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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

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.

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Creation - Serpent and Wings

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History of Buddhism Wikipedia

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Buddhism was founded in the fourth or fifth century B.C. in northern India by a man known traditionally as Siddhartha (meaning he who has reached the goal) Gautama, the son of a warrior prince. Some scholars believe that he lived from 563 to 483 B.C., though his exact life span is uncertain. Troubled by the inevitability of suffering in human life, he left home and a pampered life at the age of 29 to wander as an ascetic, seeking religious insight and a solution to the struggles of human existence. He passed through many trials and practiced extreme self-denial. Finally, while meditating under the bodhi tree (tree of perfect knowledge), he reached enlightenment and taught his followers about his new spiritual understanding.

Gautama's teachings differed from the Hindu faith prevalent in India at the time. Whereas in Hinduism the Brahmin caste alone performed religious functions and attained the highest spiritual understanding, Gautama's beliefs were more egalitarian, accessible to all who wished to be enlightened. At the core of his understanding were the Four Noble Truths: (1) all living beings suffer; (2) the origin of this suffering is desirefor material possessions, power, and so on; (3) desire can be overcome; and (4) there is a path that leads to release from desire. This way is called the Noble Eightfold Path: right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right concentration, and right ecstasy.

Gautama promoted the concept of anatman (that a person has no actual self) and the idea that existence is characterized by impermanence. This realization helps one let go of desire for transient things. Still, Gautama did not recommend extreme self-denial but rather a disciplined life called the Middle Way. Like the Hindus, he believed that existence consisted of reincarnation, a cycle of birth and death. He held that it could be broken only by reaching complete detachment from worldly cares. Then the soul could be released into nirvana (literally blowing out)an indescribable state of total transcendence. Gautama traveled to preach the dharma (sacred truth) and was recognized as the Buddha (enlightened one). After his death his followers continued to develop doctrine and practice, which came to center on the Three Jewels: the dharma (the sacred teachings of Buddhism), the sangha (the community of followers, which now includes nuns, monks, and laity), and the Buddha. Under the patronage of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka (third century B.C.), Buddhism spread throughout India and to other parts of Asia. Monasteries were established, as well as temples dedicated to Buddha; at shrines his relics were venerated. Though by the fourth century A.D. Buddhist presence in India had dwindled, it flourished in other parts of Asia.

Numerous Buddhist sects have emerged. The oldest, called the Theravada (Way of the Elders) tradition, interprets Buddha as a great sage but not a deity. It emphasizes meditation and ritual practices that help the individual become an arhat, an enlightened being. Its followers emphasize the authority of the earliest Buddhist scriptures, the Tripitaka (Three Baskets), a compilation of sermons, rules for celibates, and doctrine. This sect is prevalent in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. It is sometimes called the Hinayana (Lesser Vehicle) tradition (once considered a pejorative term).

Between the second century B.C. and the second century A.D., the Mahayana (Greater Vehicle) tradition refocused Buddhism to concentrate less on individual attainment of enlightenment and more on concern for humanity. It promotes the ideal of the bodhisattva (enlightened being), who shuns entering nirvana until all sentient beings can do so as well, willingly remaining in the painful cycle of birth and death to perform works of compassion. Members of this tradition conceive of Buddha as an eternal being to whom prayers can be made; other Buddhas are revered as well, adding a polytheistic dimension to the religion. Numerous sects have developed from the Mahayana tradition, which has been influential in China, Korea, and Japan.

A third broad tradition, variously called Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle), Mantrayana (Vehicle of the Mantra), or Tantric Buddhism, offers a quicker, more demanding way to achieve nirvana. Because of its level of challengeenabling one to reach enlightenment in one lifetimeit requires the guidance of a spiritual leader. It is most prominent in Tibet and Mongolia.

Zen Buddhism encourages individuals to seek the Buddha nature within themselves and to practice a disciplined form of sitting meditation in order to reach satorispiritual enlightenment.

See also Encyclopedia: Buddhism.

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Buddhism - Infoplease

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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

INTRODUCTION TO BUDDHISM

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.

UNIT 1 THE LIFE OF THE BUDDHA

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.

Renunciation

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.

Enlightenment

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.

Chapter 1 THE THREE UNIVERSAL TRUTHS

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.

Chapter 3 THE NOBLE EIGHTFOLD PATH

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.

UNIT 3 FOLLOWING THE BUDDHA'S TEACHINGS

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.

