7. Buddhism 


The Three Jewels: “I take refuge in the Buddha; I take refuge in the Dharma; I take refuge in the Sangha”

I. Buddha
A. Siddhartha Gautama (c. 531-486 BCE) - Shakyamuni, the Buddha of our time
1. Early life
- son of a minor ruler who sheltered his son from the sufferings of the world to avoid the fulfillment of a prophesy

- at age 19 he was he was married to a cousin, Yasodhara, and they had a son, Rahula

2. The Four Signs
- at about age 30 Gautama began to receive glimpses of human suffering:
1. an old man
2. a diseased man
3. a rotting corpse
4. an ascetic

3. Siddhartha’s Search for Enlightenment - unable to accept such pain and suffering in the world, he became determined to find the meaning of human suffering and left his family, comfortable life, and inheritance behind to do so

- Gautama first studied with a guru,; he then joined a group of five wandering monks and practiced severe asceticism, but still found no answer

4. Buddha (Enlightened One
- after rejecting his studies and severe asceticism and having eaten and enjoyed a full meal, he sat under a fig tree, began to meditate and achieved nirvana (enlightenment)
- he came to realize that it is people’s desires that bring suffering and causes karma that results in the cycle of birth, death and rebirth
- Buddha gave his first sermon to his former companions at Deer Park, and in doing so put in motion the Wheel of the Dharma
- this group of five ascetics formed the first Sangha (monastic community)

5. Buddha’s Death
- at about age 80, Buddha died from food poisoning achieving parinirvana (the final end of the cycle of death and rebirth, total cessation of suffering, the perfection of happiness)

B Buddha’s Teachings (dharma – law)
1. The Middle Way

2. Anatman (No Self)
- the soul does not exist
- human personality is comprised of five skandas: physical body, feelings, understanding, will and consciousness
- like every compound human personality is unstable and will come apart
- karmic energies will bring together a new set of five skandas > reincarnation

3. The Four Noble Truths
1) suffering is inevitable as it is part of the human condition
2) suffering is caused by self-centered desires and cravings
3) suffering can be overcome by eliminating our self-centered desires and cravings
4) the way to achieve this is to follow the Eightfold Path

4. The Eightfold Path
- right views, right intention > attitude
- right speech, right action, right livelihood > actions
- right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration > meditation

5. Nirvana
- the extinguishing of desire
- one attains universal comapassion and oneness with the joy of all beings
- Arhat > saint, one who achieved Nirvana

C. Sangha
1. Monks and Nuns (bhikshus and (bhikshunis)
- took vows of chastity, obedience and poverty
- were to lead a modest and celibate life and be the epitome of virtue avoiding dishonest, harmful and frivolous activity
- they shave their heads, wear course saffron robes and possess only a beggar’s bowl
- provided women and alternate to marriage

2. Lay followers
- try to live by the five basic rules: abstain from killing, lying. stealing., improper sexual activity and intoxicants
- focus on earning merit through supporting the monks, building temples, helping the community
- goal to achieve good things in this life and a better position in the next life

II. Early Development
A. Tripitaka – The Three Baskets of Sacred Texts
- written in the first century CE in Pali
- they contain Buddha’s discourses on the Dharma, monastic rules and doctrinal principles

B. Early Controversies and Division
1. Vaishali Council (fourth century BCE
- held a year after Buddha’s death to consider whether monks and nun could receive gifts of gold and silver but other issues were raised and a schism arose over the interpretation of Buddhist teachings


2. Second Council (390 BCE)
- held to address issues concerning the level of spiritual attainment possible to achieve in this world
- Theravada > enlightenment beyond the reach of all except for nuns and monks
- Mahayana > lay people as well as ordained have the possibility of attaining enlightenment and arhat status

3. Third Council (247 BCE)
- at this time there were 19 Buddhist sects
- Emperor Ashoka called the council to determine an authoritative list of
Buddhist texts, but failed to unite the Buddhists


C. Buddhism and the State
1. Ashoka (r. c. 273- 232 BCE)
> the Model Buddhist Ruler
- from Buddha’s time it was understood that rulers had the duty to provide for the physical well-being of their subjects and to promote Buddhist teachings

2. Ashoka’s Rule
- built public works, roads, inns, hospitals, veterinary clinics
- outlawded war, encouraged vegetarianism, limited animal sacrifice
- advocated religious tolerance
- and promoted the dharma

3. Ashoka’s missionary effort
- Prince Mahinda, Ashoka’s son, established Buddhism in Sri Lanka
- and missionaries travelled west as far as Syria and Greece and east to Burma

4. Buddhism was later carried along the Silk Road by traders and missionaries

III. Major Divisions
A. Theravada Buddhism – Lesser Vehicle, Way of the Elders
1. rejects all scriptures written after the Tripitaka


2. People achieve enlightenment through their own efforts and meditation only


3. Monks (an unbroken lineage)
- seek lives of meditation and self-denial and live in the Sangha
- when they achieve enlightenment they become arhants (saints)
- when they die they achieve Nirvana
- one can become a monk for a short period of time

4. Lay Followers
- try to live by the five precepts and focus on earning merit by supporting the monks, building temples, helping the community, etc.

