BUDDHISM. BUDDHISM. BUDDHISM. …. Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa: Homage to Him, the Exalted, the Worthy, the Fully Enlightened One. To do no evil; To cultivate good; To purify one's mind: This is the teaching of the Buddhas. - The Dhammapada. Life of Buddha. ….
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Namo Tassa Bhagavato
Homage to Him, the Exalted,
the Worthy, the Fully Enlightened One.
To do no evil; To cultivate good; To purify one's mind: This is the teaching of the Buddhas.
The Birth of the Bodhisatta.On a full-moon day in the month of May (Visakha) 2600 years ago was born a Prince named Siddhattha. His birth took place at Lumbini (modern Rumindei in Nepal), where his mother Mahamaya, the chief queen consort of King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu, rested with her royal retinue, on her way to her parental home in Devadaha. In the picture Queen Mahamaya stands under a flowering sala tree holding on to one of its branches.
Life as a Prince.Manifold was the variety of all the sensuous delights within the palace, the music and song that filled the palace halls by night and day; the beauty and grace of its dancing girls; the fragrance of subtle perfumes; the finest silks and priceless gems for jewelry and adornment; and rare delicacies and foods for the royal table. And yet, day after day, seated amidst all this luxury the Prince remains unmoved. Ever in thoughtful mood, with a far-away look in his beautiful eyes he muses on the fleeting nature of life's so called pleasures and its doubtful delights.
The realities of life.All King Suddhodana's efforts to protect his son from the four sights of old-age, disease, death, and a recluse are of no avail. On a certain occasion, on his way to the royal pleasure gardens the Prince is confronted by each one of these very sights, and is filled with doubts and deep misgiving. Soon after this he meets a wandering ascetic, impressed by the somber garb and quiet demeanor of the homeless recluse the Prince looks long and hard at him, and then, makes up his mind to leave the palace for a life of homelessness.
Siddhartha experienced a radical transformation while on a journey. Along the road, he witnessed:
an elderly man, thereby learning thereality of age;
a person ravaged by disease, thereby learning the
reality of sickness;
a corpse, thereby learning thereality of death;
a community of monks with their begging bowls,
thereby learning thereality of want.
Age, sickness, death and want; is there any realm, asked the shaken Siddhartha, in which human beings are freed from these facts of human existence?
The Great going forth.On the day of the Esala full-moon (July) the Crown Prince receives the news brought from the palace, of the birth of a son to his wife, the beautiful Princess Yasodhara. Alarmed at this fresh development, this new fetter to bind him closer to the world, the Prince decides to leave the palace that very night. For the sake of his father, his queen, his son, for the sake of all mankind, he would leave the world to seek a way to save the world from all suffering. This is the Great Renunciation.
Experiment with Asceticism.For six long years the ascetic Gotama, as Prince Siddhattha was now known, wanders along the highways and byways of India. He goes to Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta two of its greatest religious teachers, who teach him everything from their store of knowledge and wisdom. But the ascetic Gotama is not satisfied, for their teachings do not lead to the cessation of suffering. With unrelenting energy he undergoes rigorous ascetic discipline, both bodily and mental, seeking a way to the cessation of suffering through further suffering. After 6 years with the ascetics, sometimes living on only 6 grains of a rice a day, he becomes lean and emaciated and a mere skeleton.
Enlightenment.Discarding both extremes of luxurious living and self mortification, the Bodhisatta(= awakened one) Prince chooses the Middle Path of moderation based on the practice of virtue (sila), concentration of the mind (samadhi), and the intensive analysis of all psycho-physical phenomena that finally leads to full understanding of things as they really are (panna).
Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi-tree(bodhi = budh = “woke up”) at Buddhagaya to meditate, determined not to arise until he had achieved enlightment; he does and attains Samma Smabodhi, thereby becoming the Supreme Buddha(= awaken or enlightened one).
The First Discourse.Having realized the Four Noble Truths (the Noble Truth ofSuffering; the Cause of Suffering; the Cessation of Suffering; and the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering) by himself, the Buddha now decides to teach them to the five ascetics who had earlier served him at Uruvela, in Buddhagaya. At the end of this First Discourse (or Sermon), which is known as the "Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta" and given to the five ascetics who were now living at Isipatana in Benares, the oldest of them, Kondanna realizes the first path and fruition of the Stream-winner (Sotapanna), or one who goes against the stream of Samsara (the recurring cycle of life and death).
Go now and wander for the welfare of the many.The Buddha stays on at Isipatana for the rainy season. However, before that, within the first week of His giving of the Dhammacakkappavattna Sutta, all five ascetics reach the highest fruition of Sainthood and thus become the first five Arahant disciples of the Buddha. Before the rainy season is over fifty five others have followed suit. The Buddha now exports His sixty disciples: -'Go forth, ye bhikkhus, for the welfare of the many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the world, for the good, welfare and happiness of gods and men.' Accordingly the disciples set forth to spread the new teaching.
The law of Causation or Dependent Arising.After His Enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree at Buddhagaya, the Buddha reflects on the Law of Dependent Origination (Paticca Samuppada). He ponders as to how things come into being due to past and present conditions to cause suffering. Next He muses on the cessation of these very things when their cause has been removed. Then he reflects on both the arising and the cessation of all things conditioned and inter dependent, in the present, the past and the future.
The Philosophy of change.The Buddha teaches that all conditioned things are in a state of flux or change, and thus impermanent. The ever changing nature of both mind and matter proves the insubstantiality of life, and the instability of existence. Knowing this, Khema the consort of King Bimbisara avoided going to see the Buddha: for being very beautiful, she was afraid the Buddha would disparage her self-conscious awareness of her loveliness. As she went into his presence one day, the Buddha creates the illusion of a beautiful young woman before her, who gradually grows old before her very eyes and collapses at the feet of the Master. Alarmed and ashamed she realizes the impermanence of the human body.
Unsatisfactoriness of Life.According to the Buddha, whatever is impermanent is subject to suffering, and the world rests on this basic factor of suffering (Dukkha). However, having accepted this fact, He goes on to teach man how to gain his release from all suffering. The tragic story of Patacara who loss her whole family within a matter of a single day and night, points out only too well how suffering besets the unsuspecting worlding. After listening to the Buddha she gains peace and sanctity.
Buddha teaches that all Phenomena is soulless.When a thing is impermanent, as all conditioned things are, and thus susceptible to change, there can be no overlord or Self. Helpless in arranging things according to its wishes there can be no soul as master over mind and body. The Buddha explains the soullessness of beings to the five bhikkhus at Isipatana in Benares, in the discourse on soullessness (Anattalakkana Sutta).
Freedom of thought.At times referred to as the Buddha's Charter of Free Inquiry, this discourse was given by the Buddha to the Brahmin Kalamas at Kesaputta. 2500 years ago, preaching against blind belief in Buddha gave prominence to and encouraged the spirit of free inquiry and independence of thought and action, subject to sound judgment. He trained his disciples in the art of questioning as well as in the finer points of debate and discussion. Pointing out the dangers of haphazard thinking the Buddha teaches the Kalamas (the art of reasoning) for the sole purpose of arriving at true understanding of the Buddha's teaching of the Four Noble Truths.
Towards human dignity.Sunita was a scavenger born into a so called outcaste community. On meeting the Buddha on his almsround one day, the humble youth prostrated himself before the Master in adoration. Asking for ordination he is taken to the temple where he soon becomes worthy of the highest obeisance of both deva and brahma gods. Thus the Buddha teaches that a man becomes neither a Brahman nor a low-caste by birth, but by deeds alone.[Note: Since Buddhists believe that a Brahman or supreme god cannot exist, how can a man become one?]
Human freedom.In the time of the Buddha it was common for both men and women to enter into services in rich households due to their extreme poverty. In fact this traffic in human slaves was very common at the time, even though it was contra indicated for a follower of the Buddha. The state of slavery that existed at the time is well illustrated by the story of the slave girl Rajjumala who worked for a very wicked mistress who treated her without any mercy even for the slightest fault. Here the Buddha admonished both servant and mistress and teaching them the Doctrine, bestows permanent peace on both of them.