Chapter 3 THE WHEEL OF LIFE

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.

Chapter 1 LIFE IN A MONASTERY

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.

Chapter 2 THE SHAVEN HEAD, ROBE, AND OFFERING BOWL

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.

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Over the last few decades many Buddhists and quite a few neuroscientists have examined Buddhism and neuroscience, with both groups reporting overlap. Im sorry to say I have been privately dismissive. One hears this sort of thing all the time, from any religion, and I was sure in this case it would break down upon closer scrutiny. When a scientific discovery seems to support any religious teaching, you can expect members of that religion to become strict empiricists, telling themselves and the world that their belief is grounded in reality. They are always less happy to accept scientific data they feel contradicts their preconceived beliefs. No surprise here; no human likes to be wrong.

But science isnt supposed to care about preconceived notions. Science, at least good science, tells us about the world as it is, not as some wish it to be. Sometimes what science finds is consistent with a particular religions wishes. But usually not.

Despite my doubts, neurology and neuroscience do not appear to profoundly contradict Buddhist thought. Neuroscience tells us the thing we take as our unified mind is an illusion, that our mind is not unified and can barely be said to exist at all. Our feeling of unity and control is a post-hoc confabulation and is easily fractured into separate parts. As revealed by scientific inquiry, what we call a mind (or a self, or a soul) is actually something that changes so much and is so uncertain that our pre-scientific language struggles to find meaning.

Buddhists say pretty much the same thing. They believe in an impermanent and illusory self made of shifting parts. Theyve even come up with language to address the problem between perception and belief. Their word for self is anatta, which is usually translated as non self. One might try to refer to the self, but the word cleverly reminds ones self that there is no such thing.

When considering a Buddhist contemplating his soul, one is immediately struck by a disconnect between religious teaching and perception. While meditating in the temple, the self is an illusion. But when the Buddhist goes shopping he feels like we all do: unified, in control, and unchanged from moment to moment. The way things feel becomes suspect. And thats pretty close to what neurologists deal with every day, like the case of Mr. Logosh.

Mr. Logosh was 37 years old when he suffered a stroke. It was a month after knee surgery and we never found a real reason other than trivially high cholesterol and smoking. Sometimes medicine is like that: bad things happen, seemingly without sufficient reasons. In the ER I found him aphasic, able to understand perfectly but unable to get a single word out, and with no movement of the right face, arm, and leg. We gave him the only treatment available for stroke, tissue plasminogen activator, but there was no improvement. He went to the ICU unchanged. A follow up CT scan showed that the dead brain tissue had filled up with blood. As the body digested the dead brain tissue, later scans showed a large hole in the left hemisphere.

Although I despaired, I comforted myself by looking at the overlying cortex. Here the damage was minimal and many neurons still survived. Still, I mostly despaired. It is a tragedy for an 80-year-old to spend lifes remainder as an aphasic hemiplegic. The tragedy grows when a young man looks towards decades of mute immobility. But you can never tell with early brain injuries to the young. I was yoked to optimism. After all, Id treated him.

The next day Mr. Logosh woke up and started talking. Not much at first, just yes and no. Then water, thanks, sure, and me. We eventually sent him to rehab, barely able to speak, still able to understand.

One year later he came back to the office with an odd request. He was applying to become a driver and needed my clearance, which was a formality. He walked with only a slight limp, his right foot a bit unsure of itself. His voice had a slight hitch, as though he were choosing his words carefully.

When we consider our language, it seems unified and indivisible. We hear a word, attach meaning to it, and use other words to reply. Its effortless. It seems part of the same unified language sphere. How easily we are tricked! Mr. Logosh shows us that unity of language is an illusion. The seeming unity of language is really the work of different parts of the brain, which shift and change over time, and which fracture into receptive and expressive parts.

Consider how easily Buddhism accepts what happened to Mr. Logosh. Anatta is not a unified, unchanging self. It is more like a concert, constantly changing emotions, perceptions, and thoughts. Our minds are fragmented and impermanent. A change occurred in the band, so it follows that one expects a change in the music.

Both Buddhism and neuroscience converge on a similar point of view: The way it feels isnt how it is. There is no permanent, constant soul in the background. Even our language about ourselves is to be distrusted (requiring the tortured negation of anatta). In the broadest strokes then, neuroscience and Buddhism agree.

