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Other Buddhas Across the Cosmos – Tricycle

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Tricycles free online source for newcomers offers answers to all the questions you were hesitant to ask aloud.

Why do Buddhists talk about many Buddhas?

Often when we speak of the Buddha, we mean the historical figure Siddhartha Gautama, who attained enlightenment and began teaching the dharma around 2,600 years ago. But Buddhist tradition holds that this individualalso known as Shakyamuni Buddhawas only one in a series of awakened ones that stretches back into the distant past and extends into the farthest reaches of the future.

Of the many buddhas who preceded Shakyamuni, one of the most important was Dipamkara. His name means light maker: it is said that at his birth many lamps appeared and that he predicted Shakyamunis enlightenment.

After a long period, Dipamkaras teachings faded and were forgotten. Then came a succession of other buddhas, leading up to Shakyamuni, the buddha of our era. In the distant future, after a similar decline, it is said a buddha named Maitreya will emerge. Dipamkara, Shakyamuni, and Maitreya are often depicted in a triad representing past, present, and future. Past buddhas and future buddhas are objects of devotion that exist eternally and are available to those who seek them.

Although buddhas are infinite in a cosmic sense, the appearance of one in our world is rare. Buddhist cosmology describes a vast array of worlds of which ours is only one. Each of these worlds is overseen by a buddha, and rebirth in these worlds, known as buddha-fields, is the goal of many Buddhists.

Two of these prominent buddhas are Amitabha (Japanese, Amida), the Buddha of Infinite Light, and Bhaishajyaguru, the Medicine Buddha.

Amitabha Buddha is central to Pure Land Buddhism. He rules over the Western paradise of Sukhavati, literally blissful land, a place where enlightenment is much easier to achieve than elsewhere.

Bhaishajyaguru is the patron of doctors and healers and rules over an Eastern paradise. Rays of light that emanate from his blue body illuminate the world so that practitioners will never be in darkness. Devotion to him is said to ensure longevity, wealth, and prestige.

The Eastern and Western paradises are both said to be located trillions of buddha-fields away from our (impure) realm, which gives an idea of the epic scope of Buddhist cosmology.

Many other buddhas also reside in Pure Lands across the cosmos, serving as objects of reverence.

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October 31st, 2020 at 6:26 pm

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Maniprabha and the Power of Devotion – Tricycle

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A story from the Karmashataka illustrates how true devotion can be a source of energy and joy.

When the Blessed One was in Shravasti, there was a young god named Maniprabha who had hoops in his ears and necklaces around his neck and whose body was graced with strings of precious stones. He had a luminous celestial mansion of exquisite, divine jewels. Karmashataka

One of our favorite avadanas, or teaching stories, from the Karmashataka is the tale of the god Maniprabha, whose body, like the celestial mansion he lived in, shone with light and was adorned with fine jewels. One day when the Buddha was teaching at Jeta Grove (near the ancient Indian city of Shravasti), the brightly shining deity came to the garden with flowers, which he scattered over the Buddha to show homage. He then bent down to touch his head to the Buddhas feet in a traditional gesture of respect before sitting to hear the dharma. (The image of a god bowing down to the Buddha may be surprising for some readers. But in the Buddhist framework, buddhas far exceed the gods in spiritual realization. Maniprabhas deference to the Buddha is an embodied expression of this truth.) The Buddha offered a teaching that had such an immediate and profound effect on Maniprabha that the young gods eventual awakening became inevitable. In celebration he rose from his seat, again touched his head to the feet of the Blessed One, circumambulated him three times, and disappeared upon the spot.

Some of the other monks in the sangha were confused. They had been studying with continued, earnest, and sleepless efforts at dusk and dawn when they saw Maniprabhas great light emanate and then disappear. They went to the Buddha to ask what had happened. The Buddha explained, but the monks still had questions. They inquired how it came to be that Maniprabha had taken rebirth as a god whose residence was a celestial mansion and whose body was ornamented with divine jewels.

As is often the case in the Karmashataka, the Buddhas response comes in the form of a story within the story. The story takes place long before Siddhartha Gautama became the Buddhabefore he was even born. Back then, Buddha Kashyapa, one of the other buddhas the sutras say have appeared throughout history, was teaching the dharma. At the time, there lived in Varanasi a householder of tremendous wealth. After Buddha Kashyapas final passing, the householder, out of deep devotion, built a great stupa (shrine) containing the hair and nail relics of Buddha Kashyapas holy body. This stupa was so magnificent that even its rain gutters glimmered with jewels. Not only that, but the householder organized the construction of an associated monastery. For the rest of his life, he faithfully served the monks who studied and practiced there and provided for their every need.

The Buddha explained to the monks that after going for refuge and maintaining the fundamental precepts of a lay vow-holder all his life, the householder was reborn among the gods in a celestial mansion made of jewels. That householders name? Maniprabha, which means Jewel-Light.

Like all the stories of the Karmashataka, the story of Maniprabha is a gem that crystallizes for us certain essential teachings on karma. One facet is the enormous power of actions taken from a mindset of devotion.

True devotion does not actually drain us. It is a source of vibrant energy that makes our commitments come alive and become a source of joy.

When we think about our actions, we often focus on their effects, but the Buddhist view of karma easily overlooks the importance of the underlying intention. Yet as Joseph Goldstein points out, the Buddha used the term karma specifically referring to volition, the intention or motive behind an action. He said that karma is volition because it is the motivation behind the action that determines the karmic fruit. Inherent in each intention in the mind is an energy powerful enough to bring about subsequent results. Indeed, the Buddha stated, Action (karma) is volition, for after having intended something, one accomplishes action through body, speech, and mind.

The story of Maniprabha starts with a description of his numerous acts of devotion. Far from being a set of isolated occurrences, these actions are an upwelling of Maniprabhas devotion in previous lifetimes. In honor of the earlier buddha Kashyapa, he built a magnificent stupa and an associated monastery where he rendered service all his life, and provided for the material well-being of the monastics there. But Maniprabhas devotion was directed not only to these two buddhas. From his consistent, lifelong support of the monastery, we recognize that his devotion is also to the dharma and sangha, to notions of love and service, to compassion, and to putting others first.

In the course of the story, Maniprabha is never depicted as wavering. He appears with purpose, fulfills that purpose, and departs. Moreover, in the story of his past life, we are given to understand that the service he rendered was a joyful commitment that he never abandoned. The purity of that devotion later manifests concretely in the pristine qualities of his future rebirth in the god realmin his brilliant appearance, his splendid ornamentation, his divine residence, and his clear intention. Practitioners will find it particularly interesting to note that his acts of devotion gave rise to the auspicious circumstances needed to receive teachings directly from a buddha. Not only that, but Maniprabha was able to comprehend the teaching so deeply that he arrived speedily at the threshold of liberation.

Seen in relation to our own practice, the potential benefits of devotion are numerous. Devotion has the quality of stabilizing the mind. When something occurs that in other contexts might set us off balance, devotion helps us stay on course. For example, at times when we hear criticism from others, we may notice that our potential reactivity and defensiveness are allayed by the depth of our conviction in the dharma. We are able to actually hear their feedback and contemplate its validity without losing our emotional center.

Devotion is akin to love: when cultivated, it grows over time. It develops within the context of an ongoing relationship. When that relationshipwith a person, to the teachings generally, or to a certain lineage or practiceis healthy and not excessively predicated on projected longing, devotion matures and deepens. It is balanced. It becomes less superficial as it increases.

In keeping with our individual temperaments and inclinations, we may find ourselves drawn to certain devotional acts and disinclined to others. Traditional forms such as making offerings, building stupas, or bowing our heads or bodies are certainly important. But there are also contemporary forms more familiar to us: we can set out the cushions at the dharma center, like and subscribe to our favorite dharma sources on social media, or help to update Rinpoches iPhone. We may be spontaneously engaging in these activities without recognizing the devotion we are already expressing.

Simply attending dharma teachings with a mind that is genuinely open and receptive, not armored or argumentative, can itself be an act of devotion. It is a practice to notice where devotion already exists in our minds and hearts. That mindful awareness increases their power.

When emphasizing intention and devotion, the thought does come to us: Isnt it enough that Im here at the dharma talk? Or that I made it onto this cushion? Arent these virtuous actions good enough on their own? There can be a sense in our daily practiceand in our livesthat going through the motions is enough. This is especially true when were experiencing the challenges of life, and we find ourselves tired, overwhelmed, scared, anxious, busy, or burdened, as we often have every reason to be. Devotion feels like yet another item on our to-do list.

True devotion, however, does not actually drain us. It is a source of vibrant energy that makes our commitments come alive and become a source of joy.

Strengthened by devotion, we are more resilient when we encounter exhaustion, criticism, or the questions that arise naturally along the way. Our efforts will continue to grow in spite of challenges and even in response to them.

We know were experiencing devotion when we feel a genuine, spontaneous appreciation for the gifts we are receivingfor the fact that we can meet with qualified teachers, hear the word of the dharma, and find support in the sangha. Devotion is the wish to demonstrate this appreciation in respectful form, to pay homage as Maniprabha did.

Maniprabha leaped to repay the Buddhas kindness without hesitation. Similarly, the dharma can inspire a realization of our wondrous good fortune that naturally overflows in an abundance of gratitude.

This is the second installment in a four-part series on the Karmashataka (A Hundred Deeds) Sutra, a collection of ancient teaching stories on karma that has recently been translated from Tibetan into English. Read the first installation here.

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Dzigar Kongtrul: The Path of Patience – Tricycle

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How lifes little annoyances can teach us ever-greater tolerance.

The 8th-century Indian Buddhist sage Shantideva dedicated a chapter of his work The Way of the Bodhisattva to the subject of patience. In the new book Peaceful Heart: The Buddhist Practice of Patience, the Tibetan Buddhist teacher Dzigar Kongtrul Rinpoche follows the 134 verses from the Patience Chapter and explains how they apply to our busy lives today. In this excerpt, he discusses verses 15 through 18, translated by the Padmakara Translation Group.

15 And do I not already bear with the common irritations Bites and stings of snakes and flies, Experiences of hunger and thirst, And painful rashes on my skin?

16 Heat and cold, the wind and rain, Sickness, prison, beatings Ill not fret about such things. To do so only aggravates my trouble.

If we look at our lives, we already have a certain amount of patience. We can bear many difficult circumstances quite well. For example, we all have to endure minor illnesses such as colds and headaches. We have to deal with plenty of weather we dont like. We put up with mosquitoes and mice and many other creatures that cause us minor trouble.

Rather than constantly seeking to eliminate all small irritations from our lives, we can use them as a basis for developing more patience. If you emphasize comfort over the practice of patience, your mind will get weaker and weaker. If you want your life to be free of the challenge of needing patience, your mind will be in constant fear. You will feel increasingly under threat, increasingly provoked, increasingly paranoid. This will lead you to act more negatively and to reject much of the world.

Practitioners need to be going in the opposite direction. We need to have a little oomph to work with all the challenges we encounter. A lot of people wonder, Why does my life have so much struggle? But there is no such thing in samsara as a life free of struggle. There is no such thing as a life where nothing threatens us. So instead we should ask ourselves, Why doesnt my life have more oomph?

