Please post your reflection “nugget” for the readings from week 3. Pick one point of interest to reflect on for 100-150 words. The purpose of the reflection is for you to begin organizing your thoughts in preparation for the final research paper/presentation.Read the article linked here about the Dalai Lama’s escape to India in 1959:http://news.bbc.co.uk/onthisday/hi/dates/stories/m…REL104
Lecture 3 BSN
1. Hinduism was the topic of discussion last week and this week we will be exploring a religion
that came out of the Hindu milieu. First, in the context of Hinduism, Siddhartha Gautama, who
would go on to become The Buddha, was born during the Upanishadic or Philosophical era of
Hinduism. As you may recall, this was the time in Hinduism’s history when many people were
questioning the need for sacrifice and the role of the Brahman priesthood. In many ways,
Siddhartha’s experiences were part of this time of questioning. As noted in the reading and in
the lecture below, he tried to follow the way of the Sannyasin, the final role in Hindu life when a
person renounces the world in order to seek moksha and break free of the cycle of reincarnation.
He found this way too austere (it left him close to death) and his questioning led to the creation
of a new approach to liberation.
In addition to questioning the severe asceticism of Hinduism, The Buddha also questioned the
Hindu understanding of moksha. As you will recall, Hindus generally believed that people had
to be reborn into higher and higher castes in order to reach the stage where they could become a
sannyasin and achieve moksha. Siddhartha did not agree with the caste concept and taught that
anyone who followed his path as a devoted monastic could be liberated from reincarnation. He
accepted followers from any caste.
In many ways, The Buddha created a most unreligious religion: most religions have the
following things in common: authority, ritual, speculation, tradition, grace (reality, real reality is
good), and mystery. These six areas were facing serious corruption in Hinduism during the
Buddha’s time. The Buddha’s religion was devoid of authority; he taught his followers to “be
lamps unto yourselves,” meaning you don’t need a priest to reach enlightenment. In its original
form there was no ritual, no speculation into why things are, just accept that they are. No
tradition, you can know if a teaching is good or not by your experience. Self-effort, not the
grace of the divine, is the key for achieving enlightenment. There was no supernatural in his
original teachings. The Buddha is not worshiped as a god.
Overtime, as Buddhism spread to different countries and adapted the indigenous traditions it
found in those countries into the Buddhist teaching, it began to include elements of grace and the
divine into the original teachings of the Buddha. Buddhism is an example of syncretism, or the
merging of different religious traditions into another religious tradition. This is why there are 3
main schools, and multiple sub-schools of Buddhism.
Health concerns for Buddhism-from the handout? Like Hindus, most Buddhists are
vegetarians. This has much to do with a belief in non-violence. One of the main issues with
Buddhists is that they may not want to use narcotic pain killers. They value mental clarity,
especially as they prepare for death. Like Hinduism, they also practice reincarnation.
Lecture notes for sections
5-1 through 5-3
This lecture will cover the information from the reading, but sometimes in a different order. This
should make it easier to understand, as I have added some information to that which was
presented in the reading.
1. Buddhism-Has much in common with Hinduism. Buddhism is dependent upon Hinduism,
and the cultural milieu of the region. The Buddha himself was born into a Hindu family.
2. Story of the Buddha-How did the video and reading portray this? One must distinguish
between the story of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) versus the story told of his life that
includes many miraculous elements. There is a tendency in many religions to retell the stories of
important figures and include supernatural elements. This is called hagiography and its goal is
to bolster the religious importance of the individual. For example, the stories of many Christian
saints include miraculous elements added to show their close connection with God. In the story
of the Buddha, the element of the white elephant and the infant Siddhartha springing from his
mother’s side (C-section?) proclaiming his role in salvation are examples of hagiography. They
give his future teachings a higher level of authority because of his somewhat miraculous birth.
Here is the non-miraculous timeline:
-Prince Siddhartha Gautama (around the time of Plato, + 550 BCE). There are many legends
about his life. No official biography.
-Father was king of a tribe in Nepal, he was the only child, heir to the throne. (Note that ‘kings’
were not in charge of countries, but of family tribes and city-states.)
-The priests tell his father that his son would be either a great monarch or a great religious
visionary.
-He leads a life comfort and was surrounded by grandeur and no suffering.
-One day, Siddhartha leaves the palace to see what life was like on the other side. He went to a
nearby village and saw shocking things.
-The Four Passing Sights:
1. An old man, crippled with arthritis, no teeth, decrepit, aging badly, this was the reality of
aging
2. A sick man, the reality of illness
3. A corpse being carried out of a house, the reality of death
4. A sannyasin (shramana), a Hindu holy person, this was the only sight that gave him hope, the
sannyasin seemed to be at peace.