How did Buddhism get so much right? I speak here as an outsider, but it seems to me that Buddhism started with a bit of empiricism. Perhaps the founders of Buddhism were pre-scientific, but they did use empirical data. They noted the natural world: the sun sets, the wind blows into a field, one insect eats another. There is constant change, shifting parts, and impermanence. They called this impermanence anicca, and it forms a central dogma of Buddhism.

This seems appropriate as far as the natural world is concerned. Buddhists dont apply this notion to mathematical truths or moral certainties, but sometimes, cleverly, apply it to their own dogmas. Buddhism has had millennia to work out seeming contradictions, and it is only someone who was not indoctrinated who finds any of it strange. (Or at least any stranger than, say, believing God literally breathed a soul into the first human.)

Early on, Buddhism grasped the nature of worldly change and divided parts, and then applied it to the human mind. The key step was overcoming egocentrism and recognizing the connection between the world and humans. We are part of the natural world; its processes apply themselves equally to rocks, trees, insects, and humans. Perhaps building on its heritage, early Buddhism simply did not allow room for human exceptionalism.

I should note my refusal to accept that they simply got this much right by accident, which I find improbable. Why would accident bring them to such a counterintuitive belief? Truth from subjective religious rapture is also highly suspect. Firstly, those who enter religious raptures tend to see what they already know. Secondly, if the self is an illusion, then arent subjective insights from meditation illusory as well?

I dont mean to dismiss or gloss over the areas where Buddhism and neuroscience diverge. Some Buddhist dogmas deviate from what we know about the brain. Buddhism posits an immaterial thing that survives the brains death and is reincarnated. After a persons death, the consciousness reincarnates. If you buy into the idea of a constantly changing immaterial soul, this isnt as tricky and insane as it seems to the non-indoctrinated. During life, consciousness changes as mental states replace one another, so each moment can be considered a reincarnation from the moment before. The waves lap, the sand shifts. If youre good, they might one day lap upon a nicer beach, a higher plane of existence. If youre not, well, someones waves need to supply the baseline awareness of insects, worms, and other creepy-crawlies.

The problem is that theres no evidence for an immaterial thing that gets reincarnated after death. In fact, theres even evidence against it. Reincarnation would require an entity (even the vague, impermanent one called anatta) to exist independently of brain function. But brain function has been so closely tied to every mental function (every bit of consciousness, perception, emotion, everything self and non-self about you) that there appears to be no remainder. Reincarnation is not a trivial part of most forms of Buddhism. For example, the Dalai Lamas followers chose him because they believe him to be the living reincarnation of a long line of respected teachers.

Why have the dominant Western religious traditions gotten their permanent, independent souls so wrong? Taking note of change was not limited to Buddhism. The same sort of thinking pops up in Western thought as well. The pre-Socratic Heraclitus said, Nothing endures but change. But that observation didnt really go anywhere. It wasnt adopted by monotheistic religions or held up as a central natural truth. Instead, pure Platonic ideals won out, perhaps because they seemed more divine.

Western thought is hardly monolithic or simple, but monotheistic religions made a simple misstep when they didnt apply naturalism to themselves and their notions of their souls. Time and again, their prominent scholars and philosophers rendered the human soul exceptional and otherworldly, falsely elevating our species above and beyond nature. We see the effects today. When Judeo-Christian belief conflicts with science, it nearly always concerns science removing humans from a putative pedestal, a central place in creation. Yet science has shown us that we reside on the fringes of our galaxy, which itself doesnt seem to hold a particularly precious location in the universe. Our species came from common ape-like ancestors, many of which in all likelihood possessed brains capable of experiencing and manifesting some of our most precious human sentiments and traits. Our own brains produce the thing we call a mind, which is not a soul. Human exceptionalism increasingly seems a vain fantasy. In its modest rejection of that vanity, Buddhism exhibits less error and less original sin, this one of pride.

How well will any religion apply the lessons of neuroscience to the soul? Mr. Logosh, like every person whos brain lesion changes their mind, challenges the Western religions. An immaterial soul cannot easily account for even a stroke associated with aphasia. Will monotheistic religions change their idea of the soul to accommodate data? Will they even try? It is doubtful. The rigid human exceptionalism is cemented firmly into dogma.

