About 3,000 years B.C., along the River Indus, there grew up a city-based civilization, known as the “Indus Valley Culture”. The two greatest cities were at Mohenjo Daro and Harrappa, for which reason this has been termed the “Harrappan Culture”. According to Andrew Skilton in the “Concise History of Buddhism”, this society appears to have been highly organized and very conservative, showing little change over many centuries. Attempts to reconsctruct customs and beliefs of this society are largely speculative though most suggestive items that have been recovered, such as seals used in extensive trading, especially in the coastal areas. These show a form of writing, as yet undeciphered. One famous seal shows a masked human figure in a yogic posture, thought by some to be performing a primitive form of yoga or meditation. This civilization gradually declined in around 1,200 years B.C., possibly as a result of enviromental changes, most probably the change of direction in the flow of the River Indus.
However, this is not likely to have been linked with the coincidental appearance of invading tribes from the north-west. Probably, these new comers found their way to Northern India when the culture there was in its dead time. Many scholars believed that this was not a military invasion, but a cultural osmosis. No matter what had happened, military invasion, or cultural osmosis, or the dying-out of the “Indus Valley Culture”, this continent had become new homeland for large waves of migrating nomadic tribes, pushed out from their old homeland which originally stretched from Central Europe to Central Asia. After climbing various passes through the Himalayas to the North-West of present day India’s frontier with Nepal, these Aryan tribes began a complete sweep eastward across the entire subcontinent in the next several centuries. These Aryan tribes brought with them their own beliefs of polytheism. They also brought with them their own social caste system, which divided society into three classes: priests, warriors, and farmers. The first of these were professional reciters of hymns and performers of ritual, the predecessors of the later “brahmana” class. The last two classes were similar to the “ksatriya” and “vaisya” classes. All this known because of the survival of the texts produced by these people’s descendants. These are basic scriptures of Brahmanism, not recognizing by Buddhists.
Before Buddhism, Hinduism, the traditional social religious structure of the Indian people and its origin is still mystic. It has neither a founder nor a fixed canon. It incorporated for centuries all aspects of truth. Hindus believe in the law of karma. Hinduism or Brahmanism, the general name given to the social-cultural-religious system of the Indo-Aryan, who migrated into India just before the dawn of history. The manitenance of the four castes which assures the supremacy of the priest caste, the brahmana. Appeasement of the gods by means of rituals derived from the Sacred Vedas. Complete faith and fidelity to the theory of karma and reincarnation, with rebirth in heaven seen as the final goal of earthly life. There is a universla law, which operates throughout all life. Whatever is sown must be reaped sometime and somewhere. This is the law: every action, every intention to act, every attitude bears its own fruit. A man becomes good by good deeds and bad by bad deeds. It is to say each person is fully responsible for his own condition, and cannot put the blame on anyone else. You are what you are because of what you have done in the past. To a Hindu, the past, of course, would include all previous lives or existences. In Hindu tradition, the main duties assigned to women were childbearing and housework. Thus it considers a single life as a wasted life and unmarried women were subject to scoffs. The stories in the Vedas reveal a great deal about the Indian people who were searching for answers about life around them, as well as about the remote universe. The oldest sacred books of Hinduism called the Vedas. They are ancient poems and hymns which were composed more than 3,000 years ago. The Brahmanic rules which the priests use for rituals of worship dated from between 1,200 and 1,000 B.C. The Great Epics are philosophical and religious poems about legendary heroes and gods. They were ancient stories that had been told for generations before they were written at about the first century B.C. A short section of one of the Epics, the Bhagavad Gita Gait, has become the favorite religious text in India.