5. Buddha
- his relics (arahats) are revered
- Jataka Tales > tales of Buddha’s previous lives to illustrate the moral values needed to become a Buddha and are a common theme in art

6. Wat (bot, vihara) – Buddhist complex of buildings

7. Meditation
- Sammatta > involves intense concentration to achieve spiritual states that open the path of enlightenment
- Vipassana > insight meditation that strives for sudden, intuitive realization of Buddhist truths

B. Mahayana Buddhism - The Greater Vehicle
1. Based on the Tripitaka and the Sutras
- In addition to the teachings openly taught by Buddha, there are principles he shared with only a few of his followers

2. Lay People
- are capable of achieving enlightenment through leading a moral life and accumulating merit; assistance can be given by god-like beings


3. Doctrine of the Three Bodies
1) Appearance Body
> Buddha is a godlike being who came to earth as a man due to his compassion and desire to help humans
2) Body of Bliss
> there are also other compassionate Buddhas that preside over buddha- realms and are worthy of respect and veneration in the cosmos (allowing the incorporation of local gods into Buddhist practice)

3) Dharma Body (Dharmakaya)
> there is a universal reality everywhere that manifests itself in heavenly beings (Body of Bliss) and human beings (Appearance Body) that everyone is capable of realizing their Buddha- nature and any effective means can be used to do so

4. Bodhisattvas
- some individuals made an oath to postpone Nirvana (Buddhahood) after achieving enlightenment until all living beings had attained it in order to earn merit
> this merit can be shared with humankind
- some live in heaven, others on earth as human beings and all responded to prayers asking for help
> they became seen as saviors and one of the objects of popular devotion

C. Mahayana Sects
1. Pure Land (Ching-t’u Judo)
- focus is on Amitabha who presides over the Western paradise called the Pure Land
- the goal is to achieve after death the Pure Land by leading a virtuous life and reciting Amitabha’s name
- monks may marry, have children and live in the world worship may take place in a church where sermons are heard and prayers are offered to Amitabha

2. Intuitive Sects (Ch’an, Zen, Cho)
- founded in the 5th century by the monk, Bodhidharma
- focus on meditation as a means to intuitively (as opposed to rationally) receive truth
- study of texts, monastic discipline, temples and images are important, but only direct insight can bring enlightenment
- Koans > case studies or riddles used in meditation to confuse reason so that truth (a flash of insight) can be found
- Zen principles of beauty, simplicity and profound thought have influenced many aspects of Japanese culture
- Shao Lin Temple in Henan Province, China –Home of the Fighting monks

3. Nichiren
- Nichiren was a 13th century Japanese Tendai monk who rejected all the Buddhist scriptures except the Lotus Sutra which states the existence of a universal truth (Buddha nature) that is found in all life making attainment of enlightenment possible for all people
- chanting (“Homage to the Lotus Sutra”), studying and teaching the Lotus Sutra is the basis of the practice
- claimed the source of Japan’s internal and external problems were due to the following of false sects
- strongly patriotic and intolerant taught that once Japan was purified it could then reach out to the rest of the world
- Soka Gakkai International

C. Vajrayana, Bon, Tantric Buddhism
1. the third turning of the wheel of dharma blends traditional religious practices and Buddhism
- dominant religion of Nepal, Bhutan, Tibet and Mongolia

2. Basic practices
- Use of Mantras (incantations and spells) that are used to help deal with the unknown and achieve enlightenment
- “Om mani padme hum” to invoke the Bodhisattva, Avalokiteshvara, the patron of Tibet revered for his great compassion
- Tantric > concept of sexual union as a way of tapping into spiritual energy and as symbolizing the coming together of complementary elements such as compassion and wisdom needed for enlightenment
- Mandala > sacred geometric design creating sacred space and often depicting the many buddhas and bodhisattvas in various families

3. Tibetan Vajrayana
a) Rule by the Lamas

- Buddhism was introduced into Tibet in the 7th century; from the 9th century the kings gave the lamas land and right to collect funds from its inhabitant and the monasteries became very wealthy and powerful; by 14th century Tibet was ruled by the lamas
> Red Hat School
- Bardo Thodol (Book of the Dead)
> Yellow Hat School
- Dalai Lama

 

b) Dalai Lama
- in1950 China invaded Tibet and established a puppet government
- 1959 failed revolt led by the Dalai Lama who escaped with his followers to India
- spokesman for peace and human rights and Nobel Prize winner
- Buddhism and the monasteries had been repressed by the Chinese, but repression is loosening

IV. Buddhism Today: Revival
A. Reasons for the Revival

1. Translation of Buddhist Texts by Christian missionaries in 19th and 20th centuries

2. Rise of Asian nationalism after World War II decline of colonialism

3. Its message of peace and tolerance compelling in the modern nuclear age

B. Missionary Impulse in Today’s World
1. Socially engaged Buddhism - focus on non-violence, compassion

2. In the East
- China > renewed interest after 1949 repression and the Cultural Revolution
- Korea and Japan > Buddhism is strong

C. In the West
1. Post Viet Nam War > immigrants from Viet Nam, Laos, Cambodia and Thailand

2. Westerners Adopting Buddhism
- Beginning of Western Zen attributed to
Japanese Soyen Shaku who had attended the1893 World’s Parliament of Religions and returned in 1905 to the U. S. in 1905
- Adaptation – focus on meditation, social and ecological responsibility

 

 

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