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Namo Tassa Bhagavato
Arahato Sammasambuddhassa:
Homage to Him, the Exalted,
the Worthy, the Fully Enlightened
To do no evil; To cultivate good; To purify
one's mind: This is the teaching of the
-The Dhammapada
Life of Buddha
The Birth of the Bodhisatta.
On a full-moon day in the month of May (Visakha) 2600
years ago was born a Prince named Siddhattha. His birth
took place at Lumbini (modern Rumindei in Nepal),
where his mother Mahamaya, the chief queen consort of
King Suddhodana of Kapilavatthu, rested with her royal
retinue, on her way to her parental home in Devadaha.
In the picture Queen Mahamaya stands under a
flowering sala tree holding on to one of its branches.
Life as a Prince.
Manifold was the variety of all the sensuous delights within
the palace, the music and song that filled the palace halls
by night and day; the beauty and grace of its dancing girls;
the fragrance of subtle perfumes; the finest silks and
priceless gems for jewelry and adornment; and rare
delicacies and foods for the royal table. And yet, day after
day, seated amidst all this luxury the Prince remains
unmoved. Ever in thoughtful mood, with a far-away look in
his beautiful eyes he muses on the fleeting nature of life's
so called pleasures and its doubtful delights.
The realities of life.
All King Suddhodana's efforts to protect his son from the
four sights of old-age, disease, death, and a recluse are
of no avail. On a certain occasion, on his way to the
royal pleasure gardens the Prince is confronted by each
one of these very sights, and is filled with doubts and
deep misgiving. Soon after this he meets a wandering
ascetic, impressed by the somber garb and quiet
demeanor of the homeless recluse the Prince looks long
and hard at him, and then, makes up his mind to leave
the palace for a life of homelessness.
The Legend of the Four Passing
Siddhartha experienced a radical transformation while on a
journey. Along the road, he witnessed:
an elderly man, thereby learning the reality of age;
a person ravaged by disease, thereby learning the
reality of sickness;
a corpse, thereby learning the reality of death;
a community of monks with their begging bowls,
thereby learning the reality of want.
Age, sickness, death and want; is there any realm, asked
the shaken Siddhartha, in which human beings are freed
from these facts of human existence?
The Great going forth.
On the day of the Esala full-moon (July) the Crown
Prince receives the news brought from the palace, of the
birth of a son to his wife, the beautiful Princess
Yasodhara. Alarmed at this fresh development, this new
fetter to bind him closer to the world, the Prince decides
to leave the palace that very night. For the sake of his
father, his queen, his son, for the sake of all mankind, he
would leave the world to seek a way to save the world
from all suffering. This is the Great Renunciation.
Experiment with Asceticism.
For six long years the ascetic Gotama, as Prince Siddhattha was
now known, wanders along the highways and byways of India.
He goes to Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputta two of its
greatest religious teachers, who teach him everything from
their store of knowledge and wisdom. But the ascetic Gotama is
not satisfied, for their teachings do not lead to the cessation of
suffering. With unrelenting energy he undergoes rigorous
ascetic discipline, both bodily and mental, seeking a way to the
cessation of suffering through further suffering. After 6 years
with the ascetics, sometimes living on only 6 grains of a rice a
day, he becomes lean and emaciated and a mere skeleton.
Discarding both extremes of luxurious living and self
mortification, the Bodhisatta (= awakened one) Prince
chooses the Middle Path of moderation based on the
practice of virtue (sila), concentration of the mind
(samadhi), and the intensive analysis of all psychophysical phenomena that finally leads to full
understanding of things as they really are (panna).
Siddhartha sat under the Bodhi-tree (bodhi = budh =
“woke up”) at Buddhagaya to meditate, determined not
to arise until he had achieved enlightment; he does and
attains Samma Smabodhi, thereby becoming the
Supreme Buddha (= awaken or enlightened one).
The First Discourse.
Having realized the Four Noble Truths (the Noble Truth of
Suffering; the Cause of Suffering; the Cessation of Suffering;
and the Path leading to the Cessation of Suffering) by himself,
the Buddha now decides to teach them to the five ascetics who
had earlier served him at Uruvela, in Buddhagaya. At the end of
this First Discourse (or Sermon), which is known as the
"Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta" and given to the five ascetics
who were now living at Isipatana in Benares, the oldest of
them, Kondanna realizes the first path and fruition of the
Stream-winner (Sotapanna), or one who goes against the
stream of Samsara (the recurring cycle of life and death).
Go now and wander for the welfare of the many.
The Buddha stays on at Isipatana for the rainy season.
However, before that, within the first week of His giving of the
Dhammacakkappavattna Sutta, all five ascetics reach the
highest fruition of Sainthood and thus become the first five
Arahant disciples of the Buddha. Before the rainy season is over
fifty five others have followed suit. The Buddha now exports His
sixty disciples: - 'Go forth, ye bhikkhus, for the welfare of the
many, for the happiness of the many, out of compassion for the
world, for the good, welfare and happiness of gods and men.'
Accordingly the disciples set forth to spread the new teaching.
The law of Causation or Dependent Arising.
After His Enlightenment under the Bodhi-tree at
Buddhagaya, the Buddha reflects on the Law of
Dependent Origination (Paticca Samuppada). He ponders
as to how things come into being due to past and
present conditions to cause suffering. Next He muses on
the cessation of these very things when their cause has
been removed. Then he reflects on both the arising and
the cessation of all things conditioned and inter
dependent, in the present, the past and the future.
The Philosophy of change.
The Buddha teaches that all conditioned things are in a state of
flux or change, and thus impermanent. The ever changing
nature of both mind and matter proves the insubstantiality of
life, and the instability of existence. Knowing this, Khema the
consort of King Bimbisara avoided going to see the Buddha: for
being very beautiful, she was afraid the Buddha would
disparage her self-conscious awareness of her loveliness. As
she went into his presence one day, the Buddha creates the
illusion of a beautiful young woman before her, who gradually
grows old before her very eyes and collapses at the feet of the
Master. Alarmed and ashamed she realizes the impermanence
of the human body.
Unsatisfactoriness of Life.
According to the Buddha, whatever is impermanent is
subject to suffering, and the world rests on this basic
factor of suffering (Dukkha). However, having accepted
this fact, He goes on to teach man how to gain his
release from all suffering. The tragic story of Patacara
who loss her whole family within a matter of a single day
and night, points out only too well how suffering besets
the unsuspecting worlding. After listening to the Buddha
she gains peace and sanctity.
Buddha teaches that all Phenomena is soulless.
When a thing is impermanent, as all conditioned things
are, and thus susceptible to change, there can be no
overlord or Self. Helpless in arranging things according to
its wishes there can be no soul as master over mind and
body. The Buddha explains the soullessness of beings to
the five bhikkhus at Isipatana in Benares, in the
discourse on soullessness (Anattalakkana Sutta).
Freedom of thought.
At times referred to as the Buddha's Charter of Free Inquiry,
this discourse was given by the Buddha to the Brahmin
Kalamas at Kesaputta. 2500 years ago, preaching against blind
belief in Buddha gave prominence to and encouraged the spirit
of free inquiry and independence of thought and action, subject
to sound judgment. He trained his disciples in the art of
questioning as well as in the finer points of debate and
discussion. Pointing out the dangers of haphazard thinking the
Buddha teaches the Kalamas (the art of reasoning) for the sole
purpose of arriving at true understanding of the Buddha's
teaching of the Four Noble Truths.
Towards human dignity.
Sunita was a scavenger born into a so called outcaste
community. On meeting the Buddha on his almsround
one day, the humble youth prostrated himself before the
Master in adoration. Asking for ordination he is taken to
the temple where he soon becomes worthy of the
highest obeisance of both deva and brahma gods. Thus
the Buddha teaches that a man becomes neither a
Brahman nor a low-caste by birth, but by deeds alone.
[Note: Since Buddhists believe that a Brahman or
supreme god cannot exist, how can a man become
Human freedom.
In the time of the Buddha it was common for both men and
women to enter into services in rich households due to their
extreme poverty. In fact this traffic in human slaves was very
common at the time, even though it was contra indicated for a
follower of the Buddha. The state of slavery that existed at the
time is well illustrated by the story of the slave girl Rajjumala
who worked for a very wicked mistress who treated her without
any mercy even for the slightest fault. Here the Buddha
admonished both servant and mistress and teaching them the
Doctrine, bestows permanent peace on both of them.
Ministering to the sick.
In spite of the fact that the study and practice of medicine
and surgical science has advanced to a great extent by the
Buddha's time, hardly any attention was paid to nursing or
caring for the sick. Putigatta Tissa Thera was a monk who
was stricken by a skin disease which spread covering his
whole body with a mass of ulcerating matter. Lying
unattended by the fellow monks his condition worsens. The
Buddha going to the stricken monk who now lies
dangerously ill, bathes him in warm water with the help of
Ananda Thera, and cleans his robes.