Ministering to the sick.In spite of the fact that the study and practice of medicine and surgical science has advanced to a great extent by the Buddha's time, hardly any attention was paid to nursing or caring for the sick. Putigatta Tissa Thera was a monk who was stricken by a skin disease which spread covering his whole body with a mass of ulcerating matter. Lying unattended by the fellow monks his condition worsens. The Buddha going to the stricken monk who now lies dangerously ill, bathes him in warm water with the help of Ananda Thera, and cleans his robes.
Having made him comfortable the Buddha expounds the Teaching (Dharma) to him, explaining the true nature of the human body. Enlightened by the discourse the Thera becomes an Arahant. The Buddha then addresses the other monks on the ennobling task of caring for the sick. Accepting the compassionate exhortation of the Master and following His noble example, the laity started to build wards for sick monks in all large monasteries. Later king Dhammasoka was to build hospitals not only for the public but also for sick animals. Hence the honor for the establishment of the first hospitals should be given to the Buddhists.
Psychic Therapy.The Buddha speaking on the mind, has also spoken on mental disorders and on the treatment of psychic ailments. The Buddha has traced sorrow as one of the chief causes leading to the arising of mental disturbances. On the death of her only son, Kisa Gotami loses control of her senses and in her madness goes in search of medicine for her dead child. Failing all else she appeals to the Buddha, who realizing that nothing would convince her until her mental equilibrium has been restored, sends her on an errand to get him a few mustard seeds from a house where there has been no death. Unable to accomplish the Master's request, she comes to the conclusion that death is inevitable and that her only son too had succumbed to it.(See “Mustard Seeds.”)
Compassion to Animals.In the Buddha's time there were various animal sacrifices taking place in India. Innocent animals were killed as offerings on sacrificial altars to appease the gods, for man's happiness both here and hereafter.
The Buddha, however, showed man that it was impossible to obtain happiness for oneself by causing suffering to others, and that the followers of the Buddha if they were so, should avoid making animal sacrifices.
At that time the King of Kosala had seen sixteen terrifying dreams in a single night, and was in great fear. To avert the evil influence of these dreams a great animal sacrifice with the killing of thousands of animals was arranged in accordance with the advice given by the Brahmins.
Hearing of this, the Buddha advises the King against such a sacrifice, thus saving the lives of all those doomed creatures. From that day to this, no taking of life however small is involved in any ceremony of the Buddha's followers.
Buddhist Economic System.Many who are not familiar with the Buddha's Teaching classify it as a religion for the next world, or for a future life. They are completely mistaken in this, because eighty percent of the objectives included in the Buddha's Teaching are for the world of today.
According to the Buddha all except one of the five blessings that accrue to the virtuous are available in this life itself; ten of the eleven benefits obtainable through the development of Metta (loving-kindness) are immediate.
One who leads a good life in this world is certain to be happy in the next. The Buddha emphasizes this in His Teachings. Thus the Buddha who taught the way to the cessation of suffering also pointed out the path to a highly satisfactory way of life on earth.
One aspect of this mundane progress refers to an economic system based on Buddhist principles with the objective of economic development together with the elimination of poverty.
The Buddha defines righteous employment as engagement in agriculture, trade, dairy farming, defense services, government services and professional services.
He prohibited trade in weapons, in slaves, in rearing animals for slaughter, in liquor, and in poisons, drugs and narcotics.
Buddhist Education.It is a method of teaching that is based on the mental development of the individual: The primary object of Buddhist Education is to produce a cultured disciplined and educated society. With that object in view the first university to be established in the world was at Nalanda in India. It is reported that over ten thousand well disciplined, cultured and law abiding students had their education there in addition to the numerous lecture halls found there classes were also held in the open air under the cooling shade of trees.
Administration of Justice.Certain statutes regarding the administration of justice, were set up by the Buddha for the benefit of bhikkhus, in order to facilitate the dispensation of moral justice according to sound judgment, whenever the occasion arose. By this act the Buddha ensured that the spirit of moral justice which enables us to interpret laws correctly, unlike the imperfect expression of certain aspects of our present day legal administration. At the time of the Buddha and even later, there were kings who took advantage of, and made use of these laws to supplement their own.
The judicial procedure adopted by the Buddha is clearly illustrated in the case of the Arahant Theri Kumara-Kassapa's mother, who unaware of her pregnant condition, with her husband's consent left her home and entered the Bhikkuni order. Later, finding her in an advanced state of pregnancy, the bhikkuni was charged with a serious allegation of misconduct and summoned before a religious court of appeal.
The Buddha ordered Upali Thera, foremost among His Arahant disciples in knowledge of Vinaya matters, (and thus equal to that of the Chief Justice of to-day), to preside, try the innocent victim and to deliver judgment on her. The audience consisted of bhikkhus, bhikkunis and laymen, including the lay-woman Visakha.
She screened the victim from the presence of the Buddha and the rest, after careful examination and intimate questioning declared that she was quite innocent. The Arahant Upali on hearing the evidence absolved the bhikkuni of any transgression.
World Peace.In the Buddha's Teaching the highest emphasis is laid on the law of cause and effect, or the conditionality of all mundane phenomena. Greed, hatred and delusion are the chief causes that lead to a dissatisfaction with the world. If one seeks to escape from this state of dissatisfaction one should try to get rid of the underlying craving and anger or hatred due to ignorance of the true nature of things. War is diametrically opposed to peace. Conflict is due to the various malignant motives stagnating in the minds of men. The control of such thoughts as greed, jealousy, hate and so on will certainly lead to peace.
Permanent peace will only come when one has completely eradicated these mental defilements. Wars will cease and peaceful dialogue between individuals will lead to a world of peaceful and harmonious living.
Petty squabbles arose between the farmers on both sides of the river Rohini which served as the boundary between the Sakyan and the Koliyan Kingdoms, as each side tried to divert as much water as possible to their fields. Finally these led to a major confrontation of the two armies.
The Buddha arriving on the scene exhorts them on the calamitous results of war and the advantage of arriving at a peaceful settlement. Thus war is averted and peace restored.
It should be mentioned that the Buddha has been the only religious teacher to have visited a battlefront in person and acted as a true mediator in averting war.
The Maha Parinibbana.The Buddha was born as a prince under a tree, gained Supreme Enlightenment under a tree and wandered about India for 45 years giving His Teaching to the world, and finally passed away at the age of eighty at Kusinara under a tree as a human being.
No wonder Buddhists love trees!!!
Buddhist scriptures are a vast and wide terrain, so we cannot discuss all of them.
The starting point, however, for any initial foray into this wealth of Buddhist scripture is the Pali Canon, the first scriptures to be committed to writing after the Buddha's parinibbana (i.e., death, ascention, or whatever).
Believe nothing because
a wise man said it...Believe nothing because
it is generally held as true...Believe nothing because
it is written...Believe nothing because
it is said to be divine...Believe nothing because
someone else believes it...Believe only what you
yourself judge to be true.
- the Buddha
The Pali Canon consists of three divisions, the Tipitaka(or Tripitaka in Sanskrit) which literally means the 'three baskets.' Each of these baskets has different concerns.
1. First, there is the Vinaya Pitaka, the Book of Discipline, which includes the rules of monastic discipline given by the Buddha during his lifetime.
2. The second division is the Sutta Pitaka, a collection of the Buddha's discourses. This has particular significance as it contains the essential teachings of the Buddha, accounts of his own enlightenment experience, and instructions on morality and meditation.
3. The third division is the Abhidhamma Pitaka or Higher Teachingswhich offers an intricate analysis of the nature of mental and physical existence.
The Saddharma-pundarika, or 'Lotus of the True Dharma' is written in Sanskrit and has become one of the most influential of Mahayana scriptures. Analysis suggests that it was written between 100BCE and 200C.
