“Buddha” (awakened one) = Shakyamuni Gautama Siddartha, Hindu reformer in north India, c. 500s-400s BCE Inherited an ancient Hindu worldview: Cyclical existence of endless rebirth (samsara) Conditioning of rebirth by moral results of one’s actions (karma) Presumption of eternal self (atman) underlying transitory physical forms Buddha’s central insights = the “Four Noble Truths”: Life is suffering (duhkha) Self-centered attachment based on permanent selfhood (atman) is the root of suffering Suffering can be ended (nirvāna) There is a path by which to end suffering Each “Truth” asks us to respond to reality as it truly is: Understand suffering Let go of its origins Realize its cessation Cultivate the path toward its cessation WHAT THE BUDDHA TAUGHT
An atman (“self”) has a body, emotions, ideas, biases, and consciousness. Actually, there is no “self” (anatman) – only an assemblage of components. In rebirth, conditioned by karma these components are removed and rearranged, creating a different self (yet not disconnected from “this” self now). Just as one both is and is not“oneself” from life to life, so one neither is nor is not “oneself” from life to life. THE SELF THAT IS NO SELF
CONSEQUENCES OF NIRVĀNA • The true self is interdependent and impermanent • There is no basis for ego • Realizing the truth of anātman (no permanent self) entails: • Awakening to suffering • Compassion in suffering • Liberation from suffering • One who seeks to realize this truth takes the “Three Refuges”: • The Buddha (the teacher) • The Dharma (the teaching) • The Sangha (the taught)
SECTARIAN DIVISIONS IN THE SANGHA • By 100s BCE, Buddhism has gained powerful political support in India • Official endorsement facilitates the luxury of doctrinal debate and speculation, as well as canon formation • Three distinct sectarian traditions emerge shortly before introduction of Buddhism to China
THERAVADA (“Way of Elders”) • Sole survivor among earliest Buddhist sects • Views itself as custodian of authentic tradition • Regards Shakyamuni as unique historical Buddha, fully human, now vanished • Emphasizes individual rational effort • Goal: arhant (being that attains enlightenment after much striving over many lifetimes) • Maintains strong monastic-lay distinction • Not found in China today
MAHAYANA (“Great Vehicle”) • Sees Theravada as Hinayana (“Lesser Vehicle”) and itself as inheritor of complete tradition • Regards Shakyamuni as one of infinite number of Buddhas • Focuses on mysticism and compassionate action • Goal: bodhisattva (being that voluntarily defers liberation from samsara in order to help other beings attain liberation) • More open to laity, women • Dominant in China
VAJRAYANA(“Thunderbolt Vehicle”) • Arises from Mahayana interaction with Hindu tantra (esoteric ritualism) and bhakti (devotional polytheism) • Views itself as guardian of esoteric tradition • Emphasizes unity of wisdom and compassion through visualization, ritualization, and philosophical rigor • Goal: bodhisattva • Reasserts strong monastic-lay distinction • Present in Tibetan and Mongolian communities
BUDDHISM AND THEDECLINE OF THE HAN • “Silk Road” merchants and missionaries from India and Central Asia transmit Buddhism to China by 65 CE • As Han 漢 dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE) declines and period of disunity (220-589 CE) ensues, Chinese elites turn away from Confucianism to Taoism and Buddhism, often combining the two • By Tang 唐 dynasty (618-907 CE), Buddhism reaches zenith of its popularity in China • From China, Buddhism spreads to rest of East Asia
CHALLENGES TO BUDDHISM IN CHINA • Geographic: difficulty of India-China travel • Linguistic: translation of foreign texts and concepts • Political: conflicts between rulers and sangha; separation between north and south • Religious: competition with and/or dilution by Confucianism and Taoism • Social: Chinese distaste for foreign ways
The Chinese synthesis • Chinese Buddhism reconciles variant Indian schools of Buddhism • Buddha taught with upaya • Teachings differ accordingly • organized scriptures into a progression from elementary to refined • Systematized order of Buddhist Canon • Each school emphasized certain scriptures • Chinese Buddhist schools tended towards ecumenism (unity) rather than sectarianism (separation) • Claims made to highest truth but not exclusive • Different schools are in accord to the expedience of the upaya doctrine
The Chinese Synthesis • Developed around 6th ct. CE at end of the period of division • The Six Dynasties (220—581 CE) • From Fall of Eastern Han to beginning of the Sui • Golden Age of Buddhism in Tang dynasty (618—907 CE) • Four indigenous Chinese Buddhist schools • Huayan, Tiantai, Pure Land and Chan
Tiantai School • Tiantai (天台) Buddhism • Japanese: Tendai • Chinese Buddhist school (6th ct.) • not Indian in origin • Most important school of Buddhism in early Tang • Founded by Chinese monk and meditation master • Zhiyi (Chih-i) 538—597 • Named after sacred mountain in Zhejiang • Heavenly Terrace
Tiantai • Organized comprehensive Buddhist doctrines and practices into grades from elementary to advanced • Organized canon with Lotus Scripture at apex
Buddhist suppression in China • Late Tang opposition to Buddhism as a foreign religion emerged among influential intellectuals • In 845 the Tang emperor began a full-scale persecution of the Buddhist establishment. • Destroyed more than 4,600 monasteries, 40,000 temples and shrines, and more than 260,000 Buddhist monks and nuns were forced to return to secular life. • Although the suppression was lifted a few years later, the monastic establishment never fully recovered • Later became most influential school in Japan • Founded in Japan by Saichoo in 9th ct. • Established center at Mt. Hiei • Opened way to Zen, Pure Land and Nichiren