Will Buddhists allow neuroscience to render their idea of reincarnation obsolete? This is akin to asking if the Dalai Lama and his followers will decide hes only the symbolic reincarnation of past teachers. This is also doubtful, but Buddhisms first steps at least made it possible. Unrelated to neuroscience and neurology, in 1969 the Dalai Lama said his office was an institution created to benefit others. It is possible that it will soon have outlived its usefulness. Impermanence and shifting parts entail constant change, so perhaps it is no surprise that hes lately said he may choose the next office holder before his death.

Buddhisms success was to apply the worlds impermanence to humans and their souls. The results have carried this religion from ancient antiquity into modernity, an impressive distance. With no fear of impermanent beliefs or constant change, how far will they go?

Originally published March 9, 2011

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Five College Buddhist Studies

Buddhism began in India some two and a half millennia ago. Since that time it has evolved through a number of transformations and has been transmitted to numerous cultures. Buddhism has had a great impact upon the lives of individuals and the development of societies, and it has made many contributions to various spheres of culture, for example to art, literature, philosophy and religion.

With one of the largest concentrations of scholars of Buddhist Studies in the United States, the Five Colleges provide an excellent environment in which to study Buddhism: collectively, we enable students to study most of the major Buddhist traditions. In addition to our many Junior Year Abroad and other extended study programs in Asia, our academic exchange program with the Central University of Tibetan Studies in India offers a unique opportunity for our students to study with eminent Tibetan scholars.

The Five College Buddhist Certificate might be pursued in conjunction with a major in philosophy, religious studies, anthropology, Asian studies or another field to which Buddhist Studies is directly relevant. However, it might also be used to support studies in a very different field, such as law, one of the social sciences or studies in the arts or humanities. Students who enter this program will benefit from the structure it provides and from advising by program faculty members, enabling them to take full advantage of the resources offered in the Pioneer Valley beyond their individual colleges.

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Bodhisattva at the National Museum, Delhi, India. CC Hyougushi at Flickr.com.

By N.S. Gill

Buddhism is the religion of the followers of Gautama Buddha (Sakayamuni). It is an offshoot of Hinduism with many variations in practices and belief, including vegetarianism, in some, but not all branches. Like Hinduism, Buddhism is one of the major religions of the world with probably more than 3.5 million adherents. Common threads of Buddhism include the 3 jewels (Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha 'community'), and the goal of nirvana.

Following the 8-fold path can lead to enlightenment and nirvana.

Emperor Ashoka (3rd century B.C.) inscribed Buddhist ideas on his famous pillars and send Buddhist missionaries to various parts of his empire. He also sent them to the king in Sri Lanka, where Buddhism became the state religion, and the teachings of the form of Buddhism known as Theravda Buddhism were later written down in the Pali language.

Between the fall of the Mauryan Empire and the next (Gupta) empire, Buddhism spread along the trade routes of Central Asia and into China, and diversified. [See the Silk Road.]

Great monasteries (Mahaviharas) grew important, especially as universities, during the Gupta Dynasty.

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Nicholas Kristof Op-Ed column asserts China is insisting on choosing next Dalai Lama as means of controlling Tibet; says Dalai Lama has delivered mischevious response in suggesting that perhaps Beijing should consider next lives of its own leaders if it is so interested in reincarnation; notes Dalai Lama's surprising admiration of Pres Xi Jinping and suggests he extend invitation for Dalai Lama to visit China; offers Dalai Lama's answers to reader questions. MORE

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Funeral for Wenjian Liu, who is believed to be first Chinese-American police officer killed in line of duty in New York, will be carried out in Buddhist tradition, and will also contain all the official trappings known to Westerners. MORE

Jody Jaffe and John Muncie travel article on Thailand's 'gong highway,' 21-mile section of road in eastern Thailand where gongs and bells are made for most of country's more than 30,000 Buddhist temples. MORE

Spiritual enlightenment sweeping America has strong ties to Buddhist mindfulness practice, thanks in part to Jack Kornfield, ex-monk and founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Northern California. MORE

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Tibetan Buddhists in Yushu, China, have been flocking to Batang River to rescue small river shrimp; monks say growing interest in so-called 'life liberation' or 'mercy release' is part of surge of religious devotion that followed 2010 earthquake that claimed more than 3,000 lives. MORE

Historical tolerance shown by bygone Buddhist rulers is unraveling in Mandalay, Myanmars second largest city, as antipathy between Buddhists and Muslims continues to spread; two people have died from riots, which have prompted nighttime curfew and left the country's best assimilated minorities fearful for their lives. MORE