In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha in the form of Sakyamuni speaks to a vast audience of assembled saints, monks, nuns and bodhisattvas.
One of the key Mahayana concepts to be found in the Lotus Sutra is that of skill-in-means (upaya). This is the idea that the Buddha has adapted his teachings to suit the level of his audience. Thus, Theravada and Mahayana are parts of a single path (Ekayana).
The Heart Sutrais believed to have been written about the first century BCE. Although this is a very short text - about a page in length - it has been enormously influential.
Essentially it expounds the concept of 'emptiness' (sunyata), a key term in Mahayana philosophy. In short, sunyata refers to the absence of self or essence in all conditioned phenomena: 'form is emptiness and emptiness is form.'
The world is seen as a complex of ever-changing, fluctuating elements (dharmas): 'Here, O Sariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness'. The texts culminates with the mantra: 'Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail!'
The Diamond Sutra takes the from of a dialogue between Sakyamuni Buddha and the disciple Subhuti.
In it the Buddha expounds the notion that that the self and the world around us are ultimately illusory: 'The appearance of self is actually no appearance. The appearance of others, the appearance of living beings and the appearance of a life are actually not appearances.'
The world that we think is real is no more than 'a dream, an illusion, a bubble or a shadow.'
This treatise is concerned with the nature of Buddhas and secondarily with Bodhisattvas.
Abodhisattvais first an embodiment in human form of the Buddha principle or truth. Although he appears on earth, he is not subject to the same conditioned existence as are unenlightened human beings who are still held by karma and ignorance in the chain of interdependent origination.
Next, a bodhisattva’s function or task (what he does in distinction to who he is) is that of a Buddha-to-be – someone who exists in the world but who is entitled or qualified to be in Nirvana now. He voluntarily defers his entrance into Nirvana in order to help others toward their enlightenment and Nirvana. It is their pure compassion and love for others that keeps them in this world.
By entering the Bodhisattva way, the mind must become enlightened. And so the training begins by generating theSix Perfections:generosity, ethics, patience, effort, concentration, and wisdom.
To become a Bodhisattva is to be fearless. There is no aversion for those who are hostile, and there is no obsessive clinging to those who are closest to us. There is no possessiveness, only love, compassion, and discernment into the nature of reality.
A Buddhist poem written by a bodhisattva expresses the idea:
For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.
The concepts of the bodhisattva in theTheravadaandMahayanasects of Buddhism are distinct; however, the ultimate role of the bodhisattva in both is to lead humankind to enlightenment.
Both sects endorse many of the same attributes that characterize the bodhisattva. The difference lies in role the bodhisattva serves in the journey to enlightenment or Nirvana. For the Theravadas the bodhisattva is a teacher or inspirer while Mahayanas develop the bodhisattva's role into that of a savior. Despite doctrinal differences, the bodhisattva is a primary step towards enlightenment for both.
TheMahayanabodhisattva is a teacher who can "transfer merits" to those who need karma. With this ability to transfer merits the bodhisattva becomes a savior figure and the goal of enlightenment becomes attainable to all who desire it. This new perception of the bodhisattva engenders the notion of bhakti: "the passionate, emotional, and devotional attachment to a loving and compassionate deity" (Ch'en, 62).
The Mahayanas see the bodhisattva as well as the Buddha as eternal beings capable of bestowing grace on those who ask for it. Enlightenment is therefore reached through a life of devotion and faith as opposed to strict discipline to doctrine.
For the Mahayana, a
bodhisattva is a lord
“who sees the world
No wonder then that
he (or she) is often
represented with a
symbolizing his all encompassing ability to view with compassion the suffering of others, thus sharing in their sorrows, a first step towards their ultimate alleviation.
Not only that, he also often is depicted as having a thousand hands too which help in the mammoth task of delivering innumerable beings to their ultimate spiritual fulfillment.
The Buddha's teaching on The Four Foundations of Mindfulness, which is outlined in Sutta Satipatthana, is of great significance. According to the text, it is 'the direct path to the attainment of purity, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the end of pain and grief...for the realization of nibbana’ (nirvana).
Mindfulness is also the seventh factor of the Noble Eightfold Path. The word 'mindfulness' can be explained as a combination of 'bare attention' and 'clear comprehension.' The purpose of practicing mindfulness it is to see things as they really are, unswayed by aversion or attraction. The four categories from within which mindfulness can be approached are:
The first 3 are easy to see, so we will skip to #4 – the Contemplation of Mental Objects
This category covers the meditator's ability to become aware of the five hindrances within him.
These are obstacles - namely sensual desire, ill-will, sloth and torpor, restlessness, and doubt - which are obstructive to the attainment of blissful states known as jhanas.
He will alsonote that what we normally designate 'the self' is made up of five 'aggregates' or khandhas - corporeality, perception, feelings, mental formations, and consciousness. He will come to an understanding of the senses, factors which are conducive to enlightenment (such as energy and rapture) and thefour noble truths.
four noble truths.
1. Life is suffering;
2. Suffering is due to attachment;
3. Attachment can be overcome;
4. There is a path for accomplishing this.
Suffering is perhaps the most common translation for the Sanskrit word duhkha, which can also be translated as imperfect, stressful, or filled with anguish.
Contributing to the anguish is anitya -- the fact that all things are impermanent, including living things like ourselves.
Furthermore, there is the concept of anatman-- literally, "no soul". Anatman means that all things are interconnected and interdependent, so that no thing -- including ourselves -- has a separate existence.
The Truth of Suffering (Dukkha)
Attachment is a common translation for the word trishna, which literally means thirst and is also translated as desire, clinging, greed, craving, or lust. Because we and the world are imperfect, impermanent, and not separate, we are forever "clinging" to things, each other, and ourselves, in a mistaken effort at permanence.
Besides trishna, there is dvesha, which means avoidance or hatred. Hatred is its own kind of clinging.
And finally there is avidya, ignorance or the refusal to see. Not fully understanding the impermanence of things is what leads us to cling in the first place.
The Truth of Arising / Origin of of Suffering (Samudaya)
Perhaps the most misunderstood term in Buddhism is the one which refers to the overcoming of attachment: nirvana. It literally means "blowing out," but is often thought to refer to either a Buddhist heaven or complete nothingness. Actually, it refers to the letting go of clinging, hatred, and ignorance, and the full acceptance of imperfection, impermanence, and interconnectedness.
The truth of Cessation / Elimination of Suffering (Nirodha)
There is the path, called dharma, for overcoming the desire which causes suffering. Buddha called it the middle way, which is understood as meaning the middle way between such competing philosophies as materialism and idealism, or hedonism and asceticism. This path, this middle way, is elaborated as the Eightfold Path.
The Truth of the Path / The Eightfold (Darhma) Path
1.Right viewis the true understanding of the four noble truths.Right Views means to keep ourselves free from prejudice, superstition and delusion... and to see aright the true nature of life.
2.Right aspirationis the true desire to free oneself from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness.Right Thoughts means to turn away from the hypocrisies of this world and to direct our minds toward Truth and Positive Attitudes and Action.
These first two are referred to asprajña,or wisdom.
3.Right speechinvolves abstaining from lying, gossiping, or hurtful talk.Right Speech means to refrain from pointless and harmful talk... to speak kindly and courteously to all.
4.Right actioninvolves abstaining from hurtful behaviors, such as killing, stealing, and careless sex.Right Conduct means to see that our deeds are peaceable, benevolent, compassionate and pure... and to live the Teachings daily.
5.Right livelihoodmeans making your living in such a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others, including animals. It means to earn our living in such a way as to entail no evil consequences, and to seek that employment to which can give our complete enthusiasm and devotion.
These three are referred to as shila, ormorality.
6.Right effortis a matter of exerting oneself in regards to the content of one's mind: Bad qualities should be abandoned and prevented from arising again; Good qualities should be enacted and nurtured.Right Effort means to direct our efforts continually to the overcoming of ignorance and craving desires.