Pure Land School • Pure Land • Chinese: Jingtu (凈土) • Japanese: Jodo • Indiginous Chinese school (5th ct CE) • Founded by the monk Huiyuan (334—416 CE) • Spread from China to Vietnam, Korea and Japan • Practical approach to universal Buddha-nature • Salvation for all not just monastic community • Reaction against scholastic preoccupation of Tiantai and Huayan schools • Salvation through faith, merit and vows by rebirth in a Pure Land • Became intermediate goal to Nirvana • A Pure Land originally the place where a buddha or bodhisattva appeared • Came to mean a world system purified by the power of a Bodhisattva’s vow and subsequent awakening
Major Buddha of Pure Land • Āmítuó fó (阿彌陀佛) • Transliteration of Sanskrit: • Amitābha Buddha (無量光) • Buddha of Limitless Light • Amitāyus Buddha (無量壽) • Buddha of Limitless Life • Amida (Japanese) • Common Buddhist greeting or exclamation • Legendary king who renounced throne to become a Buddhist monk named Dharmakāra • 48 vows resolved to become a buddha and create paradise realm to help all sentient beings become awakened • Those unable to achieve awakening in this life • Vow to be reborn in Western Paradise
Pure Land School • Resides in Western Paradise • “Happy Land of the West” or Sukhavati • Perform merit-producing deeds, including pilgrimage • Rebirth by calling his name with complete faith • Especially at death • Practice of recitation of the name of the Buddha (Chinese: nianfo; Japanese: nembutsu) • “Hail Amitabha Buddha” (na-mo a-mi-tuo-fo) • Scripture of the Pure Land (sukhāvatī) • Translated into Chinese 3rd — 5th ct. • Conversation between historical Buddha and Ananda • Describes paradise realm of Buddha of Infinite Light
Pure Land Meditation in Japan • After suppression of 845, Pure Land in China becomes universalized • Founded in Japan as Jodoshu (Pure Land School) in 12-13th ct. • By Honen, an ordained Tendai monk from Mt. Hiei • Emphasized practice of nembutsu: • Namu Amida butsu (Hale Amitabha Buddha) • Oral recitation of Amitabha’s name produces vision of Amitabha’s paradise and Amitabha himself • Both sound AND sight • Cf. Honen’s diary
Buddhist Ritual Music Tiantai and Pure Land
Sudden Awakening Mantra: “Rising Diamond” Japanese: Kyoogakushinden (きようがくしんでん) Chinese: Jīngjué zhēnyán (驚覺真言) Sanskrit: Om vajrottistha hum Interlocked little fingers Thumbs under middle fingers Index fingers touching to form Diamond A Tiandai Mantra and Mudra: used in the Matrix Mandala ritual
Pure Land Buddhist Jodo Ritual Music • Yǎyuè (雅樂) • Lit. “Refined Music.” • Ceremonial/Court music of China • Preserved in Japan but now lost in China • Brought to Japan by the monk Enin in 9th ct. • Ennin’s Travels in T’ang China by Edwin Reischauer (1955) • Arrived Yangzhou summer of 838 (4 centuries before Polo) • 9 year pilgrimage to Buddhist centers • Popular Buddhist practice • Persecution of 845
Portrait of Ennin Idealized portrait from 12th ct.
Important Terms: Samsara • Samsara—According to Buddhism, all beings are born into an endless cycle of birth and rebirth which is called samsara. The first of the Four Noble Truths states that life is suffering. • If one is destined to be reborn into this life of suffering at the close of their current life, then that cycle of rebirth is one of endless suffering. It is thus the goal of Buddhists to leave this cycle by reaching Enlightenment and entering Nirvana.
Important Terms: Karma • Karma—How does one achieve Enlightenment? It is generally seen as a slow and gradual process, in which one is reborn into successively better lives, until finally reaching the pinnacle of Nirvana. • But being born into a better life is not an arbitrary process. Rather, one finds themselves in their current position specifically because of his or her behavior in a previous life. If someone has led a meritorious life, filled with kindness and generosity, then they will have earned “good karma,” and will be rewarded in their next life with more comfort or ease. • If they have been miserly, cruel or greedy in this life, they may find that it will take several—or even hundreds—of lives of hardship to return to their last position. In this case, the debt to their karma through unkind or selfish behavior will take many lifetimes of kindness and generosity to pay back. • While karma is sometimes used interchangeably with words like “fate” and “destiny,” it is not synonymous with these concepts. In karma there is nothing of the arbitrariness of fate. Rather, one’s place in this world- be it as a rat, a deer, a beggar or a king—is the direct result of one’s behavior in previous lives.
Important Terms: Dharma • Dharma—Like the words samsara and karma, dharma is used in both Buddhism and Hinduism, and the details of the concept and its application to life varies between the two faiths. • However, within both religions it contains the idea of “right behavior,” or of the law, and behaving according to laws of society. In order to accrue “good karma” one must always behave according to dharma.
The Four Noble Truths—The Four Noble Truths are the ideas that came to the Buddha as he reached Enlightenment. • All life is mired in suffering. • All suffering comes from desire (for objects, attention, wealth, etc.) • There is a cure for this suffering, which is the elimination of desire. • This can be achieved by following the Eightfold Path.
Important Terms: The Eightfold Path • The Eightfold Path—This is the path that the Buddha prescribed for the elimination of desire, and thus of suffering: • Right Understanding or Perspective • Right Thought • Right Speech • Right Action • Right Livelihood • Right Effort • Right Mindfulness • Right Concentration