Buddhist leaders in New York's Chinese neighborhoods have raised concerns about men who present themselves as monks and solicit money from passers-by; men, and some women who claim to be nuns, have become ubiquitous in places like Times Square; similarly attired men have attracted scrutiny around the world. MORE

Authorities in Myanmar have declared nighttime curfew and dispatched riot police to patrol streets following rampage by radical Buddhists that left two people dead; violence is part of series of disappointments that have dimmed euphoria that followed end to country's military rule; critics say that religious politicking has distracted leaders from democratic reforms. MORE

Authorities in Myanmar declare nighttime curfew in city of Mandalay after resurgence of religious violence between Buddhists and Muslims leaves two people dead and more than a dozen injured. MORE

Samuel G Freedman On Religion column; Tassajara Zen Buddhist monastery in Northern California offers female military veterans, who suffer from PTSD and other issues, a workshop retreat using principles of Zen Buddhism. MORE

Three people are killed and 78 injured in riots between Buddhists and Muslims in Aluthgama, Sri Lanka, after months of rising tensions; it is some of the worst religious violence in the country in decades. MORE

International dispute continues 13 years after Afghanistan's Bamian Buddhas were blasted into rubble; major donor countries insist that site be left as it is while Afghan government demands at least one be rebuilt. MORE

Nearly 750,000 people in Myanmar, mostly members of Muslim minority, have been deprived of medical services following government ban of Doctors Without Borders; government ordered halt to group's work after some officials accused group of favoring Muslim Rohingya ethnic group over Rakhine Buddhists. MORE

Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center at Southwest University for Nationalities in Chengdu, China, houses 12,000 works of Tibetan literature collected by American scholar E Gene Smith, mainly from Tibetan refugees during Cultural Revolution; center has prompted people across country to bring out old Tibetan manuscripts that were thought to be lost or destroyed. MORE

The Week column; architects in Nepal unearth Buddhist shrine erected as early as sixth century BC; discovery provides evidence that the Buddha may have lived centuries earlier than previously thought; other significant developments in science and medicine highlighted. MORE

Excavations by archaeologists at Lumbini, Nepal, which is said to be the birthplace of Buddha, have uncovered evidence suggesting that Buddha's birth may have been as early as sixth century BC, which is much earlier than previously believed. MORE

Stabbing death of elderly Muslim woman Daw Aye Kyi by Buddhist mob in Myanmar is stark symbol of breadth of anti-Muslim feelings in this Buddhist-majority country; growing hatred appears to be fueled by teachings of radical Buddhist group 969. MORE

About 50 members of Muslim minority in Myanmar are feared drowned after trying to flee Rakhine State in a boat that sank; minority Rohingya Muslims have been leaving country in droves since clashes with ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, who make up a majority of the state's population, erupted in 2012. MORE

Buddhist mobs kill 94-year-old Muslim woman and burn more than 70 homes in Rakhine State, Myanmar; sectarian violence once again grips region despite visit by President Thein Sein aimed at resolving tensions. MORE

Bagan Journal; curators are working in Myanmar to assemble exhibit of Buddhist art that will travel to Asia Society in New York City in 2015 and offer a rare glimpse into the countrys history. MORE

United Nations human rights envoy visiting Myanmar says that confrontation he had with mob made him empathize with victims of the countrys deadly sectarian violence between Buddhists and Muslims. MORE

Wes Nisker Preoccupations column relates how as a teacher of Buddhist principles, who once depended only on his students generosity, he found a more sustainable income through his Buddhist-inspired comedy routine. MORE

Sri Lankan police impose a curfew on a Colombo neighborhood, day after a Buddhist-led mob vandalized a mosque in an episode that has heightened religious tensions in the country and prompted a statement of concern by the United States. MORE

More than 20 Buddhists are sentenced to as much as 15 years in prison for murder and other crimes for March incidents of violence against Muslims in Myanmar; sentences do not erase sense of unequal justice in country where Muslim minority has borne most of legal brunt for Buddhist-Muslim violence. MORE

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warns Myanmar government of 'dangerous polarization' between Buddhists and Muslims, urging leaders of Buddhist-majority country to resolve citizenship for nearly one million stateless Muslims near border with Bangladesh. MORE

Series of explosions rock one of Buddhism's holiest sites in Eastern India, attack that officials call an act of terrorism; two people are wounded in explosions at Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya. MORE

