World Religion RELG 1200
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Date Created: 10/20/15
BUDDHISM Buddhism was founded in North India during the 51h century BCE as a result of Siddhartha Gautama s attainment of enlightenment Enlightenment in Buddhism simply means the ultimate truth by which people are freed from the cycle of rebirth Thus Buddhism appears to be the goal of Hinduism Gautama became the Buddha 7 the Enlightened One or the Awoken One and teacher of the way to escape constant rebirth and suffering associated with it Following is the story of Gautama and the founding of Buddhism as well as the religion s teachings and practices I Religious and Social Background In India during the 5th century the religious situation was one of stagnation The priests had arrogated to themselves a monumental level of importance as the ones who keep order in the universe conveying to them a position of extreme authority They used this position to exploit and retain power for themselves Ritual had become mechanical and devoid of substance they were going through the motions but nothing more New sects such as the Ajavikas and Jains were developing in association with the idea of inner sacrifice Thus the stagnation produced a plethora of different searches for a more meaningful religious experience in India Religious speculation at the time focused on quothair splittingquot Back in the Middle Ages in the west there were actually doctoral dissertations written by some theology students on subjects like how many angels can dance on the head of a pin In addition the religion was carried out in Sanskrit which was the old Aryan alphabet and language By 500 BC many people living in India no longer understood read or wrote Sanskrit In a radical response to the whole substance of this Brahministic Hinduism some began teaching that divine grace was just bestowed upon people as some claimed to experience Moksha but had no corresponding evidences of it in their life and no sense of personal responsibility This undermined the idea of personal responsibility so fundamental to Hinduism Karma had become fatalistic In fact the fatalism of the Aj avikas was common at the time The mysteries of Hinduism 7 the stories of the gods the incarnations of the gods descriptions of how the gods interrelated with humans 7 degenerated basically into a focus on miracles the occult and the fantastic Hinduism was in a complete state of disarray in the 5th century BCE Politically the situation was not much better India had become completely fractured divided into kingdoms the size of counties Ruling over each one of these was a RajaRajput There were hundreds of these little kingdoms all over India In the northwest by 500 BCE the Persians had already begun to invade India They brought with them a form of religion known as Zoroastrianism It is still an existing religion in some remote areas of Iran but mostly today found in exile in India Zoroastrianism taught that there are two gods a good god and a bad god Salvation lies with living in harmony with the good god The initiated receive the secrets necessary to do this At the end of time the good god will overcome the bad god and if one has lived in harmony with the good god that person will live eternally It taught about the belief in evil aspect in life hierarchy of angels an immortal soul and the resurrection of the body on the day of judgment Some of these concepts also began to carry over into Hinduism or into the thinking of people in India at the time At the same time the coming of the Persians created socioeconomic suffering for everybody most of all for those not considered part of the noble and priestly classes The Persians themselves never actually penetrated much farther than the Indus River Valley However the Persians were pretty good at exploiting the economic resources of all the peoples they conquered and using it for their kingdom and their nobility The Buddha s response to all of this was to create a religion that would be cleansed of those aspects of Hinduism which to him seemed degenerate In doing so what he created was a religion that had an intense focus on selfeffort Some people have charged Buddhism with being atheistic This charge is problematic and is based on the view that unlike Hinduism Buddhism understands God reincarnation Karma and the goal of human existence in ways which are quite different than Hinduism The focus of Buddhism is to overcome suffering In classic Hinduism being alive is to be suffering that is separated from divine essence When a Buddhist talks about overcoming suffering this does not mean just getting over a headache it means overcoming the limitations of this life Buddha s response however focusing so much on selfeffort basically meant that anyone not just priests of any caste level could achieve religious success what he called Nirvana by focusing on overcoming suffering Of course there is one fundamental presumption in all of this 7 that suffering is antithetical to the divine realm and therefore one who is in union with the divine realm would not cause suffering for oneself or others if at all possible This is not necessarily a notion universally accepted by all religions There are some religions for instance Christianity where the concept of personal suffering is integrated into the religion itself II Origin of Buddhism Life of Gautama Buddha The first monks emphasized Buddha s humanity For the first 100 years after Buddha s death he died in 480 BCE there was no sense in which Buddha was regarded as divine During this time he was neither the founder of a new religious perspective not divine nor a manifestation of a god This was important since if he was more than human what hope would there be for these monks who were trying to follow his example For them to achieve Nirvana it was necessary that Buddha also have been merely human It is only later on partly through the in uence of Hinduism and partly through looking at things in retrospect that some concluded that Buddha was an incarnation of divinity The oldest Buddhist texts were written in Sanskrit and Pali These offer fragmentary minor references to Buddha s life but there is no single comprehensive source for life of Buddha from antiquity There are only bits and pieces drawn together from the Buddhist manuscripts and their accuracy is sometimes disputed However the life of Buddha to the Buddhists was not critical for understanding the inner essence of the religion An additional source for Buddha s life comes from local traditions in various places of India especially in areas along the Ganges River where he traveled for over 40 years teaching his religious perspective These references provide some sense of the activities of Buddha The Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautama in 560 BCE His father was a Raja a ruler of a small Indian province of Kapilavastu It was in the modern state of Nepal He was the first son of his father and the apparent heir As part of the nobility he was a member of the second level in the caste system As a young man he would have been educated in the traditions of a military aristocracy as well as the traditions of court ceremony As the son of a nobleman he lived a life of luxury for that day At least according to legend he was purposely prevented from observing any sort of actual suffering death disease pain etc He was surrounded by women and he is believed to have married about the age of 16 or 17 years of age Historians are fairly certain he had at least one son That son was named Rabula which means hindrance There are reasons to suspect that he may have had other wives or