Aging, illness, death were all the examples of suffering that Siddhartha had never witnessed
before, he had never suffered before, nor witnessed suffering, this is why the sights were so
shocking.
-This left Siddhartha with questions: Why do people suffer? Is there a way out of suffering?
How can you live a hopeful life in the midst of suffering? (These are similar to the religious
questions we explored at the beginning of the course.)
-At this moment, Siddhartha thought the answer was in the peacefulness of the sannyasin.
He left the palace, his wife and child permanently, and lived for years as a sannyasin. However,
this did not bring him peace. He realized that there is too much hardship in this type of life:
starving, destitute, dirty, homeless, and dressed in rags. He is convinced that there must be a
better way.
-In his desperation, he sits down under a tree and stays there until he finds the answer to
suffering. He sits beneath a Bodhi tree-the tree of awakening. Here, he becomes enlightened.
1. He becomes aware of his past lives
2. Discovers the workings/laws of karma
3. Gains insight into release from suffering
-These insights cause him to abandon sannyasin life and embrace a path of moderation:
The Middle Path (the sannyasin life is too extreme and leads to more suffering).
-At the moment of his enlightenment, he becomes the Buddha-the Awakened/Enlightened One
After his Awakening, he gains followers via his consoling message. This is the beginning of the
community called the Sangha.
-It is at that point that Buddhism as a religion begins (religion needs a community).
-Buddha dies at the age of 80 in a state of serenity (statue of reclining Buddha, eyes closed),
and achieves parinirvana-nirvana without remainder.
-The Sangha is stable/strong enough that Buddhism survives after the founder’s death.
3. Institutional Buddhism
Once the Buddha dies, the community grows and continues to pass along his teachings. This is
the role of the institution of religion. This section will explain the essential Buddhist teachings.
-Buddhist take refuge in the “Three Gems”: The Buddha, Dharma (teaching), and Sangha.
-Dharma-in the Buddhist context, dharma means teaching. Below are the basics.
-The Three Marks of Reality/Characteristics of Existence:
1. Anicca-all of reality is change or impermanence (no unchanging reality)
2. Anatta/Anatman-no such thing as a permanent identity (we are always changing, every
second); this refutes the Hindu belief in a soul. Anatman literally means “no soul.” One reason
for this belief is to reject selfishness-there is no ‘my’.
3. Dukkha-life is all about suffering (inescapable, because of the changing nature of all things.
Not just horrible suffering, but even dissatisfaction can lead to suffering). As noted in the
reading, we have a tendency to form unhealthy attachments to things, people and life itself.
-The only way to escape from suffering is to cultivate the right attitude toward it. The Buddha
was all about trying to solve the issue of suffering (due to his experience of the 4 passing sights).
-How do we deal with suffering?
The 4 Noble Truths: (bedrock of Buddhism, summarizes what the Buddha learned when he
became enlightened, successfully addresses the problem of suffering.)
1. to live is to suffer
2. the cause of suffering is desire (we suffer because we don’t have what we want or we lose
what we want). Wanting what we do not or cannot have is the main cause of suffering and we’re
not happy with what we do have! Happiness is wanting what you have, NOT having what you
want.
3. to end suffering, end desire-stop wanting things excessively, cultivate an attitude where you
can accept the suffering that comes your way and to accept what you DO have, accept what life
throws our way. Cultivate serenity.
4. to end desire, follow the eightfold path
The eightfold path-the way to cultivate serenity and end desire, it represents a life well-lived
with minimal suffering, and assists in reaching nirvana and ending rebirth. It is a series of the
right (correct) kinds of attitudes to live by.
1. Right understanding of reality-know and accept the 3 marks of reality.
2. Right intention (for actions)-bad intentions cause suffering to self and others.
3. Right speech-no lies, swearing, etc.
4. Right action-don’t do things to hurt others (people or animals)
5. Right work-choose an honorable profession that will not hurt others, focus on non-violence,
or a job that help others.
6. Right effort-honest effort to do the best you can to keep improving yourself
7. Right meditation-practice meditation regularly, build it into your life, helps you understand
reality.
8. Right contemplation-cultivation of inner peace and serenity
All are important, but 7&8 will move you toward enlightenment and learning how to deal with
suffering. These are what the monks focus on.
5. Sangha-This is the community of followers who are ordained. This means that they have
become monks. They have left the world to pursue the Buddha’s teachings. As the article on the
Buddha in the context of Buddhism notes, Buddhism has traditionally been a religion of
monks and nuns. This means that the official Sangha is the group of ordained men and women
who have given up the world in order to achieve enlightenment. Some schools of Buddhism
believe that lay persons can also achieve enlightenment, but the surest path is to become
ordained.