Having made him comfortable the Buddha expounds the
Teaching (Dharma) to him, explaining the true nature of the
human body. Enlightened by the discourse the Thera becomes
an Arahant. The Buddha then addresses the other monks on
the ennobling task of caring for the sick. Accepting the
compassionate exhortation of the Master and following His
noble example, the laity started to build wards for sick monks
in all large monasteries. Later king Dhammasoka was to build
hospitals not only for the public but also for sick animals.
Hence the honor for the establishment of the first hospitals
should be given to the Buddhists.
Psychic Therapy.
The Buddha speaking on the mind, has also spoken on mental
disorders and on the treatment of psychic ailments. The
Buddha has traced sorrow as one of the chief causes leading to
the arising of mental disturbances. On the death of her only
son, Kisa Gotami loses control of her senses and in her
madness goes in search of medicine for her dead child. Failing
all else she appeals to the Buddha, who realizing that nothing
would convince her until her mental equilibrium has been
restored, sends her on an errand to get him a few mustard
seeds from a house where there has been no death. Unable to
accomplish the Master's request, she comes to the conclusion
that death is inevitable and that her only son too had
succumbed to it. (See “Mustard Seeds.”)
Compassion to Animals.
In the Buddha's time there were various animal
sacrifices taking place in India. Innocent animals were
killed as offerings on sacrificial altars to appease the
gods, for man's happiness both here and hereafter.
The Buddha, however, showed man that it was impossible
to obtain happiness for oneself by causing suffering to
others, and that the followers of the Buddha if they were
so, should avoid making animal sacrifices.
At that time the King of Kosala had seen sixteen terrifying
dreams in a single night, and was in great fear. To avert
the evil influence of these dreams a great animal
sacrifice with the killing of thousands of animals was
arranged in accordance with the advice given by the
Hearing of this, the Buddha advises the King against such a
sacrifice, thus saving the lives of all those doomed
creatures. From that day to this, no taking of life
however small is involved in any ceremony of the
Buddha's followers.
Buddhist Economic System.
Many who are not familiar with the Buddha's Teaching
classify it as a religion for the next world, or for a future
life. They are completely mistaken in this, because
eighty percent of the objectives included in the Buddha's
Teaching are for the world of today.
According to the Buddha all except one of the five blessings that
accrue to the virtuous are available in this life itself; ten of the
eleven benefits obtainable through the development of Metta
(loving-kindness) are immediate.
One who leads a good life in this world is certain to be happy in
the next. The Buddha emphasizes this in His Teachings. Thus
the Buddha who taught the way to the cessation of suffering
also pointed out the path to a highly satisfactory way of life on
One aspect of this mundane progress refers to an economic
system based on Buddhist principles with the objective of
economic development together with the elimination of poverty.
The Buddha defines righteous employment as engagement in
agriculture, trade, dairy farming, defense services, government
services and professional services.
He prohibited trade in weapons, in slaves, in rearing animals for
slaughter, in liquor, and in poisons, drugs and narcotics.
Buddhist Education.
It is a method of teaching that is based on the mental
development of the individual: The primary object of
Buddhist Education is to produce a cultured disciplined
and educated society. With that object in view the first
university to be established in the world was at Nalanda
in India. It is reported that over ten thousand well
disciplined, cultured and law abiding students had their
education there in addition to the numerous lecture halls
found there classes were also held in the open air under
the cooling shade of trees.
Administration of Justice.
Certain statutes regarding the administration of justice, were
set up by the Buddha for the benefit of bhikkhus, in order to
facilitate the dispensation of moral justice according to sound
judgment, whenever the occasion arose. By this act the Buddha
ensured that the spirit of moral justice which enables us to
interpret laws correctly, unlike the imperfect expression of
certain aspects of our present day legal administration. At the
time of the Buddha and even later, there were kings who took
advantage of, and made use of these laws to supplement their
The judicial procedure adopted by the Buddha is clearly illustrated
in the case of the Arahant Theri Kumara-Kassapa's mother, who
unaware of her pregnant condition, with her husband's consent
left her home and entered the Bhikkuni order. Later, finding her
in an advanced state of pregnancy, the bhikkuni was charged
with a serious allegation of misconduct and summoned before a
religious court of appeal.
The Buddha ordered Upali Thera, foremost among His Arahant
disciples in knowledge of Vinaya matters, (and thus equal to
that of the Chief Justice of to-day), to preside, try the innocent
victim and to deliver judgment on her. The audience consisted
of bhikkhus, bhikkunis and laymen, including the lay-woman
She screened the victim from the presence of the Buddha and the
rest, after careful examination and intimate questioning
declared that she was quite innocent. The Arahant Upali on
hearing the evidence absolved the bhikkuni of any
World Peace.
In the Buddha's Teaching the highest emphasis is laid on the
law of cause and effect, or the conditionality of all mundane
phenomena. Greed, hatred and delusion are the chief causes
that lead to a dissatisfaction with the world. If one seeks to
escape from this state of dissatisfaction one should try to get
rid of the underlying craving and anger or hatred due to
ignorance of the true nature of things. War is diametrically
opposed to peace. Conflict is due to the various malignant
motives stagnating in the minds of men. The control of such
thoughts as greed, jealousy, hate and so on will certainly lead
to peace.
Permanent peace will only come when one has completely
eradicated these mental defilements. Wars will cease and
peaceful dialogue between individuals will lead to a world of
peaceful and harmonious living.
Petty squabbles arose between the farmers on both sides of
the river Rohini which served as the boundary between the
Sakyan and the Koliyan Kingdoms, as each side tried to
divert as much water as possible to their fields. Finally these
led to a major confrontation of the two armies.
The Buddha arriving on the scene exhorts them on the
calamitous results of war and the advantage of arriving at a
peaceful settlement. Thus war is averted and peace
It should be mentioned that the Buddha has been the only
religious teacher to have visited a battlefront in person and
acted as a true mediator in averting war.
The Maha Parinibbana.
The Buddha was born as a prince
under a tree, gained Supreme
Enlightenment under a tree and
wandered about India for 45 years
giving His Teaching to the world, and
finally passed away at the age of
eighty at Kusinara under a tree as a
human being.
No wonder Buddhists love trees!!!
Basic Buddhism
Buddhist Scriptures
Buddhist scriptures are a vast and wide terrain, so we cannot
discuss all of them.
The starting point, however, for any initial foray into this wealth
of Buddhist scripture is the Pali Canon, the first scriptures to
be committed to writing after the Buddha's parinibbana (i.e.,
death, ascention, or whatever).
Believe nothing because
… said it...
a wise man
Believe nothing because
it is generally held as true...
Believe nothing because
it is written...
Believe nothing because
it is said to be divine...
Believe nothing because
someone else believes it...
Believe only what you
yourself judge to be true.
- the Buddha
The Three Baskets (Theravada)
The Pali Canon consists of three divisions, the Tipitaka (or
Tripitaka in Sanskrit) which literally means the 'three baskets.'
Each of these baskets has different concerns.
1. First, there is the Vinaya Pitaka, the Book of Discipline, which
includes the rules of monastic discipline given by the Buddha
during his lifetime.
2. The second division is the Sutta Pitaka, a collection of the
Buddha's discourses. This has particular significance as it
contains the essential teachings of the Buddha, accounts of his
own enlightenment experience, and instructions on morality
and meditation.
3. The third division is the Abhidhamma Pitaka or Higher
Teachings which offers an intricate analysis of the nature of
mental and physical existence.
Lotus Sutra (Mahayana)
The Saddharma-pundarika, or 'Lotus of the True Dharma' is
written in Sanskrit and has become one of the most influential
of Mahayana scriptures. Analysis suggests that it was written
between 100BCE and 200C.
In the Lotus Sutra, the Buddha in the form of Sakyamuni speaks
to a vast audience of assembled saints, monks, nuns and
One of the key Mahayana concepts to be found in the Lotus
Sutra is that of skill-in-means (upaya). This is the idea that
the Buddha has adapted his teachings to suit the level of his
audience. Thus, Theravada and Mahayana are parts of a
single path (Ekayana).
Heart Sutra (Mahayana)
The Heart Sutra is believed to have been written about the first
century BCE. Although this is a very short text - about a page in
length - it has been enormously influential.
Essentially it expounds the concept of 'emptiness' (sunyata), a key
term in Mahayana philosophy. In short, sunyata refers to the
absence of self or essence in all conditioned phenomena: 'form
is emptiness and emptiness is form.'
The world is seen as a complex of ever-changing, fluctuating
elements (dharmas): 'Here, O Sariputra, all dharmas are
marked with emptiness'. The texts culminates with the mantra:
'Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an
awakening, all-hail!'
Diamond Sutra (Mahayana)
The Diamond Sutra takes the from of a dialogue between
Sakyamuni Buddha and the disciple Subhuti.
In it the Buddha expounds the notion that that the self and
the world around us are ultimately illusory: 'The
appearance of self is actually no appearance. The
appearance of others, the appearance of living beings
and the appearance of a life are actually not
The world that we think is real is no more than 'a dream,
an illusion, a bubble or a shadow.'
Lotus of the True Law (Mahayana)
and explanation of Bodhisattvas
This treatise is concerned with the nature of Buddhas and
secondarily with Bodhisattvas.