7.Right mindfulnessis the focusing of one's attention on one's body, feelings, thoughts, and consciousness in such a way as to overcome craving, hatred, and ignorance.Right Mindfulness means to cherish good and pure thoughts, for all that we say and do arises from our thoughts.
8.Right concentrationis meditating in such a way as to progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection, impermanence, and non-separateness. Right Meditation means to concentrate on the Oneness of all life and the Buddhahood that exists within all beings.
The last three are known assamadhi,ormeditation.
Overlapping with the moral guidelines of The Noble Eightfold Path are the five precepts, the basic moral code.
These instruct us to abstain from
• harming living beings
• taking things not given
• sexual misconduct
• false speech
• intoxicating drinks and non-medicinal drugs
For monks, the number of precepts is traditionally extended to ten and includes: not eating after noon; avoiding theatrical performances and displays of music and dance; not wearing adornments and perfumes; not sleeping on high or luxurious beds; avoiding the handling of gold and silver.
There are five blessings for the one who lives virtuously:
• great increase of wealth through his diligence
• a favorable reputation
• a confident deportment, without timidity, in every society
• a serene death
• at the breaking up of the body after death, rebirth in a happy state in a heavenly world
Good acts are viewed as 'wholesome' (kusala) in that they lead to the benefit of oneself and/or others.
Bad acts are viewed as 'unwholesome' (akusala) in that they bring harm to oneself and/or others. Swatting a fly, for example, brings harm to oneself (in that such acts have negative karmic consequences) and obviously doesn't bring a lot of benefit to the fly either!
Compassion (or karuna) starts with the Buddha for he is seen as a supremely compassionate being. After he had gained enlightenment, he made the compassionate choice of sharing what he had discovered with others, even though he thought it might be too difficult for most to understand: 'Out of compassion for beings I surveyed the world with the eye of a Buddha, I saw beings with little dust in their eyes and much dust in their eyes, with keen faculties and dull faculties, with good qualities and with bad qualities, easy to teach and hard to teach.'
The Buddha’s decision to share his teachings out of compassion sets the tone for all Buddhist actions. Although Buddhism talks a lot about self-development, it is also just as much about helping others. Compassion is about empathizing with the suffering of others, acknowledging that all beings are prone to painful and unsatisfactory experience and that where we can we should help them.
On the one hand, Buddhism encourages the development of a compassionate mindset that informs all our daily activities, no matter how trivial or mundane. It is also – where the opportunity arises – about action, being supportive and caring to individuals and causes of a humanitarian nature. Compassion is seen as the antidote to cruelty. The Buddha urged his followers to meditate on compassion 'for when you develop meditation on compassion, any cruelty will be abandoned.'
The following story is a rather extreme example and one shouldn’t ever confuse Buddhism with extreme self-sacrificial religious groups. Buddhism teaches gentleness and tolerance. What this story does illustrate, however, is the significance of the quality of compassion to the Buddhist perspective.
One Buddhist story called The Hungry Tigress shows the extent of the Buddha’s compassion in one of his previous lives. In this story, Prince Mahasattva (the Buddha in a previous life) is walking through a forest when he comes upon a tigress and her seven cubs. The tigress is so weak with hunger that she cannot hunt and therefore feed her cubs. Mahasattva is moved to such compassion that he lays his body down in front of her, hoping she will eat his flesh and drink his blood. But she is even too weak for that. To help her, Mahasattva takes a sharp bamboo cane and slits his throat, thereby losing his own life but enabling the tigress to revive herself and feed her cubs.
Loving-kindness or metta is a term special to Buddhism. As this compound word suggests, it is a term that combines to the qualities of kindness and love. It is about developing a mindset which extends good will to others whoever they may be. It is not about having favorites or restricting love to a particular set of people but expanding any feelings of this kind to eventually incorporate all beings.
The development of loving-kindness acts as an antidote to feelings of ill-will and hostility:'develop meditation on loving-kindness, for when you develop meditation on loving-kindness, any ill-will will be abandoned.'The Buddha teaches that loving-kindness should be felt even when others do us harm:“Herein, monks, you should train thus: ‘Our minds will remain unaffected, and we shall utter no evil words; we shall abide compassionate for their welfare, with a mind of loving-kindness, without inner hate…we shall abide pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill-will’.”
The whole spirit of loving-kindness is summed up in the Buddha’s Metta Sutta:
He who is skilled in welfare, who wishes to attain that calm state (Nirvana), should act thus: he should be able, upright, perfectly upright, of noble speech, gentle and humble.
Contented, easily supported, with few duties, of light livelihood, with senses calmed, discreet, not impudent, not greedily attached to families.
He should not pursue the slightest thing for which otherwise men might censure him. May all beings be happy and secure, may their hearts be wholesome!
What ever living beings there be: feeble or strong, tall , stout or medium, small or large, without exception, those dwelling far or near, those who are born or those who are to be born, may all beings be happy!
Let none deceive another, not despise any person whatsoever in any place. Let him not wish any harm to another out of anger or ill-will. Just as a mother would protect her only child at the risk of her own life, even so, let him cultivate a boundless heart towards all beings.
Let his thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole world: above, below and across without any obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity.
Whether he stands, walks, sits or lies down, as long as he is awake, he should develop this mindfulness. This they say is the noblest living here.
Not falling into wrong views, being virtuous and endowed with insight, by discarding attachment to sense desires, never again is he reborn.
(From The Sutta-Nipata, translated by H.Saddhatissa, Curzon)
Eating is both a basic and essential activity. If we don't eat we die - simple as that.
In the early scriptures known as the Pali Canon, the Buddha has a number of significant things to say about food. The first stems from his six year search for enlightenment during which time he experimented with various forms of dietary restriction in extremis.
The Buddha realized that spiritual progress and starving the body were in no way compatible. It was only when he began to eat sufficiently that he was able to make the final steps necessary to win enlightenment.
The Buddhist attitude to the body is to simply look after it and one aspect of this is to feed it properly. This means avoiding extremes - over-indulgence on the one hand and rigorous abstinence on the other. Both are potentially damaging to health and thereby create obstacles for the effort and energy required for spiritual and ethical development.
In the Buddha's words, ‘’We will take food neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the endurance and continuance of this body, for ending discomfort, and for assisting the holy life.’
However, the Buddha advised his monks to eat only once a day - before noon - and that this was conducive to good health: ‘eat at a single session. By doing so, you will be free from illness and affliction, and you will enjoy health, strength, and a comfortable abiding.’
This was not advice given to lay people, it should be noted, whose lives may require them to eat more, and more often. A manual laborer, for example, who expends a great deal of physical energy might require something more substantial than one frugal meal a day.
For everyday folk, the main message, it seems, is to be moderate in eating - eat sufficient to one's needs and don't become overly fixated on food other than in terms of sustaining good health. One of the three poisons - from which many unwholesome actions stem - is ‘greed’ (the other two are hatred and delusion) and although this can be understood on all sorts of levels, the most obvious form of ‘greed’ is over-eating!
Of course, one of the most frequently discussed issues is whether Buddhism and vegetarianism go hand in hand. After all, the first precept is to abstaining from harming living beings - eating meat on a regular basis would suggest that the systematic killing of animals is necessary.
As with many ethical issues, it's a question of interpretation. The Buddha ate meat and therefore was not a vegetarian. Indeed, it is thought that he died from food poisoning after eating contaminated pork. However, he advised that meat should only be eaten when it was not seen, heard or suspected that the animal had been specifically killed for the monk's consumption. In Buddhism, therefore, meat is not something that is forbidden. However, the circumstances which result in the meat being served for consumption is a crucial factor.
So how does this apply to the modern world? Our supermarkets are filled with meat. Those that buy such meat and consume it have no direct involvement in the slaughter of the animal. Does this make them innocent?