6. Schools of Buddhism
Theravada Buddhism “Way of the elders” (Hinayana-“Little Vehicle”)
-oldest, most conservative, emphasis on sangha (community), monasteries are strong,
usually men are fully ordained as monks, and women can be partially ordained.
-Theravada attempts to keep the original teachings of the Buddha intact; it teaches that
being part of a monastery is the surest way to enlightenment/nirvana.
-Monks have a privileged place because they are considered wise, and because feeding
them gives one good karma.
-Theravada teaches that wisdom is the key to enlightenment.
-The monks beg for everything (influence of sannyasin model). It is possible for a man
to join the monastery for a time (temporary ordination) in order to ‘make merit’ for
himself.
-Theravada monks (and even the few nuns) wear orange robes (sannyasin) and have
shaved heads. They are strict vegetarians, even vegans.
-The monasteries survive because people provide for their physical needs; in turn they
“pay-back” by running schools, hospitals and social welfare organizations.
-Theravada is strong in Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Myanmar.
-Theravada is the best example of what early Buddhism was like, but it is not as
influential because it does not have as many followers as the other schools of Buddhism.
Some of the aspects of religion that the Buddha did not include have crept back into
Theravada. Example, monks are considered to have special powers and are consulted to
improve people’s luck; this borders slightly on the supernatural, something which the
Buddha taught against.
Mahayana “Big Vehicle”
-They believe that their way can bring the largest number of people to enlightenment.
-This began as a reform movement in Theravada, and it is the most popular form of
Buddhism.
Nirvana takes on an added dimension, it is attained through wisdom, but also through
compassion; all wisdom, to be real wisdom, has to be compassionate. Therefore, a
viable path to Nirvana is compassionate action in the world. This form of compassion is
called Karuna.
Also key to Mahayana is the interrelatedness of all reality (very Hindu) and that is why
Karuna is called for. We are related to everything that lives, very similar to
Brahman in Hinduism. Karuna calls all to treat all of reality as part of your family or
part of yourself. The world becomes the object of your compassion. In this way the
world ceases to be a competitive place, and becomes a place in need of my compassion.
Bodhisattvas-the enlightened person via wise compassion
The bodhisattva can choose whether or not to return, even though they have achieved
nirvana, and do not have to be reborn. Their compassion is so strong that they often
come back to help others to become enlightened.
-Some Mahayana Schools:
Pureland Buddhism-one of the schools of Mahayana Buddhism; it spread from India to
China to Japan. It calls for devotion to Amitabha Buddha (one of the heavenly
Buddha’s). If you show complete devotion to this Buddha, it is enough to be reborn in
his paradise. Once being reborn into this paradise, it is easier to achieve nirvana. This
form of Buddhism is very open to anyone, it does not require meditation or ceremony or
even literacy. Here, some religion sneaks into the original Buddhist teaching.
Pureland Buddhism is less about human action and more about the saving power of the
Buddha (this is grace).
Zen-In relation to all of the teachings of Mahayana, several different schools, like
Pureland and Zen arose to actually teach people how to live and how to translate beliefs
into actions. Zen arose in China and traveled to Japan. Zen is a reform within
Mahayana Buddhism that seeks to simplify it. Zen focuses on a few practices that
help to develop serenity and dispel illusion:
1. Sitting Meditation-common in many forms of Buddhism, can last for up to 12 hours.
(deny the body and the mind, and focus on emptiness.)
2. Koan-a question that has no rational response: What is the sound of one hand
clapping? Answer comes from outside rationality; if you can give a non-rational answer
to the koan that your teacher likes it will show that you are moving on the path toward
enlightenment, for you are overcoming rationality.
Rationality can only go so far to reveal reality. We must move beyond rationality for
enlightenment. A koan is beyond rationality and tries to get you to move beyond reason
too.
3. Manual labor-actions that are beyond words, words are not the most essential thing
on the road to enlightenment (think of manual chores that you can get lost in.)
4. Ritual practices-promotes tathata-thatness, forces you to live in the moment.
Tea ceremony-elaborate practice of making and serving tea, focus all energy on it, live in
the moment.
Haiku poetry-focus on this small piece
Gardening-simple, but beautiful
Calligraphy-art of beautiful writing, often writing haiku in calligraphy
Just about anything can be ritualized, so that you move toward enlightenment.
Vajrayana Buddhism-“The Diamond Vehicle”
-Most closely associated with Tibet (but there are other countries where this is practiced).
-Most prominent religious specialist is the Dalai Lama
-This is an example of syncretism. Vajrayana is a blend of Tantric Buddhism
(techniques that aim at spiritual union) and traditional Tibetan Shamanism. There
are still shamanic influences in Tibetan Buddhism.
-Lama is a spiritual leader, monk or nun, and can choose to have many incarnations.
