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Buddhism Basics. Attempts to give answers to life’s essential questions Emphasis on “things to do” rather than “things to believe” Direct religious experience VS blind faith Tolerant of any religion that allows a person to find “truth” of himself / herself

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Buddhism Basics

  • Attempts to give answers to life’s essential questions
  • Emphasis on “things to do” rather than “things to believe”
    • Direct religious experience VS blind faith
  • Tolerant of any religion that allows a person to find “truth” of himself / herself
  • Different from Hinduism in that it was ‘founded’
  • ULTIMATE GOAL of a Buddhist
  • End suffering and attain absolute peace and joy
      • Enlightenment

- Freedom from ignorance

- State of permanent tranquility and peace

buddhism hindu roots
Buddhism grew out of Hinduism

Siddhartha Gautama born to Kshatriya caste

Believed to be incarnation of Vishnu

Retained concepts:

reincarnation, samsara, karma, dharma, moksha (nirvana)

Rejected concepts:

caste system (Brahmin caste power) - inequality

Could reach Nirvana (Moksha) only if Brahmin

language of Sanskrit was for educated (elite) only

Used common language Pali to teach

Hindu rituals and offerings to gods

Insignificant religious activities that took away from quest for enlightenment

Buddhism Hindu Roots
siddhartha gautama
  • Siddhartha Gautama
    • born 563 BCE
    • Kshatriya caste in present day Nepal
  • Came from royalty
    • Kingdom of Gautama
    • Father/Mother – King and Queen
    • Destined to be a king also


  • Conception - descended from Heaven and entered mother’s (Queen Maya) womb in form of baby white elephant (purity)
  • Queen Maya carried him for 10 months and could see him in the womb
  • Gave birth from her side with assistance from tree branches
  • Water poured from the sky
  • At birth he took 7 steps and said “this is my last birth”
  • Sages noted that he was a perfect human form


  • King wanted to shelter him from unpleasantness of life
  • At 29, visited the city 4 times and saw 4 sights:
  • Old man
  • Sick man
  • Dead man
  • Ascetic monk

Gave him a means to ending his despair



‘Great Going Forth’

Inspired to leave life of luxury and find a spiritual solution to human problems

Sought spiritual knowledge through

meditation, breathing, reducing food intake

Realized self denial too extreme and unproductive

Determined best course was the MIDDLE WAY

(path between both extremes; a lifestyle of moderation)



  • Meditated under a Bodhi tree
  • Remembered all of his previous lives
  • Removed craving and ignorance for himself
  • Achieved NIRVANA and was released from samsara
  • Stayed in this state for 7 days
  • Died in 486 BCE and achieved paranirvana (complete nirvana)


  • Budh = ‘to awaken’
  • Buddha = ‘Awakened’ or ‘enlightened’ one
    • awakened to nature of human condition and means of transcending it
  • Not necessarily divine nor a prophet
  • Considered a model teacher
    • showed and taught his followers how to live their lives


  • ‘blown out’
    • Extinguish all worldly desires
  • state of supreme realization and enlightenment
  • understand truth of life and freedom from ignorance
  • state of total liberation, truth, tranquility, peace
key beliefs
Key Beliefs

3 Characteristics of Existence

  • Buddha’s thoughts on the nature of existence
    • All things outside of Nirvana have three fundamental characteristics
key beliefs1
Key Beliefs

1. Dukkha = Dissatisfaction

  • “suffering”
  • all humans and animals experience suffering
    • Physical, mental & emotional pain
    • Disease, pain, grief, loneliness…
key beliefs2
Key Beliefs

2. Anatta = Selflessness

  • “no-self”
    • (An atman)
  • no ultimate reality within
  • No permanent, independent self
    • We are only a collection of changing parts
key beliefs3
Key Beliefs

3. Annica = Impermanence

  • world in constant state of flux
  • Everything changes
  • Environment, bodies, thoughts, perceptions, fears, hopes…
  • Buddha would say
      • ‘The flowing is the river…’
four noble truths

Evolved out of Buddha’s search for the cause and treatment of unhappiness in life.

four noble truths1
  • 1. To live is to suffer
  • All life consists of suffering
  • birth, death, sorrow, loneliness

2. Origin of suffering

The root is negative desire, craving & greed for the wrong pleasures

Search for more than our basic needs

3. Extinction of suffering

The goal is to end suffering by removing negative desire, craving & greed to achieve nirvana