concubines and other children but there is no certainty At the age of 25 he was inadvertently exposed to suffering while on a journey As he was traveling he encountered a dead body a person ridden with disease some extremely poor people and a wandering holy man a priest Because he had not been exposed to such things before the sight of these things overwhelmed him After unsuccessfully struggling to understand what he had seen he interpreted the four separate incidents or scenes as signs worth pursuing if one would understand the meaning of life At the age of 29 he left his family princely life wife and child or children and began an rigorous quest for religious understanding of the problem of suffering which is to say also the problem of life The four incidents that sent him out searching for the answers to the problem of suffering and death became known as the Four Signs the new life he had taken 7 abandoning home and comfort 7 became known as the Great Renunciation At that time it was not so uncommon for somebody to do as he did for some religious pursuit His wife was grief stricken and resentful but he came from a fairly welloff background so she and the child or children were cared for by his family and tradition maintains that eventually all of them became either monks or nuns within the movement he founded His quest followed three stages The rst was intense Hinduism During this process he placed himself under the guidance of two Hindu masters gurus in an intense effort to gain religious understanding regarding suffering This involved asceticism monasticism the practice of yoga But in all this he didn t find the answer he sought He eventually broke from these two Hindu masters and along with several others ultimately five disciples sought together to quotbreak the power of the bodyquot to try to get beyond the physical limitations of the body to some kind of an experience of the divine At one point during a period of extreme fasting he almost died This convinced Siddhartha that asceticism itself was futile Since neither asceticism nor the Hindu approach brought the satisfaction that he sought he perceived that whatever the religious answer was it had to be somewhere between asceticism and indulgence This would later be the approach of the monastic community that would form around him One day at the age of 35 while meditating under a Bodhi tree he went into a trance and went through what became known as the four stages of meditative trance and finally attained enlightenment perceiving the solution to the problem of suffering He was then persuaded by Brahman to leave the place to go and teach others of these things hidden even from the gods It is at this time that he became the Buddha which means an Enlightened One For the next 45 years of his life he itinerated annually up and down the heavily populated area the Ganges River preaching to anyone and everyone who would hear him about how they too could find enlightenment It was not that others received enlightenment from him each one personally had to find it Buddha s role was to tell them the path by which to find enlightenment just as he felt he had done What was unique about this new religion that Buddha was proclaiming to the people It was not really a religion as such but simply a way of dealing with life Only later would some of his followers transform it into a religion It was not that his followers should forsake Hinduism but rather find their desired religious success within Hinduism Unlike most monasteries which are located in isolated remote areas where they live apart from people Buddha and his community of monks dwelt right in the midst of the people and where they carry on their daily activities Buddha was the spiritual guide During the greater part of the year they traveled along the Ganges river basin In the morning they would arise for meditation Ifthere would be preaching it would come at this time However since Buddha s message from the time of his enlightenment onward was basically unchanged disciplining was the primary focus during meditation At noon time the monks went out in the midst of the community to beg for their food and drink and then in the afternoon Buddha and the monks but especially Buddha would teach the multitude the monks being right there with him Gautama Buddha is believed to be the 24Lh Buddha in the present stage of the world A future Buddha is inevitable and expected when this world order changes and a new stage of the world appears On other occasions they might rest in the afternoon This was the basic daily routine of Buddha and the monks for those 45 years During the rainy season the group would withdraw together to a fixed abode generally for about three months for a more intense time of meditation Initially that had to be something rented or borrowed but as the movement became popular grounds and buildings were donated for them Everything that monks possessed would be donated The food would be donated The buildings were donated The grounds were donated and usually each monk received one new robe a year This was basically what Buddhism was at the time Buddha died It was not as such a separate religion but a monastic community The main focus was on the problem of suffering and the transitory nature of life It is here and then it is gone The approach of Buddha was preserved by his monk disciples who would continue the same itinerate teaching and meditation activities that Buddha had pursued They would continue this for the next two or three centuries Why didn t it stay that way Part of the answer is that the way that he presented was essentially very very rigid Only a select few could really participate in the religious method During the midthird century BCE a major meeting was held at which some followers began to formulate a theosophy based on his teachings A schism arose between the more conservative monks and others advocating a new understanding The more rigorous conservative followers of Buddha would follow the Theravada form of Buddhism The advocates of a new broader interpretation of Buddhism followed the Mahayana form the great vehicle By about 250 BCE both of these streams of Buddhist thought were established in the Ganges area of India where Buddhism was primarily confined About 250 BCE or a little bit later an Indian ruler Ashoka conquered nearly all of India and adopted Buddhism as his own religious persuasion As a result Buddhism became an officially recognized religion not just an ethical system or movement within Hinduism With political favor it spread broadly across India and beyond In modemday Sri Lanka it was introduced in the 2nd century BCE For a time it became the state religion In China Southeast Asia it was introduced during the 1st century CE by the trade routes The form of Hinduism that spread into Indochina was Mahayana In the 1st century CE it also spread into China by monks going over and around the Himalayas In China it reached its zenith between the 7th and the 9th century CE It reached Korea in the 3rd century CE through Chinese in uence and continued to grow through the 1300s Then it began to decline It became firmly rooted in Thailand somewhere between the 5th and the 13th century CE After 1238 AD it became the state religion and remains so yet today In Burma in the 5th century CE the Tantric form was established but later it became Theravada Tantric is a sensual form of Buddhism radically different from either Mahayana or Theravada Buddhism In Japan Buddhism arrived in the 6th century CE by Korean monks Between 794 and 1333 it was the dominant religion in Japan and mixed with Shinto to form a hybrid known as Q In Tibet