-The Lama is also a temporal ruler in Tibet. The incarnation of a Lama is discovered by
a committee that uses shamanic practices; they might follow a flock of birds on their
quest, or receive messages from nature. The current Dalai Lama, in addition to choosing
items that belonged to the previous Lama, had his incarnation confirmed because the
committee saw sacred letters in a lake.
-Similar to Mahayana, Tibetan Buddhism is very ritualistic. Chanting and meditation
can last for days during certain rituals. Pilgrims who stand, clap, lay all the way to holy
sites.
-Mantra-phrase or word (or breathing) used to focus the mind in meditation; takes mind
away from extraneous thought (also found in Hinduism).
-Mudra-ritual hand gestures (many cultures have this, think of hula in Polynesian
cultures)
-Mandala-tracing intricate pattern on sand then fill in with colored sand. When it is done
there is a ritual with mantras and mudras then they kick it and destroy it (impermanence
of reality)
-Death symbolism-to focus on death allows one to not worry about it an accept it.
Drink out of skulls, use human bones as ritual objects, dancers dressed as skeletons.
-Dalai Lama-absolute head of Vajrayana Buddhism, in exile since 1959, lives in
Northern India, the Dalai Lama is considered to be a Bodhisattva, 14th incarnation of
Avalokiteshvara, the heavenly bodhisattva of compassion (part of cosmic Buddha
nature),discovered when he was 3 ½ years old. He is the Spiritual and political leader of
Tibet.
-Tibet was invaded and occupied by China, Dalai Lama tried to work with the Chinese
government, but it didn’t work out. He escaped from Lhasa (capital city) because he was
afraid he would be captured, walked across the Himalayan Mts. (took a few months) and
requested asylum in Northern India. The official US position (since 1959) Tibet is an
occupied country that should be restored. That is not likely to happen, so there have been
attempts to give the Tibetan people some form of autonomy, but it hasn’t gone too well
thus far. (Protesters at and before the previous Olympics in Bejing)
7. Other Buddhist teachings
-Soul and Karma: difficult to explain, there is no soul in Buddhism, yet karma still has a role.
(In many ways, these beliefs were so ingrained into the culture of the Buddha that they had to be
kept.) There are elements of personality of each individual that can regroup into another
lifetime. It is hard to come up with an adequate explanation of how karma and rebirth work in
Buddhism, but they are still powerful concepts in Buddhist countries.
-Nirvana: comes from Hinduism. Like trying to describe ultimate reality, describing
enlightenment or nirvana is an ambiguous answer. Being in nirvana is beyond description, it
cannot be described, only lived, experienced. Those who describe it, don’t know it. Those why
know it, don’t describe it.
Lecture notes for sections
5-4 through 5-6
8. Morality
Like many religions, Buddhism has an inherent morality. It is based on the concept of
compassion mentioned above. This general understanding also has a code of ethics that includes
specific precepts or rules. Buddhist moral precepts are stated negatively; that is, they explain
what one should not do:
-Kill sentient beings
-Steal
-Commit sexual immorality
-Lie
-Drink intoxicants
-East between noon and the following sunrise
-Dance; enjoy music, or attend artistic performances
-Beautify the body
-Use luxurious seats and beds
-Accept money
As noted in the reading, it is the first 5 of these that are to be followed by lay Buddhists. The
others are to be followed by monks and nuns or those who are taking temporary vows. It should
be noted that the 3rd precept is stricter for monks or nuns. They are to have no sex at all, nor are
they to even think about sex.
Divine Virtues-love and compassion, altruistic joy, equanimity. Remember, Buddhism is not a
very philosophical or speculative religion. The Buddha didn’t try to answer “why” we suffer; he
simply taught that suffering is a foregone conclusion and one should try to minimize it.
9. Meditation-Many of our Eastern religions rely on meditation, but Buddhist meditation is
different than other forms. Sometimes, in Hinduism and in Christianity, meditation takes the
form of absence or darkness: we meditate to find nothingness inside of ourselves, which is then
purged and prepared to become the house of God. Buddhists meditate to awareness: they
become aware of their physical selves, discomfort, etc. in an attempt to move beyond it into
awareness of higher levels of being (enlightenment).
10. Buddhism and the West
As noted in the reading, Buddhism and its teachings have made it to the West in a couple of
different waves. For example, American GI’s serving in China and Japan during WWII and the
Korean War brought their appreciation for Zen Buddhism back home with them. In the more
recent past, Tibetan Buddhism became popular because of the plight of the country of Tibet and
the charismatic nature of the Dalai Lama. Many celebrities took up the cause of the occupied
country of Tibet in the 1990’s.