4. Path leading to the extinction of suffering

Adopting Middle Way and follow the Noble 8 Fold Path











The Noble Eightfold Path

  • Buddhist way of Life
  • Means to an end of suffering
  • Series of steps towards Nirvana


1. Right View (Understanding)

– know the 4 Noble Truths

2. Right Intention (Thought)

– Free mind from desire and craving and cruel thought

- Nurture good thoughts


The Noble Eightfold Path

Moral conduct,Virtue

3. Right speech

- no lying, criticism, condemning, gossip, harsh language

4. Right conduct (Action)

- by following the Five Precepts

5. Right livelihood

- avoid harmful occupations and promote peace


The Noble Eightfold Path


6. Right Effort:

- Awareness of state of mind and body

- promote good thoughts; conquer evil thoughts

7. Right Mindfulness:

- become aware of your body, mind and feelings

8. Right Concentration:

- Attainment of higher state of consciousness or tranquility through meditation

five precepts
  • Rules to live by and follow to control improper behaviour that may cause suffering
    • Similar second half of the Ten Commandments in Judaism and Christianity
    • describes behaviors to avoid
five precepts1
  • Abstain from killing or harming living beings

- translated as "not harming" or an absence of violence

  • Abstain from stealing

- avoidance of fraud and economic exploitation.

  • Abstain from improper sexual conduct

- For monks and nuns, this means complete celibacy

- For the laity, adultery is forbidden, along with any sexual harassment or exploitation, including that within marriage.

  • Abstain from false speech

- name calling, gossip, etc.

  • Abstain from taking alcohol and harmful drugs

- The main concern here is that intoxicants cloud the mind

more numbers
More Numbers…

Triple Jewel or Three Refuges

  • Created by Buddha
  • Purpose:

- make it easier to follow his teachings

- protect oneself from a difficult existence

- put one on correct path of spiritual journey

Buddha (guide)

Dharma (path)

Sangha (teachers, monks & nuns)

First steps toward Enlightenment


More Numbers…

  • 3
  • 4
  • 4
  • 5
  • 8
more numbers1
More Numbers…

Six Perfections

  • Giving
  • Morality
  • Patience
  • Vigour
  • Meditation
  • Wisdom

Practiced by Bodhisattvas


      • one who has attained nirvana, chooses to be reborn within samsara in order to help others on path of enlightenment

Zen Buddhism

  • Cannot be taught, needs to be experienced
  • A form of Mahayana Buddhism
  • comes from the Japanese word for “meditation”
  • Focuses on the experience of enlightenment
  • The tradition extends all the way back to Buddha
  • India China Japan

Zen Buddhism


A monk asked Tozen when he was weighing some flax, "What is Buddha?"

Tozen said, "This flax weighs three pounds.”


A monk told Joshu, "I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me."

Joshu asked, "Have you eaten your rice porridge?

The monk replied, "I have eaten."

Joshu said, "Then you had better wash your bowl."

At that moment the monk was enlightened.

zen teachings
Zen Teachings

The direct experience of truth (our true nature)

Zen is beyond:

  • the reach of thoughts & feelings
  • words used to express thoughts & feelings
  • logical thinking

Zen is:

  • hidden behind our thoughts, feelings, fears, personality & ego
    • this clutters the mind preventing pure insight into the truth
  • emphasizes experience over speculation
  • offers a path to freedom from this ‘bondage’
two schools of zen
Two schools of Zen

1 - Rinzai Sect – ‘Sudden awakening’ to

  • Satori – Enlightenment – how do Zen Buddhists propose we reach enlightenment?
    • Through:
  • Koans – tools in Zen training
      • Puzzles designed to short circuit the workings of the logical, rational mind
      • Help lead to direct insight into the true nature of the world and ultimate reality
      • Helps one attain a healthy vigorous mind
two schools of zen1
Two schools of Zen

2 - Soto Sect – ‘Gradual awakening’

