The Hindu believes that a person's deeds in this life determine his status in the next. If he has lived a good life, then he will move to a higher caste in the next life. The soul of an evil person may be reborn into a lower caste or even into some form of animal life. By observing the religious ritual and ceremonies prescribed by the Hindu priests and by fulfilling the duties and obligations of his caste a Hindu believes that he can ultimately gain release from the "wheel of life" and attain union with the world soul.
India was also the birth of Buddhism. The founder of this new religion was Siddhartha Gautama later know as Buddha, the Enlightened One".
At the age of twenty-nine, Gautama became troubled over the world. He became convinced that he should devote all his efforts to find the way of deliverance from suffering. Therefore, he renounced his wife and child, and set out to find peace and true happiness. After six frustrating years, living as a hermit in self-sacrifice and meditation, Gautama was at the point of despair. Sitting down under a tree, he vowed that he would not move until the truth came to him. According to Gautama, he was pondering the questions of life when he realized the truth and attained enlightenment. Central to Buddha's teaching are his Four Noble Truths: 1) suffering is part of all existence; 2) suffering has a cause - selfish desires. As long as man has a craving for pleasure, possessions, and power, he will have sorrow and misery; 3) suffering can be overcome by destroying selfish desires. 4) If man follows the Eightfold Path, he will destroy selfish desires and end all suffering. This pattern for living includes correct beliefs, intentions, speech, conduct, livelihood, effort, thoughts, and meditations.
Buddhism is a religion built upon works and moral behavior. Buddhists believe that man does not need the help of the gods or membership in a higher caste in order to obtain freedom from suffering. Once a man has absolutely freed himself from his selfish craving, he will no longer be reborn but will enter into Nirvana - the state of absolute peace and happiness, where he loses himself in the world soul.
Lack of Political Unity
While many aspects of Indian Society have remained the same for centuries, the political history of India has been one of constant change. Through much of her history India has been little more than a patchwork of small rival kingdoms. Successive waves of foreign invaders have streamed into the Indian Subcontinent. The powerful empires established by these invaders have provided brief periods of Unity and stability for the Indian peoples.
In 326 B.C. Alexander the Great threatened India. His armies crossed the Indus River and conquered many small kingdoms in India's northwestern region. Alexander intended to advance further into India, but when his army refused to continue, he had to turn back. According to traditional accounts, he met a young man named Chandragupta Maurya while in India. As Alexander's empire began to disintegrate after his death, Chandragupta conquered the disorganized and weak kingdoms in the north and created the first strong empire of India - The Mauryan Empire.
The most famous of the Mauryan rulers was Chandragupta's grandson Asoka. He extended the Mauryan Empire to include all but the southern tip of India. Sickened by the results of his own bloody conquests, Asoka renounced war and became a convert to Buddhism. He spent much of his reign promoting the Buddhist religion.
Asoca is created with building thousands of Buddhist shrines called steepas. He also had Buddhist teaching inscribed on stone pillars still stand, providing valuable information concerning Asoca's reign.
One of his most far-reaching acts was the sending of Buddhist missionaries abroad. Buddhism soon spread across much of Southeast Asia, where it became a powerful force in other Asian cultures. It did not gain a wide following in India, however.
Hindu priests viewed Buddhist teaching as dangerous to the caste system. Fearing that they might lose their prestige and rank in society, they worked against the acceptance of Buddhist beliefs.
The first great period of Indian unity was short-lived. Not long after Asoka's death (232 B.C.), the Mauryan Empire collapsed. The years between the second century B.C. and the third century A.D. Witnessed new invasions and the rise of small competing kingdoms. However, during this time of turmoil, India did enjoy a profitable trade with Rome and China.
Even so, it was not until the fourth century A.D. with the rise of the Gupta Empire, that India entered a new, and perhaps her greatest, era of prosperity and achievement.
One historian has stated that "at the time India was perhaps the happiest and most civilized region of the world". The rulers of the Gupta dynasty reunited northern India under a strong and effective government. Trade flourished and the people prospered materially. India's culture spread throughout Southeast Asia. Her universities attracted students from all over the continent, and she made great strides in the fields of textiles and finest periods of Indian art, architecture, literature and science.
Gupta literature became renowned for its adventurous and imaginative fables and fairy tales.
The foremost Indian poet and dramatist of this period was Kalidasa, whose plays have earned him the title "the Indian Shakespeare". The popularity of various Indian Stories soon spread outside India, where many of them found their way into the literature of other lands.
But Indian literature is represented by Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Mahabharata is one of the two great Sanscrit epics. It's the story of the Great Bharata War, a fratricidal war of succession between the Kaurava and Pandava cousins (descendants of Bharata) in which nearly all the kings of India joined on one side or the other. The Kauravas were destroyed and the Pandavas attained sovereign power but in the end the eldest.
(Yo) Yudhishthira, renounced the throne and with his four brothers (heroes of the war) and Daraypadi (the joint wife of all 5) parted for Mount Meru, India's heaven. Mahabharta is the longest poem in the World (2.20.000 lines). It is perhaps 15 centuries old and is written in classicalSanscrit. It consists of 18 books with a supplement, the Harivamsa - a poem of 16.375 verses written by different people in different times, and of a much later date, which has nothing to do with the main theme.
Book III Ch.313
The following represents a selection of the questions and answers that passed between the Spirit and Youdhishthira:
1) "What is greater than Earth? What is higher than