Its interesting that its easier to be patient with things or beings that cannot be held responsible, such as the weather or infants. We should also notice that its relatively easy to muster our tolerance toward people we want to please or impress, such as those we find attractive or our superiors at work. These examples show how capable we are of having control over our minds. If we use these easier situations as a training ground, we are also capable of extending our patience to situations or people that tend to provoke our anger more strongly.

Shantidevas point here is that developing patience depends a lot on our self-confidence and self-image. If we see ourselves as nervous, shaky, and irritable, our experiences will tend to follow that image. So we need to change our attitude to see ourselves as tolerant and not easily disturbed. This will make a great difference in how we react to outer conditions and will set in motion more favorable ways for things to unfold. When we see ourselves in such a positive light, it will be easy to tolerate small disturbances, let go, and move on with ever-increasing patience. As our minds become more agile and ready to make use of discomfort and adversity, we will gain more strength to face the great disturbances of life with tolerance.

17 There are some whose bravery increases At the sight of their own blood, While some lose all their strength and faint When its anothers blood they see!

18 This results from how the mind is set, In steadfastness or cowardice. And so Ill scorn all injury, And hardships I will disregard!

Our reactions to situations, people, and our own states of mind are based on how we condition our minds. For instance, if you have habituated yourself to be brave in battle, seeing your own blood flow may give you even more courage to fight. But if youve habituated your mind to weakness and oversensitivity, you may faint or panic even when you see someone elses blood. Your response in that moment comes from how youve built up your habits in the past.

You can train your mind to be strong and resilient, or you can train your mind to be fainthearted and easily discouraged. This is your choice. If you want to be a bodhisattva, its not viable to act like a weak dog and run away with your tail between your legs, succumbing to your habitual reactions. A bodhisattva needs to endure countless challenges, so you have to shed any tendencies toward cowardice.

In these modern times, particularly in the West, its common for people to give up on themselves easily. Many dharma students tend to judge themselves too harshly and then become discouraged. Part of the problem is they want to be too good. So when they see their neuroses and their imperfections, they have a hard time accepting themselves. This comes from having unreasonable expectations. It is a puritanical mindset. I hear people say, Ive been practicing for the last twenty years. How could this happen? How could I do this? How could I have this thought, this feeling? This often happens just when they think theyve made some progress. The result can be deep despondency.

Our thoughts, feelings, and reactions come about due to a vast number of interdependent circumstances. When the perfect circumstances converge for you to have a particular reaction, its almost impossible not to have that reaction, at least initially. As a result, no matter how long youve practiced, its very unlikely that nothing will bother you anymore. It isnt realistic to think youll be exempt from getting frustrated or losing your temper. The mark of a true practitioner is not what arises in your life and mind, but how you work with what arises.

It all comes down to your perspective and your self-confidenceyour oomph. Now you may think, What can I do about that? Im just not a self-confident person. Its important to know that self-confidence isnt something were born with. Everyone can develop self-confidence if they want to. But we must understand that here we are talking about genuine self-confidence, not egos bloated version, which is more like arrogance.

The process begins with your willingness to take a chance. Rather than having everything absolutely clear and predictable ahead of time, you have to be willing to go into the unknown. This may require a leap of faithfaith in your own mind and its innate wisdom and ability. Then, having taken that leap, you have to work with your intelligenceskillfully, mindfully, and patientlyas the situation unfolds. Going through this kind of process repeatedly will increase your self-confidence, especially when you encounter difficulties and find ways to turn them around or bring about the best outcome possible.

The mark of a true practitioner is not what arises in your life and mind, but how you work with what arises.

Here it is helpful to remember verses 15 and 16, in which Shantideva advises us to train ourselves in cultivating positive qualities by beginning with relatively small things. This is a realistic, doable approach to developing any desirable attribute in your mind. For example, you may wish to be a generous person but realize that youre not very generous. Resigning yourself to being stingy by nature will get you nowhere. That is just making an excuse based on laziness.

If youre genuinely interested, you can always find small ways to be generous. You can even practice by passing money or some object youre attached to from one of your hands to the other. The Buddha actually suggested this simple practice to a disciple who thus got over his miserliness and eventually became a great patron of the dharma. Starting small will serve as an effective beginning to your generosity practice, which you can then take as far as you want it to go.

With patience especially, we can use the small irritations that come up in our lives as wonderful opportunities to train. For example, sometimes we feel offended, but at the same time we realize its silly to be offended. Here we have a great chance to apply the humor we already see in the situation. This humor is based on realizing the irony of what is happening: were blaming somebody else, but the real problem is our own ego, manifesting in the form of a ridiculous uptightness. This kind of ironic humor is not just a patch we use to cover up pain. It is an insight that can turn irritation into a genuine laugh or smile, which gives us a feeling of release. A humorous perspective gets us through the slight pain of the offense and enables us to turn that pain into wisdom. We can then appreciate the pain as we would the pain of an immunization. We need to take advantage of these situations, which are within our reach to work with successfully. If we forgo such opportunities to practice in small ways, then to believe we will be patient when bigger things come around is just wishful thinking.

Because humor and appreciating irony are such effective means of cutting through irritations, I would like to share a contemplation I once had, which I found both funny and helpful. It occurred to me that people come with different shoe sizes, but that doesnt bother me. They have different pants sizes and hat sizes. That also doesnt bother me. So why should I be bothered that people come with different sizes of ego? Just as I dont have to wear other peoples shoes, I dont have to wear other peoples egos. I can just let them wear their own egos, whatever size they are. Why should I take the size of someone elses ego personally and let it bother me? It is theirs and theirs alone to wear. I can just let them be.

The size of another persons ego can make you feel very bothered and uncomfortable. But if you can find other ways of looking at your irritation, especially using humor, then you have a better chance of being patient. In this way, your patience will increase not only in trivial situations but also in serious situations where humor and irony are more difficult to find.

Excerpted from Peaceful Heart: The Buddhist Practice of Patience by Dzigar Kongtrul 2020. Reprinted with permission of Shambhala Publications.


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October 31st, 2020 at 6:26 pm

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The Meaning of Dukkha – Tricycle

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Our expert explains the meaning of dukkha.

The Pali word dukkha (duhkha in Sanskrit), usually translated as suffering, sits at the heart of the Buddhas four noble truthswhich boil down to (1) dukkha exists, (2) dukkha arises from causes, and (3) we can end dukkha (4) by following the Buddhas path to awakening. This central term is best understood alongside the related word sukha. The prefix su- generally means good, easy, and conducive to well-being, and the prefix du- correspondingly means bad, difficult, and inclining toward illness or harm. On the most basic level, then, sukha means pleasant while dukkha means unpleasant. The noble truth of suffering, however, does not simply refer to bodily pain; its meaning is far more subtle and rich.

One can also feel mental pleasure and pain. Here, the twin prefixes are employed again. A good mind (su-manas) is contrasted with a bad mind (du-manas) to yield the Pali words most often used to describe happiness (somanassa) and sorrow (domanassa), also known as mental pleasure and mental pain. Here, happiness and sorrow simply refer to the experience of a painful or pleasurable feeling, which is different from emotional pleasure or pain. When Buddhist teachings talk about emotions, such as love and hate, they are describing our disposition toward the things we encounter. This important distinction can be easily lost in translation.

Dukkha is further used to describe the disappointment that comes when the things we are fond of inevitably change and slip through our hands. The Pali term for this is viparinama-dukkha, meaning the suffering of change, which the second noble truth explains is caused by craving and attachment. We experience emotional pain when we crave either pleasure or the absence of pain, and dont get what we want. Mind- fulness practice is designed to help us abandon this craving by replacing it with emotional equanimity.

Beyond the physical, mental, and psychological sense of dukkha, we might add an existential sense of these words. In Pali texts, the feeling that the very conditions of the world we inhabit are unsatisfactory is called sankhara-dukkha, or the suffering of conditioned reality. The fact that all beings must consume to live and that we will age, become ill, and die are also sources of suffering.

Fortunately, there is a corresponding state of existential well-beingthe liberation from suffering that comes about with awakening.

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Ambedkar showed the way, others must follow – The Indian Express

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November 1, 2020 3:35:06 am

Written by Vinaya Rakkhita Mahathera

On October 14, 1956, along with his 5 lakh followers, Dr B R Ambedkar went to the refuge of The Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha. Committed as he was to rationality and empiricism, he was attracted to Buddhisms rational outlook tuned with morality and further strengthened by scientific temper. Its teaching of equality and solidarity, and its emphasis on transforming both the self and the world through self-effort attracted him.

Ambedkar was the brightest thunderbolt of intellect elicited from the darkest storm of casteism. Therefore, the followers of Ambedkar, the Ambedkarites, must emulate their leader and should give up the repeated labelling of themselves as suppressed class. By repeating such labels, they are giving an auto-suggestion that they are suppressed and therefore can do nothing except to look for help from someone up there in the sky or may be waiting for another Ambedkar or Buddha to arrive to relieve them.

Today we should reflect together on the predicament in which the Ambedkarites find themselves. On the one hand, they confront the exploitation they continue to suffer in a casteist society that refuses to acknowledge them as equals; on the other, they can be manipulated by an opportunist Dalit political style that has turned Ambedkar into an icon but betrays his ideals in practice of Buddhism. One is ready to take the political reservations earned by him but not his religion, Buddhism, when he himself has said that to serve Buddhism is to serve humanity.

Ambedkarites should have self-confidence and believe in self-effort to gain self-respect. Ambedkarites should try to be like Ambedkar of high moral character, highly educated, self-confident and believing in self-effort.

One may ask why Ambedkar left Hinduism. To which Ambedkar himself says: I thought for long that we could rid the Hindu society of its evils and get the depressed classes incorporated into it on terms of equality Experience has taught me better. I stand today absolutely convinced that for the depressed classes there can be no equality among the Hindus because on inequality rest the foundations of Hinduism.

Most of the Hindu leaders are hypocrites who profess to fight casteism while in reality are committed to its rules. Brahminical bureaucrats who claim to have democratic ideas wish to raise the backward castes but crave nothing better than an oligarchy for themselves. Untouchability and inequality cannot be removed if education produces only slavish and selfish-minded leaders. Moreover, how can we gain anything by staying in the caste system?

Buddhism has been in the service of the poor and the oppressed. The Buddhas teachings are based on this fact called suffering, the cause for suffering, the cessation of suffering, and the path leading to the cessation of suffering. This is the reason why Ambedkar chose The Buddha. The Manuvadis want to keep the masses in the casteist religion so that they can go on exploiting them.

Ambedkars call for conversion to Buddhism has been ignored and deliberately marginalised by his own community leaders with few exceptions. It is interesting that Ambedkar fought for the rights of Dalits and had a broader vision, which couldnt be inculcated by post-Ambedkar Ambedkarites. He wanted to give his people an identity so that they get out of the varna system but here, what we see is the stimulation of the culture of varna and caste among the Dalits.

If only constitutional guarantees would have been sufficient, Ambedkar would have rested in peace. He would never have spent years of his life even in bad health, digging out Buddhism from oblivion.

The segmented morality endemic to Hinduism is oppressive to those who suffer under it. Both uneducated and educated Dalits seems to vacillate between two discourses. On one hand they praise Ambedkar as the symbol of the Dalit movement for his conversion to Buddhism and on the other, they themselves stick to their old casteist life.