A bodhisattva is first an embodiment in human form of the
Buddha principle or truth. Although he appears on earth, he is
not subject to the same conditioned existence as are
unenlightened human beings who are still held by karma and
ignorance in the chain of interdependent origination.
Next, a bodhisattva’s function or task (what he does in distinction
to who he is) is that of a Buddha-to-be – someone who exists
in the world but who is entitled or qualified to be in Nirvana
now. He voluntarily defers his entrance into Nirvana in order to
help others toward their enlightenment and Nirvana. It is their
pure compassion and love for others that keeps them in this
By entering the Bodhisattva way, the mind must become
enlightened. And so the training begins by generating the Six
Perfections: generosity, ethics, patience, effort, concentration,
and wisdom.
To become a Bodhisattva is to be fearless. There is no aversion for
those who are hostile, and there is no obsessive clinging to
those who are closest to us. There is no possessiveness, only
love, compassion, and discernment into the nature of reality.
A Buddhist poem written by a bodhisattva expresses the idea:
For as long as space endures
And for as long as living beings remain,
Until then may I too abide
To dispel the misery of the world.
The concepts of the bodhisattva in the Theravada and Mahayana
sects of Buddhism are distinct; however, the ultimate role of
the bodhisattva in both is to lead humankind to enlightenment.
Both sects endorse many of the same attributes that
characterize the bodhisattva. The difference lies in role
the bodhisattva serves in the journey to enlightenment
. the bodhisattva is a
or Nirvana. For the Theravadas
teacher or inspirer while Mahayanas develop the
bodhisattva's role into that of a savior. Despite
doctrinal differences, the bodhisattva is a primary step
towards enlightenment for both.
 The Theraveda bodhisattva instructs the Buddhist but
does not serve as the vehicle to enlightenment. The
Theravadan sect focuses on self- improvement,
wisdom, and discipline to doctrine.
 To the Theravadas, the bodhisattva is the future
Buddha (Maitreya) who will come to teach the way to
Nirvana; there has been and will be only ONE Buddha.
The Mahayana's bodhisattva is a this world savior who
will enable the faithful to reach enlightenment. For
both sects, however, the bodhisattva is the way to the
ultimate goal of Nirvana.
The Mahayana bodhisattva is a teacher who can
"transfer merits" to those…
who need karma. With this
ability to transfer merits the bodhisattva becomes a
savior figure and the goal of enlightenment becomes
attainable to all who desire it. This new perception of
the bodhisattva engenders the notion of bhakti: "the
passionate, emotional, and devotional attachment to a
loving and compassionate deity" (Ch'en, 62).
The Mahayanas see the bodhisattva as well as the
Buddha as eternal beings capable of bestowing grace
on those who ask for it. Enlightenment is therefore
reached through a life of devotion and faith as
opposed to strict discipline to doctrine.
For the Mahayana, a
bodhisattva is a lord
“who sees the world
with pity.”
No wonder then that
he (or she) is often
represented with a
thousand eyes
symbolizing his all encompassing ability to view with compassion
the suffering of others, thus sharing in their sorrows, a first
step towards their ultimate alleviation.
Not only that, he also often is depicted as having a thousand
hands too which help in the mammoth task of delivering
innumerable beings to their ultimate spiritual fulfillment.
Sutra Satipatthana & The Four
Foundations of Mindfulness
The Buddha's teaching on The Four Foundations of Mindfulness,
which is outlined in Sutta Satipatthana, is of great significance.
According to the text, it is 'the direct path to the attainment of
purity, for the overcoming of sorrow and lamentation, for the
end of pain and grief...for the realization of nibbana’ (nirvana).
Mindfulness is also the seventh factor of the Noble Eightfold Path.
The word 'mindfulness' can be explained as a combination of
'bare attention' and 'clear comprehension.' The purpose of
practicing mindfulness it is to see things as they really are,
unswayed by aversion or attraction. The four categories from
within which mindfulness can be approached are:
the body
the mind
mental objects.
The first 3 are easy to see, so we will skip to #4
– the Contemplation of Mental Objects
This category covers the …
meditator's ability to become
aware of the five hindrances within him.
These are obstacles - namely sensual desire, ill-will,
sloth and torpor, restlessness, and doubt - which are
obstructive to the attainment of blissful states
known as jhanas.
He will also note that what we normally designate 'the
self' is made up of five 'aggregates' or khandhas corporeality, perception, feelings, mental formations,
and consciousness. He will come to an
understanding of the senses, factors which are
conducive to enlightenment (such as energy and
rapture) and the four
noble truths.
four noble
The Four Noble Truths
1. Life is suffering;
2. Suffering is due to
3. Attachment can be
4. There is a path for
accomplishing this.
1. Life is Suffering
Suffering is perhaps the most common translation for the
Sanskrit word duhkha, which can also be translated as
imperfect, stressful, or filled with anguish.
Contributing to the anguish is anitya -- the fact that all
things are impermanent, including living things like
Furthermore, there is the concept of anatman -- literally,
"no soul". Anatman means that all things are
interconnected and interdependent, so that no thing -including ourselves -- has a separate existence.
The Truth of Suffering (Dukkha)
2. Suffering is due to attachment
Attachment is a common translation for the word trishna,
which literally means thirst and is also translated as
desire, clinging, greed, craving, or lust. Because we and
the world are imperfect, impermanent, and not separate,
we are forever "clinging" to things, each other, and
ourselves, in a mistaken effort at permanence.
Besides trishna, there is dvesha, which means avoidance
or hatred. Hatred is its own kind of clinging.
And finally there is avidya, ignorance or the refusal to see.
Not fully understanding the impermanence of things is
what leads us to cling in the first place.
The Truth of Arising / Origin of of Suffering
3. Attachment can be overcome
Perhaps the most misunderstood term in
Buddhism is the one which refers to the
overcoming of attachment: nirvana. It literally
means "blowing out," but is often thought to refer
to either a Buddhist heaven or complete
nothingness. Actually, it refers to the letting go of
clinging, hatred, and ignorance, and the full
acceptance of imperfection, impermanence, and
The truth of Cessation / Elimination of Suffering
4. There is a path for accomplishing
There is the path, called dharma, for overcoming
the desire which causes suffering. Buddha
called it the middle way, which is understood as
meaning the middle way between such
competing philosophies as materialism and
idealism, or hedonism and asceticism. This
path, this middle way, is elaborated as the
Eightfold Path.
The Truth of the Path / The Eightfold (Darhma) Path
The Eightfold Path:
The Dharma Path
1. Right view is the true understanding of the four
noble truths. Right Views means to keep ourselves
free from prejudice, superstition and delusion... and
to see aright the true nature of life.
2. Right aspiration is the true desire to free oneself
from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness. Right
Thoughts means to turn away from the hypocrisies
of this world and to direct our minds toward Truth
and Positive Attitudes and Action.
These first two are referred to as prajña, or wisdom.
3. Right speech involves abstaining from lying,
gossiping, or hurtful talk.
…Right Speech means to
refrain from pointless and harmful talk... to speak
kindly and courteously to all.
4. Right action involves abstaining from hurtful
behaviors, such as killing, stealing, and careless
sex. Right Conduct means to see that our deeds
are peaceable, benevolent, compassionate and
pure... and to live the Teachings daily.
5. Right livelihood means making your living in such
a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others,
including animals. It means to earn our living in such
a way as to entail no evil consequences, and to seek
that employment to which can give our complete
enthusiasm and devotion.
These three
are referred to as shila, or morality.
6. Right effort is a matter of exerting oneself in regards to
the content of one's mind: Bad qualities should be
abandoned and prevented from arising again; Good
qualities should be enacted and nurtured. Right Effort
means to direct our efforts continually to the overcoming
of ignorance and craving desires.
7. Right mindfulness is the focusing of one's attention on
one's body, feelings, thoughts, and consciousness in such
a way as to overcome craving, hatred, and ignorance.
Right Mindfulness means to cherish good and pure
thoughts, for all that we say and do arises from our
8. Right concentration is meditating in such a way as to
progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection,
impermanence, and non-separateness. Right
Meditation means to concentrate on the Oneness of all
life and the Buddhahood that exists within all beings.
The last three are known as samadhi, or meditation.
Five Precepts
Overlapping with the moral guidelines of The Noble Eightfold Path
are the five precepts, the basic moral code.
These instruct us to abstain from
• harming living beings
• taking things not given
• sexual misconduct
• false speech
• intoxicating drinks and non-medicinal drugs
For monks, the number of precepts is traditionally extended to ten
and includes: not eating after noon; avoiding theatrical
performances and displays of music and dance; not wearing
adornments and perfumes; not sleeping on high or luxurious
beds; avoiding the handling of gold and silver.
Five Blessings
There are five blessings for the one who lives virtuously:
• great increase of wealth through his diligence
• a favorable reputation
• a confident deportment, without timidity, in every society
• a serene death
• at the breaking up of the body after death, rebirth in a
happy state in a heavenly world
Good acts are viewed as 'wholesome' (kusala) in that they lead to
the benefit of oneself and/or others.