-Buddhism has a unique ability to adapt and change to the cultures in which it spreads. As the
video at the end of the chapter explains, Buddhism will change in the American context. The
teachings of Buddhism are adaptable because it doesn’t have a belief in a divine creator. In a
way, this makes it easier for other cultures to follow certain Buddhist teachings. As we can see,
there is no true “pure” Buddhism as the 3 different schools have changed Buddhist teachings and
practices in relation to culture. The same may very well happen as Buddhism spreads to the
West.
REL104
Lecture 3 CBM
1. Hinduism was the topic of discussion last week and this week we will be exploring a religion
that came out of the Hindu milieu. First, in the context of Hinduism, Siddhartha Gautama, who
would go on to become The Buddha, was born during the Upanishadic or Philosophical era of
Hinduism. As you may recall, this was the time in Hinduism’s history when many people were
questioning the need for sacrifice and the role of the Brahman priesthood. In many ways,
Siddhartha’s experiences were part of this time of questioning. As noted in the reading and in
the lecture below, he tried to follow the way of the Sannyasin, the final role in Hindu life when a
person renounces the world in order to seek moksha and break free of the cycle of reincarnation.
He found this way too austere (it left him close to death) and his questioning led to the creation
of a new approach to liberation.
In addition to questioning the severe asceticism of Hinduism, The Buddha also questioned the
Hindu understanding of moksha. As you will recall, Hindus generally believed that people had
to be reborn into higher and higher castes in order to reach the stage where they could become a
sannyasin and achieve moksha. Siddhartha did not agree with the caste concept and taught that
anyone who followed his path as a devoted monastic could be liberated from reincarnation. He
accepted followers from any caste.
In many ways, The Buddha created a most unreligious religion: most religions have the
following things in common: authority, ritual, speculation, tradition, grace (reality, real reality is
good), and mystery. These six areas were facing serious corruption in Hinduism during the
Buddha’s time. The Buddha’s religion was devoid of authority; he taught his followers to “be
lamps unto yourselves,” meaning you don’t need a priest to reach enlightenment. In its original
form there was no ritual, no speculation into why things are, just accept that they are. No
tradition, you can know if a teaching is good or not by your experience. Self-effort, not the
grace of the divine, is the key for achieving enlightenment. There was no supernatural in his
original teachings. The Buddha is not worshiped as a god.
Overtime, as Buddhism spread to different countries and adapted the indigenous traditions it
found in those countries into the Buddhist teaching, it began to include elements of grace and the
divine into the original teachings of the Buddha. Buddhism is an example of syncretism, or the
merging of different religious traditions into another religious tradition. This is why there are 3
main schools, and multiple sub-schools of Buddhism.
Lecture notes for sections
5-1 through 5-3
This lecture will cover the information from the reading, but sometimes in a different order. This
should make it easier to understand, as I have added some information to that which was
presented in the reading.
1. Buddhism-Has much in common with Hinduism. Buddhism is dependent upon Hinduism,
and the cultural milieu of the region. The Buddha himself was born into a Hindu family.
2. Story of the Buddha-How did the video and reading portray this? One must distinguish
between the story of the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama) versus the story told of his life that
includes many miraculous elements. There is a tendency in many religions to retell the stories of
important figures and include supernatural elements. This is called hagiography and its goal is
to bolster the religious importance of the individual. For example, the stories of many Christian
saints include miraculous elements added to show their close connection with God. In the story
of the Buddha, the element of the white elephant and the infant Siddhartha springing from his
mother’s side (C-section?) proclaiming his role in salvation are examples of hagiography. They
give his future teachings a higher level of authority because of his somewhat miraculous birth.
Here is the non-miraculous timeline:
-Prince Siddhartha Gautama (around the time of Plato, + 550 BCE). There are many legends
about his life. No official biography.
-Father was king of a tribe in Nepal, he was the only child, heir to the throne. (Note that ‘kings’
were not in charge of countries, but of family tribes and city-states.)
-The priests tell his father that his son would be either a great monarch or a great religious
visionary.
-He leads a life comfort and was surrounded by grandeur and no suffering.
-One day, Siddhartha leaves the palace to see what life was like on the other side. He went to a
nearby village and saw shocking things.
-The Four Passing Sights:
1. An old man, crippled with arthritis, no teeth, decrepit, aging badly, this was the reality of
aging
2. A sick man, the reality of illness
3. A corpse being carried out of a house, the reality of death
4. A sannyasin (shramana), a Hindu holy person, this was the only sight that gave him hope, the
sannyasin seemed to be at peace.
Aging, illness, death were all the examples of suffering that Siddhartha had never witnessed
before, he had never suffered before, nor witnessed suffering, this is why the sights were so
shocking.
-This left Siddhartha with questions: Why do people suffer? Is there a way out of suffering?
How can you live a hopeful life in the midst of suffering? (These are similar to the religious
questions we explored at the beginning of the course.)