The writer is a Bahujan Ambedkarite associated with Alok Sangharam Mahavira.

Suraj Yengde, author of Caste Matters, curates the fortnightly Dalitality column

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Halloween weekends Blue Moon to last through Sunday – Gephardt Daily

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Oct. 31 (UPI) October will have its second full moon a rare Blue Moon beginning Saturday and lasting through Sunday.

The moon appears at its fullest, opposite the sun in earth-based longitude, at 10:49 a.m. EDT on Saturday, according to NASA. It should appear full through Sunday night.

The first full moon after the Harvest Moon which appeared Oct. 1 this year is also called the Hunters Moon, according to the Farmers Almanac, a moniker that appears in the Oxford English Dictionary dating back to 1710.

This full moon will appear smaller Saturday night because it occurs nearest to the time when the moon is farthest in its orbit from the Earth, at its apogee, so NASA calls it a Micro Moon as opposed to a Supermoon.

In astronomical terms, Blue Moons occur with a regular pattern about once every two and a half years. After October 2020, the next Blue Moon will take place in August 2023. A full moon will occur on Halloween once every 19 years in the 21st century.

The Native American name for the second full moon of autumn is the Beaver Moon, also called the Frost or Frosty Moon, or the Snow Moon, NASA says.

In North America, the deer rut mating season is in full swing and snow geese arrive at the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and southern Delaware. The Old Farmers Almanac says its best to plant garlic and dig up sweet potatoes during the Hunters Moon.

In the Indian subcontinent, this full moon coincides with the end of monsoon rains, and is called the Sharad Purnima, coinciding with Hindu festivals marking the end of the rainy season.

Buddhist names for the full moon mark the end of Vassa, or the three-month retreat also called the Buddhist Lent.

The full moon falls near the end of the Buddhist Hpaung Daw U festival in Myanmar and Indochina which lasts between Oct. 17 and Nov. 3. In Thailand, this full moon coincides with the Loi Krathong festival, in which decorated baskets are floated in rivers.

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Coronavirus: medieval Japanese thinkers had similar reactions to plagues isolate or party – The Conversation UK

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In the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, many people who have elderly parents will share the sentiment below:

Things that make the heart lurch with anxiety: When a parent looks out of sorts, and remarks that theyre not feeling well. This particularly worries you to distraction when youve been hearing panicky tales of plague sweeping the land.

You may be surprised to learn that this plangent quote comes from a text written more than 1,000 years ago by a Japanese author and court lady named Sei Shnagon.

The medieval Japanese experienced crises that inflicted tragedies and unexpected deaths on many ordinary people. In his essay Hjki, for instance, the 13th-century author and poet Kamo no Chmei vividly describes sorrows and affliction suffered by citizens in Kyoto, who experienced a series of disasters such as great fires, whirlwinds, famines, earthquakes and plagues.

In the west, life-threatening crises are often considered challenges to religious faith how can we believe that there is an all-powerful and all-loving god if there is so much pain and suffering in the world? This is the problem of evil for believers in the Judeo-Christian tradition.

Medieval thinkers in Japan also contemplated crises within a religious framework but their perspective was radically distinct. They regarded sudden and tragic deaths in crises as exemplifications of impermanence ( muj), which is, along with suffering ( ku) and non-self ( muga), one of three marks of existence according to Buddhism.

Chmei writes, for example, that deaths in the midst of crises are reminders that we are impermanent and ephemeral beings comparable to tiny floating bubbles in a ceaseless stream of water flowing down a river.

How did the medieval Japanese react to disasters and tragedies? Interestingly enough, some of their responses are similar to our reactions to the COVID-19 crisis.

Chmeis response to disasters and tragedies was to become a hermit, which is comparable to the self-isolation approach that has been recommended for the global pandemic. Chmei maintains that the best way to live peacefully is to stay away from any potential danger and live in isolation. He chose to live a simple life in a tiny ten square-foot house in the mountains. He writes:

Small it may be, but there is a bed to sleep on at night, and a place to sit in the daytime. The hermit crab prefers a little shell for his home. He knows what the world holds. The osprey chooses the wild shoreline, and this is because he fears mankind. And I too am the same. Knowing what the world holds and its ways, I desire nothing from it, nor chase after its prizes. My one craving is to be at peace, my one pleasure to live free of troubles.

tomo no Tabito, an eighth-century court noble and poet, provides a sharp contrast to Chmei. His approach to disasters and tragedies is hedonism. He is reminiscent of people today who wilfully eschew self-isolation and instead throw parties without fearing the pandemic. One of Tabitos waka poems reads:

Living people Will eventually die. Such are we, so While in this world Lets have fun!

By having fun, Tabito means enjoying alcoholic drink. In fact, the above poem is among his Thirteen Poems in Praise of Sake. Tabito presents his hedonism as a form of anti-intellectualism. He says that people who seek wisdom but do not drink are ugly and that he does not care if he will reincarnate as an insect or a bird as long as he can have fun in his current life.

On the face of it, hermits and hedonists live in diametrical opposition to one another. Yet both firmly accept the Buddhist view of impermanence. Hermits think that the best way to live our ephemeral existence is to eliminate unnecessary worries through self-isolation their interest is not in increasing pleasure but in minimising worries. Hedonists think that the best way to live our ephemeral existence is to enjoy ourselves as much as possible their interest is not in minimising worries but in maximising pleasure.

Which approach is more commendable? From a Buddhist viewpoint, hermitism is clearly better because Buddhism teaches its adherents to relinquish all worldly concerns. By detaching themselves from civilisation, hermits can pursue equanimity ( sha), a perfectly balanced mental state free of emotional disturbances. This can be cultivated to advance one along the way towards nirvana.

Hedonism is not, on the other hand, commendable because it only amplifies our worldly concerns. Hedonists cannot reach nirvana because they try to forget about impermanence only by intoxicating themselves.

Yet self-isolation may have its own shortcomings. Saigy Hshi, a 12th-century poet and Buddhist monk who also pursued hermitism, writes:

And vow renouncement of the world but cannot let it go Some who have never taken vows Do cast the world away.

Saigy is criticising himself in this waka poem. He wonders if a hermit like himself is really better than ordinary people. He worries that in making such a radical move as renouncing the world and living in isolation he has revealed a stronger attachment to the world than ordinary people have. Ordinary people living ordinary lives sometimes appear less concerned about worldly desires than reflective intellectuals like himself.

COVID-19 is certainly a new phenomenon and has presented new personal crises and worries which individuals must face. Yet classical literature reminds us that people in the past also experienced crises and catastrophes, forcing them to ponder how we should live.

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Coronavirus: medieval Japanese thinkers had similar reactions to plagues isolate or party - The Conversation UK

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Buddhism – Queensborough Community College

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I. Introduction

Buddhism, a major world religion, founded in northeastern India and based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as the Buddha, or Enlightened One. SeeBuddha.

Originating as a monastic movement within the dominant Brahman tradition of the day, Buddhism quickly developed in a distinctive direction. The Buddha not only rejected significant aspects of Hindu philosophy, but also challenged the authority of the priesthood, denied the validity of the Vedic scriptures, and rejected the sacrificial cult based on them. Moreover, he opened his movement to members of all castes, denying that a person's spiritual worth is a matter of birth. SeeHinduism.

Buddhism today is divided into two major branches known to their respective followers as Theravada, the Way of the Elders, and Mahayana, the Great Vehicle. Followers of Mahayana refer to Theravada using the derogatory term Hinayana, the Lesser Vehicle.

Buddhism has been significant not only in India but also in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and Laos, where Theravada has been dominant; Mahayana has had its greatest impact in China, Japan, Taiwan, Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as in India. The number of Buddhists worldwide has been estimated at between 150 and 300 million. The reasons for such a range are twofold: Throughout much of Asia religious affiliation has tended to be nonexclusive; and it is especially difficult to estimate the continuing influence of Buddhism in Communist countries such as China. II. Origins As did most major faiths, Buddhism developed over many years. A. Buddha's Life No complete biography of the Buddha was compiled until centuries after his death; only fragmentary accounts of his life are found in the earliest sources. Western scholars, however, generally agree on 563 BC as the year of his birth.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was born in Lumbini near the present Indian-Nepal border, the son of the ruler of a petty kingdom. According to legend, at his birth sages recognized in him the marks of a great man with the potential to become either a sage or the ruler of an empire. The young prince was raised in sheltered luxury, until at the age of 29 he realized how empty his life to this point had been. Renouncing earthly attachments, he embarked on a quest for peace and enlightenment, seeking release from the cycle of rebirths. For the next few years he practiced Yoga and adopted a life of radical asceticism.

Eventually he gave up this approach as fruitless and instead adopted a middle path between the life of indulgence and that of self-denial. Sitting under a bo tree, he meditated, rising through a series of higher states of consciousness until he attained the enlightenment for which he had been searching. Once having known this ultimate religious truth, the Buddha underwent a period of intense inner struggle. He began to preach, wandering from place to place, gathering a body of disciples, and organizing them into a monastic community known as the sangha. In this way he spent the rest of his life.

B. Buddha's Teachings The Buddha was an oral teacher; he left no written body of thought. His beliefs were codified by later followers. 1. The Four Noble Truths

At the core of the Buddha's enlightenment was the realization of the Four Noble Truths: (1) Life is suffering. This is more than a mere recognition of the presence of suffering in existence. It is a statement that, in its very nature, human existence is essentially painful from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Even death brings no relief, for the Buddha accepted the Hindu idea of life as cyclical, with death leading to further rebirth. (2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment, and grasping that result from such ignorance. (3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These eight are usually divided into three categories that form the cornerstone of Buddhist faith: morality, wisdom, and samadhi, or concentration.

2. Anatman Buddhism analyzes human existence as made up of five aggregates or "bundles" (skandhas): the material body, feelings, perceptions, predispositions or karmic tendencies, and consciousness. A person is only a temporary combination of these aggregates, which are subject to continual change. No one remains the same for any two consecutive moments. Buddhists deny that the aggregates individually or in combination may be considered a permanent, independently existing self or soul (atman). Indeed, they regard it as a mistake to conceive of any lasting unity behind the elements that constitute an individual. The Buddha held that belief in such a self results in egoism, craving, and hence in suffering. Thus he taught the doctrine of anatman, or the denial of a permanent soul. He felt that all existence is characterized by the three marks of anatman (no soul), anitya (impermanence), and dukkha (suffering). The doctrine of anatman made it necessary for the Buddha to reinterpret the Indian idea of repeated rebirth in the cycle of phenomenal existence known as samsara. To this end he taught the doctrine of pratityasamutpada, or dependent origination. This 12-linked chain of causation shows how ignorance in a previous life creates the tendency for a combination of aggregates to develop. These in turn cause the mind and senses to operate. Sensations result, which lead to craving and a clinging to existence. This condition triggers the process of becoming once again, producing a renewed cycle of birth, old age, and death. Through this causal chain a connection is made between one life and the next. What is posited is a stream of renewed existences, rather than a permanent being that moves from life to lifein effect a belief in rebirth without transmigration. 3. Karma Closely related to this belief is the doctrine of karma. Karma consists of a person's acts and their ethical consequences. Human actions lead to rebirth, wherein good deeds are inevitably rewarded and evil deeds punished. Thus, neither undeserved pleasure nor unwarranted suffering exists in the world, but rather a universal justice. The karmic process operates through a kind of natural moral law rather than through a system of divine judgment. One's karma determines such matters as one's species, beauty, intelligence, longevity, wealth, and social status. According to the Buddha, karma of varying types can lead to rebirth as a human, an animal, a hungry ghost, a denizen of hell, or even one of the Hindu gods.

