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Buddhism Unit Five. Introduction. Buddhism has become very popular in the west as people try to “find themselves” and search for the meaning of life. It emphasizes things to do rather than things to believe, and does not recommend that anyone accept its teachings without experimentation.

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Buddhism

Unit Five


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Introduction

  • Buddhism has become very popular in the west as people try to “find themselves” and search for the meaning of life.

  • It emphasizes things to do rather than things to believe, and does not recommend that anyone accept its teachings without experimentation.

  • A central idea of its teachings is that everyone has the right to find truth for his or herself, even if its outside of Buddhism.


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  • This tolerance and general calmness and serenity of Buddhism may explain why many in the west are turning to it for answers.

  • The ultimate goal of Buddhism is to end suffering and thereby attain absolute peace and joy.

  • In the west we try to achieve happiness by acquiring material possessions, but we see unhappiness and suffering everywhere.

  • Buddhism offers another way to end suffering.


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At the end of this unit you should be able to……… may explain why many in the west are turning to it for answers.

  • Explain the origins of Buddhism and significant events in its history.

  • Identify key figures in the development of Buddhism.

  • Evaluate key concepts like nirvana and enlightenment.

  • Identify key passages from the Tripitaka.

  • Examine the importance of sacred writings in Buddhism.

  • Show the origin and significance of Buddhist practices, rituals, symbols and festivals.

  • Review the impact of Buddhism on various cultures.

  • Analyze the role of women in Buddhism.

  • Understand the difference between Buddhism and Hinduism.

  • Buddhism in Canadian society.


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The Origins Of Buddhism may explain why many in the west are turning to it for answers.

  • Founded approximately 2500 years ago in India.

  • The Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, was born into the Kshatriya caste, in the kingdom of Shakya, around 563BCE. His father was King Shuddhodana.

  • The kingdom was located in the foothills of the Himalayas, in present day Nepal.

  • The story of the Buddha’s early life varies from one Buddha tradition to another and was not recorded until hundreds of years after his death.


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Buddha’s Early Life may explain why many in the west are turning to it for answers.

  • The Buddha’s birth was a miracle. His mother, queen Maya, conceived when Siddhartha descended from heaven and entered his mother’s womb in the form of a baby white elephant, a symbol of purity.

  • She carried him for 10 months and could see the baby in her womb.

  • She gave birth from her side while standing and holding on to a tree. ( some believe the tree helped with the delivery) His mother died a week later and he was raised by his aunt.

  • After he was born he immediately took seven steps and said, “This is my last birth.” This meant he would be a great ruler or religious teacher. His father wanted him to be a great ruler and discouraged the suggestion that he would become a religious leader. So he spoiled his son, making his life as pleasant as possible.

  • At age 16, Siddhartha married Princess Yasodhara, and they had a son, Rahula.


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The Four Sights may explain why many in the west are turning to it for answers.

  • Siddhartha craved spiritual satisfaction. His father feared that he would leave home for a religious life and had the streets filled with healthy people so Siddhartha would not see any unpleasantness.

    When he was 29, Siddhartha visited the city four times and experienced what Buddhists refer to as the four sights. He saw an old man leaning on his staff, a sick man lying by the roadside, a corpse being prepared for cremation and a Hindu monk with his shaven head and tattered robe, holding a bowl.

  • These sights inspired Siddhartha to find a spiritual solution to the problems of human life. He then decided to leave the palace and his privileged life, to become a homeless beggar.

  • He became a wandering seeker of spiritual knowledge and after trying meditation and self denial, soon discovered that the best course was the Middle way, that the best lifestyle was one of moderation.


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Enlightenment may explain why many in the west are turning to it for answers.

  • While meditating, Siddhartha saw all of his previous lives in detail. He realized that good deeds brought a better life after rebirth, while bad deeds brought unpleasantness.

  • In this moment he achieved nirvana, a state of supreme realization that is also described as truth, tranquility and peace, and enlightenment, an understanding of the truth of life and the freedom from ignorance.

  • By attaining these things he experienced the end of suffering and the endless cycle of rebirth. He had attained perfect wisdom and absolute truth.

  • Siddhartha stayed in this state for seven days, then decided to make public his teachings and ideas, the dharma, to the world.


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The Mahabodhi Temple may explain why many in the west are turning to it for answers.

  • This temple commemorates the enlightenment of Siddhartha Gautama and is one of Buddhism’s most sacred sites.

  • It was built at the site of the Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment and therefore is considered the birthplace of the religion.

  • Today the temple is an active pilgrimage sight and learning center.


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The First Sermon may explain why many in the west are turning to it for answers.

  • Siddhartha became Buddha, which means “the enlightened one,” or one who has awakened.

  • In Sarnath, India, he preached his first sermon, an event known as, “setting in motion the wheel of the dharma.” Five Hindu ascetics accepted his insights and became Buddhist monks, the start of the Buddhist community.

  • After five years an order of monks called the sangha was established.