Buddhism spread surprisingly very late to the Himalayan Mountains considering Buddha was from that area It arrived in the 7th century CE because of a royal marriage Rival monasteries developed in the Tibetan region competing with one another for the leadership of the Buddhists there The leader of a Tibetan monastery enjoys the title of Dalai Lama of which there are two monasteries which continue today to compete for supremacy III The Four Noble Truths Buddhism is a religious technique or discipline more than anything else According to tradition it seems as though the first sermon that Siddhartha preached after his experience of enlightenment revealed a relatively full statement of what he had come to understand Whatever it was that he experienced under the Bodhi tree apparently was a complete and wideranging perception of the message The message dealt with the issue of suffering and there was no further development of the concept from the time he first delivered it until the time of his death His ve disciples became the first monks as they embraced the concept and began striving for personal enlightenment as well It is important to realize that Buddhism is an individual path In Mahayana many people can take it but it is still an individual path It deals with the notion of suffering but consistent with Hinduismlife itself is regarded as suffering To be alive is to suffer The cause of this suffering according to Buddhism is a thirst or craving or supreme desire for anything not worthy of that desire Example Have you ever been really really thirsty for a drink You get that drink and you drink it so fast that it upsets your stomach That upset stomach is suffering What Buddhism asserts is if there is anything in life that one just absolutely has to have once gained it will not really turn out to be worth the intense desire Have you ever bought something that you just had to have You worked for it you got it you brought it home and it was the most wonderful thing Then after a short period of time you don t even bother with it anymore That is something that wasn39t really worth the desire You suffered for it You sacrificed to get it But then when you had it for a while you did not really care anymore and cast it aside For Buddhism the cause of suffering is this thirst this craving this desire for something that is not worthy of that desire There are however levels of desire and on the human level there are some things that are worthy of desire so long as the intensity remains in perspective Lesser desires are okay as long as the desire doesn39t overshadow the inherent value that the thing desired has Nevertheless for Buddhism there is only one thing truly worthy of the most intense craving and desire This is Nirvana On the other hand improper desire that is desire for something that is not worthy of that desire is both mistaken and morally wrong and causes suffering This suffering may be to the one who desires it or it could be to others as well The evil is not in the thing desired but rather in the individual that is to say in the selfishness and pride that is compelling you to desire that particular thing So suffering is associated with moral failure selfishness and pride but not mental misunderstanding Such cravings are not overcome by withdrawing from the world or from relationships That is what the J ains and Ajavikas tried in Hinduism Rather it is necessary to eliminate that within an individual which causes this desire When successful then friendliness compassion respect and similar attitudes are found The way to get rid of these cravings is by discipline of oneself to overcome them according to Buddhism So fundamentally Buddhism is a method of conditioning oneself to look at the world differently so that selfishness pride and improper cravings are not part of one s inner being anymore The extent to which one does this will be the extent to which one progresses along in the path of Buddhism These ideas are embodied in what Siddhartha called the Four Noble Truths 1 Life inevitably involves suffering It acknowledges the existence of dukkha 7 a state of meaninglessness and frustration 2 Su ering originates in our desires or cravings It seeks to answer the question What causes suffering 3 Su ering will cease ifall alesires cease Thus Nirvana is possible to attain and dukkha can cease totally This truth answers the question What is the cure for suffering 4 There is a way to attain this state 7 the Eightfold Path This fourth truth answers the question What is the means for implementing the cure The first of the Four Noble Truths asserts that life certainly involves suffering making all existence meaningless Suffering is understood as spiritual problem associated with a life that is dislocated unfulfilled insecure and filled with interpersonal and intrapersonal con icts not only between people but within oneself This is the meaning of dukkha It is a moral problem Suffering is most vividly manifested in events such as birth sickness the decline of age growing old aging fear of death being quotchainedquot to something you don t like and being separated from something you love This is related to what the Hindus believe to be the five components of life body sensation the senses thought feeling and consciousness These are where suffering is located Furthermore suffering is not only a spiritual problem involved with this life but it also precludes the attainment of truereal happiness until it is overcome Thus suffering precludes the attainment of Nirvana until it is overcome The second of the Four Noble Truths concerns the source of suffering Buddhism believes the source is desire for personal fulfillment happiness a desire for anything unworthy of that desire This results from selfish attitudes The conclusion would be that to be free from suffering and selfish desire would require one to become sel ess Suffering causes a person to seek what is desired even at the expense of others So the only way to success is at the expense of others which makes the situation a winlose scheme And in almost any personal relationship there is always this winlose situation a relationship built on selfish interest The third of the Four Noble Truths deals with the cure for suffering The cure for suffering is evident it is overcoming suffering by being released from narrow selfinterest In other words by gaining a different perspective a different sense of identity one overcomes suffering If the answer to cravings and selfishness is sel essness then the way to overcome suffering is to develop a perspective that becomes so enlarged that it includes others as part of oneself Ultimately this means enlarging one s understanding of self beyond the limits of body to include ultimately all of reality This approach requires training of one s perceptions If one39s physical self is no longer one s limit of identity then only when it is good for everything is it good for the individual The technique of Buddhism is going to be one that focuses on enlarging the sense of self enlarging one s selfidentity to encompass the world around The fourth noble truth offers the Buddhist idea of the means to the cure for suffering This is known as the EightFold Path The focus is to teach one to become sel essithis is the fearsome partito see the person nearby as part of oneself And only if something is good for everyone else can it be good for oneself If it hurts anyone it hurts all Underlying this is the notion that a person will avoid personal injury if possible Thus developing the expansion of one s selfidentity to encompass everyone and everything around the person is the focus of the Eightfold Path