Although never actually denying the existence of the gods, Buddhism denies them any special role. Their lives in heaven are long and pleasurable, but they are in the same predicament as other creatures, being subject eventually to death and further rebirth in lower states of existence. They are not creators of the universe or in control of human destiny, and Buddhism denies the value of prayer and sacrifice to them. Of the possible modes of rebirth, human existence is preferable, because the deities are so engrossed in their own pleasures that they lose sight of the need for salvation. Enlightenment is possible only for humans.

4. Nirvana The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from the round of phenomenal existence with its inherent suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain nirvana, an enlightened state in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched. Not to be confused with total annihilation, nirvana is a state of consciousness beyond definition. After attaining nirvana, the enlightened individual may continue to live, burning off any remaining karma until a state of final nirvana (parinirvana) is attained at the moment of death.

In theory, the goal of nirvana is attainable by anyone, although it is a realistic goal only for members of the monastic community. In Theravada Buddhism an individual who has achieved enlightenment by following the Eightfold Path is known as an arhat, or worthy one, a type of solitary saint.

For those unable to pursue the ultimate goal, the proximate goal of better rebirth through improved karma is an option. This lesser goal is generally pursued by lay Buddhists in the hope that it will eventually lead to a life in which they are capable of pursuing final enlightenment as members of the sangha.

The ethic that leads to nirvana is detached and inner-oriented. It involves cultivating four virtuous attitudes, known as the Palaces of Brahma: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. The ethic that leads to better rebirth, however, is centered on fulfilling one's duties to society. It involves acts of charity, especially support of the sangha, as well as observance of the five precepts that constitute the basic moral code of Buddhism. The precepts prohibit killing, stealing, harmful language, sexual misbehavior, and the use of intoxicants. By observing these precepts, the three roots of evillust, hatred, and delusionmay be overcome.

III. Early Development Shortly before his death, the Buddha refused his disciples' request to appoint a successor, telling his followers to work out their own salvation with diligence. At that time Buddhist teachings existed only in oral traditions, and it soon became apparent that a new basis for maintaining the community's unity and purity was needed. Thus, the monastic order met periodically to reach agreement on matters of doctrine and practice. Four such meetings have been focused on in the traditions as major councils.

A. Major Councils The first council was held at Rajagrha (present-day Rajgir) immediately after the Buddha's death. Presided over by a monk named Mahakasyapa, its purpose was to recite and agree on the Buddha's actual teachings and on proper monastic discipline.

About a century later, a second great council is said to have met at Vaishali. Its purpose was to deal with ten questionable monastic practicesthe use of money, the drinking of palm wine, and other irregularitiesof monks from the Vajjian Confederacy; the council declared these practices unlawful. Some scholars trace the origins of the first major split in Buddhism to this event, holding that the accounts of the council refer to the schism between the Mahasanghikas, or Great Assembly, and the stricter Sthaviras, or Elders. More likely, however, the split between these two groups became formalized at another meeting held some 37 years later as a result of the continued growth of tensions within the sangha over disciplinary issues, the role of the laity, and the nature of the arhat.

In time, further subdivisions within these groups resulted in 18 schools that differed on philosophical matters, religious questions, and points of discipline. Of these 18 traditional sects, only Theravada survives.

The third council at Pataliputra (present-day Patna) was called by King Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. Convened by the monk Moggaliputta Tissa, it was held in order to purify the sangha of the large number of false monks and heretics who had joined the order because of its royal patronage. This council refuted the offending viewpoints and expelled those who held them. In the process, the compilation of the Buddhist scriptures (Tipitaka) was supposedly completed, with the addition of a body of subtle philosophy (abhidharma) to the doctrine (dharma) and monastic discipline (vinaya) that had been recited at the first council. Another result of the third council was the dispatch of missionaries to various countries.

A fourth council, under the patronage of King Kanishka, was held about AD 100 at Jalandhar or in Kashmir. Both branches of Buddhism may have participated in this council, which aimed at creating peace among the various sects, but Theravada Buddhists refuse to recognize its authenticity.

B. Formation of Buddhist Literature For several centuries after the death of the Buddha, the scriptural traditions recited at the councils were transmitted orally. These were finally committed to writing about the 1st century BC. Some early schools used Sanskrit for their scriptural language. Although individual texts are extant, no complete canon has survived in Sanskrit. In contrast, the full canon of the Theravadins survives in Pali, which was apparently a popular dialect derived from Sanskrit.

The Buddhist canon is known in Pali as the Tipitaka (Tripitaka in Sanskrit), meaning "Three Baskets," because it consists of three collections of writings: the Sutta Pitaka (Sutra Pitaka in Sanskrit), a collection of discourses; the Vinaya Pitaka, the code of monastic discipline; and the Abhidharma Pitaka, which contains philosophical, psychological, and doctrinal discussions and classifications.

The Sutta Pitaka is primarily composed of dialogues between the Buddha and other people. It consists of five groups of texts: Digha Nikaya (Collection of Long Discourses), Majjhima Nikaya (Collection of Medium-Length Discourses), Samyutta Nikaya (Collection of Grouped Discourses), Anguttara Nikaya (Collection of Discourses on Numbered Topics), and Khuddaka Nikaya (Collection of Miscellaneous Texts). In the fifth group, the Jatakas, comprising stories of former lives of the Buddha, and the Dhammapada (Religious Sentences), a summary of the Buddha's teachings on mental discipline and morality, are especially popular.

The Vinaya Pitaka consists of more than 225 rules governing the conduct of Buddhist monks and nuns. Each is accompanied by a story explaining the original reason for the rule. The rules are arranged according to the seriousness of the offense resulting from their violation.

The Abhidharma Pitaka consists of seven separate works. They include detailed classifications of psychological phenomena, metaphysical analysis, and a thesaurus of technical vocabulary. Although technically authoritative, the texts in this collection have little influence on the lay Buddhist. The complete canon, much expanded, also exists in Tibetan and Chinese versions.

Two noncanonical texts that have great authority within Theravada Buddhism are the Milindapanha (Questions of King Milinda) and the Visuddhimagga (Path of Purification). The Milindapanha dates from about the 2nd century AD. It is in the form of a dialogue dealing with a series of fundamental problems in Buddhist thought. The Visuddhimagga is the masterpiece of the most famous of Buddhist commentators, Buddhaghosa (flourished early 5th century AD). It is a large compendium summarizing Buddhist thought and meditative practice.

Theravada Buddhists have traditionally considered the Tipitaka to be the remembered words of Siddhartha Gautama. Mahayana Buddhists have not limited their scriptures to the teachings of this historical figure, however, nor has Mahayana ever bound itself to a closed canon of sacred writings. Various scriptures have thus been authoritative for different branches of Mahayana at various periods of history. Among the more important Mahayana scriptures are the following: the Saddharmapundarika Sutra (Lotus of the Good Law Sutra, popularly known as the Lotus Sutra), the Vimalakirti Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra (Garland Sutra), and the Lankavatara Sutra (The Buddha's Descent to Sri Lanka Sutra), as well as a group of writings known as the Prajnaparamita (Perfection of Wisdom). C. Conflict and New Groupings As Buddhism developed in its early years, conflicting interpretations of the master's teachings appeared, resulting in the traditional 18 schools of Buddhist thought. As a group, these schools eventually came to be considered too conservative and literal minded in their attachment to the master's message. Among them, Theravada was charged with being too individualistic and insufficiently concerned with the needs of the laity. Such dissatisfaction led a liberal wing of the sangha to begin to break away from the rest of the monks at the second council in 383 BC.

While the more conservative monks continued to honor the Buddha as a perfectly enlightened human teacher, the liberal Mahasanghikas developed a new concept. They considered the Buddha an eternal, omnipresent, transcendental being. They speculated that the human Buddha was but an apparition of the transcendental Buddha that was created for the benefit of humankind. In this understanding of the Buddha nature, Mahasanghika thought is something of a prototype of Mahayana. 1. Mahayana The origins of Mahayana are particularly obscure. Even the names of its founders are unknown, and scholars disagree about whether it originated in southern or in northwestern India. Its formative years were between the 2nd century BC and the 1st century AD.

Speculation about the eternal Buddha continued well after the beginning of the Christian era and culminated in the Mahayana doctrine of his threefold nature, or triple "body" (trikaya). These aspects are the body of essence, the body of communal bliss, and the body of transformation. The body of essence represents the ultimate nature of the Buddha. Beyond form, it is the unchanging absolute and is spoken of as consciousness or the void. This essential Buddha nature manifests itself, taking on heavenly form as the body of communal bliss. In this form the Buddha sits in godlike splendor, preaching in the heavens. Lastly, the Buddha nature appears on earth in human form to convert humankind. Such an appearance is known as a body of transformation. The Buddha has taken on such an appearance countless times. Mahayana considers the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, only one example of the body of transformation.

The new Mahayana concept of the Buddha made possible concepts of divine grace and ongoing revelation that are lacking in Theravada. Belief in the Buddha's heavenly manifestations led to the development of a significant devotional strand in Mahayana. Some scholars have therefore described the early development of Mahayana in terms of the "Hinduization" of Buddhism.

Another important new concept in Mahayana is that of the bodhisattva or enlightenment being, as the ideal toward which the good Buddhist should aspire. A bodhisattva is an individual who has attained perfect enlightenment but delays entry into final nirvana in order to make possible the salvation of all other sentient beings. The bodhisattva transfers merit built up over many lifetimes to less fortunate creatures. The key attributes of this social saint are compassion and loving-kindness. For this reason Mahayana considers the bodhisattva superior to the arhats who represent the ideal of Theravada. Certain bodhisattvas, such as Maitreya, who represents the Buddha's loving-kindness, and Avalokitesvara or Guanyin, who represents his compassion, have become the focus of popular devotional worship in Mahayana. 2. Tantrism By the 7th century AD a new form of Buddhism known as Tantrism (seeTantra) had developed through the blend of Mahayana with popular folk belief and magic in northern India. Similar to Hindu Tantrism, which arose about the same time, Buddhist Tantrism differs from Mahayana in its strong emphasis on sacramental action. Also known as Vajrayana, the Diamond Vehicle, Tantrism is an esoteric tradition. Its initiation ceremonies involve entry into a mandala, a mystic circle or symbolic map of the spiritual universe. Also important in Tantrism is the use of mudras, or ritual gestures, and mantras, or sacred syllables, which are repeatedly chanted and used as a focus for meditation. Vajrayana became the dominant form of Buddhism in Tibet and was also transmitted through China to Japan, where it continues to be practiced by the Shingon sect. IV. From India Outward Buddhism spread rapidly throughout the land of its birth. Missionaries dispatched by King Ashoka introduced the religion to southern India and to the northwest part of the subcontinent. According to inscriptions from the Ashokan period, missionaries were sent to countries along the Mediterranean, although without success. A. Asian Expansion King Ashoka's son Mahinda and daughter Sanghamitta are credited with the conversion of Sri Lanka. From the beginning of its history there, Theravada was the state religion of Sri Lanka.

