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3 Rafts of Buddhism

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3 Rafts of Buddhism
Three Rafts for Crossing
the River:
1.
2.
3.
Theravada
Mahayana
Vajrayana
Buddhists compare the quest for salvation to the crossing of a
river
 On this side of the river is the realm of samsara. On the other
side nirvana
 Buddhism has divided into three great rafts or vehicles
 Theravada – the lesser vehicle
 Mahayana – the great vehicle
 Vajrayana – the vehicle of the diamond
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Means the way of the elders Theravada: “The Way
Conservative movement
the Elders”
– Follows the earliest texts
– Tends to agree with the original
teachings of the Buddha
The Buddha experienced
enlightenment and then taught
others how to accomplish the same
The teachings of the Buddha are
most important than the Buddha
himself
Focuses on the teachings of the
Buddha: cultivate wisdom through
knowing the four Noble Truths and
eightfold path
The heart of Theravada Buddhism is
its community of monks
of
Mahayana: The Great Vehicle
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The largest division of Buddhism- half of the world’s Buddhists
Focuses on the Buddha himself – celebrating him as a divine savior
– It opens the door to religious devotion and prayer
Offers salvation through the infinite grace of the compassionate
Buddha
Recognizes the salvific grace of all the Buddhas of the past
Reveres bodhisattvas
Bodhisattvas
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Are Buddhas in the making dedicated to attaining
enlightenment
Capable of entering into nirvana
– but motivated by compassion stop to help others achieve it
Exist beyond an earthly ream and are believed to dwell in
one of the Buddhist heavens, from which they provide divine
assistance to those who worship them
 Transfer merit of their karma to their devotees
 On occasion they appear in the world as human beings
 The ideal type rather than the arhat
 Compassion is the supreme virtue- more important than
wisdom
 Have vowed that they will wait to enter nirvana until “the last
blade of grass” has become enlightened.
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Vajrayana: Tibetan Buddhism
Means the vehicle of the
diamond or vehicle of the
lightning bolt
 The name suggests strength,
clarity, wisdom, and flashes
of light
 Practices and beliefs
constituted by special chants
and rituals
 Interested in the acquisition
of both internal and external
powers and holds that such
powers may be attained
through proper ritual.
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Vajrayana’s homeland
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Homeland is Tibet
Has endured religious persecution by China’s communist
government
– Many have been killed
– Many others are now living in exile in India and
elsewhere
Origins of Vajrayana
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Vajrayana Buddhism was
influenced by Tantric
Buddhism
– Named Tantric for its
scriptures the Tantras
meaning “spread out”
The Tantras taught that the
body and all its energies
could be used to reach
enlightenment
– Tantric Buddhism shows
influence from Hinduism
Lama
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A Tibetan spiritual
teacher is often
called lama
– Lama is a Tibetan
translation of the
word guru
– This title is
frequently used
as a title of honor
for all monks
Dalai Lama
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Another important feature of Vajrayana is its
institution of lamas
– A hierarchy of clergy headed by the Dalai
Lama
– Dalai Lama means “ocean superior one”
Originated with the incarnation of a
prominent bodhisattva
The lineage is believed to continue through
the reincarnation of one Dalai Lama into the
next
Whenever a Dalai Lama dies, his successor
(incarnation) is sought, found, and trained.
A delegation of monks consult a state oracle
about the place of rebirth, take objects that
belonged to the previous Dalai Lama and
mixed them with similar objects.
The boy who recognizes the objects is
chosen as the Dalai Lama
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Objects play a key role
– Vajra- Sanskrit for
either Diamond or
Lightening Bolt - a
metal object
– Bell- symbolizes
wisdom
– When used together,
one in each hand,
they represent the
union of wisdom and
compassion
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Means to achieve enlightenment in Vajrayana Buddhism:
– Mudras – choreographed hand gestures, can be
performed to a chant
 For example, the right hand extended with the palm outward
and the finger pointing up is a mudra of blessing
 If the palm is open but the hand is turned downward, the
mudra symbolizes generosity
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Means to achieve enlightenment in Vajrayana Buddhism:
– Mantras – resonating chants that harness the spiritual
potency of sound
 Can be chanted or written to bring power and wisdom
through repetition
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Means to achieve enlightenment in Vajrayana Buddhism:
– Mandalas- geometrical designs that present reality in
symbolic forms- used in meditation
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Human beings are attracted
to the world through vivid
images, sounds, tastes,
dances, rituals, etc.
Tantric Buddhism believes
that the individual can “fight
fire with fire” by confronting
worldly attractions through
paintings, chants, rituals,
and mandalas
– How does Vajrayana
Buddhism “fight fire with
fire”?
 It harnesses the energy of
desire and turns it against itself
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Doing this helps to detach
from the attractions they are
confronted with
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Mandala is Sanskrit for circle, polygon, community,
connection.
The mandala is often illustrated as a palace with
four gates, facing the four corners of the Earth.
Geometrical art form
Often used in meditation
It may represent in symbolic form the entire
universe, the palace of a deity, or even the self
A common form is a circle within or enclosing a
square, or a series of circles and squares that grow
smaller and smaller as they come closer to the
center of the design
Another form looks like a checkerboard of many
squares
For some ceremonies, monks create a mandala in
sand
Then destroy it at the end of the ritual, expressing
vividly the Buddhist teaching that everything must
change
Mandala
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Mandala
Geometrical art form
Often used in meditation
It may represent in symbolic form the entire universe, the palace of
a deity, or even the self
A common form is a circle within or enclosing a square, or a series
of circles and squares that grow smaller and smaller as they come
closer to the center of the design
Another form looks like a checkerboard of many squares
It may appear as a painting on cloth, but it may take many forms
For some ceremonies, monks create a mandala in sand
Then destroy it at the end of the ritual, expressing vividly the
Buddhist teaching that everything must change
Mandalas
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