Along with this if everything is going smoothly a person will probably notice oneself very little nor bother attending to the affairs of life all that much because everything is going smoothly In such a state one is free to be more oriented toward other people s concerns and issues And when desire is diminished this state is more nearly formed within a person IV The Eightfold Path or Rights Samma The Eightfold Path has a particular understanding of the concept of right This is in a sense dharma but it means something rather different The concept of right in Buddhism is an intuitive wisdom that recognizes and acknowledges the suffering that exists along each step of the Eight fold Path Thereby one knows what to do not to cause suffering Another way of understanding this is that one cannot control what touches the senses to create passion greed and those sorts of things But one can control the mind and emotions the inner self and response to these things to recognize these things for what they are transitory and part of this world and unworthy of any inordinate craving This means that one of the results of the discipline of the Eightfold Path is serenity Instead of being whipped back and forth by greed or passions no matter what happens in life there is going to be a sense of serenity Nothing is really going to shake the individual For this to be the case as one embraces one of the stages of the Eightfold Path it is also necessary to continue fulfilling all of the previous ones as well In the Christian world sin and overcoming of sin in one way or another is seen as the primary purpose of religious activity or religious direction In Hinduism the primary purpose is not to overcome sin That is not the issue in Hinduism Doing one s duty dharma is the issue in Hinduism In Buddhism overcoming selfish desire is the issue Take it one step further in Islam submission is the primary focus Each of the different religions has a particular focus but is the meaning the same for each religion The EightFold Path presupposes what is known as right association This means that the best chance to be successful is going to be in a monastic community In a way this is exactly opposite the manner by which Buddha carried out his 45 years of teaching Instead of withdrawing which is the case for many Buddhist monks today he went around teaching everyone that would listen trying to help them begin to move in the direction of enlightenment But today Buddhism presupposes a right association which means a monastic community of likeminded likeseeking other Buddhists It has gone completely the opposite of the way that it began The Eightfold Path Right Understanding or Right View Right Intent or Right Thought Right Speech Right Conduct or Right Action follow the five precepts Right Livelihood Right Effort Right Mindfulness Right Meditation 9089959quot 1 Right 1 39 quot or Right View is an acceptance ofthe Four Noble Truths Doing so however means adopting the particular worldview of Buddhism that this life is suffering and suffering is the fundamental issue of life It calls for the training of the mind to question old assumptions and to enable it see through illusions such as the notion that lasting happiness can be found in material wealth If one does not have that kind of understanding that enables the one to endorse the Four Noble Truths completely that person has no chance of overcoming suffering and achieving enlightenment or Nirvana Does this make Buddhism a very exclusivistic religion 2 The notion of Right Intent or motive is a passion to consider the motives underlying our actions and thoughts It means having right thought and right motive it means not being pretentious or acting from unguarded emotions The point in this is to guard against selfcenteredness or a deceit of oneself 3 Right Speech is to emphasize truthfulness and charity or love in all manner of conversation Wrong speech might include harsh words gossip lying and cursing It is anything that hurts someone else in any way Right speech and the discipline to develop it begin by noticing the untruthfulness and the deceit in what one says It could even be just tactless blunt speaking or barbed wit In a positive sense right speech involves finding ways to be more honest with oneself and others over one s own identity one39s thoughts and less vicious in what is said of someone else or how it is said The whole idea is to become more aware of what one says and the harm that it causes and then to move to developing a way of speaking that is more honest and less hurtful 4 Right Conduct is similar to right speech except that it relates to ones action instead One attempts to recognize the things one does and the reasons behind these actions Associated with right conduct are the ve precepts which are part of Hinduism These are 1 Don t destroy life and that means don t kill also This implies a vegetarian diet 2 Don39t steal 3 Don t lie 4 Don t drink intoxicants 5 Don39t be unchaste This also means celibacy if outside of marriage and even restraint within marriage The focus of right conduct is both on what one does and does not do and also the motivations for these things Ultimately the motivations become even more significant than the acts themselves For the Buddha evil conducts are those done from the motives of partiality enmity stupidity and fear 5 Right Livelihood is one s passion to be liberated from suffering It is making sure that one s means of livelihood does not violate the five precepts As such it varies from one individual to another For some it means joining a monastic order forsaking the world forsaking everything in the world and to intensely following the Buddhist discipline For others right livelihood means pursuing occupations that promote life in its fullness but don t destroy life This suggests there are certain occupations which are inappropriate for Buddhists such as a butcher hunter or commercial fisherman At an extreme one could be a gardener as long as the bugs that came into the garden were not harmed and the food raised was not really harvested but only gathered when it separated from the plant Whichever role one chooses in right livelihood one s trade should not destroy others or disrupt social harmony This fifth state is directly associated with the second and fourth stages of the Eightfold Path An important corollary to right livelihood is that earning a living is not an end in itself To a Buddhist earning a living is simply a means for living Whether a Buddhist is an engineer a gardener or a sanitation worker the Buddhist labors because it is part and parcel of living itself 7 but not the final goal Unlike the person who intensely works to achieve fame or wealth for the Buddhist these things are not worthy of intense desire What is really worthy of intense desire is Nirvana 9 6 Right Effort refers to developing virtues curbing sel sh passions and getting rid of destructive states of the mind For western societies this can be particularly problematic to accept For the Buddhist practicing this step it would be inappropriate for instance to say quothe beat mequot quothe robbed mequot quothe harmed mequot because that is a sel sh passion 7 a sel sh selfdirected thought and inappropriate Right effort seeks to get rid of the causes of destructive mental states things like depression brooding or feeling sorry for oneself In a positive sense right effort represents a personal decision not to be victimized but to claim control over one s existence Thus as long as one says someone else did something injurious that person becomes a victim of the action and passion of another which is beyond any direct