became a prevalent force in the lives of the Chinese, from the ordinary people to the emperor himself. In fact, by the sixth century, Buddhism rivaled Daoism in popularity and political influence, thus won at the end of the day. It was during this time, and throughout the following three centuries, that the significant schools of Chinese Buddhism formed.
The two schools that retain their influence today are Pure Land Buddhism and Chan (Zen) Buddhism.
Furthermore, in mainland China, where the government often suppresses religion, there are practitioners of these two schools of Chinese Buddhism till date.
On the same note, Buddhism also underwent many changes in the history of many countries and this varied in its social and religious manifestations and philosophical beliefs.
Most importantly, in China, two schools of Buddhism namely Huayen and Tianti promoted the philosophies and meditation practices through their teachings. Consequently, their influence fell on countries like Korea and Japan and they adopted the practice.
Conclusively, this feat made Buddhism profoundly impact in its society religiously and otherwise.
Role on Education
Buddhist education aimed at transforming personality into the highest form of humanity through ethical, intellectual and spiritual perfection. And, these three faculties of the perfection of human life undoubtedly will lead a man to eternal happiness, which is the highest achievement we all are equally looking for.
Therefore, Buddhist education is grounded on the primary psychological need of all living beings.
As well, education focused on the propagation of religion and inculcation of religious feelings. Also, it served as a means to achieve liberation from the shackles of illiteracy.
What If Students Find It Hard To Understand The Teachings Theoretically?
There was a provision for imparting wordily and practical knowledge along with religious education so that students will understand the teachings quickly.
Impact on great Personality
Buddhism developed a complex psychology of personality which aimed at identifying different types of persons. This is to enable the teachings imparted on them to base on mental development.
Hence, according to a Buddhist scholar named Asanga, he outlined seven personality types and their Levels of Listening.
- One with a strong tendency for desire, the best initial meditation for them is unattractiveness.
- Personalities with a strong tendency for hatred, the best meditation for them is good-will.
- Persons with a strong tendency for ignorance, the best meditation for them is dependent origination.
- Persons with a strong tendency for pride, the best meditation is humility.
- One with a strong tendency for lengthy thoughts, the best meditation for them is breath meditation.
- A Personality who is equally and moderately disposed of all mental afflictions, they may begin with any meditation.
- One with mental afflictions that are not very strong, they may also begin with any meditation.
As a result of this personality classification, great dignitaries like Dr. B.r Ambedkar got converted to Buddhism by rejecting Hinduism. Rabindranath Tagore built a Buddhist monastery which is a great learning center today.
Influence in Writing and Printing
Buddhism influences print technology in East Asia is far-reaching. The history of writing in Asia dates back to the 13th century BC. And, the Chinese people were using bones and shells for religious inscriptions.
As a result of this, the development of numerous forms of writing and printing became abound. In many instances, as in Europe, it was a religion that played a significant role in the development of writing and printing techniques. Or at least, Buddhism became the reason behind the usage of these techniques.
To that of the religions in East Asia, it was Buddhism that played the most substantial role in influencing writing and, in particular, printing.
Nevertheless, there were other factors that influenced the creation of manuscript and print culture. But, Buddhism had the most significant influence in spreading the usage of print technology. This, in turn, led to an increase in the dissemination of secular printing and literacy as well as wielding a vital influence on economics, government, and competing religions/philosophies.
Art and Architectural Influence
The famous Buddhist religious architecture is in the Indian subcontinent. Moreover, the three types of structures associated with the religious architecture of early Buddhism are:
- Monasteries (viharas)
- Places to adore relics (stupas),
- Shrines or prayer halls (chaityas, also called chaitya grihas), which later came to be called temples in some places.
What Other Function Does A Stupa Serve?
It also serves as a place for worshiping and safeguarding of the relics of Gautama Buddha.
Which Other Way Did Buddhism Influence Its Society Architecturally?
With the influence of Buddhism, and regards to its religious practice, stupas were gradually incorporated into chaitya-grihas (prayer halls). With time, there was an evolution of a stupa called Pagoda.