According to tradition, Theravada was carried to Myanmar from Sri Lanka during the reign of Ashoka, but no firm evidence of its presence there appears until the 5th century AD. From Myanmar, Theravada spread to the area of modern Thailand in the 6th century. It was adopted by the Thai people when they finally entered the region from southwestern China between the 12th and 14th centuries. With the rise of the Thai Kingdom, it was adopted as the state religion. Theravada was adopted by the royal house in Laos during the 14th century.

Both Mahayana and Hinduism had begun to influence Cambodia by the end of the 2nd century AD. After the 14th century, however, under Thai influence, Theravada gradually replaced the older establishment as the primary religion in Cambodia.

About the beginning of the Christian era, Buddhism was carried to Central Asia. From there it entered China along the trade routes by the early 1st century AD. Although opposed by the Confucian orthodoxy and subject to periods of persecution in 446, 574-77, and 845, Buddhism was able to take root, influencing Chinese culture and, in turn, adapting itself to Chinese ways. The major influence of Chinese Buddhism ended with the great persecution of 845, although the meditative Zen, or Ch'an (from Sanskrit dhyana,"meditation"), sect and the devotional Pure Land sect continued to be important.

From China, Buddhism continued its spread. Confucian authorities discouraged its expansion into Vietnam, but Mahayana's influence there was beginning to be felt as early as AD 189. According to traditional sources, Buddhism first arrived in Korea from China in AD 372. From this date Korea was gradually converted through Chinese influence over a period of centuries.

Buddhism was carried into Japan from Korea. It was known to the Japanese earlier, but the official date for its introduction is usually given as AD 552. It was proclaimed the state religion of Japan in 594 by Prince Shotoku.

Buddhism was first introduced into Tibet through the influence of foreign wives of the king, beginning in the 7th century AD. By the middle of the next century, it had become a significant force in Tibetan culture. A key figure in the development of Tibetan Buddhism was the Indian monk Padmasambhava, who arrived in Tibet in 747. His main interest was the spread of Tantric Buddhism, which became the primary form of Buddhism in Tibet. Indian and Chinese Buddhists vied for influence, and the Chinese were finally defeated and expelled from Tibet near the end of the 8th century.

Some seven centuries later Tibetan Buddhists had adopted the idea that the abbots of its great monasteries were reincarnations of famous bodhisattvas. Thereafter, the chief of these abbots became known as the Dalai Lama. The Dalai Lamas ruled Tibet as a theocracy from the middle of the 17th century until the seizure of Tibet by China in 1950. SeeTibetan Buddhism.

B. New Sects Several important new sects of Buddhism developed in China and flourished there and in Japan, as well as elsewhere in East Asia. Among these, Ch'an, or Zen, and Pure Land, or Amidism, were most important.

Zen advocated the practice of meditation as the way to a sudden, intuitive realization of one's inner Buddha nature. Founded by the Indian monk Bodhidharma, who arrived in China in 520, Zen emphasizes practice and personal enlightenment rather than doctrine or the study of scripture.SeeZen.

Instead of meditation, Pure Land stresses faith and devotion to the Buddha Amitabha, or Buddha of Infinite Light, as a means to rebirth in an eternal paradise known as the Pure Land. Rebirth in this Western Paradise is thought to depend on the power and grace of Amitabha, rather than to be a reward for human piety. Devotees show their devotion to Amitabha with countless repetitions of the phrase "Homage to the Buddha Amitabha." Nonetheless, a single sincere recitation of these words may be sufficient to guarantee entry into the Pure Land.

A distinctively Japanese sect of Mahayana is Nichiren Buddhism, which is named after its 13th-century founder. Nichiren believed that the Lotus Sutra contains the essence of Buddhist teaching. Its contents can be epitomized by the formula "Homage to the Lotus Sutra," and simply by repeating this formula the devotee may gain enlightenment.

V. Institutions and Practices Differences occur in the religious obligations and observances both within and between the sangha and the laity. A. Monastic Life From the first, the most devoted followers of the Buddha were organized into the monastic sangha. Its members were identified by their shaved heads and robes made of unsewn orange cloth. The early Buddhist monks, or bhikkus, wandered from place to place, settling down in communities only during the rainy season when travel was difficult. Each of the settled communities that developed later was independent and democratically organized. Monastic life was governed by the rules of the Vinaya Sutra, one of the three canonical collections of scripture. Fortnightly, a formal assembly of monks, the uposatha, was held in each community. Central to this observance was the formal recitation of the Vinaya rules and the public confession of all violations. The sangha included an order for nuns as well as for monks, a unique feature among Indian monastic orders. Theravadan monks and nuns were celibate and obtained their food in the form of alms on a daily round of the homes of lay devotees. The Zen school came to disregard the rule that members of the sangha should live on alms. Part of the discipline of this sect required its members to work in the fields to earn their own food. In Japan the popular Shin school, a branch of Pure Land, allows its priests to marry and raise families. Among the traditional functions of the Buddhist monks are the performance of funerals and memorial services in honor of the dead. Major elements of such services include the chanting of scripture and transfer of merit for the benefit of the deceased.

B. Lay Worship Lay worship in Buddhism is primarily individual rather than congregational. Since earliest times a common expression of faith for laity and members of the sangha alike has been taking the Three Refuges, that is, reciting the formula "I take refuge in the Buddha. I take refuge in the dharma. I take refuge in the sangha." Although technically the Buddha is not worshiped in Theravada, veneration is shown through the stupa cult. A stupa is a domelike sacred structure containing a relic. Devotees walk around the dome in a clockwise direction, carrying flowers and incense as a sign of reverence. The relic of the Buddha's tooth in Kandy, Sri Lanka, is the focus of an especially popular festival on the Buddha's birthday. The Buddha's birthday is celebrated in every Buddhist country. In Theravada this celebration is known as Vaisakha, after the month in which the Buddha was born. Popular in Theravada lands is a ceremony known as pirit, or protection, in which readings from a collection of protective charms from the Pali canon are conducted to exorcise evil spirits, cure illness, bless new buildings, and achieve other benefits.

In Mahayana countries ritual is more important than in Theravada. Images of the buddhas and bodhisattvas on temple altars and in the homes of devotees serve as a focus for worship. Prayer and chanting are common acts of devotion, as are offerings of fruit, flowers, and incense. One of the most popular festivals in China and Japan is the Ullambana Festival, in which offerings are made to the spirits of the dead and to hungry ghosts. It is held that during this celebration the gates to the other world are open so that departed spirits can return to earth for a brief time. VI. Buddhism Today One of the lasting strengths of Buddhism has been its ability to adapt to changing conditions and to a variety of cultures. It is philosophically opposed to materialism, whether of the Western or the Marxist-Communist variety. Buddhism does not recognize a conflict between itself and modern science. On the contrary, it holds that the Buddha applied the experimental approach to questions of ultimate truth.

In Thailand and Myanmar, Buddhism remains strong. Reacting to charges of being socially unconcerned, its monks have become involved in various social welfare projects. Although Buddhism in India largely died out between the 8th and 12th centuries AD, resurgence on a small scale was sparked by the conversion of 3.5 million former members of the untouchable caste, under the leadership of Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar, beginning in 1956. A similar renewal of Buddhism in Sri Lanka dates from the 19th century.

Under the Communist republics in Asia, Buddhism has faced a more difficult time. In China, for example, it continues to exist, although under strict government regulation and supervision. Many monasteries and temples have been converted to schools, dispensaries, and other public use. Monks and nuns have been required to undertake employment in addition to their religious functions. In Tibet, the Chinese, after their takeover and the escape of the Dalai Lama and other Buddhist officials into India in 1959, attempted to undercut Buddhist influence.

Only in Japan since World War II have truly new Buddhist movements arisen. Notable among these is Soka Gakkai, the Value Creation Society, a lay movement associated with Nichiren Buddhism. It is noted for its effective organization, aggressive conversion techniques, and use of mass media, as well as for its nationalism. It promises material benefit and worldly happiness to its believers. Since 1956 it has been involved in Japanese politics, running candidates for office under the banner of its Komeito, or Clean Government Party.

Growing interest in Asian culture and spiritual values in the West has led to the development of a number of societies devoted to the study and practice of Buddhism. Zen has grown in the United States to encompass more than a dozen meditation centers and a number of actual monasteries. Interest in Vajrayana has also increased.

As its influence in the West slowly grows, Buddhism is once again beginning to undergo a process of acculturation to its new environment. Although its influence in the U.S. is still small, apart from immigrant Japanese and Chinese communities, it seems that new, distinctively American forms of Buddhism may eventually develop.

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Buddhism - Queensborough Community College

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Buddhism – Crystalinks

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Standing Buddha. One of the earliest known representations of the Buddha, 1st-2nd century CE, Gandhara (modern Afghanistan).

Buddhism is a religion and philosophy indigenous to the Indian subcontinent and encompasses a variety of traditions, beliefs, and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha (meaning "the awakened one" in Sanskrit and Pali). The Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE.[1] He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end ignorance, craving, and suffering of dependent origination, realize sunyata, and attain Nirvana.

Two major branches of Buddhism are recognized: Theravada ("The School of the Elders") and Mahayana ("The Great Vehicle"). Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Mahayana is found throughout East Asia and includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Shingon, Tiantai (Tendai) and Shinnyo-en. In some classifications, Vajrayana - practiced mainly in Tibet and Mongolia, and adjacent parts of China and Russia - is recognized as a third branch, while others classify it as a part of Mahayana. There are other categorisations of these three Vehicles or Yanas.

While Buddhism remains most popular within Asia, both branches are now found throughout the world. Estimates of Buddhists worldwide vary significantly depending on the way Buddhist adherence is defined. Lower estimates are between 350500 million.

Buddhist schools vary on the exact nature of the path to liberation, the importance and canonicity of various teachings and scriptures, and especially their respective practices. Two of the most important teachings are dependent origination and sunyata. The foundations of Buddhist tradition and practice are the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community).

Taking "refuge in the triple gem" has traditionally been a declaration and commitment to being on the Buddhist path and in general distinguishes a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist. Other practices may include following ethical precepts; support of the monastic community; renouncing conventional living and becoming a monastic; the development of mindfulness and practice of meditation; cultivation of higher wisdom and discernment; study of scriptures; devotional practices; ceremonies; and in the Mahayana tradition, invocation of buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Spreading from India to Central and Southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan, Buddhism has played a central role in the spiritual, cultural, and social life of the Eastern world and during the 20th century has spread to the West. This article surveys Buddhism from its origins to its elaboration in various schools, sects, and regional developments.

Ancient Buddhist scripture and doctrine developed primarily in two closely related literary languages of ancient India, Pali and Sanskrit. In this article, Pali and Sanskrit words that have gained some currency in English are treated as English words and are rendered in the form in which they appear in English-language dictionaries. Exceptions occur in special circumstances--as, for example, in the case of the Sanskrit term dharma (Pali: dhamma), which has meanings that are not usually associated with the English "dharma." Pali forms are given in the sections that deal with Buddhists whose primary sacred language was Pali (including discussions of the teaching of the Buddha, which are reconstructed on the basis of Pali texts). Sanskrit forms are given in the sections that deal with Buddhists whose primary focus was on Sanskritic traditions.