control But for the Buddhist right effort removes this victimization by seeking for what was said done or thought which either made the event happen or it is removed by choosing not to succumb to the result thereby maintaining control over one s responses Also beginning with right effort timing becomes important in that a steady and continuous effort is required It takes steady gradual continuously focused and concentrated effort to be successful 7 Right Mindfulness is a continuous painfully minute selfexamination of every thought every action every sensation every emotion and every image 7 everything about oneself The mind is the means to liberation Therefore one is constantly examining what in every thought image emotion or action causes suffering Then seeking ways to avoid or change these thoughts emotions sensations and actions so that suffering does not occur This results in great self awareness but not guilt because guilt is an emotion associated with a value system and that is not what the focus of the Eightfold Path is The examination is painfully minute in order to discover what sort of suffering is caused and guilt would only cause suffering This also includes mind control over the physical self including refusing pain slowing respiration and the heartbeat etc Buddhists also assert that right mindfulness creates a realization that consciousness is not continuous but is a continuous onoff cycle To put it another way life is a chain of constant changes of constant events Hence at any point along the way the chain of suffering which might be associated with these events can be broken 8 Right Meditation is very closely related to Raja Yoga It involves very focused concentration not for the purpose of arriving at a solution to anything but simply for the purpose of forcing the mind to so expand that at some point suddenly the mind expands out beyond oneself and at least momentarily embraces all the rest of the universe It acquires the skill and stillness needed to see the nature of all things Normally in a monastic setting a Buddhist master will give the practitioner a logical absurdity for example What is the sound of one hand clapping on which to focus The idea is not to solve the absurdity but to let the mind become so enlarged in the process that one39s mind expands beyond logic and reason beyond the self beyond the present situation so much that it embraces the rest of the universe and yet remains still This is the happiness sought The primary goal in Buddhism originally was an abiding friendship and intimacy with that which is lovely or good that which does not cause suffering Buddha shared with the Hindu world of 500 BCE many religious concepts However the religious concepts among the Hindus were extremely varied and this is related to the rapid fracturing which occurred within Hinduism Additionally there were some things on which Buddha had a signi cantly different perspective For Hinduism the goal of the all religious activity is Moksha In Buddhism one seeks Nirvana Nirvana is both a spiritual condition as well as a realm It represented the serene peace which comes by getting rid of all selfcentered desires and attachments Interestingly Buddha never described Nirvana In fact what he said about Nirvana was that it is profound incomprehensible and indescribable In terms of a positive description of Nirvana there is none from Siddhartha himself Theravada Buddhism especially accepts the notion that there are two states of Nirvana A person who achieves Nirvana while remaining alive however eetingly and brie y is said to have achieved Nirvana with a residue The person is still alive but possesses a unique and widened identi cation with the universe Nirvana without a residue begins when that person dies Moksha is believed to involve an actual absorption into the divine realm Nirvana is not absorption into Brahman or a union with God Nirvana is a total blow out of the res of desires and attachments It also involves the attainment of the quality of serene peace associated with ultimate being the absence of individual existence but a merge with the universe The RebirthRedeathKarma Samsara cycle is also A A very differently in Buddhism At death the five elements of existence based on the Hinduism concept body sensation thought feeling and consciousness all disintegrate but Karma continues What Buddhism means by this idea is that quotstrands of finite personal desiresquot which were not already extinguished are reborn passed from one life to a new one When a person dies everything else dies except this ethereal quality of a person s existence the Karma of finite desires and this ethereal quality is visited on the person in a newly born body So Karma is reduced from substance to a quality or more specifically a predisposition of the mind and the self In this sense a person lives again but other than for these finite desires doesn39t really have a former existence Liberation for Buddhists achieving Nirvana is what stops this process The Buddhist who has achieved Nirvana at death merges with the universe and there remains no Karma to pass on to a subsequent generation In the Hindu world of Buddha s time the idea of god as being personal had not developed There was the ultimate divine essence which was not personal but rather a permanent powerful supreme reality a divine force Similarly the concept of divinity that passed into Buddhism is not of a personal god but of a permanent supreme reality a divine essence There is a difference however between the concepts of divinity For Hinduism divinity is active a force while in Buddhism divinity is passive an essence or state of being Mahayana further developed this notion into a personal divine being a Great Buddha of which Siddhartha was but one manifestation Mahayana would then use a notion similar to Bhakti Yoga to develop its approach to Buddhism As the idea of Bhakti Yoga began to develop in Hinduism so in Buddhism Mahayana would regard Siddhartha as one who had achieved Nirvana and a manifestation of divinity so that devoting oneself to him could similarly be expected to produce successful religious results In addition to Siddhartha Gautama it is believed that the Great Buddha was also manifested in virtually any originator of a religion whether it is Jesus Muhammad etc All of these persons are therefore of religious importance but Siddhartha is the source of Buddhist thought and practice Whereas life for both Buddhism and Hinduism is transitory perishing suffering Hinduism looks at life as a training ground a preparation for Moksha However Buddhism perceives life as distinct from ultimate reality So life is the opposite of Nirvana Life is impermanent whereas Nirvana as ultimate reality permanent Life is suffering Nirvana is serene peace Life is not a preparation for Nirvana Life is to be overcome whence one achieves Nirvana At death the enlightened person has expanded the sense of consciousness to include all of reality all of the universe so that as the finite person dies but consciousness continues because it has already united with the permanent realm through achieving Nirvana As the physical body dies conscious existence continues which is Nirvana and there are no quotstrands of finite desirequot remaining to pass into another life V FormsTypes of Buddhism Under the reign of the powerful King Asoka of India Buddhism attained a national and international fame as a world religion It was in the 12Lh century during the Muslim invasion in India that Buddhism lost its strong hold in its home of origin As the faith expanded and adapted to local cultures two major forms of Buddhism emerged They