Chapter 5: Buddhism • RELS 110: World Religions
These two are anti-Brahmanic: rites are of no effect. Time Line: The “axial age” in India A variety of traditions, some Brahmanic, some non-Brahmanic • 1500 BCE: Rig Veda • 1000-500: Upanishads • 6th Century: Jainism • 5th Century: Buddhism • 400BCE-200CE: Ramayana • The “axial age” wasn’t just in India, but also Greece, Israel, Persia, China.
Hindu teachings adopted by Buddhism • Saṃsāra • Reincarnation • Karma • Moksha • Ascetic practice?
Brahmanic practices rejected by Buddhism Ritual Violent taking of animal life (sacrifice)
The Buddha’s hagiography • 100’s of versions of the legends, in 4-5 languages. • What really happened? • It’s hard to tell, but the outline rings true: • Born, grew up, renounced pleasures, searched, awakened, liberated, taught, founded a monastic order, died. • The foundational teachings of the Buddha are probably authentic.
Hagiographa of “the” Buddha • The Śākyas ruled a kingdom in the foothills of the Himalayas • Father: King Śuddhodana • Mother: Queen Mahamaya • Dies shortly after childbirth • Prince Siddhārtha is born
Legends of Siddharta’s infancy • Mother had him on the road, holding onto a tree, born out of her side (=ultrapure). • Various deities appear • Can walk when born, lotuses appear in his footsteps, can talk. • "Supreme am I in the world. Greatest am I in the world. Noblest am I in the world. This is my last birth. Never shall I be reborn." • Still: what he is is a mystery.
Legends of Siddharta’s youth • A sage interpret these signs. He will be either: • Great world ruler – king says “sounds good to me!” • World renouncer – give up ties to this world • How do you suppose the king reacted? • like “any” parent who hears their child doesn’t want to be a doctor or lawyer, but rather a religious studies major. • The king wants to steer his son right – builds pleasure palaces and age-appropriate diversions. • He thinks he is happy.
1. What do accounts say about the origins and early life of the founder of Buddhism? 2. What happened to Siddhartha Gautama when he was twenty-nine years old, and why was it significant to Buddhism? 3. What truth did Siddhartha Gautama learn from his meditation and ascetic practice? 4. Why does Buddhism follow the Middle Way and what does that mean? 5. What is the key mood of Buddhist enlightenment? Legends of Siddharta’s infancy (4:37-10)
The Four Sights • Sick man • At some point everyone falls sick eventually, even you! • Old man • Is there any way to avoid it? No. Even you. • Dead man on a funeral pyre • The end result of old age & illness. Everyone must pass. • A renunciant • Life beyond senses • Money can’t buy escape from this life not worth living.
Siddhartha’s response • So he gives up his worldly estate, wife, son, etc. to find the right path. • He seeks those who have given up this worldliness, & studies under each of them. • He masters each, up to extreme asceticism
The Middle Way • He hears a tuned instrument and realizes: • Too low: doesn’t play • Too high: string breaks • He recognizes the middle way between extremes.
Nirvāna / Nibbāna • Through meditation, attains Nibbana • Is now the “Buddha” • What now?
Teachings • His teachings are called the Dharma / Dhamma = the truth / righteousness / right action • Setting in Motion the Wheel of Truth • AKA the Deer Park Sermon
The Four Noble Truths • Life is Dukkha • The origin of dukkha is trishnā • The cessation of dukkha comes by cessation of desire • The means of ending desire is the Noble 8-Fold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path Learning scriptures; knowledge building wisdom; communal norms • Right view / understanding • Right thought / intention • Right speech • Right actions • Right livelihood • Right effort • Right mindfulness • Right concentration Your position in the world; virtuous action / living; no destruction / torment of life Applying meditative techniques / practices
Paths of Wisdom • Right viewing reality as it is, not just as it appears to be • Right intention (renunciation, freedom, harmlessness)
Paths of Morality • Right speaking: truthful and not harmful • Right acting: non-harmful • Right livelihood: non-harmful
Paths of Mental Discipline • Right effort: to clear and calm the mind • Right awareness: to see things for what they are with clear consciousness, being aware of the present reality within oneself, without any craving or aversion • Right concentration or meditation
The Five Remembrances • I am of the nature to grow old. There is no way to escape growing old. • I am of the nature to have ill-health. There is no way to escape having ill health. • I am of the nature to die. There is no way to escape death. • All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them. • My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.