Many Buddhists would argue that to eat meat bought from a supermarket would indirectly (if not directly) support the systematic slaughter of animals, and would thereby be breaking the first precept. For such people, vegetarianism seems to be the only practical option. Others may argue that if they are not directly involved in the slaughter of such animals then it is not ethically unwholesome. Indeed, in countries whose cultural orientation is Buddhist, you will find meat being eaten which has involved the killing of animals specially for this purpose.
The Great question is: Who or what is right now and what is really there? The great mystery? Can it be called God? Buddhism hesitates however to put any name to it. It is something which cannot be grasped by intellect or described in words.
Who is "I"? Does it amount to anything more than a collection of thoughts and memories which are just transitory and insubstantial, that come and go in the mind like clouds?
The mystery can only be seen and realized directly: but that seeing brings something truly miraculous: a total transformation. At the same time a deep compassion also crystallizes: a pure, selfless kindliness and caring born of an understanding of the unity of all beings.
In Buddhist cosmology, innumerable world-systems similar to our own are thought to float in an infinite empty space, each one founded on a two-layered basis of air and water. Our world system can be divided into three main layers:
1.Kâmadhâtu- the Realm ofDesire;
2.Rûpadhâtu- the Realm ofForm;
3.Arûpadhâtu- the Realm ofNo-Form.
Within this three-tier system, there are broadly six "destinations", two "good" and four "bad", into which it is possible to be born:
1. Gods (devas);
4. Titans (asuras);
5. Hungry ghosts (pretas);
6. The denizens of the hell realms.
At the core of the world system is Mount Meru from which concentric ranges of golden mountains radiate outwards, separated by oceans. Between the last range and the outer boundary mountains (Chakravâla) there is a great ocean in which four great continents are situated. These are the abodes of humans and the southern continent, Jambudvipa, is India.
In the human sphere there are periods of progress and decay. Life expectancy can vary from 80,000 years at the beginning of a new age (kalpa) to 10 years at the eve of nemesis. The most fortunate Kalpa is the Bhadra Kalpa with 1000 Buddhas appearing during this time (320 000 000 years). Every Buddha will rediscover the Dharma. We also live in a Bhadra Kalpa and Buddha Shakyamuni is the Buddha of our time. The Buddha of the previous age was Dipankra, and the Buddha of the Future Maitreya.
The beings that inhabit and are trapped in this world system cannot escape, for they are subject to continuous rebirth - on and on and on through beginningless and endless time. The level of being is determined by Karma. This is Samsâra, the endless wheel of life.
But, there is an exit! The exit was re-discovered by Buddha in Bodh Gâya. But, the exit is only possible for the participants in the world of humans. The idea, then is of bringing the whole painful round to a proper conclusion in a Nirvâna that represents the full flowing of the potentials of consciousness and ultimate unalloyed peace.
The Buddhist Theory of Man amounts to the Five Aggregates (Skandha):
1. The aggregate of matter: body: consists of four elements: solidity, fluidity, heat and motion;
2. The aggregate of feeling or sensation: pleasant, unpleasant or neutral;
3. The aggregate of perception: actually recognizes an object;
4. The aggregate of mental formations;
5. The aggregate of consciousness.
If all five aggregates come together they form the notion of an "I". When the aggregates break up at death, however, where will "I" be then?
The Sanskrit word Karma means action. All actions have consequences. Karmic actions can cease through recognition. But, these are problems in the Buddhist view; the Visuddhimagga asserts:
No doer of the deeds is found
No-one ever reaps their fruit
Empty phenomena roll on
This view alone is right and true ....
Closely linked to the notion of Karma is that of rebirth. This should not be confused with reincarnation, which is the view that there is a soul or subtle essence imprinted with an enduring personal stamp that transmigrates from one body to another body down through the aeons. Buddhism rejects that view.
But, there is a "causal connection" between one life and another. Thus the karmic accumulation will be a condition pertaining to a new birth.
As far as death is concerned a person's state of mind in their final moments is important. According to Tibetan Buddhism when a person dies the consciousness-continuum leaves the body and moves to an intermediate "Bardo" state [see the Tibetan Book of the Dead (Bardo Thödröl)].
According to Buddhism all phenomena arise as the result of preceding causes, all phenomena are strictly dependent, conditioned and relative. The doctrine of Paticcasamuppâda (Pali) orDependent Originationgenerates one complete life cycle (Samsâra):
1. Ignorance gives rise to
2. Volitional action which in turn gives rise to
3. Conditioned consciousness which gives rise to
4. Name and form which gives rise to
5. the Six Bases (the five senses & mind) which gives rise to
6. Sense-impressions which give rise to
7. Feelings which give rise to
8. Desire (tanha) which gives rise to
9. Attachment which gives rise to
10. Becoming (the life- or rebirth process) which gives rise to
11. Birth (or rebirth) which gives rise to
12. Old age, death.
This is depicted in the "Wheel of Life" (Bhâvachakra).
The Dependent Origination (depicted in the Wheel of Life on the next slide) is represented in twelve segments:
A blind man (Ignorance);
A potter (Action);
A monkey (Conditioned Consciousness);
Three men in a boat (our karmic inheritance carries us through the world);
House with doors and windows (sense doors: sense- data pass through);
Lovers (sense impression);
A man whose eye is pierced by an arrow (we cannot see the truth and continue to stumble on);
A man drinking (desire: insatiable thirst);
A monkey clinging to a fruit tree (attachment);
A pregnant woman;
A woman giving birth;
An old man.
But, there are wheels within the wheels. Inside the outer frieze and comprising the main body of the Wheel, there are five (sometimes six) sections which show the realms in which rebirth is possible.
Below there are the "lower" realms for hungry ghosts (pretas), the animals and the hell. Above are the realms of gods (devas), humans, and Titans (asuras).
At the centre of the Wheel are the "three poisons", the causes for the spinning of Samsâra:
Pig: representing ignorance;
Snake: representing hatred;
Cock: representing greed.
The way out of the eternally spinning Wheel of Life is Buddha Shakyamuni in the right top corner and shows that the power of ignorance, hatred and greed can be broken by awareness: by seeing what is really going on, rather than being compulsively caught up in the endless continuing shadow-play of it all.
The five hindrances to progress on Buddha's Path are:
Sensual desire: kâmacchanda;
Ill will: vyâpâda;
Sloth/Torpor (German: Trägheit): thîna-middh;
Restlessness and worry: uddhacca-kukkacca;
A further teaching circle around the ten fetters that bind people to samsâric existence:
Belief in personality: sakkâya-ditthi;
Attachment to rules and rituals: sîlabbata-parâmâsa;
Sensuous craving: kâma-râga;
Craving for fine material existence: rûpa-râga;
Craving for formless existence: arûpa-râga;
If all these obstacles are overcome, one will get a first glimpse of Nirvâna (now called: Sotâpanna). Now there are mostly only seven rebirths before complete Enlightment. At the final stages of the Path undergone one becomes a "once-returner" (sakadâgâmi), then a "never-returner" (anâgâmi) and finally a "worthy-one" (Arahat). Above Arahat there is a fully-fledged Buddha (Sammâ Sambodhi), like Buddha Shakyamuni. A Buddha-in making is a Bodhisattva who remains in the world to help people to free themselves from Samsâra. Later, with the coming of Mahâyâna, the Bodhisattva Ideal becomes generalized.
The ten perfections (paramita) are:
Generosity: dâna; Patience: khânti;
Morality: sîla; Truthfulness: sacca;
Renunciation: nekkhamma; Determination: adhittâna;
Wisdom: panna (prajnâ); Loving kindness: mettâ;
Energy: viriya; Equanimity: upekkhâ.
Buddhism teaches us: the world's perils reveal from the fact, that our perceptions of the world are distorted. We seek permanence and security where they are not available; and rather than remain open and unattached, we postulate a fictitious reference-point, an "I", and contract around it, where upon heaven and earth are set as under and all manner of disjunctions set in motion. The cure is to watch and understand how these problems arise and then to proceed to try and cure them by means of morality, meditation and wisdom. If successful, we will get to the final truth.