were Theravada Buddhism the Southern school and Mahayana Buddhism Northern school Each has other divisions or sects The Theravada Buddhism In that first century after Siddhartha s death the Buddhist discipline of following the Eightfold Path was universally the way to achieve Nirvana A person sought to achieve Nirvana by oneself for oneself The person who achieved Nirvana with a residue was known as an Arhant Because of the intense discipline required to achieve this only monks were believed able to do so This approach came to be known as Theravada Buddhism Theravada means Way of the Elders Theravada accepts the rebirthredeathkarma samsara cycle but believes one can go backwards as well as forwards If a person lives a particularly evil quality of your life the next existence might be as a hungry ghost or as a resident of hell a demon At the very best such an individual might end up as an animal meaning many more lifetimes would be required to reach Nirvana However the goal for someone who does not achieve Nirvana in a lifetime is to come back in the body of a person again because only in that way can one continue to seek Nirvana The Theravada Buddhism also known as the path of mindfulness also developed something called the chain of causation and the doctrine of dependent origination This teaches that life consists of a chain of causes and corresponding effects In this teaching there are 12 elements in the chain of e i tem e39 39 r J39 r quot39 39 name and form the six sense organs contact sensation craving etc and old age All of life is therefore a process a chain of causes and effects moving from ignorance to old age Only nirvana is independent All other existence is dependent on each other This is a radical thought that rejects the belief in Atman in Hindu teaching on the grounds that nothing is permanent All forms of appearances are temporal including the gods One sequence gives rise to another cause and effect and death represents a new form of appearance Buddha is believed to have said as his last words Decay is inherent in all compounded things so continue in watchfulness Theravada Buddhists believe that if ignorance disappears everything else including birth old age death also end because everything else in the chain is related back ultimately to ignorance as the first cause the effect of which ultimately is life and death Getting rid of ignorance involves following the Eightfold Path by which one expands the sense of existence to include the entire universe Suffering exists only so long as one is ignorant of how big an individual really ought to be only so long as one s perspective is inadequate When one overcomes this inborn ignorance then the whole chain which includes the other 11 elements of life and death is broken The principle focal point for Theravada and the place where the religious tradition is really experienced is within the monastery To become a monk the novice undergoes a period of instruction and oversight by a senior monk In order to even be a novice one must have reached the age of 20 and be free from certain physical and occupational impediments which would prevent the individual from being able to follow the austere discipline of the monastery sometimes children of 6 to 9 years of age may begin the process however and a person need not be under 20 to become a monk one can be 40 60 70 years of age as well The novice does not live at the monastery but participates in its daily occupation while living out in the community Buddhist 12 monastic communities are usually all male There are a few nunneries but very few It is just not a religion that has a strong place for women When the novice reaches the age of 20 or older and the senior monk who is teaching the novice believes the novice is ready to enter the monastery then he will request admission to the monastery for his novice At the time that the request is made there has to be a minimum of 10 monks who hear the request and vote Three requests are made and each time the vote has to be unanimous Only after the third request and unanimous vote for acceptance is the novice then allowed to go into the monastery and reside there as a monk At that point the person must submit to the rules of discipline for the monastery Generally the rules of discipline are about the same in every monastery but each will have its own nuances like when they arise in the morning when they have certain prayers or meditation etc When the new monk moves into the monastery he must also take upon himself a vow to abstain from unchastity murder stealing lies liquor and perfumes aftershaves cologne deodorant etc The individual has the head shaved and receives a robe Monks also must agree not exaggerate any miraculous powers that they feel they possess And they have to agree to refrain from handling money In the monastery or Sangha monks devote all of their time and energy to pursuing the religious life Unlike the person lives in the world where following morning devotions life consists of an occupation while attempting to preserve the principles of love and compassion the monk spends the remainder of the day involved in meditation teaching other people or some form of begging or receiving assistance food food preparation etc The primary focus of the monks39 attention in all that they do is the hope of attaining enlightenment through their own effort And following the example of Siddhartha who once he was enlightened didn t just keep it to himself but spent 45 years teaching others so for the monks as they gain wisdom insight and understanding to teach the Buddhist laity For those individuals in Theravada including women who are not monks there are two principle goals One is to provide alms for the monks so that they can achieve enlightenment and teach others The second is to live as cleanly as possible in hope of a good rebirth in order to become a monk in another existence And by listening to the teachings one learns how to live for this goal Theravada Buddhism was a physical replication of Siddhartha s life and practices The Theravada monks during that first century would go from place to place following the same kind of itinerant ministry They would withdraw to their monastic housing during the rainy season and would carry on their acts of meditation This approach was possible only for the few In 380 BCE a great assembly called Mahasanghika was held in an attempt to create a common understanding of what Buddhism was all about and the way to achieve Nirvana The result of this great assembly was two schools of Buddhism Also different monks increasingly developed different ideas and different interpretations so that by about 380 BCE there were a number of different interpretations of Buddhism The Mahayana Buddhism Mahayana great boat or great vehicle also developed Mahayana is more devotional in character than Theravada It makes Nirvana open to many Mahayana is often known as Great Compassion because of the acts of those who had attained nirvana but has chosen to remain active in helping those who are still unenlightened and suffering Mahayana assumes that everyone possesses a quotBuddha naturequot capable of achieving Nirvana possible in a single lifetime Were this not the case the religious system would have no relevance since some could never reach Nirvana However if all are capable of reaching Nirvana rather than the few in Theravada the path to enlightenment must be easier to follow than Theravada For Mahayana the path to Enlightenment is similar to Bhakti Yoga One must exercise faith and devotion to the Great Buddha as well as to Siddhartha as Buddha an passionate homage to him as one who has