The Buddha was not a god and the philosophy of Buddhism does not entail any theistic world-view. The teachings of the Buddha are aimed solely to liberate sentient beings from suffering.

Gautama Buddha taught the four noble truths: that there is suffering, that suffering has a cause, that suffering has an end and that there is a path that leads to the end of suffering. He saw that all phenomena in life are impermanent and that our attachment to the idea of substantial and enduring self is an illusion which is the principle cause of suffering. 'The Four Noble Truths'.

Freedom from self liberates the heart from greed, hatred, and delusion and opens the mind to wisdom and the heart to kindness and compassion.

In Buddhist teaching, the law of karma, says only this: "For every event that occurs, there will follow another event whose existence was caused by the first, and this second event will be pleasant or unpleasant according as its cause was skillful or unskillful.' A skillful event is one that is not accompanied by craving, resistance or delusions; an unskillful event is one that is accompanied by any one of those things. (Events are not skillful in themselves, but are so called only in virtue of the mental events that occur with them.)

Therefore, the law of Karma teaches that responsibility for unskillful actions is born by the person who commits them.

Tibetan Buddhism, also called LAMAISM, distinctive form of Buddhism that evolved from the 7th century AD in Tibet. It is based mainly on the rigorous intellectual disciplines of Madhyamika and Yogacara philosophy and utilizes the symbolic ritual practices of Vajrayana (Tantric Buddhism). Tibetan Buddhism also incorporates the monastic disciplines of early Theravada Buddhism and the shamanistic features of the indigenous Tibetan religion, Bon.

Characteristic of Tibetan Buddhism is the unusually large segment of the population actively engaged in religious pursuits (up until the Chinese communist takeover of the country in the 1950s an estimated one-quarter of the inhabitants were members of religious orders); its system of "reincarnating lamas"; the traditional merger of the spiritual and temporal authority in the office and person of the Dalai Lama; and the vast number of divine beings (each with its own family, consort, and pacific and terrifying aspects), which are considered symbolic representations of the psychic life by the religiously sophisticated and accepted as realities by the common people.

Buddhism was transmitted into Tibet mainly during the 7th to 10th centuries. Notable early teachers were the illustrious 8th-century Tantric master Padmasambhava and the more orthodox Mahayana teacher Santiraksita.

With the arrival from India in 1042 of the great teacher Atisa, a reform movement was initiated, and within a century the major sects of Tibetan Buddhism had emerged. The Dge-lugs-pa, or One of the Virtuous System, commonly known as the Yellow Hats, the order of the Dalai and the Panchen Lamas, has been the politically predominant Tibetan sect from the 17th century until 1959, when the hierocratic government of the Dalai Lama was abolished by the People's Republic of China.

By the 14th century the Tibetans had succeeded in translating all available Buddhist literature in India and Tibet; many Sanskrit texts that have since been lost in the country of their origin are known only from their Tibetan translations. The Tibetan canon is divided into the Bka'-'gyur, or Translation of the Word, consisting of the supposedly canonical texts, and the Bstan-'gyur, or Transmitted Word, consisting of commentaries by Indian masters.

In the second half of the 20th century Tibetan Buddhism spread to the West, particularly after the subjugation of Tibet to Chinese Communist rule sent many refugees, including highly regarded "reincarnated lamas," or tulkus, out of their homeland. Tibetan religious groups in the West include both communities of refugees and those consisting largely of occidentals drawn to the Tibetan tradition.

Zen, Chinese CH'AN (from Sanskrit dhyana, "meditation"), important school of Buddhism in Japan that claims to transmit the spirit or essence of Buddhism, which consists in experiencing the enlightenment (bodhi) achieved by Gautama the Buddha. The school arose in the 6th century in China as Ch'an, a form of Mahayana Buddhism; though introduced centuries earlier, Zen did not fully develop in Japan until the 12th century. In its secondary developments of mental tranquillity, fearlessness, and spontaneity--all faculties of the enlightened mind--the school of Zen has had lasting influence on the cultural life of Japan.

Zen teaches that the Buddha-nature, or potential to achieve enlightenment, is inherent in everyone but lies dormant because of ignorance. It is best awakened not by the study of scriptures, the practice of good deeds, rites and ceremonies, or worship of images but by a sudden breaking through of the boundaries of common, everyday, logical thought.

Training in the methods leading to such an enlightenment (Chinese wu; Japanese Satori,) is best transmitted personally from master to disciple. The methods recommended, however, differ among the various sects of Zen.

The Rinzai (Chinese: Lin-chi) sect, introduced to Japan from China by the priest Ensai in 1191, emphasizes sudden shock and meditation on the paradoxical statements called koan.

The Soto (Chinese: Ts'ao-tung) sect, transmitted to Japan by Dogen on his return from China in 1227, prefers the method of sitting in meditation (zazen).

A third sect, the Obaku (Chinese: Huang-po), was established in 1654 by the Chinese monk Yin-yan (Japanese: Ingen). It employs the methods of Rinzai and also practices nembutsu, the continual invocation of Amida (the Japanese name for the Buddha Amitabha), with the devotional formula namu Amida Butsu (Japanese: "homage to Amida Buddha").

During the 16th-century period of political unrest, Zen priests not only contributed their talents as diplomats and administrators but also preserved the cultural life; it was under their inspiration that art, literature, the tea cult, and the no theatre, for example, developed and prospered. Neo-Confucianism, which became the guiding principle of the Tokugawa feudal regime (1603-1867), also was originally introduced and propagated by Japanese Zen masters.

In modern Japan, Zen sects and subsects claim some 9,600,000 adherents. Considerable interest in various aspects of Zen thought has developed also in Western countries in the latter half of the 20th century, and a number of Zen groups have been formed in North America and Europe.

Vajrayana (Sanskrit: Vehicle of the Diamond [or Thunderbolt]), also called TANTRIC BUDDHISM, important development within Buddhism in India and neighboring countries, notably Tibet. Vajrayana, in the history of Buddhism, marks the transition from Mahayana speculative thought to the enactment of Buddhist ideas in individual life. The term vajra (Sanskrit: "diamond," or "thunderbolt") is used to signify the absolutely real and indestructible in man, as opposed to the fictions an individual entertains about himself and his nature; yana is the spiritual pursuit of the ultimately valuable and indestructible.

Other names for this form of Buddhism are Mantrayana (Vehicle of the Mantra), which refers to the use of the mantra to prevent the mind from going astray into the world of its fictions and their attendant verbiage and to remain aware of reality as such; and Guhyamantrayana, in which the word guhya ("hidden") refers not to concealment but to the intangibility of the process of becoming aware of reality.

Philosophically speaking, Vajrayana embodies ideas of both the Yogacara discipline, which emphasizes the ultimacy of mind, and the Madhyamika philosophy, which undermines any attempt to posit a relativistic principle as the ultimate.

Dealing with inner experiences, the Vajrayana texts use a highly symbolic language that aims at helping the followers of its disciplines to evoke within themselves experiences considered to be the most valuable available to man. Vajrayana thus attempts to recapture the Enlightenment experience of the Gautama Buddha.

In the Tantric view, Enlightenment arises from the realization that seemingly opposite principles are in truth one.

The passive concepts Sunyata ("voidness") and praja ("wisdom"), for example, must be resolved with the active karuna ("compassion") and upaya ("means"). This fundamental polarity and its resolution are often expressed through symbols of sexuality (see yab-yum).

The historical origin of Vajrayana is unclear, except that it coincided with the spread of the mentalistic schools of Buddhism. It flourished from the 6th to the 11th century and exerted a lasting influence on the neighbouring countries of India. The rich visual arts of Vajrayana reach their culmination in the sacred mandala, a representation of the universe used as an aid for meditation.

The practice of mental concentration leading ultimately through a succession of stages to the final goal of spiritual freedom, nirvana. Meditation occupies a central place in Buddhism and combines, in its highest stages, the discipline of progressively increased introversion with the insight brought about by wisdom, or prajna.

The object of concentration (the kammatthana) may vary according to individual and situation. One Pali text lists 40 kammatthanas, including devices (such as a colour or a light), repulsive things (such as a corpse), recollections (as of the Buddha), and the brahmaviharas (virtues, such as friendliness).

Four stages (called in Sanskrit dhyanas; Pali jhanas) are distinguished in the shift of attention from the outward sensory world: (1) detachment from the external world and a consciousness of joy and ease; (2) concentration, with suppression of reasoning and investigation; (3) the passing away of joy, with the sense of ease remaining; and (4) the passing away of ease also, bringing about a state of pure self-possession and equanimity.

The dhyanas are followed by four further spiritual exercises, the samapattis ("attainments"). They are described as: (1) consciousness of infinity of space; (2) consciousness of the infinity of cognition; (3) concern with the unreality of things (nihility); and (4) consciousness of unreality as the object of thought.

The stages of Buddhist meditation show many similarities with Hindu meditation (see Yoga), reflecting a common tradition in ancient India. The Buddhists, however, describe the culminating trancelike state as transient; final Nirvana requires the insight of wisdom. The exercises that are meant to develop wisdom involve meditation on the true nature of reality or the conditioned and unconditioned dharmas (elements) that make up all phenomena.

Meditation, though important in all schools of Buddhism, has developed characteristic variations within different traditions. In China and Japan the practice of dhyana (meditation) assumed sufficient importance to develop into a school of its own (Ch'an and Zen;), in which meditation is the most essential feature of the school.

The image of Buddha, who was called The Greatest Yogin of all Times, expresses serene quiescence. The harmony of his physical proportions is the expression of great beauty. The required measurements are laid down in the canon (or standard pattern) of Buddhist art, which corresponds to ideal physical proportions. The span is the basic measure, i.e. the distance from the tip of the middle finger to the tip of the thumb of the outspread hand. This distance corresponds to the space between the dimple in the chin and the hair-line. Each span has twelve finger-breadths. The whole figure measures 108 finger-breadths or 9 spans corresponding to the macro-micro-cosmic harmony measurements.

The perfect proportions of a Buddha, the graciousness of his physical form, represent one of the ten qualities or powers of a Buddha. They are the characteristics of the physical harmony and beauty of a Great Being, and are described in Story of the Life of Buddha Shakyamuni. There are thirty-two major and eighty minor characteristics. The lines of the eight-spoked on the soles and palms of a Buddha are among them. The appearance and the measurements of a Buddha are perishable and a worldly conception: they describe the ideal picture of a Heavenly Body. They are not subject to change like growth, sickness and death, which can only affect the earthly incarnation of a Buddha.

Examining the canon of the body of a Buddha, one realises that every detail represents harmonious proportions. Everything, the spot between the eyebrows, marking the eye of wisdom, as well as the tip of the nose, has its own special place. The nose has its specific length, just as the ears have their own characteristically exaggerated length. The symbol of a Buddha's greatest enlightenment is the so-called enlightenment-elevation on the top of the head, described in old texts as that which emerges out of the head of an enlightened saint. It is the visible symbol of the spiritual generative power that strives towards heaven and passes into the immaterial sphere.