  • For the next 45 years Buddha traveled all over India preaching his philosophy.

  • Buddha died in 486BCE and upon his death reached parinirvana, or complete nirvana, releasing him from the cycle of rebirth.


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Buddhist Beliefs may explain why many in the west are turning to it for answers.

  • The ultimate goal of Buddhism is the end of human suffering.

  • When studying Buddhism ask yourself these questions…..How happy am I? What are the most important goals in my life? What makes us suffer? How do humans deal with suffering?

  • You are responsible for your own salvation!

  • All Buddhist teachings show the way to end samsara, the endless cycle of rebirth.

  • Achieving nirvana is therefore a Buddhist’s salvation.

  • Women and men are considered equal as we all have had past lives as males and females.


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  • Buddha identified three characteristics of existence………

  • Anicca or impermanence, which represents the world as in total flux, where nothing stays the same for long.

  • Dukkha or dissatisfaction, where all humans and animals experience suffering.

  • Anatta or no-self, which is connected to the idea that we cannot point to any one thing in ourselves and call it self. We are the sum of all our parts, which together make us a person.


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  • Buddhists follow existence………the five precepts for lay people to follow to avoid suffering:

  • Abstain from killing or harming living beings.

  • Abstain from stealing.

  • Abstain from improper sexual conduct.

  • Abstain from false speech, eg., telling lies.

  • Abstain from alcohol or drugs.

    For Buddhist monks there are an additional five precepts: abstain from eating after noon, abstain from looking at dancing, singing or drama, abstain from the use of perfumes or things that beautify or adorn, abstain from using comfortable beds and abstain from accepting gold and silver. In some monasteries there could be as many as 200 precepts to follow.


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  • Buddha observed that no one could escape death and unhappiness. As Buddha looked at the cause of unhappiness, the result was The Four Noble truths.

  • The Noble Truth Of Suffering – to live is to suffer.

  • The Noble Truth Of The Origin Of Suffering – the cause of suffering is negative desire.

  • The Noble truth Of The Extinction Of Suffering – the goal of Buddhism is to end suffering.


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4. The Noble truth Of The Path Leading To The Extinction Of Suffering – adopt the middle way and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

Adopting this path is to live the Buddhist way of life, a life of self-improvement.

When giving his first sermon Buddha put in motion the wheel of the dharma, the eight-spoke wheel that represents the eight steps of the path. The center is nirvana, the only fixed point.


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  • The Eight Steps Of the Noble Path Include: Suffering – adopt the middle way and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

  • Right view – know the four noble truths.

  • Right thought – free the mind from sensuous desire, ill-will and cruelty.

  • Right speech – don’t lie, curse, criticize or gossip.

  • Right conduct – or right action, be aware that you are judged on your behavior.

  • Right livelihood – earn without harming living things. Don’t be a butcher, money lender or trade in weapons, liquor or poison.


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6. Suffering – adopt the middle way and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.Right effort – conquer all evil thoughts and strive to have good thoughts. Do your best at all times and have goodwill towards others.

7. Right Mindfulness – full attention must be paid to proper thoughts, words and deeds.

8. Right concentration – focus on one thought or object at a time. Deep meditation will lead to enlightenment.


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The Three Refuges (The Triple Jewel) Suffering – adopt the middle way and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

  • A refuge is a place of safety from danger. In order to make it easier to follow his teachings and take refuge from a difficult existence, the Buddha established the Three Refuges. They include:

  • The Buddha – the guide

  • The Dharma – the path

  • The Sangha – companions and teachers.

    For a Buddhist, taking refuge is the first step to enlightenment.


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The Six Perfections Suffering – adopt the middle way and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

  • A Bodhisattva is a person who has attained nirvana but chooses to be reborn within samsara in order to help others on their path to enlightenment.

  • They practice the six perfections: giving, morality, patience, vigor, meditation and wisdom.

  • Wisdom is most important because it indicates full awareness.


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Practices, Rituals, Symbols and Festivals Suffering – adopt the middle way and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

  • Puja, the honoring of holy beings.

  • Bowing to show respect. You bow three times to images of Buddha, one for each refuge.

  • Offerings, such as flowers, are common. Flowers wilt and fade showing the notion of impermanence.

  • Burning incense to symbolize the Buddha’s odor of sanctity.

  • Light a candle to symbolize Buddha’s enlightenment.


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Meditation Suffering – adopt the middle way and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

  • Meditation leads to wisdom, which in turn leads to the end of suffering.

  • Its purpose is to improve concentration, calm the mind, and clear yourself of bad thoughts caused by greed, hatred and ignorance.

  • It can also improve confidence, as well as general mental and physical health.

  • To properly meditate one should be in the lotus position, back straight, tongue touching back of your upper front teeth and eyes downcast with lids partially closed.

  • The meditator concentrates on breathing and the movement of the diaphragm. They meditate on a object or idea, identified in Buddhist manuals.