The principal schools of Buddhism which flourished in Asia were:
1. The VinayaSchool (Lu-tsung)
2. The RealisticSchool (Chu-she)
3. The Three TreatisesSchool (San-lun)
4. The Idealist School (Fa-hsiang)
5. The Mantra or Tantric School (Mi-tsung or Chen-yen)
6. The Avatamsaka or Flower Adornment School (Hua-yen)
7. The T'ien-t'ai or White Lotus School (Fa-hua)
8. The Pure Land School (Ching t'u)
9. The Dhyana School (Ch'an / Chen / Zen)
Only the significant ones will be discussed in more detail.
The Mantra or Tantric School (Mi-tsung or Chen-yen):This is the Chinese version of Tantric Buddhism. It flourished in China for less tha a hundred years, starting with the arrival of Subhakarasimha(637-735) from India during the reign of T'ang dynasty.
Subhakarasimha translated the Mahavairochana Sutra which expounded the Tantric teachings. Two other monks who played a key role in the growth of Tantric Buddhism in China were Vajrabodhi (670-741) introduced the concept of Mandalas to the Chinese, while Amoghavajra said to have initiated three T'ang emperors into Tantricism.
The Tantric school of Buddhism believed in magic, incantations, drawing of mandalas, casting of spells and elaborate and often secret rituals.
The school was later replaced by Lamaism, which was a more popular version of Tantricism.
The T'ien-t'ai (Tendai) or White Lotus School (Fa-hua):Like the Avatamsaka school, the White Lotus School also was based upon the highest teachings of the Buddha, but compared to the former, provided a more a elaborate view of the cosmic reality. It was founded by a Chinese monk by name Chih-i (538-597) who lived in Chekiang province of China, and formed his doctrines on the basis of the Saddharma-pundarika sutra, an ancient Buddhist text, which he believed to be the vehicle of all other truths. According to this school, Truth operated from three levels or aspects.
At one extreme was the void or emptiness, the unknown or the non self, about which nothing much could be speculated except talking in terms of negation and denial.
At the other extreme, the second level was temporariness that was in reality nothingness but would manifest itself temporarily or momentarily because of the activity of the senses, as some kind of an illusion or as an image on the film screen.
The third level is a middle state, 'middle' for our understanding, but not necessarily middle, 'different' for our understanding but not necessarily different, because it unites the two and presents them together as the one Highest Truth.
These three levels of truth are also not separate or different from each other. They are the aspects of the same reality, that is universal as well as ubiquitous.
The school advocated the practice of concentration and insight (chih and kuan) to understand the transience of things and attain the Buddha Mind in which the above mentioned three aspects of Truth reside in perfect harmony. Chih-i said to have become very popular during his life time and caught the attention of the emperor who donated the revenues of a district for the maintenance of his monastery.
The While Lotus School was introduced into Japan in the 9th century AD and became popular asTendai.
Pure Land School (Ching t’u):Chinese Pure Land Buddhism is not a Chinese invention, but instead a crystallization of a tradition of Pure Land thinking already developed in India.
The Pure Land tradition is one of the oldest and most influential in Chinese Buddhism. As an independent tradition, it is often referred to as the "White Lotus Sect" in reference to the White Lotus Society created by the Sung Dynasty monk Tzu-yuan (1086-1166).
The tradition of Pure Land thought and practice in China can historically be traced back to the monk T'an-luan (476-542), who was originally a Taoist. It was based upon the teachings of the Mahayana school and the belief in the Bodhisattvas, the highest beings, who were next to the Buddha in the order and just a step away from salvation, but would postpone their own salvation for the sake of others.
This school worshipped Amitabha and sought his grace for deliverance from this world under the notion that salvation could not be gained on ones own efforts (jiriki) but with the help of the other power (tariki), the grace of Amitabha. The school practiced devotional forms of worship and regular chanting of O-mi-to-fo (the Chinese rendering of Amitabha) as the means to salvation. It followed the teachings contained in the Smaller and Larger Sukhavati-vyuha sutras.
The school was subsequently introduced into Korea and Japan where it flourished under different names.
9. The Dhyana School (Ch'an / Chen):This was the most popular of the Chinese schools of Buddhism, which became popular in Japan and later in the west as Zen Buddhism.
Chan was a "way of seeing into the nature of ones own being." (D.T.Suzuki).
Though it was introduced into China by an Indian monk by name Bodhidharma, around 520 AD, Chan was essentially a product of Chinese character, which unlike the Indian, evolved out of the practical and down to earth philosophy of life.
Chan rejected book learning as the basis of enlightenment, set aside all notions and theories of suffering and salvation, and relied upon day to day events, simple thinking and ordinary living as the means to enlightenment.
Enlightenment descended upon one as a sudden shift in awareness, not because of elaborate study of the Buddhist sutras, exposition of the philosophies, nor worship of the images of the Buddha but from a sudden shift in the paradigm, from an instantaneous chasm in the process of thought, from a kind of Eureka experience, characterized by a sudden opening of the mind and removal of a veil, after years of silent waiting and steady preparation.
The Chan/Zen school discouraged the intellectual kind of pursuit of religion as it believed that any scholarly approach would tend to stiffen the mind and prevent it from experiencing the sudden flowering of Chan.
Although the Chan/Zen masters did not encourage preoccupation with scriptural studies, they encouraged the initiates to study the basic Chan scriptures like the Lankavatarasutra, the Vimalakritinirdesa, the Vajracchedika Sutras and some additional Chan texts as a a part of their preparation for the subsequent stages of observing into the nature of things.
By denigrating the scriptural knowledge, the Chan masters therefore were not promoting illiteracy, but were preparing the students to free themselves from opinionated intellectuality and scholarly affectations to emerge into a world of notionless observations.
The word 'chan' is a corrupt form of the Sanskrit word, 'dhyana' meaning concentrated meditation or contemplation. Dhyana was an essential aspect of Chinese Chan Buddhism aimed to develop inner stillness and accumulation of chi energy among the practitioners. But what Chan encouraged, more than the mechanical aspects of meditation, was the development of an unfettered and detached mind, that would not cling to anything and would not rest anywhere and would flow with the flow of life, gathering nothing and gaining nothing.
Chinese Chan Buddhism did not place too much emphasis on meditation, unlike the Zen Buddhism of Japan, but on finding the Buddha mind in the most mundane tasks and conversations of day to day life. In short, Chan made living a deeply religious act aimed to break the encrusted layers of thought.
Chan Buddhism underwent a schism during the 7th century resulting in the formation of two rival school, a southern school led by Hui-neng and a northern school led by Shenhsiu. While the northern school disappeared over a period of time, the Southern school underwent further sub-divisions resulting in the formation of five Houses and seven sub sects of which two survived. One was Lin-chi (Jap. Rinzai) and Tsao-tung(Jap.Soto).
Chan Buddhism influenced Chinese way of life profoundly. The Chan art became famous in ancient China for its spontaneity and simplicity of expression. But with the decline of Buddhism in China, Chan also gradually retreated into remote monasteries and gradually lost its appeal. Its modified version in Japan and other places (as Zen, Rinzai, and Soto) still survive.
In his forty-nine years expounding on the Buddha-dharma, Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, taught the Five Vehicles of Buddhism.
These Five Vehicles are taught as expedients to cater to the different capacities and capabilities of sentient beings.
In Buddhism the term ‘vehicle’ is analogous to a conveyance of deliverance for sentient beings. Thus, when one cultivates according to the teachings of these vehicles, one is conveyed or ferried from one shore to the other. That is, from the present shore where there is an abundance of affliction and suffering of birth and death, to the shore where there is bliss and enlightenment.
1-Greater Vehicle Buddhism, Bodhisattva Vehicle Buddhism or Mahayana Buddhism: While the Small Vehicle is like a motorcycle or a bicycle which carries one or two persons at a time, the Greater Vehicle is likened to a train or a ship which can ferry many passengers on a single trip. Thus, the doctrines of the Greater Vehicle are for personal salvation as well as for the salvation of other sentient beings.