Bad acts are viewed as 'unwholesome' (akusala) in that they bring
harm to oneself and/or others. Swatting a fly, for example,
brings harm to oneself (in that such acts have negative karmic
consequences) and obviously doesn't bring a lot of benefit to
the fly either!
Key Concepts: #1 Compassion
Compassion (or karuna) starts with the Buddha for he is seen as a
supremely compassionate being. After he had gained
enlightenment, he made the compassionate choice of sharing
what he had discovered with others, even though he thought it
might be too difficult for most to understand: 'Out of
compassion for beings I surveyed the world with the eye of a
Buddha, I saw beings with little dust in their eyes and much
dust in their eyes, with keen faculties and dull faculties, with
good qualities and with bad qualities, easy to teach and hard to
The Buddha’s decision to share his teachings out of compassion
sets the tone for all Buddhist actions. Although Buddhism talks
a lot about self-development, it is also just as much about
helping others. Compassion is about empathizing with the
suffering of others, acknowledging that all beings are prone to
painful and unsatisfactory experience and that where we can
we should help them.
On the one hand, Buddhism encourages the
development of a compassionate
mindset that informs
all our daily activities, no matter how trivial or
mundane. It is also – where the opportunity arises –
about action, being supportive and caring to
individuals and causes of a humanitarian nature.
Compassion is seen as the antidote to cruelty. The
Buddha urged his followers to meditate on
compassion 'for when you develop meditation on
compassion, any cruelty will be abandoned.'
The following story is a rather extreme example and one
shouldn’t ever confuse Buddhism with extreme selfsacrificial religious groups. Buddhism teaches
gentleness and tolerance. What this story does
illustrate, however, is the significance of the quality of
compassion to the Buddhist perspective.
One Buddhist story called The Hungry Tigress shows the extent of
the Buddha’s compassion in one of his previous lives. In this
story, Prince Mahasattva (the Buddha in a previous life) is
walking through a forest when he comes upon a tigress and her
seven cubs. The tigress is so weak with hunger that she cannot
hunt and therefore feed her cubs. Mahasattva is moved to such
compassion that he lays his body down in front of her, hoping
she will eat his flesh and drink his blood. But she is even too
weak for that. To help her, Mahasattva takes a sharp bamboo
cane and slits his throat, thereby losing his own life but
enabling the tigress to revive herself and feed her cubs.
#2 Lovingkindness
Loving-kindness or metta is a term special to Buddhism. As this
compound word suggests, it is a term that combines to the
qualities of kindness and love. It is about developing a mindset
which extends good will to others whoever they may be. It is
not about having favorites or restricting love to a particular set
of people but expanding any feelings of this kind to eventually
incorporate all beings.
The development of loving-kindness acts as an antidote to
feelings of ill-will and hostility: 'develop meditation on lovingkindness, for when you develop meditation on loving-kindness,
any ill-will will be abandoned.' The Buddha teaches that lovingkindness should be felt even when others do us harm: “Herein,
monks, you should train thus: ‘Our minds will remain
unaffected, and we shall utter no evil words; we shall abide
compassionate for their welfare, with a mind of lovingkindness, without inner hate…we shall abide pervading the allencompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness,
abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without
The whole spirit of loving-kindness is summed up in the
Buddha’s Metta Sutta:
He who is skilled in welfare, who wishes to attain that
calm state (Nirvana), should act thus: he should be
able, upright, perfectly upright, of noble speech,
gentle and humble.
Contented, easily supported, with few duties, of light
livelihood, with senses calmed, discreet, not impudent,
not greedily attached to families.
He should not pursue the slightest thing for which
otherwise men might censure him. May all beings be
happy and secure, may their hearts be wholesome!
What ever living beings there be: feeble or strong, tall ,
stout or medium, small or large, without exception,
those dwelling far or near, those who are born or
those who are to be born, may all beings be happy!
Let none deceive another, not despise any person
whatsoever in any place. Let him not wish any harm
…ill-will. Just as a mother
to another out of anger or
would protect her only child at the risk of her own life,
even so, let him cultivate a boundless heart towards
all beings.
Let his thoughts of boundless love pervade the whole
world: above, below and across without any
obstruction, without any hatred, without any enmity.
Whether he stands, walks, sits or lies down, as long as
he is awake, he should develop this mindfulness. This
they say is the noblest living here.
Not falling into wrong views, being virtuous and
endowed with insight, by discarding attachment to
sense desires, never again is he reborn.
(From The Sutta-Nipata, translated by
H.Saddhatissa, Curzon)
Ethical Eating
Eating is both a basic and essential activity. If we don't eat we
die - simple as that.
In the early scriptures known as the Pali Canon, the Buddha has a
number of significant things to say about food. The first stems
from his six year search for enlightenment during which time he
experimented with various forms of dietary restriction in
The Buddha realized that spiritual progress and starving the body
were in no way compatible. It was only when he began to eat
sufficiently that he was able to make the final steps necessary
to win enlightenment.
The Buddhist attitude to the body is to simply look after it and
one aspect of this is to feed it properly. This means avoiding
extremes - over-indulgence on the one hand and rigorous
abstinence on the other. Both are potentially damaging to
health and thereby create obstacles for the effort and energy
required for spiritual and ethical development.
In the Buddha's words, ‘’We will take food neither for amusement
nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and
attractiveness, but only for the endurance and continuance of
this body, for ending discomfort, and for assisting the holy life.’
However, the Buddha advised his monks to eat only once a day -
before noon - and that this was conducive to good health: ‘eat
at a single session. By doing so, you will be free from illness
and affliction, and you will enjoy health, strength, and a
comfortable abiding.’
This was not advice given to lay people, it should be noted, whose
lives may require them to eat more, and more often. A manual
laborer, for example, who expends a great deal of physical
energy might require something more substantial than one
frugal meal a day.
For everyday folk, the main message, it seems, is to be moderate
in eating - eat sufficient to one's needs and don't become
overly fixated on food other than in terms of sustaining good
health. One of the three poisons - from which many
unwholesome actions stem - is ‘greed’ (the other two are
hatred and delusion) and although this can be understood on
all sorts of levels, the most obvious form of ‘greed’ is overeating!
Buddhism & Vegetarianism
Of course, one of the most frequently discussed issues is
whether Buddhism and vegetarianism go hand in
hand. After all, the first precept is to abstaining from
harming living beings - eating meat on a regular basis
would suggest that the systematic killing of animals is
As with many ethical issues, it's a question of
interpretation. The Buddha ate meat and therefore
was not a vegetarian. Indeed, it is thought that he
died from food poisoning after eating contaminated
pork. However, he advised that meat should only be
eaten when it was not seen, heard or suspected that
the animal had been specifically killed for the monk's
consumption. In Buddhism, therefore, meat is not
something that is forbidden. However, the
circumstances which result in the meat being served
for consumption is a crucial factor.
So how does this apply to the modern world? Our
supermarkets are filled with meat. Those that buy such
meat and consume it have no direct involvement in the
slaughter of the animal. Does this make them innocent?
Many Buddhists would argue that to eat meat bought from
a supermarket would indirectly (if not directly) support
the systematic slaughter of animals, and would thereby
be breaking the first precept. For such people,
vegetarianism seems to be the only practical option.
Others may argue that if they are not directly involved in
the slaughter of such animals then it is not ethically
unwholesome. Indeed, in countries whose cultural
orientation is Buddhist, you will find meat being eaten
which has involved the killing of animals specially for this
What is “Real”? Who am I?
The Great question is: Who or what is right now and what is really
there? The great mystery? Can it be called God? Buddhism
hesitates however to put any name to it. It is something which
cannot be grasped by intellect or described in words.
Who is "I"? Does it amount to anything more than a collection of
thoughts and memories which are just transitory and
insubstantial, that come and go in the mind like clouds?
The mystery can only be seen and realized directly: but that
seeing brings something truly miraculous: a total
transformation. At the same time a deep compassion also
crystallizes: a pure, selfless kindliness and caring born of an
understanding of the unity of all beings.
The Buddhist World View
In Buddhist cosmology, innumerable worldsystems similar to our own are thought to float
in an infinite empty space, each one founded
on a two-layered basis of air and water. Our
world system can be divided into three main
1. Kâmadhâtu - the Realm of Desire;
2. Rûpadhâtu - the Realm of Form;
3. Arûpadhâtu - the Realm of No-Form.
Within this three-tier system, there are broadly six
"destinations", two "good" and four "bad", into which
it is possible to be born:
1. Gods (devas);
2. Humans;
3. Animals;
4. Titans (asuras);
5. Hungry ghosts (pretas);
6. The denizens of the hell realms.
At the core of the world system is Mount Meru from which
concentric ranges of golden mountains radiate
outwards, separated by oceans. Between the last
range and the outer boundary mountains (Chakravâla)
there is a great ocean in which four great continents
are situated. These are the abodes of humans and the
southern continent, Jambudvipa, is India.