Yangon Journal; those in Myanmar's Muslim minority say they are constantly wary and fearful of attacks from country's Buddhists, unsettling change after decades of peaceful religious coexistence; root of violence, which has left around 200 Muslims dead, appears partly legacy of country's colonial history. MORE

Myanmar government awards major telecommunications contracts to two foreign companies, milestone in country's connecting with rest of world; Buddhist monk Ashin Wimala, one leader of radical nationalist Buddhist movement, calls for boycott of one company, Ooredoo, because it is based in Muslim country of Qatar. MORE

Nationwide fundamentalist movement of extreme Buddhism has grown in Myanmar, with hate-filled speeches and violence against Muslim minority revealing darker side of country's greater freedoms after decades of military rule; Buddhist agenda includes boycotts of Muslim-made goods, and lynch mobs have killed more than 200 Muslims and forced more than 150,000 people from their homes. MORE

Court in Myanmar finds two Muslim women guilty of setting off sectarian violence, one of them by bumping into a Buddhist novice monk; both are sentenced to two years in prison with hard labor for 'insulting religion.' MORE

Editorial calls on Myanmar government to speak out and act against anti-Muslim violence in country; warns that news reports of more frequent clashes suggests radical strains of Buddhism may be spreading, and such deadly sectarianism will undermine efforts to stabilize the country. MORE

Security forces in Myanmar struggle to bring peace to northern city after Buddhist mobs set fire to mosque, Muslim school and shops, latest outbreak of religious violence in country and sign that radical strains of Buddhism may be spreading. MORE

Court in Myanmar sentences seven Muslim men to prison on charges related to incidents of religious violence in March that left more than 40 people dead and chased thousands from their homes; Muslims are critical of decision, saying that most of violence was carried out by Buddhist mobs attacking Muslims. MORE

Buddhist mobs overrun two mosques and set fire to over 100 homes in central Myanmar, killing one person and wounding at least nine other people. MORE

Myanmars venerated Buddhist order, the Sangha, has become largely corrupt and a breeding ground for sectarianism. MORE

Simmering religious and ethnic violence in Myanmar spreads beyond its borders when brawl breaks out at immigration center in Indonesia between Muslim and Buddhist detainees, leaving 8 dead and 15 wounded. MORE

Myanmar's government arrests dozens of people in connection with anti-Muslim protests by Buddhists and some will go on trial within days. MORE

Pres Thein Sein of Myanmar says he is prepared to use force to quell religious rioting that has shaken country, answering calls even from longtime democracy advocates for more forceful security measures. MORE

Major commercial area of Yangon, Myanmar, shuts down after rumors spread of sectarian attacks on Muslims; shutdown reflects nervous mood in country after deadly rioting by Buddhist mobs. MORE

Deadly rioting between Buddhists and Muslims further underlines how ethnic and religious fissures in Myanmar pose serious impediments to democratic change in country; interviews with ethnic leaders suggest some minorities are more pessimistic than ever about hopes for reconciliation. MORE

Army units restore order to city in central Myanmar devastated by three days of religious rioting and arson attacks; state news media says 32 people died in violence between Buddhists and Muslims in Meiktila. MORE

Myanmar Pres Thein Sein declares state of emergency in area of city of Meiktila and orders military to assist in quelling riots that residents say have left at least 20 people dead; religious violence in city between Buddhists and Muslims underlines what residents say is vacuum of authority. MORE

At least five people in central Myanmar are killed in fighting between Buddhists and Muslims, another sign of resurgence of communal violence that is testing country's fledgling democracy. MORE

Project aimed at restoring artwork of two of three main Buddhist monasteries in Lo Manthang, Nepal, stirs debate; some scholars of Tibetan art say painters are altering important historical murals and jeopardizing scholarship; those involved in project argue residents want complete artwork in their houses of worship. MORE

Investigation by an independent council of Buddhist leaders claims that renowned 105-year-old Buddhist teacher Joshu Sasaki groped and sexually harassed female students for decades, taking advantage of their loyalty and his exalted position. MORE

Op-Ed article by freelance journalist Andrew Lawler warns that Chinese engineers, with encouragement of American government, are preparing to demolish vast complex of richly decorated ancient Buddhist monasteries in Afghanistan because they sit atop one of world's largest copper deposits; contends that destroying humanity's common heritage limits understanding of past. MORE