Practitioners of the Greater Vehicle Buddhism aspire to ferrying both self and others to the shore of enlightenment. Amongst the well known Bodhisattvas of the Greater Vehicle Buddhism are Avalokitesvara or Kuan-Yin, Mahasthama, Manjusri, Ksitigarbha and last but not least, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.
2-Small Vehicle Buddhism, Sravaka, Theravada, or Hinayana Buddhism: The doctrines for those who cultivate for the sake of personal liberation and aspiration for personal salvation. The highest level of attainment forcultivators of Hinayana Buddhism is the Arahat.
3-Middle Vehicle Buddhism or Pratyeka-Buddha Buddhism: This is slightly more advanced than the Small Vehicle Buddhism. Like those of the Small Vehicle Buddhism, practitioners of the Middle Vehicle Buddhism are not concerned about the salvation of other sentient beings.
4-Humanity Vehicle Buddhism, or translated phonetically from Mandarin, Jen Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism: The main objectives of Jen Ch’an Buddhism are to purify the human mind and to promote a blissful culture for humanity, so that we may realize a happy and blissful family, and pure land in this world.
5-Deva Vehicle Buddhism: The doctrines expounded to the Devas or celestial beings.
I. The Theravada Buddhistsbelieve that they practice the original form of Buddhism as it was handed down to them by Buddha. Theravada Buddhism dominates the culture of Sri Lanka, but is also very prominent in Thailand and Burma.
While Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, spent several decades teaching, none of his teachings were written down until several hundred years later. In the third century, Asoka, the great Mauryan emperor, converted to Buddhism and began to sponsor several monasteries throughout the country. He even sent missionaries out to various countries both east and west. During his reign, the teachings of Buddha spread all across India and Sri Lanka.
Disturbed by the prolific growth of Buddhist heresies, a council of Buddhist monks was convened at the Mauryan capital of Patna during the third century BC to purify the doctrine. What arose from that council, more or less, were the definitive teachings of Theravada Buddhism; from this point onwards, Theravada Buddhism undergoes little if any change.
When the teachings of Buddha were finally written into a canon, they were written not in Sanskrit, but in a language derived from Sanskrit, called Pali. This language was spoken in the western regions of the Indian peninsula, but from Sri Lanka (which is off the eastern coast of India) to Burma, the Pali scriptures would become the definitive canon. We can' determine precisely when they were written down, but tradition records that the canon was first written down somewhere between 89 and 77 BC, that is, over four hundred years after the death of Buddha.
This canon is called the Tripitaka, or "Three Baskets," for it is divided into three parts, the Vinaya , or "Conduct," the Sutta , or "Discourses," and the Abhidhamma , or "Supplementary Doctrines." The second part, the "Discourses," are the most important in Buddhism. These are discourses by the Buddha and contain the whole of Buddhist philosophy and morality.
The basic doctrines of Theravada Buddhism correspond fairly exactly with the teachings of Buddha. Theravada Buddhism is based on the Four Noble Truths and the idea that all of physical reality is a chain of causation; this includes the cycle of birth and rebirth. Through the practice of the Eightfold Noble Path and the Four Cardinal Virtues, an individual can eventually attain Nirvana .
Theravada Buddhism, however, focused primarily on meditation and concentration, the eighth of the Eightfold Noble Path; as a result, it emphasized a monastic life removed from the hustle and bustle of society and required an extreme expenditure of time in meditating. This left little room for the bulk of humanity to join in; Theravada Buddhism was, by and large, an esoteric religion.
A new schism then erupted within the ranks of Buddhism, one that would attempt to reformulate the teachings of Buddha to accomodate a greater number of people: the "Greater Vehicle," or Mahayana Buddhism.
Theravada Buddhism focuses primarily on meditation and concentration, the eighth of the Eightfold Noble Path; as a result, it centers on a monastic life and an extreme expenditure of time in meditating.
There is (and has been) only one Buddha. While there are Buddhist “saints,” they are not Buddhas nor do they have the “Buddhist Principle.”
Only Maitreya will have the Buddhist-principle and be a bodhisattva (a Mahayana term anyway) when Buddha comes to earth again.
II.This left little room for the bulk of humanity to join in Theravada, so a new schism erupted within the ranks of Buddhism in the first century AD, one that would attempt to reformulate the teachings of Buddha to accommodate a greater number of people. They called their new Buddhism, the "Greater Vehicle" (literally, "The Greater Ox-Cart") orMahayana,since it could accommodate more people and more believers from all walks of life. They distinguished themselves from mainstream Theravada Buddhism by contemptuously referring to Theravada as Hinayana, or "The Lesser Vehicle."
The Mahayanists, however, did not see themselves as creating a new start for Buddhism, rather they claimed to be recovering the original teachings of Buddha, in much the same way that the Protestant reformers of sixteenth century Europe claimed that they were not creating a new Christianity but recovering the original form. The Mahayanists claimed that their canon of scriptures represented the final teachings of Buddha; they accounted for the non-presence of these teachings in over five hundred years by claiming that these were secret teachings entrusted only to the most faithful followers.
Whatever the origins of Mahayana doctrines, they represent a significant departure in the philosophy. Like the Protestant Reformation, the overall goal of Mahayana was to extend religious authority to a greater number of people rather than concentrating it in the hands of a few. The Mahayanists managed to turn Buddhism into a more esoteric religion by developing a theory of gradations of Buddhahood. At the top was Buddhahood itself which was preceded by a series of lives, the bodhisattvas (who had the Buddha-principle).
This idea of the bodhisattvawas one of the most important innovations of Mahayana Buddhism. The boddhisattva , or "being of wisdom," was originally invented to explain the nature of Buddha's earlier lives. Before Buddha entered his final life as Siddhartha Gautama, he had spent many lives working towards Buddhahood. In these previous lives he was a bodhisattva , a kind of "Buddha-in-waiting," that performed acts of incredible generosity, joy, and compassion towards his fellow human beings. An entire group of literature grew up around these previous lives of Buddha, called the Jataka or "Birth Stories."
While the Buddha was the highest goal, one could become a pratyeka-buddha, that is, one who has awakened to the truth but keeps it secret.
Below the pratyeka-buddha is the arhant, or "worthy," who has learned the truth from others and has realized it as truth.
Mahayana Buddhism establishes the arhant as the goal for all believers. The believer hears the truth, comes to realize it as truth, and then passes into Nirvana . This doctrine of arhanthood is the basis for calling Mahayan the "Greater Vehicle," for it is meant to include everyone.
Finally, the Mahayanists completed the conversion of Buddhism from a philosophy to religion. Therevada Buddhism holds that Buddha was a historical person who, on his death, ceased to exist. There were, however, strong tendencies for Buddhists to worship Buddha as a god of some sort; these tendencies probably began as early as Buddha's lifetime.
The Mahayanists developed a theology of Buddha called the doctrine of "The Three Bodies," or Trikaya. The Buddha was not a human being, as he was in Theravada Buddhism, but the manifestation of a universal, spiritual being. This being had three bodies.
When it occupied the earth in the form of Siddhartha Gautama, it took on the Body of Magical Transformation (nirmanakaya ). This Body of Magical Transformation was an emanation of the Body of Bliss (sambhogakaya ), which occupies the heavens in the form of a ruling and governing god of the universe. There are many forms of the Body of Bliss, but the one that rules over our world is Amithaba who lives in a paradise in the western heavens called Sukhavati, or "Land of Pure Bliss." Finally, the Body of Bliss is an emanation of the Body of Essence (dharmakaya ), which is the principle underlying the whole of the universe. This Body of Essence, the principle and rule of the universe, became synonymous with Nirvana . It was a kind of universal soul, and Nirvana became the transcendent joining with this universal soul.
III.“Zen” is the Japanese pronunciation of a school of Buddhism that originally began in China, combining Buddhist ideas with influence from the ancient Chinese school of Taoism. The Chinese name was “Ch’an”, which itself was the Chinese pronunciation of dhyana.