The ideal proportions of any image of the Buddha are described in books on iconography. The canonic prototype shows the seated Buddha with his legs crossed and the soles of his feet visible. This yoga-posture has a pre-Buddhist tradition in India, appearing for the first time on the seals of Mohenjodaro in the third millennium BC. This yoga-posture hides the lower part of the body. The broad shoulders are emphasised in early Buddhist sculptures of Mathura. These characteristics, and the slightly almond eye of Buddha Sakyamuni, hint at his descent from the Licchavi clan, related to the Proto-Tibetans by kinship and blood. Before the final domination of the Indo-Europeans, these Licchavis ruled in northern India and the Himalayan regions. Their principalities had democratic constitutions with equal rights and no discrimination of sex or race. Buddhism and its founder must be considered on the basis of this social structure which is confirmed in the oldest texts as well as in the modern Oxford History of India.

Physical Marks

Ushnisha, the Enlightenment Elevation above the fontanelle; is the flame-topped elevation on the head of the Buddha, defined as that which emerges from the head of a Fully Enlightened One.

Urna, the mark in the centre of the forehead, called the Eye of Wisdom, also depicted as a Bundle of Rays or fine hairs between the eyebrows.

The lower part of the body is covered by the Diamond-Seat (Vajrasana). This is the meditation pose (Dhayanasana) of utmost concentration with the legs crossed so that the soles are visible.

The Subtle Energy-Spheres of the Body

The Enlightenment-Centre, the Top of the Head or fontanelle above the upper cerebrum, called Sphere of the Thousand-petalled Lotus (SAHASHRARA-CAKRA) The cerebral centre of thinking and conscious-power, called Command-Centre

The cerebral centre of thinking and conscious-power, called Command-Centre (AJNA-CAKRA), the forehead between the eyebrows; ascribed to lotus-centre.

The guttural centre or subtle Sphere of Speech (VISHUDDHA-CAKRA) at the base of the throat.

The cardiac plexus, the emotional Sphere of the Inner Voice (ANAHATA-CAKRA), called the Source of the Heart, situated in the central region of the thorax or chest.

The solar plexus with the gastric plexus, called `the brain of the belly', Fiery-lustrous or Navel-Centre (MANIPURA- CAKRA) in the region of the loins and connected with the lumbar plexus.

The sacral plexus, called Root-Centre (MULADHARA-CAKRA) or Secret Place, being the root of all streams of vital energy (NADIS) in the region of the rump-bone or sacrum.

The human body is the receptacle of the power of thinking described as a bundle of energy and pervaded by the so-called breath of life flowing in subtle streams throughout the body.

Thangka painting of Vajradhatu Mandala

Mandalas originated in India, but were mainly used in Tibetian Buddhism. Below are some quotes from various web sites (featured at the bottom of the page) regarding the origins of mandalas:

Dorje is a Tibetan word.

Symbolically a dorje represents the 'thunderbolt of enlightenment,' that abrupt change in human consciousness which is recognised by all the great religions as a pivotal episode in the lives of mystics and saints.

The Bell and Dorje, or thunderbolt, are inseparable ritual objects in Tibetan Buddhism. They are always used in combination during religious ceremonies.

The Bell held in the left hand, representing the female aspect as wisdom; the Dorje, or male held in the right hand, aspect as method. Together, they represent union of wisdom and method, or the attainment of Enlightenment.

The transformative enlightenment experience is recounted in the various religions. In the Christian tradition, the conversion of Saul of Tarsus is a well known example and that of Muhammed on the mountain is fundamental to Moslem belief. For Buddhists, it is what occurred to the historical Buddha and to all those who experience kensho-satori, the dropping away of 'self'. The Tibetans call this "the Great Death" to distinguish it from that physical one which will be the experience of us all.

Dorje is a common given-name for men in people of Tibetan culture. Hence Phu Dorje, Ang Dorje (young Dorje) and Nima Dorje (Monday Dorje) or, more usually, Dorje.


Creation - Serpent and Wings


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Dharma Wikipedia

Threefold Training Wikipedia

Four Noble Truths Wikipedia

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November 1st, 2015 at 5:42 pm

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Intro to Buddhism – San Francisco State University

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Following the Buddha's Footsteps Instilling Goodness School City of Ten Thousand Buddhas Talmage, CA 95481


As a child, Siddhartha the Buddha, was troubled by some of the same thoughts that children today have. They wonder about birth and death. They wonder why they get sick and why grandfather died. They wonder why their wishes do not come true. Children also wonder about happiness and the beauty in nature.

Because the Buddha knew what was in the hearts of children and human kind, he taught everyone how to live a happy and peaceful life. Buddhism is not learning about strange beliefs from faraway lands. It is about looking at and thinking about our own lives. It shows us how to understand ourselves and how to cope with our daily problems.


Life in the Palace

Buddhism is one of the major religions in the world. It began around 2,500 years ago in India when Siddhartha Gautama discovered how to bring happiness into the world. He was born around 566 BC, in the small kingdom of Kapilavastu. His father was King Suddhodana and his mother was Queen Maya.

Soon after Prince Siddhartha was born, the wise men predicted that he would become a Buddha. When the king heard this, he was deeply disturbed, for he wanted his son to become a mighty ruler. He told Queen Maya, "I will make life in the palace so pleasant that our son will never want to leave."

At the age of sixteen, Prince Siddhartha married a beautiful princess, Yasodhara. The king built them three palaces, one for each season, and lavished them with luxuries. They passed their days in enjoyment and never thought about life outside the palace.

The Four Sights

Soon Siddhartha became disillusioned with the palace life and wanted to see the outside world. He made four trips outside the palace and saw four things that changed his life. On the first three trips, he saw sickness, old age and death. He asked himself, "How can I enjoy a life of pleasure when there is so much suffering in the world?"

On his fourth trip, he saw a wandering monk who had given up everything he owned to seek an end to suffering. "I shall be like him." Siddhartha thought.


Leaving his kingdom and loved ones behind, Siddhartha became a wandering monk. He cut off his hair to show that he had renounced the worldly lifestyle and called himself Gautama. He wore ragged robes and wandered from place to place. In his search for truth, he studied with the wisest teachers of his day. None of them knew how to end suffering, so he continued the search on his own.

For six years he practiced severe asceticism thinking this would lead him to enlightenment. He sat in meditation and ate only roots, leaves and fruit. At times he ate nothing. He could endure more hardships than anyone else, but this did not take him anywhere. He thought, "Neither my life of luxury in the palace nor my life as an ascetic in the forest is the way to freedom. Overdoing things can not lead to happiness. " He began to eat nourishing food again and regained his strength.


On a full-moon day in May, he sat under the Bodhi tree in deep meditation and said. "I will not leave this spot until I find an end to suffering." During the night, he was visited by Mara, the evil one, who tried to tempt him away from his virtuous path. First he sent his beautiful daughters to lure Gautama into pleasure. Next he sent bolts of lightning, wind and heavy rain. Last he sent his demonic armies with weapons and flaming rocks. One by one, Gautama met the armies and defeated them with his virtue.

As the struggle ended, he realized the cause of suffering and how to remove it. He had gained the most supreme wisdom and understood things as they truly are. He became the Buddha, 'The Awakened One'. From then on, he was called Shakyamuni Buddha.

The Buddha Teaches

After his enlightenment, he went to the Deer Park near the holy city of Benares and shared his new understanding with five holy men. They understood immediately and became his disciples. This marked the beginning of the Buddhist community.

For the next forty-five years, the Buddha and his disciples went from place to place in India spreading the Dharma, his teachings. Their compassion knew no bounds, they helped everyone along the way, beggars, kings and slave girls. At night, they would sleep where they were; when hungry they would ask for a little food.

Whenever the Buddha went, he won the hearts of the people because he dealt with their true feelings. He advised them not to accept his words on blind faith, but to decide for themselves whether his teachings are right or wrong, then follow them. He encouraged everyone to have compassion for each other and develop their own virtue, "You should do your own work, for I can teach only the way."

He never became angry or impatient or spoke harshly to anyone, not even to those who opposed him. He always taught in such a way that everyone could understand. Each person thought the Buddha was speaking especially for him. The Buddha told his followers to help each other on the Way. Following is a story of the Buddha living as an example to his disciples.

Once the Buddha and Ananda visited a monastery where a monk was suffering from a contagious disease. The poor man lay in a mess with no one looking after him. The Buddha himself washed the sick monk and placed him on a new bed. Afterwards, he admonished the other monks. "Monks, you have neither mother nor father to look after you. If you do not look after each other, who will look after you? Whoever serves the sick and suffering, serves me."

The Last Years

Shakyamuni Buddha passed away around 486 BC at the age of eighty. Although he has left the world, the spirit of his kindness and compassion remains.

The Buddha realized that that he was not the first to become a Buddha. "There have been many Buddhas before me and will be many Buddhas in the future," The Buddha recalled to his disciples. "All living beings have the Buddha nature and can become Buddhas." For this reason, he taught the way to Buddhahood.

The two main goals of Buddhism are getting to know ourselves and learning the Buddha's teachings. To know who we are, we need to understand that we have two natures. One is called our ordinary nature, which is made up of unpleasant feelings such as fear, anger, and jealousy. The other is our true nature, the part of us that is pure, wise, and perfect. In Buddhism, it is called the Buddha nature. The only difference between us and the Buddha is that we have not awakened to our true nature.


One day, the Buddha sat down in the shade of a tree and noticed how beautiful the countryside was. Flowers were blooming and trees were putting on bright new leaves, but among all this beauty, he saw much unhappiness. A farmer beat his ox in the field. A bird pecked at an earthworm, and then an eagle swooped down on the bird. Deeply troubled, he asked, "Why does the farmer beat his ox? Why must one creature eat another to live?"

During his enlightenment, the Buddha found the answer to these questions. He discovered three great truths. He explained these truths in a simple way so that everyone could understand them.

1. Nothing is lost in the universe

The first truth is that nothing is lost in the universe. Matter turns into energy, energy turns into matter. A dead leaf turns into soil. A seed sprouts and becomes a new plant. Old solar systems disintegrate and turn into cosmic rays. We are born of our parents, our children are born of us.

We are the same as plants, as trees, as other people, as the rain that falls. We consist of that which is around us, we are the same as everything. If we destroy something around us, we destroy ourselves. If we cheat another, we cheat ourselves. Understanding this truth, the Buddha and his disciples never killed any animal.

2. Everything Changes

The second universal truth of the Buddha is that everything is continuously changing. Life is like a river flowing on and on, ever-changing. Sometimes it flows slowly and sometimes swiftly. It is smooth and gentle in some places, but later on snags and rocks crop up out of nowhere. As soon as we think we are safe, something unexpected happens.

Once dinosaurs, mammoths, and saber-toothed tigers roamed this earth. They all died out, yet this was not the end of life. Other life forms like smaller mammals appeared, and eventually humans, too. Now we can even see the Earth from space and understand the changes that have taken place on this planet. Our ideas about life also change. People once believed that the world was flat, but now we know that it is round.

3. Law of Cause and Effect

The third universal truth explained by the Buddha is that there is continuous changes due to the law of cause and effect. This is the same law of cause and effect found in every modern science textbook. In this way, science and Buddhism are alike.