In the human sphere there are periods of progress and decay. Life
expectancy can vary from 80,000 years at the beginning of a
new age (kalpa) to 10 years at the eve of nemesis. The most
fortunate Kalpa is the Bhadra Kalpa with 1000 Buddhas
appearing during this time (320 000 000 years). Every Buddha
will rediscover the Dharma. We also live in a Bhadra Kalpa and
Buddha Shakyamuni is the Buddha of our time. The Buddha of
the previous age was Dipankra, and the Buddha of the Future
The beings that inhabit and are trapped in this world system
cannot escape, for they are subject to continuous rebirth - on
and on and on through beginningless and endless time. The
level of being is determined by Karma. This is Samsâra, the
endless wheel of life.
But, there is an exit! The exit was re-discovered by Buddha in
Bodh Gâya. But, the exit is only possible for the participants in
the world of humans. The idea, then is of bringing the whole
painful round to a proper conclusion in a Nirvâna that
represents the full flowing of the potentials of consciousness
and ultimate unalloyed peace.
The Buddhist Theory of Man amounts to the Five Aggregates
1. The aggregate of matter: body: consists of four elements: solidity,
fluidity, heat and motion;
2. The aggregate of feeling or sensation: pleasant, unpleasant or neutral;
3. The aggregate of perception: actually recognizes an object;
4. The aggregate of mental formations;
5. The aggregate of consciousness.
If all five aggregates come together they form the notion of an "I".
When the aggregates break up at death, however, where will
"I" be then?
The Sanskrit word Karma means action. All actions have
consequences. Karmic actions can cease through
recognition. But, these are problems in the Buddhist view; the
Visuddhimagga asserts:
No doer of the deeds is found
No-one ever reaps their fruit
Empty phenomena roll on
This view alone is right and true ....
Closely linked to the notion of Karma is that of rebirth. This
should not be confused with reincarnation, which is the
view that there is a soul or subtle essence imprinted with
an enduring personal stamp that transmigrates from one
body to another body down through the aeons.
Buddhism rejects that view.
But, there is a "causal connection" between one life and
another. Thus the karmic accumulation will be a
condition pertaining to a new birth.
As far as death is concerned a person's state of mind in
their final moments is important. According to Tibetan
Buddhism when a person dies the consciousnesscontinuum leaves the body and moves to an
intermediate "Bardo" state [see the Tibetan Book of the
Dead (Bardo Thödröl)].
According to Buddhism all phenomena arise as the result of
preceding causes, all phenomena are strictly dependent,
conditioned and relative. The doctrine of Paticcasamuppâda
(Pali) or Dependent Origination generates one complete life
cycle (Samsâra):
1. Ignorance gives rise to
2. Volitional action which in turn gives rise to
3. Conditioned consciousness which gives rise to
4. Name and form which gives rise to
5. the Six Bases (the five senses & mind) which gives rise to
6. Sense-impressions which give rise to
7. Feelings which give rise to
8. Desire (tanha) which gives rise to
9. Attachment which gives rise to
10. Becoming (the life- or rebirth process) which gives rise to
11. Birth (or rebirth) which gives rise to
12. Old age, death.
This is depicted in the "Wheel of Life" (Bhâvachakra).
The Dependent Origination (depicted in the Wheel of Life
on the next slide) is represented in twelve segments:
A blind man (Ignorance);
A potter (Action);
A monkey (Conditioned Consciousness);
Three men in a boat (our karmic inheritance carries us
through the world);
House with doors and windows (sense doors: sensedata pass through);
Lovers (sense impression);
A man whose eye is pierced by an arrow (we cannot
see the truth and continue to stumble on);
A man drinking (desire: insatiable thirst);
A monkey clinging to a fruit tree (attachment);
A pregnant woman;
A woman giving birth;
An old man.
But, there are wheels within the wheels. Inside the outer frieze
and comprising the main body of the Wheel, there are five
(sometimes six) sections which show the realms in which
rebirth is possible.
Below there are the "lower" realms for hungry ghosts (pretas),
the animals and the hell. Above are the realms of gods
(devas), humans, and Titans (asuras).
At the centre of the Wheel are the "three poisons", the causes for
the spinning of Samsâra:
Pig: representing ignorance;
Snake: representing hatred;
Cock: representing greed.
The way out of the eternally spinning Wheel of Life is Buddha
Shakyamuni in the right top corner and shows that the power
of ignorance, hatred and greed can be broken by awareness:
by seeing what is really going on, rather than being
compulsively caught up in the endless continuing shadowplay of it all.
The five hindrances to progress on Buddha's Path are:
Sensual desire: kâmacchanda;
Ill will: vyâpâda;
Sloth/Torpor (German: Trägheit): thîna-middh;
Restlessness and worry: uddhacca-kukkacca;
Doubt: vickicchâ.
A further teaching circle around the ten fetters that bind people to
samsâric existence:
Belief in personality: sakkâya-ditthi;
Doubt: vicikicchâ;
Attachment to rules and rituals: sîlabbata-parâmâsa;
Sensuous craving: kâma-râga;
Ill-will: vyâpâda;
Craving for fine material existence: rûpa-râga;
Craving for formless existence: arûpa-râga;
Conceit: mâna;
Restlessness: uddhacca;
Ignorance: avijjâ.
If all these obstacles are overcome, one will get a first glimpse of
Nirvâna (now called: Sotâpanna). Now there are mostly only
seven rebirths before complete Enlightment. At the final
stages of the Path undergone one becomes a "once-returner"
(sakadâgâmi), then a "never-returner" (anâgâmi) and finally
a "worthy-one" (Arahat). Above Arahat there is a fully-fledged
Buddha (Sammâ Sambodhi), like Buddha Shakyamuni. A
Buddha-in making is a Bodhisattva who remains in the world
to help people to free themselves from Samsâra. Later, with
the coming of Mahâyâna, the Bodhisattva Ideal becomes
The ten perfections (paramita) are:
Generosity: dâna;
Patience: khânti;
Morality: sîla;
Truthfulness: sacca;
Renunciation: nekkhamma;
Determination: adhittâna;
Wisdom: panna (prajnâ);
Loving kindness: mettâ;
Energy: viriya;
Equanimity: upekkhâ.
Buddhism teaches us: the world's perils reveal from the
fact, that our perceptions of the world are distorted. We
seek permanence and security where they are not
available; and rather than remain open and unattached,
we postulate a fictitious reference-point, an "I", and
contract around it, where upon heaven and earth are set
as under and all manner of disjunctions set in motion.
The cure is to watch and understand how these
problems arise and then to proceed to try and cure them
by means of morality, meditation and wisdom. If
successful, we will get to the final truth.
Laughing Buddha
Chinese Schools of Buddhism
The principal schools of Buddhism which flourished in Asia
1. The Vinaya School (Lu-tsung)
2. The Realistic School (Chu-she)
3. The Three Treatises School (San-lun)
4. The Idealist School (Fa-hsiang)
5. The Mantra or Tantric School (Mi-tsung or Chen-yen)
6. The Avatamsaka or Flower Adornment School (Hua-yen)
7. The T'ien-t'ai or White Lotus School (Fa-hua)
8. The Pure Land School (Ching t'u)
9. The Dhyana School (Ch'an / Chen / Zen)
Only the significant ones will be discussed in more detail.
The Mantra or Tantric School (Mi-tsung or Chen-yen): This is
the Chinese version of Tantric Buddhism. It flourished in
China for less tha a hundred years, starting with the arrival of
Subhakarasimha(637-735) from India during the reign of
T'ang dynasty.
Subhakarasimha translated the Mahavairochana Sutra which
expounded the Tantric teachings. Two other monks who
played a key role in the growth of Tantric Buddhism in China
were Vajrabodhi (670-741) introduced the concept of
Mandalas to the Chinese, while Amoghavajra said to have
initiated three T'ang emperors into Tantricism.
The Tantric school of Buddhism believed in magic, incantations,
drawing of mandalas, casting of spells and elaborate and
often secret rituals.
The school was later replaced by Lamaism, which was a more
popular version of Tantricism.
The T'ien-t'ai (Tendai) or White Lotus School (Fa-hua): Like the
Avatamsaka school, the White Lotus School also was based
upon the highest teachings of the Buddha, but compared to the
former, provided a more a elaborate view of the cosmic reality.
It was founded by a Chinese monk by name Chih-i (538-597)
who lived in Chekiang province of China, and formed his
doctrines on the basis of the Saddharma-pundarika sutra,
an ancient Buddhist text, which he believed to be the vehicle of
all other truths. According to this school, Truth operated from
three levels or aspects.
At one extreme was the void or emptiness, the unknown or the
non self, about which nothing much could be speculated except
talking in terms of negation and denial.
At the other extreme, the second level was temporariness that
was in reality nothingness but would manifest itself temporarily
or momentarily because of the activity of the senses, as some
kind of an illusion or as an image on the film screen.
The third level is a middle state, 'middle' for our understanding,
but not necessarily middle, 'different' for our understanding but
not necessarily different, because it unites the two and
presents them together as the one Highest Truth.