Thailand's monks and Buddhist temples, once central parts of village life, have become marginalized as country grows more secular and wealthy; while many countries have undergone shift from sacred to secular as they have modernized, rapid pace of change in Thailand is particularly striking. MORE

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Buddhism Chicago – Diamond Way Buddhist Center Chicago

Posted: October 30, 2015 at 6:45 pm


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Diamond Way Buddhist Center Chicago belongs to an international non-profit network of over 600 lay Diamond Way Buddhist centers of the Karma Kagyu lineage of Tibetan Buddhism, founded by Lama Ole Nydahl and under the spiritual guidance of H.H. the 17th Gyalwa Karmapa, Trinley Thaye Dorje.

Diamond Way Buddhism offers practical and effective methods to realize minds inherent richness for the benefit of all. With an accessible and modern style, it works with peoples confidence and desire, using every situation in life to develop fearlessness and joy. We always present a basic introduction for newcomers, and the meditations are guided in English.

Monthly Open House

The next open house is Sunday November 8: 3:00pm Doors open 3:30pm Introductory talk about Buddhism 4:00pm Guided meditation 5:00pm Food, refreshments and socializing

We begin the open house with a basic introduction to Buddhism as it's practiced in the Diamond Way Karma Kagyu lineage. This is the perfect time to come if you havent been to our center before. Your host will spend about a half hour explaining the basics of Diamond Way meditation and youll have some time to ask any questions you may have.

Weekly Public Meditations

Mondays: 8:00pm Ten-minute talk 8:15pm Public Meditation

Wednesdays: 8:00pm Public Meditation

Fridays: 8:00pm Ten-minute talk 8:15pm Public Meditation

Sundays: 4:00pm Public Meditation

The program on Mondays and Fridays begins with a short introduction on a Buddhist topic, followed by a guided meditation. The regular meditation is the Guru Yoga meditation on the 16th Karmapa and is guided in English. It generally lasts around 30 minutes.

H.H. 16th Karmapa Rangjung Rigpe Dorje

H.H. 17th Karmapa Trinlay Thaye Dorje

Lama Ole Nydahl & Hannah Nydahl

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Buddhism Chicago - Diamond Way Buddhist Center Chicago

Written by simmons

October 30th, 2015 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Buddhism

chicagobuddhist.org — Chicago Resources

Posted: at 6:45 pm


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This is a listing of different centers and groups in Chicago that are involved with meditation or Buddhism. If you know of any that are not included here and want them listed, please contact us.

Meeting Location: Private home in Downers Grove, IL. Affiliation: eclectic. Contact Person: Jack Hatfield, 630 375-0881, jackhat1@aol.com.

We meet twice a month on Sundays from 7:00 PM to 9:00 PM. Newcomers are welcome. Come at 6:30 PM if you would like to get meditation instructions.

1922 W. Irving Park Rd (near the Irving Park Brown line stop and Damen Avenue in Chicago) Chicago IL.

A community of practitioners committed to being a home for Soto Zen Buddhist meditation practice in Chicago. The center offers a variety of meditation and practice opportunities throughout the year including evening, morning, half day, one day, and three day meditations as well as seminars and classes.

Bodhi Path Buddhist Center of Chicago, Chicago, IL 60613 (Located east of the Metra tracks, between Irving Park and Berteau. Near Metra and Brown Line CTA) 773.251.1245 chicago@bodhipath.org

Weekly seminars, group meditation, reading groups, and practice sessions. The center regularly hosts teachers from around the world for special events. All are welcome.

8910 S. Kingery Hwy, Willowbrook, IL 60527 630) 789-8866 info@buddhistbmc.org

Theravada Buddhist Temple and education center. Daily chanting and meditation, weekly services.

deankaufer (at) mac (dot) com (773) 465-4279

We bring together Buddhist practitioners working collectively for peace and justice. Currently we meet on the third Thursday of every month at Ancient Dragon Zen Gate meditation hall, 1922 W. Irving Park Rd, at 7:15-9 pm.

1151 W. Leland, Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 334-4661 info@budtempchi.org

Zazen sitting meditation on Sundays at 9:00 am. Also Japanese language classes and Childrens Dharma school.

29 W 025 Army Trail Road West Chicago, IL 60185 630 855 8249 / 630 788 9680 (Cell) contact Bhanthe Seelarantana, bhantesila@gmail.com

Theravada Buddhist monks from Sri Lanka. Daily meditation at 6:30 am and 6:30 pm. Weekly services on Tuesday, Thursday, Sunday, 1st Friday of each month.