already achieved Nirvana make him one s example for living and practice love and compassion for all living things One who succeeds in achieving Nirvana by this path is called Bodhisattva A Bodhisattva is regarded by Mahayana Buddhists as perfect in wisdom one who displays universal compassion in all he says and does is selfemptying or selfsacrificing Such a person sacrificially chooses after achieving Nirvana to remain alive for a time in the midst of the suffering of this world to help others achieve Nirvana rather than leaving this world to gain supreme peace Because Mahayana is devotional in character religious acts play a much greater role for the followers of Mahayana than for those of Theravada who primarily focus on meditation based on following the Eightfold Path Rituals and ceremonies are generally similar to that found in Hinduism These include basic acts such as offerings to Buddha s image of owers food drink and candles Also bowing before Buddha s image to touch forehead to the ground three times removing one s shoes or uttering devotional phrasesmantras charms amp spells Objects of devotion may be the common image of Buddha sitting a Stupa funeral mound of Buddha or one of the early monks a bodhi tree and Buddha s teeth Magic rituals mostly for protection from things like accidents and snake bites are recited from the Sanskrit canon Certain passages are believed to be empowered to provide this protection Mahayana Buddhists don t have corporate worship services but perform devotions privately morning and evening at a family shrine The shrine is usually a ledge or table holding an image of the Buddha and a vase for offerings of owers Ritual acts at these shrines include offering owers and lighting a candle while uttering a mantra One finishes by reciting the five cardinal precepts of right conduct don t kill steal lie drink intoxicants or be unchaste Afterwards there might be personal prayers for protection a good life or a particular matter of concern Devotion is also expressed through festivals and pilgrimages The Uposatha is a monthly festival common across both Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism For a monk it is an intensely rigorous selfexamination The rules of the monastery are recited by the leader of the order and monks must admit any transgressions for which punishment is immediately assessed ranging from nothing more than public confession already done to expulsion from the order either temporarily or permanently for serious offenses Participation is optional for laity against whom no penalty is assessed beyond confession Another common festival is Buddha Day observed at the full moon in May This commemorates Buddha s life and is the first festival of the calendar The rainy season is also important to the annual religious cycle especially for Theravada during which time monks continue to remain in the monastery and meditate There are other regional festivals as well Theravada recognizes a scripture called the Pali Canon This canon consists of three parts the Book of discipline which is open to everyone the Discourses of the Buddha his teachings which document the Four Noble Truths and EightFold Path and the Higher subtleties of the law for those learned in the religion Mahayana recognizes a different canon called the Sanskrit Canon This is not an actual canon systematic body of literature that sets forth a religious system or discipline It is a collection of separate texts Some stress one theme such as wisdom while others are speculation about such things as universal salvation The originals have been lost and the Tibetan translations are regarded as the closest to the originals the teachings of Siddhartha seem to be more precisely handed down from their oral sources Tantric Buddhism is a later approach which is of considerable controversy Whereas the other forms of Buddhism tend toward the ascetic Tantric Buddhism is very sensual in character believing that by ecstatic union one can achieve Nirvana in a single lifetime The channel for doing so in Tantrism is through the physical senses In the other approaches of Buddhism one mostly attempts to immobilize the body or get outside the limits of the body In Tantrism the body whether it is in a sexual way or just through words and gestures is used to unite with the deity Tantric practitioners think it is the superior form of Buddhism because it requires only one lifetime The practice is based on esoteric literature secret or hidden known as Tantras which embody three elements Mantra mystic syllables believed to possess great power and that convey one into mystical relations with the divine realm 2 Mudra mystical movements of the body or sacri cial actions also believed to possess great power 3 Mandala representation of the beauty of the universe which carries one into union with the divine When all three are put together the result is very complex almost mystical The ritual expressions can involve promiscuous sexual unions during which the practitioner believes the sexual ecstasy also brings union with the divine realm and therefore achievement of Nirvana This form is largely found in Tibet though the sexual aspect has been diminished or repudiated by some sects today When Buddhism moved into Tibet the region was in many ways naturalistic in religiocultural practices Some of the traditional ideas and traditional symbols and occult practices that had been part of the Tibetan religion thus became part of Tantric Buddhism Animism is the idea that there is a spirit in every rock tree bush field etc These spirits need to be satisfied by individuals who almost become slaves to these spirits If there is a drought for instance it is believed that the spirits are not happy The concept is oftentimes very closely associated with occultism The idea in occultism is that through a variety of magical formula rituals ceremonies divinations etc one learns to satisfy spirits that may impact one39s life Then the appropriate offerings that are necessary to satisfy those spirits are presented In an occult situation only a certain select group of people know the magical formulae and the proper ceremonies These become not only very powerful figures in the community nation or whatever but are the ones believed to have the wisdom of humandivine interaction deposited within them This sort of a practice is what existed in Tibet and it mixed with Buddhism ultimately developing into the practice of Tantrism The Tantric practitioner or monk attempts to visualize the deity as being present by drawing a Mandala a thing of holy beauty of some sort on the ground The Mandala considered to be esoteric knowledge possessed by those who are quotinitiatedquot They visualize the deity as being present and through the use of words mantras and gestures mudras they see themselves as merging with divinity As they merge the powers and virtues of divinity are thereby conveyed back to them The initiation ceremony and to some extent the Tantric practices follow a set pattern It begins with water baptism after which a crown of sorts is placed on the initiate39s head There is a sacred band placed on one shoulder The initiate is touched with a bell and thunderbolt the bell being indicative of the female and the thunderbolt indicative of the male in sexual union A secret name known only to the initiate is taken and a bell and thunderbolt are received from the master Following that the initiate participates in an experience of Tantric worship which involves the Mandala and the drama of cosmic evolution and resulting in the merging with that deity through the symbols of word and body movement as these are carried