-At this moment, Siddhartha thought the answer was in the peacefulness of the sannyasin.
He left the palace, his wife and child permanently, and lived for years as a sannyasin. However,
this did not bring him peace. He realized that there is too much hardship in this type of life:
starving, destitute, dirty, homeless, and dressed in rags. He is convinced that there must be a
better way.
-In his desperation, he sits down under a tree and stays there until he finds the answer to
suffering. He sits beneath a Bodhi tree-the tree of awakening. Here, he becomes enlightened.
1. He becomes aware of his past lives
2. Discovers the workings/laws of karma
3. Gains insight into release from suffering
-These insights cause him to abandon sannyasin life and embrace a path of moderation:
The Middle Path (the sannyasin life is too extreme and leads to more suffering).
-At the moment of his enlightenment, he becomes the Buddha-the Awakened/Enlightened One
After his Awakening, he gains followers via his consoling message. This is the beginning of the
community called the Sangha.
-It is at that point that Buddhism as a religion begins (religion needs a community).
-Buddha dies at the age of 80 in a state of serenity (statue of reclining Buddha, eyes closed),
and achieves parinirvana-nirvana without remainder.
-The Sangha is stable/strong enough that Buddhism survives after the founder’s death.
3. Institutional Buddhism
Once the Buddha dies, the community grows and continues to pass along his teachings. This is
the role of the institution of religion. This section will explain the essential Buddhist teachings.
-Buddhist take refuge in the “Three Gems”: The Buddha, Dharma (teaching), and Sangha.
-Dharma-in the Buddhist context, dharma means teaching. Below are the basics.
-The Three Marks of Reality/Characteristics of Existence:
1. Anicca-all of reality is change or impermanence (no unchanging reality)
2. Anatta/Anatman-no such thing as a permanent identity (we are always changing, every
second); this refutes the Hindu belief in a soul. Anatman literally means “no soul.” One reason
for this belief is to reject selfishness-there is no ‘my’.
3. Dukkha-life is all about suffering (inescapable, because of the changing nature of all things.
Not just horrible suffering, but even dissatisfaction can lead to suffering). As noted in the
reading, we have a tendency to form unhealthy attachments to things, people and life itself.
-The only way to escape from suffering is to cultivate the right attitude toward it. The Buddha
was all about trying to solve the issue of suffering (due to his experience of the 4 passing sights).
-How do we deal with suffering?
The 4 Noble Truths: (bedrock of Buddhism, summarizes what the Buddha learned when he
became enlightened, successfully addresses the problem of suffering.)
1. to live is to suffer
2. the cause of suffering is desire (we suffer because we don’t have what we want or we lose
what we want). Wanting what we do not or cannot have is the main cause of suffering and we’re
not happy with what we do have! Happiness is wanting what you have, NOT having what you
want.
3. to end suffering, end desire-stop wanting things excessively, cultivate an attitude where you
can accept the suffering that comes your way and to accept what you DO have, accept what life
throws our way. Cultivate serenity.
4. to end desire, follow the eightfold path
The eightfold path-the way to cultivate serenity and end desire, it represents a life well-lived
with minimal suffering, and assists in reaching nirvana and ending rebirth. It is a series of the
right (correct) kinds of attitudes to live by.
1. Right understanding of reality-know and accept the 3 marks of reality.
2. Right intention (for actions)-bad intentions cause suffering to self and others.
3. Right speech-no lies, swearing, etc.
4. Right action-don’t do things to hurt others (people or animals)
5. Right work-choose an honorable profession that will not hurt others, focus on non-violence,
or a job that help others.
6. Right effort-honest effort to do the best you can to keep improving yourself
7. Right meditation-practice meditation regularly, build it into your life, helps you understand
reality.
8. Right contemplation-cultivation of inner peace and serenity
All are important, but 7&8 will move you toward enlightenment and learning how to deal with
suffering. These are what the monks focus on.
5. Sangha-This is the community of followers who are ordained. This means that they have
become monks. They have left the world to pursue the Buddha’s teachings. As the article on the
Buddha in the context of Buddhism notes, Buddhism has traditionally been a religion of
monks and nuns. This means that the official Sangha is the group of ordained men and women
who have given up the world in order to achieve enlightenment. Some schools of Buddhism
believe that lay persons can also achieve enlightenment, but the surest path is to become
ordained.
6. Schools of Buddhism
Theravada Buddhism “Way of the elders” (Hinayana-“Little Vehicle”)
-oldest, most conservative, emphasis on sangha (community), monasteries are strong,
usually men are fully ordained as monks, and women can be partially ordained.
-Theravada attempts to keep the original teachings of the Buddha intact; it teaches that
being part of a monastery is the surest way to enlightenment/nirvana.
