Introduction to Buddhism World Religions Fr. Llane Briese
Summary of Buddhist History Part One
Life of Siddhartha • Born in privilege • The Four Sights • Ascetic Life • Enlightenment under the Bodhi Tree • Middle Way • The sangha: the community • Death in 483 B.C.—Cremated and relics placed under stupas.
The Councils • The concern of maintaining authentic Buddhism • Dharma: the legacy of the Buddha, the “Enlightened One” • First Council: Maintain purity of the memory of Siddhartha. • Second Council: Addressing concerns of some teachers who were “loosening” the requirements • Root of the split between the Theravada and Mahayana sects. • Third Council: After King Ashoka’s conversion in the 3rd century B.C., sought to expand Buddhism.
History of Buddhism • The Gupta Dynasty (240-550 A.D.) helped Buddhism to thrive, helping to construct monasteries and universities. • The invasion of the Huns in 470 nearly destroyed Buddhism. • The Pala Dynasty (VIII-IX c.) also contributed to the rise of Buddhism. • Buddhism grew in Tibet during this time period. • Muslim invasion decimated Buddhism in India until the 20th century.
History of Buddhism • Buddhism spread into Central and Southeast Asia. • China: Buddhism coexisted with Confucianism and Taoism. • Japan: Spread from China; Pure Land Ch’an Buddhism/Zen Buddhism. • In the Japanese Understanding: • India = root • China = stem • Japan = flower • Tibet and the Dalai Lama • Threats in the 20th century
Families of Buddhism • Theravada Buddhism: more conservative and monastic • Tripitaka: • VinayaPitaka: discipline for monks and nuns • Sutra Pitaka: discourses attributed to Siddhartha • AbidharmaPitaka: psychological teachings—more complex • Mahayana Buddhism: more inclusive, focused on laity. • Lotus Sutra: Universal message of nirvana • The Perfection of Wisdom: A treatise on how to achieve the perfection of wisdom. • Bodhisattvas • Vajrayana Buddhism: Tantric, very ritual-bound.
Main Teachings and Practices Part Two
Three Marks of Existence • Each of these three truths is a topic for Buddhist meditation, serving to bring an end to illusions in one’s life: • Anicca: Impermanence • Dukkha: Suffering • Anatta:No-self (anatma)
The Four Noble Truths • If ignorant of these truths, one remains in the samsara cycle. • Dukkha:Transience, a fundamental fact of mortal existence. • 4 Noble Truths (reality of dukkha): • Life is filled with suffering. • The cause of suffering is desire. • To cease suffering, one must cease desiring. • The path to the end of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path.
The Noble Eightfold Path • Perfect Understanding: 4 Noble Truths • Perfect Thought: Loving Kindness and Renunciation • Perfect Speech: Truth and kindness in speech. • Perfect Conduct: Honesty, peace, and chastity. • Perfect Livelihood: Not Harming Living Things • Perfect Effort: Diligence in cultivating good thoughts. • Perfect Mindfulness: Awareness • Perfect Concentration: Ability to meditate without distraction.
Theravada vs. Mahayana • Theravada: Continues to emphasize the monastic focus on one’s progress through the Noble Eightfold Path. • Mahayana: Criticizes the Theravada understanding as being too selfish; focus more on external conduct and dispelling ignorance. Encouraged bodhissatvas. (Called themselves the “great vehicle” as opposed to Theravada as the “minor vehicle”.)
Buddhist Doctrines • Anatma: The idea that life is not permanent, nor is the individual soul or personal self. • What is the difference between the Buddhist concept of anatma and the Hindu concept of atman? • Buddhism acknowledges deities, but does not affirm the existence of a transcendent, creator God. Deities are part of the ongoing process of change. • Christian syncretism: Process theology
The Sangha • Three Jewels: “I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the Dharma. I take refuge in the Sangha.” • Sangha: Originally only a monastic community, now applied to entire community. • Theravada: An arhat is one who has been liberated from the samsara cycle in the present lifetime. • Mahayana: A bodhisattva is one who has forsaken his/her own nirvana to help others attain theirs.
Sacred Time and Space Part Three
Sacred Celebrations • Offerings may take place either in a temple or in a home. • Meditation: Supremely important. • Asana: Body position in meditation. • Mantra: Repeated word or phrase used in meditation. • Mudra: A position of the hands accompanying a mantra. • Puja: Offerings of flowers, fruit, water, incense, candlelight. (See textbook p. 261 for meaning of each.)
Five Precepts • 1. Do not take the life of any living creature. • 2. Do not take anything not freely given • 3. Abstain from sexual misconduct and overindulgence. • 4. Refrain from untrue or deceitful speech. • 5. Avoid intoxicants.
Buddhist Rituals • Visakha(Buddha Day) is the first full moon day of May. Celebrates the Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death. (Theravada Buddhism only) • Mahayana Buddhists celebrate these moments on different dates throughout the year. • Importance of Death Rituals (but little else in terms of life-cycle celebrations). • Important Places: Temples, Stupas, and Pagodas
Comparison • How does Buddhism compare with Christian apophatic and ascetic traditions?