Also, a characteristic new development at Buddhist religious sites was the stupa. Stupas were initially being more sculpture than building, essentially markers of some holy site or commemorating a holy man who lived there.
Lastly, one of the earliest Buddhist sites is still in existence at Sanchi in India, and this centered on a stupa which Buddhists believes to have been built by King Ashoka (273–236 BCE).
Impact On Arts
As with Buddhist architecture, the art followed the spread of Buddhism throughout the south and east Asia. And, it was the early Indian models that served as a first reference point. Though, Buddhism virtually disappeared from India itself in the 10th century.
The decoration of Buddhist sites became more defined through the last two centuries BCE. This came as a result of the introduction of tablets and friezes, including human figures, particularly on stupas. However, the Buddha was not represented in human form until the 1st century CE. Instead, Buddhists represented the Buddha with an iconic symbol.
Which Other Way Did Buddhism Effect On Art?
It influenced the development of temples, which eventually became a backdrop for Buddha images in most cases.
As Buddhism spread, Buddhist art diverged in style, reflecting the similar trends in Buddhist architecture. Moreover, to some extent, the different forms of Buddhism in the northern countries practicing Mahayana Buddhism also influenced building forms. In addition, this affected the south where Theravada Buddhism prevailed till date.
Influence In Commerce
Buddhism and commerce have a close relationship. As a result, the two stimulated each other in such a way that the influence of the printing of religious texts was to a more considerable degree.
Being an organized religion with a principled way of carrying out the different task at a time, they partook in printing artifacts and religious texts in China, Korea, Japan, and other Asian societies.
However, the elites (bureaucracy) were against the spread of Buddhist doctrine and their trade, they made every approach to stop it but to no avail. Moreover, they were officially arresting any merchant and other commoners who will partake in such business.
How Did Buddhism Penetrate Even Upon The Oppositions?
Before, the arrival of Buddhism, some merchants have already been in such trade with its neighboring countries and societies. Hence, the monks followed such route which was unnoticed by the elites.
Secondly, Buddhism encouraged religious pilgrimages through their teachings which in turn energized the local production of artifacts and literature.
Which Other Approach Was Involved Aside Commerce And Travel?
Buddhism also assisted with the provision of a universal philosophy for its followers. Through this medium, different cultures, behaviors, religion, and races were able to engage in the trade and this propelled the spread of Buddhism doctrine to other regions.
Development Of Language And Literature
Buddha preached his message in Pali language. And, this language was familiar to the people. As a result, the spread of the languages enriched the people and their literature.
Also, the Buddha preached its message in the Sanskrit language. This equally empowered the language to greater heights than ever.
Respect For Animal Life
As regards one of the 10 precepts of a Buddhist monk to spare living things, the Buddha laid strong emphasis on non-violence and the sanctity of animal life. For instance, those who practice Buddhism see cattle as receivers of food, beauty, and happiness. Thus, this boosted their population till date.
Also, Hindus being original meat eaters became vegetarians due to the influence of Buddhism. Simply put, Buddhism created a positive effect on livestock commodities.
Development Of University
The Buddhist monasteries served also as an institution for education purposes. Consequently, the teaching of its vernacular literature (Pali) which would later on developed into an extensive body of literature.
Lastly, Buddhism promoted education through famous residential universities like Nalanda, Taxila Vikramaasila, and Yalabhi.
Establishment Of Contact Between Foreign Countries
Buddhism established intimate contact between India and foreign countries. That is to say, in the 3rd century BC, the Buddhist monks carried the gospel of the Buddha to other countries. And, foreign students came down to India in search of knowledge. As a result, the teachings greatly influenced these students which made them give up their names and creeds, subsequently, adopting Buddhism.
The greatest ability in any society is to get along with it and influence their actions. Therefore, every religion or doctrine affects its society through its teachings either positively or negatively. But, Buddhism exercised a tremendous influence in its society. It is a missionary religion and aims at converting the whole of mankind to the doctrines of Buddha. It enriched religion, art, sculpture, language, literature and character behavior of India and many other countries in Asia.
Yes, the positive impact has given birth to a societal remarkable growth in all ramifications till date.