2100 S. Central Avenue Cicero, IL 60804-2242 (708) 652-9722 office@chicagoktc.org

Shinay, Chenrezig, or Green Tara meditations at various times throughout the week. A Karma Kagyu center under the spiritual guidance of H.H. Orgyen Trinley Dorje.

2029 Ridge Avenue Evanston, IL 60201 847) 475-3015

The Chicago Zen Center offers introductory sessions the first Tuesday of each month. After attending an intro session you are welcome to attend any regular weekly sitting, participate in sesshin, etc.

Chicago Center: 4722 N. Malden Chicago, IL 60640 (773) 234-5856; chicago@diamondway.org

Yorkville Center: 832 Parkside Ln, Yorkville, IL (630) 553-0436; yorkville@diamondway-center.org

Guided meditations in English on Monday and Friday evenings. A Karma Kagyu center under the spiritual guidance of H.H. Trinlay Thaye Dorje.

Pecatonica, Illinois Tel. [1] 815 489-0420 E-mail: info@pakasa.dhamma.org

Offering courses in Vipassana Meditation as taught by S.N. Goenka in the tradition of Sayagyi U Ba Khin.

1342 W. Belmont (between Lakewood Ave & Southport Ave) Chicago, IL 60657 (773) 458 4662 chicago@jewelheart.org

We have been in Chicago for over 20 years. We hold weekly classes and host our spiritual director and founder, Gelek Rinpoche as well as other teachers a few times each year.

We meet in two locations: on Wednesday afternoons from 2:15 to 3:30 p.m. at 30 N. Michigan Avenue, Room 1111 (in the Chicago Loop), and on Sunday evenings from 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. at the Cenacle Retreat Center, 513 W. Fullerton (in Chicagos Lincoln Park neighborhood).

312-576-3582 info@zenchicago.org

A place for zazen in the Soto Zen Buddhist tradition. Our practice leader is Myoshi Roger Thomson, a Soto Zen Buddhist priest and dharma heir of Shoken Winecoff in the lineage of Dainin Katagiri Roshi.

Chicago Culture Center 1455 South Wabash Ave. Chicago, IL. 60605 US

Telephone: 312.913.1211 Fax: 312.913.0988

The core activity for all SGI-USA members is the neighborhood discussion meeting. These informal gatherings bring people together for Buddhist prayer, study, sharing and discussion of ways Buddhism can be applied to the challenges of daily living.

37 N. Carpenter St., Chicago, IL 60607 773-743-8147

Open meditation sessions are held Tuesday evenings at 6:30 p.m., Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon and Sunday at 6 pm. Throughout the year the Center hosts many special events, as well as a continuing program of classes: the Way of Shambhala. More info at http://www.chicago.shambhala.org

At: Urban Lotus Yoga 2950 West Chicago Ave. #201, Chicago, IL 60622

Underdog Zendo is a Zen Practice Group located on the West Side of Chicago, facilitated by Practice Leader Fugon Mugen, authorized by Senior Dharma Teacher Rev. Jay Rinsen Weik, in affiliation with The Buddhist Temple of Toledo & The Drinking Gourd Institute.

Weekly practice every Sunday from 4-6 pm.

Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva 102-112 South Second Street, Geneva, IL 630-232-2350 uubuddhism@uusg.org

The group is for both committed practitioners and those seeking to learn about Buddhism. On Wednesday nights at 7 pm, they host a silent meditation and book discussion, and on occasion longer meditation sessions and community service projects.

Various places throughout Chicago, including Hyde Park at the Quaker House (708) 763-0132 info@meditateinchicago.org

Their mission is to make Buddhism and meditation available to all people in Chicago and the surrounding areas, offering them a practical method to find peace and happiness from within their own minds.

4735 N. Magnolia Ave Chicago, IL 60640

Theravada Buddhist Temple focusing on the Thai, Laotian and Cambodian communities in Chicago.

1710 W Cornelia, Chicago, IL 60657 (773) 528-8685

The temple offers introductory meditation classes and public meditation/chanting services on Sunday mornings. We also have seasonal retreats.

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chicagobuddhist.org -- Chicago Resources

Written by simmons

October 30th, 2015 at 6:45 pm

Posted in Buddhism


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