Some possible exam questions • Briefly outline the key events in Siddhartha’s life before he became known as the Buddha. What experiences in his early life helped him to formulate the idea of a “Middle Way?” • Explain the concept of dukkha and its role in Buddhist teaching. • List the steps on the Noble Eightfold Path and note briefly what each step involves.
The Five Precepts • no killing, • no stealing, • no sexual misconduct, • no lying, and • no use of intoxicants.
What truth did Siddhartha Gautama learn from his meditation and ascetic practice? • Why does Buddhism follow the Middle Way and what does that mean? • What is the key mood of Buddhist enlightenment? • What is the significance of the Deer Park Sermon? • What are Buddha’s Four Noble Truths? • What are the precepts of the Noble Eightfold Path? • What is karma? • What is the connection between karma and reincarnation? Buddhism Video (12 min)
The Three Jewels • “I take refuge in the Buddha; • I take refuge in the Dharma; • I take refuge in the Sangha.”
Dharma • The Buddha is the teacher, the awakened one; • the sangha is the Buddhist community, particularly Buddhist monks and nuns. • What is the dharma? • “form”? • “duty”? • Teachings
The three characteristics of existence • Dukkha • Anicca / Anitya: Impermanence • Anatman / anatta : not-self / no-self
Anicca • All things undergo constant change and cause constant change in other things • Nothing has a fixed state • Your sense of self is in constant flux • The only true existent thing is Nirvana
Dependent Co-Arising • nothing is permanent, everything is always changing. • Everything is dependent on everything else. • no one underlying reality from which different things derive. • When this is, that isThis arising, that arisesWhen this is not, that is notThis ceasing, that ceases
No God • Implications of dependent co-arising: • no Creator of the universe • no unifying essence behind all reality • Buddha like “God” • infinite, merciful, all knowing, etc. • became these • Anyone can become this • Being religious and following dhamma has nothing to do with the dogma that the world is eternal; and it has nothing to do with the otherdogma that the world is not eternal. For whether the world is eternal or otherwise, birth, old age, death, sorrow, pain, misery, grief, and despair exist. I am concerned with the extinction of these.
No Self (Anatta) • also no self • no enduring individual nature or character.
The Five Skandhas • self is collection of elements. • come together for a time • five elements, or skandhas: • physical body, • senses, • perceptions, • responses, and • consciousness. • “You” exist as temporary combination • always changing • self has no real ongoing existence
Nirvana • “enlightenment”, but literally “blown out” • the recognition of the Buddhist truths • recognizing your ultimate unreality is key to nirvana. • Ineffable
Recap: What to remember so far • karma & reincarnation, like Hindus • Middle Way • Turning of the Wheel of Truth • 4 noble truths • origin of suffering how to end iy • eightfold path to attain enlightenment. • “take refuge” in the Buddha, Dharma (teaching), and Sangha (Buddhist community). • dependent co-arising: all things are interdependent • ultimately no self & no God. • nirvana, or enlightenment from freeing self from desires, • becomes an arhat “enlightened being”.
Sangha / Samgha • Four-fold division • The lay community – non-monastic, not priests, monks, nuns. Gets married, has jobs, carries: • The monastic sangha (monks and nuns) – give up marriage, families, possessions. In theory, are just trying to achieve Nirvana.
Parinirvana • final nirvana. Is the Buddha: • Gone and unattainable? Or • Gone yet available / accessible? • What to do with Buddha’s body? • It’s nothing, but if it makes you feel better, bury me as a king. • Burned • buried with relics • elaborate funeral • bones collected • Many followers wanted to claim the relics. • eight-way partitioning of the bones
Relics of the Buddha • Tradition: King Ashoka • divided bones into 84,000 parts • distributed throughout Buddhist lands • commissioned the carving of a number of pillars. • engraved with an important Buddhist saying. • placed throughout India. • Some still stand over 2200 years later.