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Good Karma Suffering – adopt the middle way and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

  • Karma is much the same as it is for Hindus.

  • Giving alms or donations to the sangha gives good karma. A ceremony called a Dana, is an occasion where lay people can donate food, robes, medicines, etc. It often takes place outside a temple but can also occur in private homes. Here the monks arrive about 10 am., have their feet washed (ancient symbol of hospitality) and the monks then chant Buddhist teachings which help purify the mind.

  • All who are present gain merit!


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The Life Of A Monk Suffering – adopt the middle way and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

  • Awake at 3am. to the sound of a bell-shaped instrument called a mokt’ak.

  • Wash, put away bedding and go to the main hall for chanting.

  • After chanting, meditating monks go to the meditation hall, students go to the study hall and working monks go to their place of work.

  • At 10:30 am. more chanting and the offering of rice, to mark the Buddha’s habit of only eating once a day.

  • At noon they eat lunch and chant to remind themselves that food is for sustaining the body and not for greed. After lunch Monks return to their activities. At 6pm. a bell announces more chanting, which is followed by quiet study or meditation. The day ends at 10pm.


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Symbols Suffering – adopt the middle way and follow the Noble Eightfold Path.

  • Buddha images are respected but not worshipped. He is either standing, sitting in the lotus position or reclining. He is often dressed as a monk with his left shoulder covered and his right bare. Elongated earlobes are a regular feature. They do not always show Buddha as being fat!!


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  • Stupa mind. The idea is that we can often tell someone’s state of mind by looking at their stance or gestures.s are domed shaped mounds that were built to house the relics of the Buddha or other holy figures. You walk around them three times to show your devotion.


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Festivals They are usually carved in stone and feature 32, 108 or 132 signs of the Buddha.

  • Buddha Day – full-moon day of May, celebrates the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha.

  • Dhamma Day – full-moon day of July, commemorates the first sermon.

  • Sanhga Day – full-moon day of March, celebrates the proclamation of the basic teachings of Buddhism and a sermon called the “Basis for success”

  • Songkran – Thai festival celebrated in mid-April, symbolizes the observance of the First precept.

  • Festival of Floating Bowls – Thai festival held on the full-moon night of the 12th lunar month. They place bowls in the river and as they float away so does your bad luck.


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Becoming A Monk They are usually carved in stone and feature 32, 108 or 132 signs of the Buddha.

  • Stage One – when a boy is seven or eight years old he enters a monastery as a novice. He undertakes the ten precepts and usually acts as an assistant to a senior monk. The senior monk is responsible for teaching the boy Buddhist rituals, philosophy and scripture.

  • Stage Two – ordination, occurs when the young man has reached the age of 20 and is able to read, write and chant a few simple texts. He must shave his head, take a religious name and wear the traditional robes.


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Weddings and Funerals They are usually carved in stone and feature 32, 108 or 132 signs of the Buddha.

  • When a couple gets married they go to a monastery and feed the monks in order to receive a blessing. The monks never attend the wedding itself.

  • If not enough wood is available for cremation, a burial is permitted. Usually involves a procession, prayers, water-pouring rituals, cremation and a shared meal. Similar services are held after three months and after a year.


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Sacred Writings They are usually carved in stone and feature 32, 108 or 132 signs of the Buddha.

  • The main written source of Buddha’s wisdom is the Tripitaka or three baskets. Its called this because the palm leaf manuscripts were kept in three different baskets.

  • Called the Vinaya-Pitaka, the Sutta-Pitaka and the Abhidhamma-Pitaka, they are considered the most accurate record of Buddha’s teachings.

  • Vinaya-Pitaka – basket of discipline, consists of five books that address the rules of monastic life and codes of conduct.


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  • Sutta-Pitaka They are usually carved in stone and feature 32, 108 or 132 signs of the Buddha. – basket of discourses, incorporates the teachings of Buddha. Considered the most important by Buddhists.

  • Abhidhamma-Pitaka – basket of further teachings, discusses the nature of consciousness and technical explanations of the Sutta-Pitaka.


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Three Forms of Buddhism They are usually carved in stone and feature 32, 108 or 132 signs of the Buddha.

1. Mahayana School – aka northern school, found in China, Vietnam, Korea and Japan. Considered the new school, less conservative.

2. Theravada School – aka southern school, found in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia. Considered the old school, more conservative.

3. Vajrayana School – aka esoteric school, found in Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal. More emphasis on rituals, mantras and visualization. Combined with Tibetan “BON”


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Buddhism In Canada They are usually carved in stone and feature 32, 108 or 132 signs of the Buddha.

  • There are many Buddhist sanghas, temples and centers in Canada.

  • Some universities have student Buddhist organizations.

  • Many schools offer courses in Eastern Studies and there has been a growth in courses on Buddhism.

  • The Chandrakirti Buddhist Center in Toronto offers instruction in Buddhist philosophy and is a place for meditation and prayer.


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