into an experience of bliss or ecstacy In that ecstacy Nirvana or enlightenment is believed to take place and one appropriates the virtues and powers of the divine realm In Tantric Buddhism this experience is repeated many times to experience it afresh with same or another deity 15 Zen Buddhism is a popular form of Buddhist practice in the western world drawn from Mahayana Buddhism As Buddhism spread to China some ideas intermixed with Taoism to create a practice known as Chan One of the in uences of Taoism on Buddhism was to focus on the mental element rather than the physical element or devotional activity For this reason such things as ceremonies rituals Buddha images and sacri ces have nothing to do with the essence of religion in Zen When Chan Buddhism spread through Korea to Japan it got mixed with some of the religious practices in Japan to create what is known today as Zen Buddhism Zen teaches that insight enlightenment devotion and practical charity or compassion are complementary They all work together to enhance one s experience of Buddhism Deep devotion which is drawn from Mahayana reaches a sense of gratitude virtually identical to enlightenment On the other hand deep meditation also reaches a sense of gratitude which is identical with the kind of gratitude that is expressed in devotion which is the kind of gratitude that also is re ected in enlightenment Therefore in Zen the primary focus is not the steps of the Eightfold Path nor on devotion but Zen uses meditation to get beyond the limits of reason and the spoken word to experience the true reality that these things imperfectly represent As the mind is thus expanded outward to experience the reality that lies beyond reason and the spoken word it is believed that one realizes the Buddha nature that is within This is because the reality that lies beyond is that of universal reality or universal essence which is the Buddha nature The experience of enlightenment is called Satori For Zen the religious experience is to be found only through the meditation process The practitioner sits in a lotus position and focuses on what is known as a koans a logical absurdity The koan is assigned by a Zen master It is usually a very simple thing like what is the sound of one hand clapping The idea is not to find an answer to the question or koan but force the mind to move beyond the limits of words to get beyond the representation of those words to the reality that relies beyond Sometimes a Zen student may spend a year or longer focusing on one koan The goal is to present to the Zen master a response that re ects the reality beyond the word perhaps almost another logical absurdity The process continues with another koan until Satori is experienced Then the same process continues seeking for more experiences of Satori The way that Satori is described is a perception that life is good and the welfare of others is as important as that of oneself Thus when one experiences Satori some point of sel essness may result For a person who is from the Zen tradition but is not intensely involved in meditation there is an attempt through some sense of devotion to seek the same gratitude but it is not a very common nor familiar path Generally Zen is associated with intense meditation Some western music personalities from the 1960s and early 1970s became involved in Zen as they sought deeper spiritual satisfaction That plus the Vietnam War brought some of the ideas of Zen Buddhism into America primarily the ideas of meditation and monastic life But the part of Zen that was heard in America was the idea that meditation for the sake of meditation is good that the practice of meditation was somehow useful in and of itself True Zen is not oriented at just the monastic life and meditation for the sake of doing it Rather it is focused on expanding the mind through the koans to achieve Satori Zen because it sees Buddhism as primarily something of the mind jumps to the last stage of the Eightfold Path almost directly Rather than being associated with the world through the Eightfold Path the Zen practitioner through expansion of the mind in meditation on a koan feels a sense of becoming infused with the eternal Thus the Zen practitioner doesn39t have to stay in a monastic community Where the practitioner goes and in the things that are done or said having been infused with the eternal all these things help bring the eternal to wherever they are Zen practitioners do not necessarily withdraw from life but rather see as part of their mission their purpose in life to be where other 16 people are because infused with the eternal where they go infuses the eternal into life by their presence Even doing simple tasks are viewed in theory by the practitioners of Zen as something that involves ultimate or eternal reality whether preparing food for a meal cleaning the street or tending a garden Whether a simple task or a very intense religious activity all gradually becomes seen and experienced as part of universal reality From the outside observing a Zen practitioner there appears to be an attitude of general agreeableness with life a serene quietness free from preferences prejudices and rejections There is a sense of contentment in whatever happens good or bad whether there is social elevation or persecution all is part of ultimate reality and to be accepted as part of life Buddhism is one of the most diverse of all the great religions of the world As with many very ancient religions there are all sorts of different streams of thought and all sorts of different practices that have developed In addition Buddhism has gone into a number of countries in most cases some 2000 years ago where it was in uenced by local cultures and religious practices In India a form of Buddhism persisted for 1000 years or more and then was driven out of India Only in the 20th century has it returned In China one strain was close to pure Buddhism while another was heavily in uenced by traditional Chinese Taoism That which was heavily in uenced by Taoism migrated into Korea and eventually Japan where it was further in uenced by Japanese religion emerging as Zen Buddhism Wherever Buddhism has migrated there have also been Buddhist monks who are dedicated to the practice of Buddhism These monks do more than just meditate and go through the motions of religious practices These monks are also involved in the thought processes resulting in the development of Buddhism which adds to the religious diversity The result is hundreds of patterns of Buddhism from the very severe to the very sensual Sometimes these different patterns are scarcely recognizable as part of the same religion Yet among all there are common threads related to union with the divine essence by whatever path such attempt at union may be presented Worship and Devotion in Buddhism There are two major forms 1 Monastic contemplation and 2 Popular devotion Each is as important as the other but different forms of Buddhism may lay more emphasize on one or the other Monastic contemplation invites some form of Ascetism such as a withdrawal from the world and pleasure and focus on mindfulness meditation as Gautama did ie following the Master s steps Popular devotion may involve visiting burial grounds or mounds stupas of the Buddha or revered monks such as those known as the celestial Buddhas who achieved enlightenment such as the 18 disciples of Buddha who achieved nirvana at Buddha s lifetime but were active in helping others achieve theirs making a pilgrimage to places visited by the Buddha in his lifetime or participating in a Buddhist festival
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