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Buddhism II: The branches of modern Buddhism

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  1. Buddhism II:The branches of modern Buddhism Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell

  2. Agenda for class meeting • Review • The main branches of modern Buddhism: • Mahayana Buddhism • Theravada Buddhism • Vajrayana Buddhism • Video segment: The chanting of Tibetan Buddhist monks. • Discussion

  3. The three marks of human existence What is true of everything in the natural order? • Suffering (dukkha) is pervasive 2. There is no such thing as a permanent soul (the doctrine of anatta or anatman). 3. Impermanence - All is impermanent, transitory (anicca).

  4. The Buddha’s last words “And now, O priests, I take my leave of you; all the constituents of the world are transitory; work out your salvation with diligence.”

  5. Theravada Buddhism • Theravada: “the Way of the Elders” • Form of Buddhism predominant in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. • Emphasis on attaining nirvana through self-effort, through meditation; process of perfection through purification • Emphasis on the virtue of wisdom • Ideal of the Arhat • Buddha seen as a supreme teacher (saint), inspiration for others to attain nirvana • Only for a select few (the monastic community of monks and nuns)

  6. Theravadin Texts • The Tipitaka (Sanskrit: Tripitaka): “The Threefold collection” (the Pali canon) – Book of history, discipline and regulations; the teachings of the Buddha; the “Higher Teachings” (the Dharma). • The Dhammapada (anthology of Buddha’s sayings; source of guidance) • The Jataka Tales (collection of tales retelling the Buddha’s previous lives; describes ten perfections).

  7. The ideal of the Arhat • Arhat (Arhant): a “worthy one”; a Perfect Being – one who has completed the Path of Purification • One who follows the path of a Buddha • One who has “passed beyond the fetters of samsaric existence” • One in whom the “outflows” (sense desire, becoming, ignorance, wrong views) have dried up • At death, one will receive “nirvana without remainder.”

  8. The arhat “Ah, happy indeed are the Arhants! In them no craving’s found. The ‘I am’ conceit is rooted out; confusion’s net is burst. Lust-free they have attained; translucent is the mind of them. Unspotted in the world are they ,… with outflows none.. They roar the lion’s roar: ‘Incomparable are Buddhas in the world.’” - Samyutta Nikaya; included in The World’s Wisdom (76).

  9. Concentration “Concentration is… a profitable single-pointedness of the mind.. It is the state, in virtue of which, consciousness and its many factors remain evenly and rightly on a single object undistracted and unscattered.” -Buddhaghosa, quoted by Mitchell, 78. • Examples: • Meditation to increase mindfulness of body and breathing. • The Four Divine Abodes (see next slide)

  10. The Four Divine Abodes (or Virtues) • Loving kindness – the attitude of pure good will toward self and others that always seeks the welfare and happiness of all beings. • Compassion – the attitude of pity or empathy for oneself and others who are suffering, the hope to free all beings from pain • Sympathetic joy – an attitude of joyful affirmation of the dignity and value of oneself and others; the ability to extend joyful sympathy to all living beings • Equanimity – the breaking down of barriers between oneself and others and the development of an attitude of universal embracing of all beings. - Adopted from Mitchell’s discussion, Buddhism (79-80).

  11. Mahayana Buddhism • Form of Buddhism predominant in China, Japan and Korea • Emphasis on the compassion of the Buddha for all creatures • Ideal of the bodihisattva • Emphasis on “the buddha nature”

  12. Historical development of Mahayana Buddhism • Based on the development of the new “turning of the wheel of the Dharma”; said to be teachings of the Buddha kept secret until the sangha was mature and capable of understanding the deeper message. • New “sutras” written anonymously (mainly in Sanskrit) from around first century C.E. until the 8th century.

  13. Mahayana Texts • Sanskrit canon • Authority of the teachings is based on mythological connections to the Buddha • “The Lotus of the True Law” (c. 200 c.e.) – represents the Buddha as an eternal reality whose earthly manifestation was merely a device to lead people to salvation. • “Teachings of Perfect Wisdom” sutra. (c. 2nd century) – elaborated doctrine of emptiness. • The Lotus Sutra – the final teaching of the Buddha; emphasizes idea of “skillful means” – the different teachings of the Buddha, relevant to a particular audience.

  14. Ideal of the bodhisattva Bodhisattva: “wisdom-being”; a being whose essence is bent on attaining enlightenment; a person who, out of compassion, renounces his or her own entry into nirvana in order to be reborn repeatedly to undertake the infinite work of saving all sentient beings. This is accomplished through the transference of merit and by taking on the burden of other’s sufferings.

  15. The Bodhisattva’s vow “I take upon myself the burden of all suffering… I do not turn or run away, do not tremble, am not terrified,.. To not turn back or despond. And why?... I have made the vow to save all beings… The whole world of living beings I must rescue, from the terrors of birth-and-death, from the jungle of false views.. My endeavors do not merely aim at my own deliverance. I must rescue all these beings from the stream of Samsara.. And I must not cheat beings out of my store of merit. I am resolved to abide in each single state of woe for numberless aeons; and so I will help all beings to freedom, in all the states of woe that may be found in any world system whatsoever. And why? Because it is surely better that I alone should be in pain than that all these beings should fall into stages of woe. From The World’s Wisdom, 81.

  16. The “buddha nature” • Eternal Buddha-nature; absolute truth and reality. • Wisdom, pure compassion, pure enlightenment. • Present within everything that exists. Therefore, every person is a potential Buddha!

  17. On “The Buddha Nature” “The Buddha appears in the world Only for this One Reality… The Buddha himself abides in the Great Vehicle and in accordance with the Law he has attained By meditation and wisdom and the effort and ornament of virtue, He saves all beings… “Any among the living beings, Who have come into contact with former Buddhas, Have learned the Law and practiced charity, Or have undergone discipline and endured forbearance and humiliation, Or have made serious efforts at concentration and understanding, etc., And cultivated various kinds of blessing and wisdom–

  18. All of these people, Have reached the level of Buddhahood. Those who, for the sake of the Buddha, Installed images,/Or have them carved, Heave reached the level of Buddhahood. Those who with a happy frame of mind Have sung the glory of the Buddha, Even with a very small sound, Or have worshiped, Or have merely folded their hands, Or have uttered one “Namo” [Praise be..], All have reached the level of Buddhahood. - From the Lotus Sutra; The Buddhist Tradition, ed. De Bary, 158-159.

  19. Some examples of Mahayana Buddhism • Zen Buddhism (Japan) • Pure Land Buddhism • Devotees of Kuan Yin

  20. The Zen koan What is the sound of one hand clapping? What was the appearance of your face before your ancestors were born? Does a dog have a Buddha nature? (From Smith, 88).

  21. Vajrayana Buddhism The “Diamond/Thunderbolt” Path aka Tibetan Buddhism aka Tantric Buddhism • Use of Ritual objects • Use of meditative visualization • Mandalas – sacred designs • Mantras – sacred chants • Prayer wheels • Rosaries, prayer wheels

  22. See video clip on Huston Smith and the Tibetan monks.