These three levels of truth are also not separate or different from
each other. They are the aspects of the same reality, that is
universal as well as ubiquitous.
The school advocated the practice of concentration and insight
(chih and kuan) to understand the transience of things and
attain the Buddha Mind in which the above mentioned three
aspects of Truth reside in perfect harmony. Chih-i said to have
become very popular during his life time and caught the
attention of the emperor who donated the revenues of a district
for the maintenance of his monastery.
The While Lotus School was introduced into Japan in the 9th
century AD and became popular as Tendai.
Pure Land School (Ching t’u): Chinese Pure Land Buddhism is not
a Chinese invention, but instead a crystallization of a tradition of
Pure Land thinking already developed in India.
The Pure Land tradition is one of the oldest and most influential in
Chinese Buddhism. As an independent tradition, it is often
referred to as the "White Lotus Sect" in reference to the White
Lotus Society created by the Sung Dynasty monk Tzu-yuan
The tradition of Pure Land thought and practice in China can
historically be traced back to the monk T'an-luan (476-542),
who was originally a Taoist. It was based upon the teachings of
the Mahayana school and the belief in the Bodhisattvas, the
highest beings, who were next to the Buddha in the order and
just a step away from salvation, but would postpone their own
salvation for the sake of others.
This school worshipped Amitabha and sought his grace for
deliverance from this world under the notion that
salvation could not be gained on ones own efforts (jiriki)
but with the help of the other power (tariki), the grace of
Amitabha. The school practiced devotional forms of
worship and regular chanting of O-mi-to-fo (the Chinese
rendering of Amitabha) as the means to salvation. It
followed the teachings contained in the Smaller and
Larger Sukhavati-vyuha sutras.
The school was subsequently introduced into Korea and
Japan where it flourished under different names.
9. The Dhyana School (Ch'an / Chen): This was the most
popular of the Chinese schools of Buddhism, which became
popular in Japan and later in the west as Zen Buddhism.
Chan was a "way of seeing into the nature of ones own being."
Though it was introduced into China by an Indian monk by name
Bodhidharma, around 520 AD, Chan was essentially a product
of Chinese character, which unlike the Indian, evolved out of
the practical and down to earth philosophy of life.
Chan rejected book learning as the basis of enlightenment, set
aside all notions and theories of suffering and salvation, and
relied upon day to day events, simple thinking and ordinary
living as the means to enlightenment.
Enlightenment descended upon one as a sudden shift in
awareness, not because of elaborate study of the Buddhist
sutras, exposition of the philosophies, nor worship of the
images of the Buddha but from a sudden shift in the paradigm,
from an instantaneous chasm in the process of thought, from a
kind of Eureka experience, characterized by a sudden opening
of the mind and removal of a veil, after years of silent waiting
and steady preparation.
The Chan/Zen school discouraged the intellectual kind of pursuit
of religion as it believed that any scholarly approach would tend
to stiffen the mind and prevent it from experiencing the sudden
flowering of Chan.
Although the Chan/Zen masters did not encourage preoccupation
with scriptural studies, they encouraged the initiates to study
the basic Chan scriptures like the Lankavatarasutra, the
Vimalakritinirdesa, the Vajracchedika Sutras and some
additional Chan texts as a a part of their preparation for the
subsequent stages of observing into the nature of things.
By denigrating the scriptural knowledge, the Chan masters
therefore were not promoting illiteracy, but were preparing the
students to free themselves from opinionated intellectuality and
scholarly affectations to emerge into a world of notionless
The word 'chan' is a corrupt form of the Sanskrit word, 'dhyana'
meaning concentrated meditation or contemplation. Dhyana
was an essential aspect of Chinese Chan Buddhism aimed to
develop inner stillness and accumulation of chi energy among
the practitioners. But what Chan encouraged, more than the
mechanical aspects of meditation, was the development of an
unfettered and detached mind, that would not cling to anything
and would not rest anywhere and would flow with the flow of
life, gathering nothing and gaining nothing.
Chinese Chan Buddhism did not place too much emphasis on
meditation, unlike the Zen Buddhism of Japan, but on finding
the Buddha mind in the most mundane tasks and conversations
of day to day life. In short, Chan made living a deeply religious
act aimed to break the encrusted layers of thought.
Chan Buddhism underwent a schism during the 7th century
resulting in the formation of two rival school, a southern school
led by Hui-neng and a northern school led by Shenhsiu. While
the northern school disappeared over a period of time, the
Southern school underwent further sub-divisions resulting in the
formation of five Houses and seven sub sects of which two
survived. One was Lin-chi (Jap. Rinzai) and Tsaotung(Jap.Soto).
Chan Buddhism influenced Chinese way of life profoundly. The
Chan art became famous in ancient China for its spontaneity
and simplicity of expression. But with the decline of Buddhism
in China, Chan also gradually retreated into remote
monasteries and gradually lost its appeal. Its modified version
in Japan and other places (as Zen, Rinzai, and Soto) still
_______________________ _______
| | |
(Pure Land) Zen/Chan………
| Shingon
Five Vehicles
In his forty-nine years expounding on the Buddha-dharma,
Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, taught the
Five Vehicles of Buddhism.
These Five Vehicles are taught as expedients to cater to the
different capacities and capabilities of sentient beings.
In Buddhism the term ‘vehicle’ is analogous to a conveyance of
deliverance for sentient beings. Thus, when one cultivates
according to the teachings of these vehicles, one is
conveyed or ferried from one shore to the other. That is,
from the present shore where there is an abundance of
affliction and suffering of birth and death, to the shore where
there is bliss and enlightenment.
1-Greater Vehicle Buddhism, Bodhisattva Vehicle
Buddhism or Mahayana Buddhism: While the Small
Vehicle is like a motorcycle or a bicycle which carries
one or two persons at a time, the Greater Vehicle is
likened to a train or a ship which can ferry many
passengers on a single trip. Thus, the doctrines of the
Greater Vehicle are for personal salvation as well as for
the salvation of other sentient beings.
Practitioners of the Greater Vehicle Buddhism aspire to
ferrying both self and others to the shore of
enlightenment. Amongst the well known Bodhisattvas of
the Greater Vehicle Buddhism are Avalokitesvara or
Kuan-Yin, Mahasthama, Manjusri, Ksitigarbha and last
but not least, Samantabhadra Bodhisattva.
2-Small Vehicle Buddhism, Sravaka, Theravada, or Hinayana
Buddhism: The doctrines for those who cultivate for the sake of
personal liberation and aspiration for personal salvation. The
highest level of attainment forcultivators of Hinayana Buddhism
is the Arahat.
3-Middle Vehicle Buddhism or Pratyeka-Buddha Buddhism: This
is slightly more advanced than the Small Vehicle Buddhism.
Like those of the Small Vehicle Buddhism, practitioners of the
Middle Vehicle Buddhism are not concerned about the salvation
of other sentient beings.
4-Humanity Vehicle Buddhism, or translated phonetically from
Mandarin, Jen Ch’an (Zen) Buddhism: The main objectives of
Jen Ch’an Buddhism are to purify the human mind and to
promote a blissful culture for humanity, so that we may realize a
happy and blissful family, and pure land in this world.
5-Deva Vehicle Buddhism: The doctrines expounded to the Devas
or celestial beings.
I. The Theravada Buddhists believe that they practice the
original form of Buddhism as it was handed down to them by
Buddha. Theravada Buddhism dominates the culture of Sri
Lanka, but is also very prominent in Thailand and Burma.
While Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, spent several decades
teaching, none of his teachings were written down until several
hundred years later. In the third century, Asoka, the great
Mauryan emperor, converted to Buddhism and began to
sponsor several monasteries throughout the country. He even
sent missionaries out to various countries both east and west.
During his reign, the teachings of Buddha spread all across
India and Sri Lanka.
Disturbed by the prolific growth of Buddhist heresies, a council of
Buddhist monks was convened at the Mauryan capital of Patna
during the third century BC to purify the doctrine. What arose
from that council, more or less, were the definitive teachings of
Theravada Buddhism; from this point onwards, Theravada
Buddhism undergoes little if any change.
When the teachings of Buddha were finally written into a canon,
they were written not in Sanskrit, but in a language derived
from Sanskrit, called Pali. This language was spoken in the
western regions of the Indian peninsula, but from Sri Lanka
(which is off the eastern coast of India) to Burma, the Pali
scriptures would become the definitive canon. We can'
determine precisely when they were written down, but tradition
records that the canon was first written down somewhere
between 89 and 77 BC, that is, over four hundred years after
the death of Buddha.
This canon is called the Tripitaka, or "Three Baskets," for it is
divided into three parts, the Vinaya , or "Conduct," the Sutta ,
or "Discourses," and the Abhidhamma , or "Supplementary
Doctrines." The second part, the "Discourses," are the most
important in Buddhism. These are discourses by the Buddha
and contain the whole of Buddhist philosophy and morality.
The basic doctrines of Theravada Buddhism correspond fairly
exactly with the teachings of Buddha. Theravada Buddhism is
based on the Four Noble Truths and the idea that all of physical
reality is a chain of causation; this includes the cycle of birth
and rebirth. Through the practice of the Eightfold Noble Path
and the Four Cardinal Virtues, an individual can eventually
attain Nirvana .