Stupas • relics usually in stupas • earliest Buddhist architecture. • variety of shapes and styles • Pyramidal, with dome and spire. • Relics in spire • 84,000 bits of bone ran out; clay tablets used instead: • “The Tathagata has explained the cause of all things that arise from a cause. The great renunciate has also explained their cessation.”
Oral Transmission • 1st council: authoritative version of the Buddha’s teachings • unwritten for four hundred years • No follower heard all his sermons. • Various versions were passed down
The Spread of Buddhism • Buddhism spread ever farther from its birthplace in northern India (what is now southern Nepal). • It grew in central and western India, to the northwest to what is now Pakistan, and to southeast Asia, where Indian influence was already well entrenched.
King Ashoka • powerful monarch • Maghada (northern India) • 250 BCE. • spread Buddhism beyond where the Buddha taught. • Conquered lands • converted to Buddhism.
Ashoka’s conversion • genuine conversion • renounced violence • spreading teachings of the Buddha
Ashoka’s Inscriptions • Ashoka called himself King Piyadasi
Rock Edict #1 Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, has caused this Dhamma edict to be written. Here (in my domain) no living beings are to be slaughtered or offered in sacrifice. Nor should festivals be held, for Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, sees much to object to in such festivals, although there are some festivals that Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, does approve of. Formerly, in the kitchen of Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, hundreds of thousands of animals were killed every day to make curry. But now with the writing of this Dhamma edict only three creatures, two peacocks and a deer are killed, and the deer not always. And in time, not even these three creatures will be killed.
Rock Edict #9 Beloved-of-the-Gods, King Piyadasi, speaks thus: In times of sickness, for the marriage of sons and daughters, at the birth of children, before embarking on a journey, on these and other occasions, people perform various ceremonies. Women in particular perform many vulgar and worthless ceremonies. These types of ceremonies can be performed by all means, but they bear little fruit. What does bear great fruit, however, is the ceremony of the Dhamma. This involves proper behavior towards servants and employees, respect for teachers, restraint towards living beings, and generosity towards ascetics and Brahmans. These and other things constitute the ceremony of the Dhamma. Therefore a father, a son, a brother, a master, a friend, a companion, and even a neighbor should say: "This is good, this is the ceremony that should be performed until its purpose is fulfilled, this I shall do." Other ceremonies are of doubtful fruit, for they may achieve their purpose, or they may not, and even if they do, it is only in this world. But the ceremony of the Dhamma is timeless. Even if it does not achieve its purpose in this world, it produces great merit in the next, whereas if it does achieve its purpose in this world, one gets great merit both here and there through the ceremony of the Dhamma.
Aśoka and the Councils • Ashoka convened third Buddhist council. • council decided to send missionaries • Thailand • Burma • Sri Lanka (son Mahendra)
Schools of Buddhism • core of shared beliefs and practices • variety of schools of Buddhism • first 400 years, dominated by monastic orders. • lay Buddhists (3 jewels; 5 precepts) had little voice
The tripitika (tipitika): the 3 baskets • beginning of the 1st C. CE • sutras written down • Pali Canon attributed to the Buddha: • The Sutra (sutta) Pitaka • discourse basket • The VinayaPitaka • discipline basket • Abhidharma • reflections on the Buddha’s teaching
Two “Schools” of Buddhism • Mahayana / non-Mahayana • Pre-Mahayana: • Sthaviravāda / Theravāda • Mahasanghika • Split: Hinayana (“the lesser vehicle”) and Mahayana (“the greater vehicle”)
At the Dawn of the First Century CE • split signals end of era • Before: monastic life, oral teachings • After: diverse, adapting to new lands
Theravada Buddhism • “the way of the elders” • one branch of monastic Buddhism • thrived in first 400 years • most influential in Sri Lanka and Indonesia • deliberately conservative