-Monks have a privileged place because they are considered wise, and because feeding
them gives one good karma.
-Theravada teaches that wisdom is the key to enlightenment.
-The monks beg for everything (influence of sannyasin model). It is possible for a man
to join the monastery for a time (temporary ordination) in order to ‘make merit’ for
himself.
-Theravada monks (and even the few nuns) wear orange robes (sannyasin) and have
shaved heads. They are strict vegetarians, even vegans.
-The monasteries survive because people provide for their physical needs; in turn they
“pay-back” by running schools, hospitals and social welfare organizations.
-Theravada is strong in Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Myanmar.
-Theravada is the best example of what early Buddhism was like, but it is not as
influential because it does not have as many followers as the other schools of Buddhism.
Some of the aspects of religion that the Buddha did not include have crept back into
Theravada. Example, monks are considered to have special powers and are consulted to
improve people’s luck; this borders slightly on the supernatural, something which the
Buddha taught against.
Mahayana “Big Vehicle”
-They believe that their way can bring the largest number of people to enlightenment.
-This began as a reform movement in Theravada, and it is the most popular form of
Buddhism.
Nirvana takes on an added dimension, it is attained through wisdom, but also through
compassion; all wisdom, to be real wisdom, has to be compassionate. Therefore, a
viable path to Nirvana is compassionate action in the world. This form of compassion is
called Karuna.
Also key to Mahayana is the interrelatedness of all reality (very Hindu) and that is why
Karuna is called for. We are related to everything that lives, very similar to
Brahman in Hinduism. Karuna calls all to treat all of reality as part of your family or
part of yourself. The world becomes the object of your compassion. In this way the
world ceases to be a competitive place, and becomes a place in need of my compassion.
Bodhisattvas-the enlightened person via wise compassion
The bodhisattva can choose whether or not to return, even though they have achieved
nirvana, and do not have to be reborn. Their compassion is so strong that they often
come back to help others to become enlightened.
-Some Mahayana Schools:
Pureland Buddhism-one of the schools of Mahayana Buddhism; it spread from India to
China to Japan. It calls for devotion to Amitabha Buddha (one of the heavenly
Buddha’s). If you show complete devotion to this Buddha, it is enough to be reborn in
his paradise. Once being reborn into this paradise, it is easier to achieve nirvana. This
form of Buddhism is very open to anyone, it does not require meditation or ceremony or
even literacy. Here, some religion sneaks into the original Buddhist teaching.
Pureland Buddhism is less about human action and more about the saving power of the
Buddha (this is grace).
Zen-In relation to all of the teachings of Mahayana, several different schools, like
Pureland and Zen arose to actually teach people how to live and how to translate beliefs
into actions. Zen arose in China and traveled to Japan. Zen is a reform within
Mahayana Buddhism that seeks to simplify it. Zen focuses on a few practices that
help to develop serenity and dispel illusion:
1. Sitting Meditation-common in many forms of Buddhism, can last for up to 12 hours.
(deny the body and the mind, and focus on emptiness.)
2. Koan-a question that has no rational response: What is the sound of one hand
clapping? Answer comes from outside rationality; if you can give a non-rational answer
to the koan that your teacher likes it will show that you are moving on the path toward
enlightenment, for you are overcoming rationality.
Rationality can only go so far to reveal reality. We must move beyond rationality for
enlightenment. A koan is beyond rationality and tries to get you to move beyond reason
too.
3. Manual labor-actions that are beyond words, words are not the most essential thing
on the road to enlightenment (think of manual chores that you can get lost in.)
4. Ritual practices-promotes tathata-thatness, forces you to live in the moment.
Tea ceremony-elaborate practice of making and serving tea, focus all energy on it, live in
the moment.
Haiku poetry-focus on this small piece
Gardening-simple, but beautiful
Calligraphy-art of beautiful writing, often writing haiku in calligraphy
Just about anything can be ritualized, so that you move toward enlightenment.
Vajrayana Buddhism-“The Diamond Vehicle”
-Most closely associated with Tibet (but there are other countries where this is practiced).
-Most prominent religious specialist is the Dalai Lama
-This is an example of syncretism. Vajrayana is a blend of Tantric Buddhism
(techniques that aim at spiritual union) and traditional Tibetan Shamanism. There
are still shamanic influences in Tibetan Buddhism.
-Lama is a spiritual leader, monk or nun, and can choose to have many incarnations.
-The Lama is also a temporal ruler in Tibet. The incarnation of a Lama is discovered by
a committee that uses shamanic practices; they might follow a flock of birds on their
quest, or receive messages from nature. The current Dalai Lama, in addition to choosing
items that belonged to the previous Lama, had his incarnation confirmed because the
committee saw sacred letters in a lake.