Theravada Buddhism, however, focused primarily on meditation
and concentration, the eighth of the Eightfold Noble Path; as a
result, it emphasized a monastic life removed from the hustle
and bustle of society and required an extreme expenditure of
time in meditating. This left little room for the bulk of humanity
to join in; Theravada Buddhism was, by and large, an esoteric
A new schism then erupted within the ranks of Buddhism, one
that would attempt to reformulate the teachings of Buddha to
accomodate a greater number of people: the "Greater Vehicle,"
or Mahayana Buddhism.
Theravada Buddhism focuses
… primarily on
meditation and concentration, the eighth of the
Eightfold Noble Path; as a result, it centers on a
monastic life and an extreme expenditure of time
in meditating.
There is (and has been) only one Buddha. While
there are Buddhist “saints,” they are not
Buddhas nor do they have the “Buddhist
Only Maitreya will have the Buddhist-principle and
be a bodhisattva (a Mahayana term anyway)
when Buddha comes to earth again.
II. This left little room for the bulk of humanity to join in Theravada,
so a new schism erupted within the ranks of Buddhism in the first
century AD, one that would attempt to reformulate the teachings
of Buddha to accommodate a greater number of people. They
called their new Buddhism, the "Greater Vehicle" (literally, "The
Greater Ox-Cart") or Mahayana, since it could accommodate
more people and more believers from all walks of life. They
distinguished themselves from mainstream Theravada Buddhism
by contemptuously referring to Theravada as Hinayana, or "The
Lesser Vehicle."
The Mahayanists, however, did not see themselves as creating a
new start for Buddhism, rather they claimed to be recovering the
original teachings of Buddha, in much the same way that the
Protestant reformers of sixteenth century Europe claimed that
they were not creating a new Christianity but recovering the
original form. The Mahayanists claimed that their canon of
scriptures represented the final teachings of Buddha; they
accounted for the non-presence of these teachings in over five
hundred years by claiming that these were secret teachings
entrusted only to the most faithful followers.
Whatever the origins of Mahayana doctrines, they represent a
significant departure in the philosophy. Like the Protestant
Reformation, the overall goal of Mahayana was to extend
religious authority to a greater number of people rather than
concentrating it in the hands of a few. The Mahayanists
managed to turn Buddhism into a more esoteric religion by
developing a theory of gradations of Buddhahood. At the top
was Buddhahood itself which was preceded by a series of lives,
the bodhisattvas (who had the Buddha-principle).
This idea of the bodhisattva was one of the most important
innovations of Mahayana Buddhism. The boddhisattva , or
"being of wisdom," was originally invented to explain the nature
of Buddha's earlier lives. Before Buddha entered his final life as
Siddhartha Gautama, he had spent many lives working towards
Buddhahood. In these previous lives he was a bodhisattva , a
kind of "Buddha-in-waiting," that performed acts of incredible
generosity, joy, and compassion towards his fellow human
beings. An entire group of literature grew up around these
previous lives of Buddha, called the Jataka or "Birth Stories."
While the Buddha was the highest goal, one could become a
pratyeka-buddha, that is, one who has awakened to the truth
but keeps it secret.
Below the pratyeka-buddha is the arhant, or "worthy," who has
learned the truth from others and has realized it as truth.
Mahayana Buddhism establishes the arhant as the goal for all
believers. The believer hears the truth, comes to realize it as
truth, and then passes into Nirvana . This doctrine of
arhanthood is the basis for calling Mahayan the "Greater
Vehicle," for it is meant to include everyone.
Finally, the Mahayanists completed the conversion of Buddhism
from a philosophy to religion. Therevada Buddhism holds that
Buddha was a historical person who, on his death, ceased to
exist. There were, however, strong tendencies for Buddhists to
worship Buddha as a god of some sort; these tendencies
probably began as early as Buddha's lifetime.
The Mahayanists developed a theology of Buddha called the
doctrine of "The Three Bodies," or Trikaya. The Buddha was not
a human being, as he was in Theravada Buddhism, but the
manifestation of a universal, spiritual being. This being had
three bodies.
When it occupied the earth in the form of Siddhartha Gautama, it
took on the Body of Magical Transformation (nirmanakaya ).
This Body of Magical Transformation was an emanation of the
Body of Bliss (sambhogakaya ), which occupies the heavens in
the form of a ruling and governing god of the universe. There
are many forms of the Body of Bliss, but the one that rules over
our world is Amithaba who lives in a paradise in the western
heavens called Sukhavati, or "Land of Pure Bliss." Finally, the
Body of Bliss is an emanation of the Body of Essence
(dharmakaya ), which is the principle underlying the whole of
the universe. This Body of Essence, the principle and rule of the
universe, became synonymous with Nirvana . It was a kind of
universal soul, and Nirvana became the transcendent joining
with this universal soul.
CH’AN (Zen)
III. “Zen” is the Japanese pronunciation of a school of
Buddhism that originally began in China, combining
Buddhist ideas with influence from the ancient Chinese
school of Taoism. The Chinese name was “Ch’an”, which
itself was the Chinese pronunciation of dhyana.
The essential element of Ch’an or Zen Buddhism is found
in its name, for Zen (Ch’an = dhyana) means
"meditation." Zen teaches that enlightenment is achieved
through the profound realization that one is already an
enlightened being. This awakening can happen gradually
or in a flash of insight (as emphasized by the Soto and
Rinzai schools, respectively). But in either case, it is the
result of one's own efforts. Deities and scriptures can
offer only limited assistance.
Zen traces its origins to India, but it was formalized in China.
Chan, as it is known in China, was transmitted to Japan
and took root there in the thirteenth century.
Chan also was enthusiastically received in Japan, especially by the
samurai class that wielded political power at this time, and it
became the most prominent form of Buddhism between the
fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. The immigrant Chinese
prelates were educated men, who introduced not only religious
practices but also Chinese literature, calligraphy, philosophy,
and ink painting to their Japanese disciples, who often in turn
traveled to China for further study.
Zen Buddhism's emphasis on simplicity and the importance of the
natural world generated a distinctive aesthetic, which is
expressed by the terms wabi and sabi. These two amorphous
concepts are used to express a sense of rusticity, melancholy,
loneliness, naturalness, and age, so that a misshapen, worn
peasant's jar is considered more beautiful than a pristine,
carefully crafted dish. While the latter pleases the senses, the
former stimulates the mind and emotions to contemplate the
essence of reality. This artistic sensibility has had an enormous
impact on Japanese culture up to modern times.
A good intro website for Japanese Zen (coming up in a few
weeks) is http://online.sfsu.edu/~rone/Buddhism/zen.html.
The main variations within Chan Buddhism are as follows:
1) The Theory of the double truth: This defines two different
kinds of truth, a common one and a higher one, on three
different levels. At the heart of this complex theory is an
examination of the inter-relationship between existence and
non-existence. Truth is complicated by the fact that on the one
hand there is physical form or existence and, on the other,
everything is said to be illusory or non-existent. In which case,
what and where is truth - within existence or non-existence?
After considering this, the theory then considers the same
question for enlightenment.
2) "A good deed entails no retribution." This idea stems from the
Daoist belief in non-action (wu wei), i.e. that action without
effort, which is natural and spontaneous to the essence of the
individual, does not entail any future retribution or "karma."
3) The method of attaining enlightenment is to do things without
deliberate effort and purpose and live naturally. This (again
linked to the Daoist wu wei) prepares the mind for
4) That enlightenment occurs suddenly. Although non-action or
living the life of non-cultivation diminishes distracting elements
and facilitates contemplation, enlightenment itself is not a
gradual process but a sudden revelation.
5) Although words can be a useful tool to explain a thought, they
can only ever be an approximation to the idea. Thus, the state
of enlightenment can never be described.
6) There is no other reality than this phenomenal world. Whereas
the unenlightened only see the physical objects around them,
the enlightened in addition to this see the Buddha nature within
the phenomenal world.
This brief list of variations gives an impression of the far-reaching
influence of Daoism on the synthesis of Chan Buddhism.
What is the sound of one hand
A koan is not a question seeking an answer.
It is a question for which there is NO ANSWER, but
it interrupts a person’s thinking so forcefully that
he must consider it.
Buddhist Temples
Most Chinese encountered Buddhist images within
Buddhist temples, which came to be constructed by
the hundreds and thousands across China as
Buddhism gained followers. Before the end of the fifth
century there were reportedly more than 10,000
temples in China, north and south.
Some were undoubtedly small, modest temples, but in
the cities many were huge complexes with pagodas,
Buddha halls, lecture halls, and eating and sleeping
quarters for monks, all within walled compounds.
These temple complexes provided a place for the faithful
to come to pay homage to images of the Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas and meet with clergy.
The best evidence of the interior decoration of
early temples is found in the surviving cave
Although only a few wooden buildings have
survived from the Tang period or earlier,
hundreds of cave temples have survived.