According to Hindu teachings, every person has a specific place in life and specific responsibilities. Each person is born where he is, and with particular abilities that he has, because of past actions and attitudes. There are four main castes in Hinduism. Within the four castes, there are dozens of sub-divisions. Through the years, more than a thousand levels of castes have appeared in Indian social life; but all belong to one of the four main groups. In ordinary social life, caste lines have frequently reflected real injustices and strong prejudices. Even thoughtful Hindus today realize that abuses have crept into the system. Many efforts have been made in the direction of straightening out some of the gross injustices. Gandhi was one who gave freely of his energies in restoring the “untouchables” to caste status: First, the intellectual-priest group. Second, the nobility, including the warriors. Third, the administrative group, including merchants and landowners. Fourth, the great masses of people who do the common work of a society. The class of so-called “Untouchables” or “Out-castes” (recently abolished by Indian law) was composed of people who had originally belonged to different sub-groups of the fourth caste, the masses. Through various social and economic conditions, they lost caste or lost their place in society. The most important goal for each person to achieve is release from the influence of past unhappiness. Each person has the fundamental aim all through life of escaping from maya through union with Brahman. The life of pleasure, fulfilment of all normal human desires, including the very important desires rooted in sex. Hindus do not reject the sensory experiences of life, development of creative relationships with other people, aesthetic appreciation, and sexual expression. The Hindus value these experiences when used correctly and not regarded as the only goal of life. Participation in economic activity or public welfare, which includes working in some worthwhile job or profession. Each person has an obligation to himself and to society to do some useful work. For this he receives the wherewithal for his daily needs. Living the right kind of moral or ethical life. One has a duty to him and to others to do what is expected of him morally and ethically. The duty has been rather specifically defined in India, for each caste has a code of actions and attitudes, which are expected of its members. And to this code a person is pledged through all his endeavors if he wishes to attain the good life.
The Upanishads, dating from about 800 B.C., are the answers that the renowned hermit-teachers of that period gave to questions about life and the universe. Shortly before the time of the Buddha, the earliest prose Upanishads were compiled, which dealt with a secret teaching, to be passed from master to disciples only. The Uanishads were regarded as the final stage in the evolution of the Veda, and therefore known as the Vedanta, the “Culmination of the Veda”. The ritual elements so prevalent in the earlier texts are less important here, and in their place we find a secret teaching on rebirth. According to the Upanishads, on the one hand, people looked for that which was the basis of the external phenomenal world, the underlying essence of all external objects and things, which were termed “Brahman”; on the other hand, they looked for the ultimately existent thing within the individual, that which supports life and consciousness in each of us, to be termed “Atman”.
The secret teaching in the Upanishads taught that “Atman” and “Brahman” were one and the same. Caste lines have frequently reflected real injustices and strong prejudices in ordinary social life. Even thoughtful Hindus today realize that abuses have crept into the system. Many efforts have been made in the direction of straightening out some of the gross injustices. Even people belonged to the noble class also tried to restore the “untouchables” to caste higher statuses. We all know that the growth of any civilization in the world has been accompanied by recurrent waves of disillusion with power and material wealth. This very reason mobilized the resources of the spirit against the existing power system.
In India the reaction forces arose in the Northwest regions. From the beginning, Buddhism developed around Benares and Patna, where the Iron Age had thrown up ambitious warrior kings, who had established large kingdoms with big cities. In opposition to superstitions in divine power the Buddha always stressed that He was only a guide, not an authority, and that all propositions must be tested, including His own.
While Buddhism sprouted in India, in China one of the great religions also started: Confucianism. The system of morality growing out of the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, which stressed on filiality, respect for the elderly, loyality, propriety, faith, justice, decency and shame. Confucius (557-479) was born in the state of Lu. He lived in the time when the moral and cultural tradition of Chou were in rapid decline. In attempting to uphold the Chou culture, he taught poetry, history, ceremonies and music to about 3,000 diciples. He was the first Chinese Great Educator that Chinese people still give him the title “Master of Ten Thousand Years.” However, Confucianism and Buddhism are totally different. Confucianism emphasizes on the ideas of family and society. Confucianism emphasizes on teaching children to grow up, to get married, to bear children and grandchildren, to continue the family line, to be a productive member in society. In contrast, Buddhism is founded on the essence of ‘abandoning worldly ways,’ to leave home, to detach from family, parents, wife, husband, children, relatives, friends, etc. Therefore, Confucian scholars considered Buddhism as wicked and false teachings. That was why when Buddhism was first introduced into China, it was strongly opposed by Confucian scholars. However, the popularity of the Buddha and his disciples largely depended upon his method of approach to the masses. The Buddha had asked his disciples to preach his doctrine in the people’s own language. The people were naturally impressed. Taoism is one of the big religions in China. This religion was founded by Lao-Tzu, at the same time with Buddhism in India. Its doctrines are based on Tao or way of nature. Taoist practitioners traditionally strive for immortality, which, in Buddhism, is a classic example of deluded attachment to the body.