-Similar to Mahayana, Tibetan Buddhism is very ritualistic. Chanting and meditation
can last for days during certain rituals. Pilgrims who stand, clap, lay all the way to holy
sites.
-Mantra-phrase or word (or breathing) used to focus the mind in meditation; takes mind
away from extraneous thought (also found in Hinduism).
-Mudra-ritual hand gestures (many cultures have this, think of hula in Polynesian
cultures)
-Mandala-tracing intricate pattern on sand then fill in with colored sand. When it is done
there is a ritual with mantras and mudras then they kick it and destroy it (impermanence
of reality)
-Death symbolism-to focus on death allows one to not worry about it an accept it.
Drink out of skulls, use human bones as ritual objects, dancers dressed as skeletons.
-Dalai Lama-absolute head of Vajrayana Buddhism, in exile since 1959, lives in
Northern India, the Dalai Lama is considered to be a Bodhisattva, 14th incarnation of
Avalokiteshvara, the heavenly bodhisattva of compassion (part of cosmic Buddha
nature),discovered when he was 3 ½ years old. He is the Spiritual and political leader of
Tibet.
-Tibet was invaded and occupied by China, Dalai Lama tried to work with the Chinese
government, but it didn’t work out. He escaped from Lhasa (capital city) because he was
afraid he would be captured, walked across the Himalayan Mts. (took a few months) and
requested asylum in Northern India. The official US position (since 1959) Tibet is an
occupied country that should be restored. That is not likely to happen, so there have been
attempts to give the Tibetan people some form of autonomy, but it hasn’t gone too well
thus far. (Protesters at and before the previous Olympics in Bejing)
7. Other Buddhist teachings
-Soul and Karma: difficult to explain, there is no soul in Buddhism, yet karma still has a role.
(In many ways, these beliefs were so ingrained into the culture of the Buddha that they had to be
kept.) There are elements of personality of each individual that can regroup into another
lifetime. It is hard to come up with an adequate explanation of how karma and rebirth work in
Buddhism, but they are still powerful concepts in Buddhist countries.
-Nirvana: comes from Hinduism. Like trying to describe ultimate reality, describing
enlightenment or nirvana is an ambiguous answer. Being in nirvana is beyond description, it
cannot be described, only lived, experienced. Those who describe it, don’t know it. Those why
know it, don’t describe it.
Lecture notes for sections
5-4 through 5-6
8. Morality
Like many religions, Buddhism has an inherent morality. It is based on the concept of
compassion mentioned above. This general understanding also has a code of ethics that includes
specific precepts or rules. Buddhist moral precepts are stated negatively; that is, they explain
what one should not do:
-Kill sentient beings
-Steal
-Commit sexual immorality
-Lie
-Drink intoxicants
-East between noon and the following sunrise
-Dance; enjoy music, or attend artistic performances
-Beautify the body
-Use luxurious seats and beds
-Accept money
As noted in the reading, it is the first 5 of these that are to be followed by lay Buddhists. The
others are to be followed by monks and nuns or those who are taking temporary vows. It should
be noted that the 3rd precept is stricter for monks or nuns. They are to have no sex at all, nor are
they to even think about sex.
Divine Virtues-love and compassion, altruistic joy, equanimity. Remember, Buddhism is not a
very philosophical or speculative religion. The Buddha didn’t try to answer “why” we suffer; he
simply taught that suffering is a foregone conclusion and one should try to minimize it.
9. Meditation-Many of our Eastern religions rely on meditation, but Buddhist meditation is
different than other forms. Sometimes, in Hinduism and in Christianity, meditation takes the
form of absence or darkness: we meditate to find nothingness inside of ourselves, which is then
purged and prepared to become the house of God. Buddhists meditate to awareness: they
become aware of their physical selves, discomfort, etc. in an attempt to move beyond it into
awareness of higher levels of being (enlightenment).
10. Buddhism and the West
As noted in the reading, Buddhism and its teachings have made it to the West in a couple of
different waves. For example, American GI’s serving in China and Japan during WWII and the
Korean War brought their appreciation for Zen Buddhism back home with them. In the more
recent past, Tibetan Buddhism became popular because of the plight of the country of Tibet and
the charismatic nature of the Dalai Lama. Many celebrities took up the cause of the occupied
country of Tibet in the 1990’s.
-Buddhism has a unique ability to adapt and change to the cultures in which it spreads. As the
video at the end of the chapter explains, Buddhism will change in the American context. The
teachings of Buddhism are adaptable because it doesn’t have a belief in a divine creator. In a
way, this makes it easier for other cultures to follow certain Buddhist teachings. As we can see,
there is no true “pure” Buddhism as the 3 different schools have changed Buddhist teachings and
practices in relation to culture. The same may very well happen as Buddhism spreads to the
West.

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