Here we offer glimpses of the three most famous
cave temple complexes, Dunhuang in Gansu
Province, Yungang in Shanxi Province, and
Longmen in Henan Province.
To get a sense of what urban temple complexes
must have been like as architectural spaces, we
can turn to temples still extant, even if they were
built in later centuries.
Guiyuan Temple – Qing Dynasty
Asst. Temple Gate Guardians
More Temples
Monks and Nuns
Following the (1) Buddha and the (2) Dharma
(teaching), the community of Buddhist monks
and nuns, or (3) sangha, constitute the third of
the Threefold Refuge, a basic creed of
Buddhism. Their behavior is strictly disciplined
by the sacred canon. These monks and nuns
adopt distinctive styles of appearance and
Monks Reciting Sutras
Monks at a Lecture
In many orders, Buddhist monks and nuns are supposed to shave
their heads and eyebrows once a month, one day before the
middle of the lunar month, Keun 14 Kaam (Waxing Moon).
Buddhist Nuns (Bhikshunis)
Pajapati – the first Buddhist Nun
She was a very important figure
in Buddhist history; the first
woman disciple of the Buddha
and the founder of the order
of nuns. She also happened to
be the Buddha's stepmother.
Pajapati's name means "leader
of a great assembly." As this
name was given to her at
birth, there was obviously
some foreseeing that the
events in her life would be
A depiction of a
Japanese Zen
Note the
differences in
between the
Chinese and
A modern Buddhist nun writes…
Before becoming a nun, one is a postulant for six months,
working in the fields and in the kitchen, learning the chants and
the ceremonies, the Buddhist way of life of a monastery and
how to meditate.
Throughout the day we followed the signals of various bells.
Getting up at three o’clock in the morning was sometimes a
little difficult. At that time we went to the temple to chant, to
greet the day. I loved the special morning chant which was
about well-wishing. It said:
May the ocean of goodness from our practice return to the
world to fulfill their purpose.
May the world rest in peace and the wheel of the Buddhist Law
May each being that is born rest in wisdom and never fall back.
May this wisdom be as fierce and courageous as a Buddha's.
May we attain the fruit of great awakening....
The meditation started soon afterwards and was followed by the
prayer wheels.
Some Buddhist Nuns
Monk Spinning Prayer Wheels
Prayer wheels (called Mani wheels)
are devices for spreading spiritual
blessings and well being.
Rolls of thin paper, imprinted with
many, many copies of the mantra
(prayer) Om Mani Padme Hum,
printed in an ancient Indian script
or in Tibetan script, are wound
around an axle in a protective
container, and spun around and
Typically, larger decorative versions of
the syllables of the mantra are also
carved on the outside cover of the
Some Buddhists believe that saying
this mantra, out loud or silently to
oneself, invokes the powerful
benevolent attention and blessings
of Chenrezig, the embodiment of
Buddhism plays a big part in
the lives of many Asian
people, and even though
Buddhism was severely
criticized during the Chinese
Cultural Revolution,
Buddhism remained in the
minds of the Buddhists in
Many Asia people now openly
worship at Buddhist Temples
and the children are being
introduced to the rituals.
The Jade Buddha Temple at
Shanghai is famous, but
there are smaller temples in
other towns, perhaps not as
well known, but equally
revered by the local people,
nurtured by their belief in
Buddha worship is introduced to
quite young children.
Typically, a mother guides her
young son through the Buddha
rituals and although perhaps
he is unaware of their
significance, the seeds of
belief in Buddha are being
implanted in his mind, which
will affect his attitude to
Buddhism in later years and
perhaps to his relationship
with other people.
For some families, having a son who is
a Buddhist Monk, is considered to be
a great honor so quite often young
boys are taken to the temples and
left to start their induction to
Buddhism, receiving their education
from the Monks.
They are far away from their families
and friends and some do not adjust
to their new environment very easily
becoming homesick and sad and are
returned to their homes.
Others, with different personalities,
adapt very quickly to Buddhism and
their new life style and in later years
achieve an enviable aura of
peacefulness now rarely seen in this
modern age of materialism and
For more info, ask Dr. Bryson.
And .now,
time for the review!!!
If you like extensive reading, a good website on Buddhism is
After looking over the site, I could not think of a question that had
not already been answered there.
Also, a great dictionary for Buddhist terminology can be found at
Beginning with the life and legend of the Buddha, the chapter includes sections
on the teachings of the Buddha and the major forms of Buddhism—Theravada,
Mahayana, Vajrayana, Zen, and Pure Land. Concluding sections describe the
development of Buddhism in the West, and Buddhist involvement in social
After reading this chapter, you should be able to:
1. Describe the origins, the major beliefs, and the practices of Buddhism.
2. Recognize and discuss major divisions of Buddhism (similarities & differences).
3. Recognize Buddhist traditions in the West.
4. Explain the Buddhist role in social issues.
5. Define important names and terms such as Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama,
dharma, bhikshus, bhikshunis, sangha, nirvana, "Four Noble Truths," dukkha,
anicca, anatta, "Eightfold Path of Liberation," karma, samsara, arhant, Tipitaka
or Pali Canon, "Triple Gem," stupas, Bodhisattvas, sutras, yanas, sunyata,
lamas, Dalai Lama, mandalas, Zen, satori, koan, Buddha-nature, zazen, kensho,
Pure Land Buddhism, Amida, and zendo.
Buddhism differs from many of the other
major religions in its
belief in salvation through one's own efforts.
belief in one major deity.
belief in life after death.
any of these.
The Buddha's teachings on the truths of
reality and right conduct are called
the dharma.
the karma.
the Pali Canon.
the samsara.
The future Buddha was born into a family
belonging to the traditional Hindu caste
called the
The Buddha developed a systematic approach
to bring people to liberation called
Four Noble Truths.
the Eightfold Path of Liberation.
Three Gems.
The ultimate goal in the practice of
Buddhism is
forgiveness of sins.
becoming one with an ultimate reality or deity.
any of these.
The Pali Canon, also known as the
___________, includes the rules for sangha
members and a record of the Buddha's
teaching stories.
Triple Gem
All Buddhists "take refuge" in the
__________, consisting of the Buddha, the
dharma, and the sangha.
Pali Canon
Triple Gem
Eightfold Noble Path
In Theravada Buddhism,
mindfulness meditation techniques
called ____________ are used as a
method for focusing the mind.
Deity Yoga
Bodhidharma's form of Buddhism, called
Ch'an in China, became known as
__________in Japan.
Pure Land
In Zen Buddhism, zazen, a term that means
___________, is an important method of
experiencing the Buddha-nature.
"sitting meditation“
"higher meditation“
"mindful meditation“
"standing meditation"
The ultimate purpose of Zen practice is
satori or enlightenment.
becoming one with god.
any of these.
In the Pure Land Buddhism belief system,
followers do not have to rely on their own
efforts for liberation. They call on
_____________ who prepares a place of
bliss for any who call on his name.
Dalai Lama
Bodhisattva of Superb Action
The thirteenth-century Japanese fisherman's
son Nichiren stressed the importance of
reforming _____ as well as oneself.
the family
any of these.
A zendo is a
Zen meditation practice.
Zen meditation hall.
Zen follower.
collection of Zen writings.
This converted Buddhist activist, born an
untouchable Hindu, helped return Buddhism to its
native India, and as the chief architect of India's
democracy, fought to end the oppression of the
Hindu caste system.
B. R. Ambedkar
A. T. Ariyaratne
Dalai Lama
Mahatma Gandhi
#1 ____ Buddha
____ Dharma
____ Bhikshunis
____ Bhikshus
____ Sanga
a. the Buddha's teachings
b. Buddhist nuns
c. "Enlightened One"
d. Buddhist monks
e. the order of Buddha's disciples
#2 ____ Nirvana
____ Dukkha
____ anaitya or anicca (Pali)
____ anatman or anatta (Pali)
____ karma
#3 ____ Samsara
____ Arhant
____ Stupas
____ Sutras
____ Bodhisattvas
a. our acts of will
b. liberation from ego
c. no eternal soul
d. suffering
e. impermanence
a. a saint
b. Mahayana scriptures
c. cycle of life, death, rebirth
d. mounds containing Buddhist relics
e. beings dedicated to helping others attain enlightenment
#4 ____ Sunyata
____ Lamas
____ Mandalas
____ Zazen
____ Kensho
a. emptiness
b. the highest gurus or teachers
c. sudden burst of enlightenment
d. "sitting meditation"
e. visual aids to concentration
Discussion Questions:
1. What basic beliefs do Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism have in
common? How do they differ?
2. What are koans? Examine the koans. Read several koans presented here
and discuss the role of koans in the practice of Zen.
3. Buddhists, like Hindus and Jains, believe in reincarnation. Unlike those two
religions, however, Buddhists do not believe in an eternal soul. If there is no
soul, how can there be reincarnation?
4. Describe the life of the Buddha. What events led to his emergence as the
leader of a future world religion?
5. Describe the basic beliefs and practices of Pure Land, Zen, and Nichiren
Any Questions?
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