The law of cause and effect is known as karma. Nothing ever happens to us unless we deserves it. We receive exactly what we earn, whether it is good or bad. We are the way we are now due to the things we have done in the past. Our thoughts and actions determine the kind of life we can have. If we do good things, in the future good things will happen to us. If we do bad things, in the future bad things will happen to us. Every moment we create new karma by what we say, do, and think. If we understand this, we do not need to fear karma. It becomes our friend. It teaches us to create a bright future. The Buddha said,

"The kind of seed sown will produce that kind of fruit. Those who do good will reap good results. Those who do evil will reap evil results. If you carefully plant a good seed, You will joyfully gather good fruit." Dhammapada

Once there was a woman named Kisagotami, whose first-born son died. She was so stricken with grief that she roamed the streets carrying the dead body and asking for help to bring her son back to life. A kind and wise man took her to the Buddha.

The Buddha told her, "Fetch me a handful of mustard seeds and I will bring your child back to life." Joyfully Kisagotami started off to get them. Then the Buddha added, "But the seeds must come from a family that has not known death."

Kisagotami went from door to door in the whole village asking for the mustard seeds, but everyone said, "Oh, there have been many deaths here", "I lost my father", I lost my sister". She could not find a single household that had not been visited by death. Finally Kisagotami returned to the Buddha and said, "There is death in every family. Everyone dies. Now I understand your teaching."

The Buddha said, "No one can escape death and unhappiness. If people expect only happiness in life, they will be disappointed."

Things are not always the way we want them to be, but we can learn to understand them. When we get sick, we go to a doctor and ask:

1. Suffering: Everyone suffers from these thing Birth- When we are born, we cry. Sickness- When we are sick, we are miserable. Old age- When old, we will have ache and pains and find it hard to get around. Death- None of us wants to die. We feel deep sorrow when someone dies.

Other things we suffer from are: Being with those we dislike, Being apart from those we love, Not getting what we want, All kinds of problems and disappointments that are unavoidable.

The Buddha did not deny that there is happiness in life, but he pointed out it does not last forever. Eventually everyone meets with some kind of suffering. He said: "There is happiness in life, happiness in friendship, happiness of a family, happiness in a healthy body and mind, ...but when one loses them, there is suffering." Dhammapada

2. The cause of suffering The Buddha explained that people live in a sea of suffering because of ignorance and greed. They are ignorant of the law of karma and are greedy for the wrong kind of pleasures. They do things that are harmful to their bodies and peace of mind, so they can not be satisfied or enjoy life.

For example, once children have had a taste of candy, they want more. When they can't have it, they get upset. Even if children get all the candy they want, they soon get tired of it and want something else. Although, they get a stomach-ache from eating too much candy, they still want more. The things people want most cause them the most suffering. Of course, there are basic things that all people should have, like adequate food, shelter, and clothing. Everyone deserve a good home, loving parents, and good friends. They should enjoy life and cherish their possessions without becoming greedy.

3. The end of suffering To end suffering, one must cut off greed and ignorance. This means changing one's views and living in a more natural and peaceful way. It is like blowing out a candle. The flame of suffering is put out for good. Buddhists call the state in which all suffering is ended Nirvana. Nirvana is an everlasting state of great joy and peace. The Buddha said, "The extinction of desire is Nirvana." This is the ultimate goal in Buddhism. Everyone can realize it with the help of the Buddha's teachings. It can be experienced in this very life.

4. The path to the end of suffering: The path to end suffering is known as the Noble Eightfold Path. It is also known as the Middle Way.


When the Buddha gave his first sermon in the Deer Park, he began the 'Turning of the Dharma Wheel'. He chose the beautiful symbol of the wheel with its eight spokes to represent the Noble Eightfold Path. The Buddha's teaching goes round and round like a great wheel that never stops, leading to the central point of the wheel, the only point which is fixed, Nirvana. The eight spokes on the wheel represent the eight parts of the Noble Eightfold Path. Just as every spoke is needed for the wheel to keep turning, we need to follow each step of the path.

1. Right View. The right way to think about life is to see the world through the eyes of the Buddha--with wisdom and compassion.

2. Right Thought. We are what we think. Clear and kind thoughts build good, strong characters.

3. Right Speech. By speaking kind and helpful words, we are respected and trusted by everyone.

4. Right Conduct. No matter what we say, others know us from the way we behave. Before we criticize others, we should first see what we do ourselves.

5. Right Livelihood. This means choosing a job that does not hurt others. The Buddha said, "Do not earn your living by harming others. Do not seek happiness by making others unhappy."

6. Right Effort. A worthwhile life means doing our best at all times and having good will toward others. This also means not wasting effort on things that harm ourselves and others.

7. Right Mindfulness. This means being aware of our thoughts, words, and deeds.

8. Right Concentration. Focus on one thought or object at a time. By doing this, we can be quiet and attain true peace of mind.

Following the Noble Eightfold Path can be compared to cultivating a garden, but in Buddhism one cultivates one's wisdom. The mind is the ground and thoughts are seeds. Deeds are ways one cares for the garden. Our faults are weeds. Pulling them out is like weeding a garden. The harvest is real and lasting happiness.


The Buddha spoke the Four Noble Truths and many other teachings, but at the heart they all stress the same thing. An ancient story explains this well.

Once a very old king went to see an old hermit who lived in a bird's nest in the top of a tree, "What is the most important Buddhist teaching?" The hermit answered, "Do no evil, do only good. Purify your heart." The king had expected to hear a very long explanation. He protested, "But even a five-year old child can understand that!" "Yes," replied the wise sage, "but even an 80-year-old man cannot do it."

The Buddha knew it would be difficult for people to follow his teachings on their own, so he established the Three Refuges for them to rely on. If a person wants to become Buddhists take refuge in and rely on the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. These are known as the Triple Jewel. The Sangha are the monks and nuns. They live in monasteries and carry on the Buddha's teaching. The word Sangha means 'harmonious community'. The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha together possess qualities that are precious like jewels and can lead one to enlightenment.

A refuge is a place to go for safety and protection, like a shelter in a storm. Taking refuge does not mean running away from life. It means living life in a fuller, truer way.

Taking refuge is also like a man traveling for the first time to a distant city. He will need a guide to show him which path to follow and some traveling companions to help him along the way.

I go to the Buddha for refuge. I go to the Dharma for refuge. I go to the Sangha for refuge.

For a Buddhist, taking refuge is the first step on the path to enlightenment. Even if enlightenment is not achieved in this life, one has a better chance to become enlightened in a future life. One who take the precepts is called a lay person.

All religions have some basic rules that define what is good conduct and what kind of conduct should be avoided. In Buddhism, the most important rules are the Five Precepts. These have been passed down from the Buddha himself.

1. No killing Respect for life 2. No stealing Respect for others' property 3. No sexual misconduct Respect for our pure nature 4. No lying Respect for honesty 5. No intoxicants Respect for a clear mind

No killing

The Buddha said, "Life is dear to all beings. They have the right to live the same as we do." We should respect all life and not kill anything. Killing ants and mosquitoes is also breaking this precept. We should have an attitude of loving-kindness towards all beings, wishing them to be happy and free from harm. Taking care of the earth, its rivers and air is included. One way that many Buddhists follow this precept is by being vegetarian.

No stealing

If we steal from another, we steal from ourselves. Instead, we should learn to give and take care of things that belong to our family, to the school, or to the public.

No sexual misconduct

Proper conduct shows respect for oneself and others. Our bodies are gifts from our parents, so we should protect them from harm. Young people should especially keep their natures pure and develop their virtue. It is up to them to make the world a better place to live. In happy families, the husband and wife both respect each other.

No lying

Being honest brings peace into the world. When there is a misunderstanding, the best thing is to talk it over. This precept includes no gossip, no back-biting, no harsh words and no idle speech.

No intoxicants

The fifth precept is based on keeping a clear mind and a healthy body. One day, when the Buddha was speaking the Dharma for the assembly, a young drunkard staggered into the room. He tripped over some monks who were sitting on the floor and started cursing loudly. His breath reeked of alcohol and filled the air with a sickening stench. Mumbling to himself, he reeled out the door.

Everyone was astonished at his rude behavior, but the Buddha remained calm. "Great assembly!" he spoke, "Take a look at this man! He will certainly lose his wealth and good name. His body will grow weak and sickly. Day and night, he will quarrel with his family and friends until they abandon him. The worst thing is that he will lose his wisdom and become stupid."

Little by little, one can learn to follow these precepts. If one sometimes forgets them, one can start all over again. Following the precepts is a lifetime job. If one kills or hurts someone's feelings by mistake, that is breaking the precepts, but it was not done on purpose.


Buddhists do not believe that death is the end of life. When one dies, one's consciousness leaves and enters one of the six paths of rebirth.

How to Escape the Turning Wheel

The wheel of life and death is kept turning by the three poisons of greed, hatred, and stupidity. By cutting off the three poisons, we can escape the wheel and become enlightened. There are four stages of enlightenment.

In Asia, it is considered the highest honor if a member of one's family leaves the home life. Westerners, however, may be shocked at the idea of anyone leaving their family to become a monk or nun. They may think this is selfish and turning one's back on the world. In fact, monks and nuns are not selfish at all. They dedicate themselves to helping others. They don't wish to own a lot of things, or to have money or power. They give these things up to gain something far more valuable--spiritual freedom. By living a pure simple life with others on the same path, they are able to lessen their greed, hatred, and ignorance.

Although monks and nuns live in a monastery, they do not entirely give up their families. They are allowed to visit and take care of them when they are ill.


A day in a temple begins early for monks and nuns. Long before daybreak, they attend morning ceremony and chant praises to the Buddha. The ceremonies lift one's spirit and bring about harmony. Although the Sangha lead simple lives, they have many responsibilities to fulfill. Everyone works diligently and is content with his or her duties.

During the day, some monks and nuns go about teaching in schools or speaking the Buddha's teachings. Others may revise and translate Buddhist Sutras and books, make Buddha images, take care of the temple and gardens, prepare for ceremonies, give advice to laypeople, and care for the elders and those who are sick. The day ends with a final evening ceremony.

In the daily life of work and religious practice, the monks and nuns conduct them-selves properly and are highly respected. By leading a pure, simple life, they gain extraorinary insight into the nature of things. Although their life is hard and rigorous, the results are worth it. It also keeps them healthy and energetic. The laity, who live in the temple or visits, follows the same schedule as the Sangha and works along with them.


Ideally, monks and nuns own only a few things, such as robes and an offering bowl. While most people spend lots of time and money on their hair, Buddhist monks and nuns shave their heads. They are no longer concerned with outward beauty, but with developing their spiritual lives. The shaven head is a reminder that the monks and nuns have renounced the home life and are a part of the Sangha.

Offering food to monks and nuns is a part of Buddhism. In Asia, it is not unusual to see monks walking towards the villages early in the morning carrying their offering bowls. They do not beg for food, but accept whatever is offered. This practice not only helps the monks and nuns to be humble, but gives laypeople an opportunity to give. In some countries laypeople go to the monastery to make offerings.

The robes of monks and nuns are simple and made from cotton or linen. Their color varies according to different countries. For instance, yellow robes are mostly worn in Thailand, while black robes are worn in Japan. In China and Korea, gray and brown robes are worn for work, while more elaborate robes are used for ceremonies. Dark red robes are worn in Tibet.

See the original post here:
Intro to Buddhism - San Francisco State University

Written by simmons

November 1st, 2015 at 5:42 pm

Posted in Buddhism

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