The essential element ofCh’anorZen Buddhismis found in its name, for Zen (Ch’an = dhyana) means "meditation." Zen teaches that enlightenment is achieved through the profound realization that one is already an enlightened being. This awakening can happen gradually or in a flash of insight (as emphasized by the Soto and Rinzai schools, respectively). But in either case, it is the result of one's own efforts. Deities and scriptures can offer only limited assistance.
Zen traces its origins to India, but it was formalized in China. Chan, as it is known in China, was transmitted to Japan and took root there in the thirteenth century.
Chan also was enthusiastically received in Japan, especially by the samurai class that wielded political power at this time, and it became the most prominent form of Buddhism between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The immigrant Chinese prelates were educated men, who introduced not only religious practices but also Chinese literature, calligraphy, philosophy, and ink painting to their Japanese disciples, who often in turn traveled to China for further study.
Zen Buddhism's emphasis on simplicity and the importance of the natural world generated a distinctive aesthetic, which is expressed by the terms wabi and sabi. These two amorphous concepts are used to express a sense of rusticity, melancholy, loneliness, naturalness, and age, so that a misshapen, worn peasant's jar is considered more beautiful than a pristine, carefully crafted dish. While the latter pleases the senses, the former stimulates the mind and emotions to contemplate the essence of reality. This artistic sensibility has had an enormous impact on Japanese culture up to modern times.
A good intro website for Japanese Zen (coming up in a few weeks) ishttp://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/Buddhism/zen.html.
The main variations within Chan Buddhism are as follows:
1) The Theory of the double truth: This defines two different kinds of truth, a common one and a higher one, on three different levels. At the heart of this complex theory is an examination of the inter-relationship between existence and non-existence. Truth is complicated by the fact that on the one hand there is physical form or existence and, on the other, everything is said to be illusory or non-existent. In which case, what and where is truth - within existence or non-existence? After considering this, the theory then considers the same question for enlightenment.
2)"A good deed entails no retribution." This idea stems from the Daoist belief in non-action (wu wei), i.e. that action without effort, which is natural and spontaneous to the essence of the individual, does not entail any future retribution or "karma."
3) The method of attaining enlightenment is to do things without deliberate effort and purpose and live naturally. This (again linked to the Daoist wu wei) prepares the mind for enlightenment.
4) That enlightenment occurs suddenly. Although non-action or living the life of non-cultivation diminishes distracting elements and facilitates contemplation, enlightenment itself is not a gradual process but a sudden revelation.
5) Although words can be a useful tool to explain a thought, they can only ever be an approximation to the idea. Thus, the state of enlightenment can never be described.
6)There is no other reality than this phenomenal world. Whereas the unenlightened only see the physical objects around them, the enlightened in addition to this see theBuddha nature within the phenomenal world.
This brief list of variations gives an impression of the far-reaching influence of Daoism on the synthesis of Chan Buddhism.
A koan is not a question seeking an answer.
It is a question for which there is NO ANSWER, but it interrupts a person’s thinking so forcefully that he must consider it.
Most Chinese encountered Buddhist images within Buddhist temples, which came to be constructed by the hundreds and thousands across China as Buddhism gained followers. Before the end of the fifth century there were reportedly more than 10,000 temples in China, north and south.
Some were undoubtedly small, modest temples, but in the cities many were huge complexes with pagodas, Buddha halls, lecture halls, and eating and sleeping quarters for monks, all within walled compounds.
These temple complexes provided a place for the faithful to come to pay homage to images of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and meet with clergy.
The best evidence of the interior decoration of early temples is found in the surviving cave temples.
Although only a few wooden buildings have survived from the Tang period or earlier, hundreds of cave temples have survived.
Here we offer glimpses of the three most famous cave temple complexes, Dunhuang in Gansu Province, Yungang in Shanxi Province, and Longmen in Henan Province.
To get a sense of what urban temple complexes must have been like as architectural spaces, we can turn to temples still extant, even if they were built in later centuries.
Following the (1) Buddha and the (2) Dharma (teaching), the community of Buddhist monks and nuns, or (3) sangha, constitute the third of the Threefold Refuge, a basic creed of Buddhism. Their behavior is strictly disciplined by the sacred canon. These monks and nuns adopt distinctive styles of appearance and behavior.
In many orders, Buddhist monks and nuns are supposed to shave their heads and eyebrows once a month, one day before the middle of the lunar month, Keun 14 Kaam (Waxing Moon).
She was a very important figure in Buddhist history; the first woman disciple of the Buddha and the founder of the order of nuns. She also happened to be the Buddha's stepmother.
Pajapati's name means "leader of a great assembly." As this name was given to her at birth, there was obviously some foreseeing that the events in her life would be extraordinary.
A depiction of a classical Japanese Zen nun.
Note the differences in representation between the Chinese and Japanese concepts.
Before becoming a nun, one is a postulant for six months, working in the fields and in the kitchen, learning the chants and the ceremonies, the Buddhist way of life of a monastery and how to meditate.
Throughout the day we followed the signals of various bells. Getting up at three o’clock in the morning was sometimes a little difficult. At that time we went to the temple to chant, to greet the day. I loved the special morning chant which was about well-wishing. It said:
May the ocean of goodness from our practice return to the world to fulfill their purpose.May the world rest in peace and the wheel of the Buddhist Law revolve.May each being that is born rest in wisdom and never fall back.May this wisdom be as fierce and courageous as a Buddha's.May we attain the fruit of great awakening....
The meditation started soon afterwards and was followed by the prayer wheels.
Prayer wheels (called Mani wheels) are devices for spreading spiritual blessings and well being.
Rolls of thin paper, imprinted with many, many copies of the mantra (prayer) Om Mani Padme Hum, printed in an ancient Indian script or in Tibetan script, are wound around an axle in a protective container, and spun around and around.
Typically, larger decorative versions of the syllables of the mantra are also carved on the outside cover of the wheel.
Some Buddhists believe that saying this mantra, out loud or silently to oneself, invokes the powerful benevolent attention and blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion.
Buddhism plays a big part in the lives of many Asian people, and even though Buddhism was severely criticized during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Buddhism remained in the minds of the Buddhists in China.
Many Asia people now openly worship at Buddhist Temples and the children are being introduced to the rituals.
The Jade Buddha Temple at Shanghai is famous, but there are smaller temples in other towns, perhaps not as well known, but equally revered by the local people, nurtured by their belief in Buddhism.
Buddha worship is introduced to quite young children.
Typically, a mother guides her young son through the Buddha rituals and although perhaps he is unaware of their significance, the seeds of belief in Buddha are being implanted in his mind, which will affect his attitude to Buddhism in later years and perhaps to his relationship with other people.
For some families, having a son who is a Buddhist Monk, is considered to be a great honor so quite often young boys are taken to the temples and left to start their induction to Buddhism, receiving their education from the Monks.
They are far away from their families and friends and some do not adjust to their new environment very easily becoming homesick and sad and are returned to their homes.
Others, with different personalities, adapt very quickly to Buddhism and their new life style and in later years achieve an enviable aura of peacefulness now rarely seen in this modern age of materialism and possessiveness.
time for the review!!!
If you like extensive reading, a good website on Buddhism is
After looking over the site, I could not think of a question that had
not already been answered there.
Also, a great dictionary for Buddhist terminology can be found at
OBJECTIVES Beginning with the life and legend of the Buddha, the chapter includes sections on the teachings of the Buddha and the major forms of Buddhism—Theravada, Mahayana, Vajrayana, Zen, and Pure Land. Concluding sections describe the development of Buddhism in the West, and Buddhist involvement in social issues. After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
In the Pure Land Buddhism belief system, followers do not have to rely on their own efforts for liberation. They call on _____________ who prepares a place of bliss for any who call on his name.
This converted Buddhist activist, born an untouchable Hindu, helped return Buddhism to its native India, and as the chief architect of India's democracy, fought to end the oppression of the Hindu caste system.