  • Through:
  • Zazen – ‘seated meditation’ - monks sit for hours in the lotus position
      • clear the mind and gain insight
  • Sanzen - Regularly meet to discuss teachings, training and meditate
      • Roshi - Zen master who has control over the disciple
zen life
Zen life
  • Monastic lifestyle – meditation, menial work, structured life, devotion to teacher
  • Zen can be practiced outside of the monastery -not necessary to become a monk or nun
schools of buddhism
Schools of Buddhism
  • Theravada (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia)
  • Mahayana (China, Vietnam, Korea)
  • Vajrayana (Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal)
  • Zen Buddhism
  • Martin Scorcese
    • The Departed, Gangs of New York, Goodfellas, Raging Bull, Taxi Driver…
    • dark side of urban life
    • Catholicism
  • Kundun
    • Early life of the Dalai Lama
    • Symbolism, teachings and life
    • Spiritual development and political development
    • Tibetan actors
symbols mandala1
Symbols - Mandala
  • khiyl-khor -“centre of the universe in which a fully awakened being abides” - Tibetan meaning
  • Sanskrit word meaning ‘circle’
  • Exercise in meditation and prayer
    • Helps to focus attention
  • Spiritual Geography
    • Establishes a sacred space for spiritual teaching and training
    • Represents the spiritual home of deities and enlightened beings
  • All Tibetan Buddhist monks learn to construct them
symbols mandala3
Symbols - Mandala
  • Basic structure
    • Square in the centre with 4 gates enclosed by circles
      • Symbolizes the limits of physical space
    • Sand
      • Comes from Himalayas
      • Ground to five different degrees of fineness
        • Coarser grains - background
        • Finer grains - details
      • Dyed naturally


  • When completed;
    • chants and prayers are recited before it is swept away
    • Placed in a stream or body of water
    • Impermanence of the world
sacred writings
Sacred Writings

Tripitaka (Three Baskets) ~ considered to be the most accurate of Buddha’s teachings which consist of:

  • Vinaya-Pitaka: Basket of Discipline (monks)
  • Sutta-Pitaka: Basket of Discourse
  • Abidhamma-Pitiaka: Basket of Further Teachings
  • Meditation- lotus posture
  • Bowing (three times)
  • Offerings & Chanting Mantras: “Om Mani Padme Hum” which means “Hail, the jewel in the lotus”
  • Karma
  • Dana (donations)
  • Mudras
  • Monks
the 14 th dalai lama quotes
The 14th Dalai Lama Quotes
  • ‘My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.’
  • ‘If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.’
  • ‘Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.’
  • ‘ We must recognize that the suffering of one person or one nation is the suffering of humanity. The happiness of one person or nation is the happiness of humanity.’
  • ‘Through violence, you may ‘solve’ one problem, but you sow the seeds for another.’
the 14 th dalai lama
The 14th Dalai Lama
  • Born 1935 - Lhamo Thondup
    • Taktser in northeastern Tibet
  • Renamed - Tenzin Gyatso
    • AKA - Teshe Norbu (Kundun) – “The


Dalai Lama - “Ocean of Wisdom”

  • ‘Discovered’ at age 2
  • Manifestation of the Bodhisattva of Compassion
  • Assumed political power at age 15
the 14 th dalai lama1
The 14th Dalai Lama
  • Resides in Northern India
    • Once lead Tibetan Government in

Exile but no longer - prime minister

Lobsang Sangay

  • Still the spiritual leader
  • Established educational, cultural and religious institutions to preserve Tibetan identity and heritage
  • Reputation as a scholar and man of peace
  • Received Nobel Peace Prize in 1989
the 14 th dalai lama2
The 14th Dalai Lama
  • Has been denounced by the Chinese

government as a supporter of Tibetan


  • Has developed a public position stating that he is not in favour of Tibetan independence and would not object to a status in which Tibet has internal autonomy
  • the PRC manages some aspects of Tibet's defense and foreign affairs.
  • 'Middle Way Approach'
    • the Chinese government can take care of foreign affairs and defense, and that Tibet should be managed by an elected body
tibet today
Tibet today
  • Part of China
  • Nearly 60 ethnic Tibetans, many monks and nuns, have set themselves on fire in China since February 2009
    • protest against Beijing's rule in Tibet
    • most recent incidents occurring near Labrang monastery.
film assignment journal entry
Film Assignment & Journal Entry
  • Film Assignment
    • Write a brief essay taking a position on the following question.

In your opinion, did the Dalai Lama make the right decision by leaving Tibet? What other options did he have?

  • Journal
    • The concept of Nirvana is difficult to understand and is often debated by Buddhists themselves as to who, what or where it is. Provide your own explanation of what Nirvana is to you and give two or three ideas that support your explanation.


Spread of Buddhism

  • Is Buddha God?
  • Is Nirvana God? / Place / Being
    • No, a state of being
      • The total cessation of suffering