Presentation on theme: "Buddhism I Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell “I go for refuge in the Buddha, I go for refuge in the dharma, I go for refuge in."— Presentation transcript:
Buddhism I Introduction to World Religions Fall 2007 Dr. Hannah Schell “I go for refuge in the Buddha, I go for refuge in the dharma, I go for refuge in the sangha.”
Agenda for class meeting 1. The life of the Buddha 2. The teachings of the Buddha: The Four Noble Truths The three marks of human existence The Eightfold Path The Middle Way 3. Nirvana: the goal of annihilation 4. Discussion point: Is Nirvana God?
Basic orienting facts Buddhism: 6 % of the world’s population Began in Nepal in the 6 th century BCE. Spread south into India and then into Sri Lanka Spread west into Tibet and China as well as into southeast Asia (Burma - Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia); from China it moved into Korea and Japan. Countries with highest percentages of the population identifying themselves as Buddhist: Thailand (95%); Cambodia (90%); Myanmar (once known as Burma) (88%)
“Branches” of Buddhism Theravada Buddhism Mahayana Buddhism – including Zen Buddhism Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism … but we aren’t going to talk about these tonight; these are the subjects for next week!
1. The life of the Buddha The man – Siddhartha Gautama – whom Buddhists revere as “The Buddha” (the awakened one) lived sometime during the middle of the 7 th century BCE into the mid-6 th century BCE. ( BCE ?) Born to the Sakya clan on the India-Nepal border; sometimes called Sakyamuni Also sometimes called Tathagata (The “thus-come” or “perfectly enlightened” one). The earliest Buddhist sources date from the 4 th – 3 rd century BCE.
The story of the Buddha: History? Legend? Myth? Miracle? “The story of the life of the Buddha is not history nor meant to be. The whole story takes on a mythic and legendary character. A wealth of detail is brought in capable of being read metaphorically, allegorically, typologically, and symbolically. Much of this detail is to modern sensibilities of a decidedly ‘miraculous’ and ‘supernatural kind. The story of the Buddha’s life becomes not an account of the particular and individual circumstances of a man who, some 2,500 years ago, left home to become a wandering ascetic, but something universal, an archetype; it is the story of… all who follow the Buddhist path… If we persist in distinguishing and holding apart myth and history, we are in danger of missing the story’s own sense of truth.” - Rupert Bethin, The Foundations of Buddhism (Oxford UP, 1998) 16.
From Asvaghosa’s poem Buddhacarita (“Acts of the Buddha”), 2 nd century CE. Once upon a time… “There was a king of the unconquerable Shakya race… Endowed with wealth and virtue, he was loved and esteemed by his people, as the moon in autumn. This king, as powerful as Indra, had a queen comparable to… Indra’s spouse. As steadfast as the earth and as pure in heart as a lotus flower, she was called Maya…”
Maya’s dream “In her sleep, Maya saw a white elephant entering her womb and thereby conceived; yet she was free from anxiety and illusion.”
The birth of the Buddha “She longed however for the peace of a secluded wood, and as the Lumbini grove, with its fountains, flowers, and fruit trees, was quiet and suitable for contemplation, she asked the king to let her go there. ”
Born for well-being of the world “Then… from the side of the queen, who was purified by her vows, a son was born for the well-being of the world without causing her any pain or illness…”
“ He shone in splendor and steadfastness, as the morning sun coming down upon the earth; he was exceedingly radiant and drew others’ eyes toward him like the moon…”
Gazing at the four quarters with the bearing of a lion, he uttered a speech prophesying his auspicious attainment in the future [“the Lion’s Roar”]:
“I am born to be enlightened for the well-being of the world; this is my last birth.”
The King named his son Siddhartha (“achieving success of prosperity”). Therefore, the Buddha is sometimes referred to by his human name “Siddhartha Gautama.” Learned Brahmins read the auspicious signs:
“Auspicious signs found on his body, such as its golden color and the exquisite radiance of its luster, indicate that he is certain to be the perfectly Enlightened One, or a universal monarch if he takes pleasure in worldly affairs. Should he be a great, earthly sovereign, he will rule the entire world with courage and righteousness, leading all kings, as the light of the sun leads the lights of the world. If he seeks deliverance by living in a forest, he will acquire true wisdom and illumine the entire world…”
The Father Rebels “But the king of the Shakya, having heard.. that the goal of the prince was to attain supreme bliss, sought to engage the prince in sensual pleasures, lest he should wish to go off to the forest. Thereupon, the king summoned for his son a famous maiden… who was endowed with beauty, modesty, and decorum… from a family of longstanding and good character…”
The good life “And so, in palaces like celestial mansions brought to earth, as white as the clouds of autumn and comfortable in all seasons, the prince spent his time listening to refined music performed by lovely maidens… In time… [ his wife] bearing her own fame, gave in birth… son named Rahula, whose face resembled the moon.”
The Four Sights 1.An old (suffering) man 2.A sick man (disease) 3.A dead man (a corpse) 4.A monk
First excursion: Seeing the Old Man “The prince saw a man overcome with old age, different in form from other people, and his curiosity was aroused…. He asked… ‘Who is this man with gray hair, supported by a staff in his hand, his eyes sunken under his eyebrows, his limbs feeble and bent? Is this transformation a natural state or an accident?”
Siddhartha to the charioteer upon seeing the sick man: “This is the calamity of disease in all men; yet, people in the world are unconcerned as they watch it. Indeed, vast is the ignorance of people who laugh when they themselves have not been released from the danger of sickness…. Learning the danger of disease, my mind has been shocked and deflected from pleasures.”
[Siddhartha asked: “Is this state of being peculiar to this man, or is such the end of all men?”] The charioteer to Siddhartha upon seeing the corpse: The charioteer: “This is the last state of all men. Death is certain for all, whether they be of low, middle, or high degree…. This is the inescapable end for all men; yet, people in the world harbor no fear and seem unconcerned. Men must be harden ed to be so at ease as they walk down the road leading to the next life’ ”
HIS FIRST MEDITATION. “Longing for solitude, the prince… approached a lonely spot at the foot of a Jambu- tree, covered all over with beautiful fluttering leaves…. Contemplating the birth and death of beings, he undertook to steady his mind in meditation… Having acquired the concentration of mind which springs from solitude, the prince was filled with extreme joy and bliss; then meditating on the course of the world, he thought that this state was indeed supreme… As he thus perceived clearly the evils of disease, old age, and death in the world, the false pride in self, arising from belief in one’s strength, youth and life, left him instantly. He became neither excited nor distressed; free from doubt, sloth, and drowsiness, he was unaffected by sensual pleasures; and untouched by hatred or contempt of others”
THE FOURTH SIGHT: A mendicant approached him without being seen by others. In response to the prince’s question, “who are you?” the monk replied, “I am a mendicant who, in fear of birth and death, has renounced the world for the sake of deliverance. In this world which is characterized by destruction, I eagerly search for the blessed and indestructible state. I regard both kinsmen and strangers as equals, and I am free from the evils of passion arising from objects of sense…”
“ ‘Living wherever I happen to be - at the foot of a tree, in a deserted house, in the mountains, or in the woods - I wander about, living on the alms I receive, without ties to person or place and with no expectation save for the attainment of this ultimate goal.’ Saying this, the mendicant flew to the sky as the prince watched…. The latter now knew what he should do, and began thinking of a way to leave his home…” (DeBary 65).
The Great Departure “He [Siddhartha] went out from his father’s city with firm determination, leaving behind his father who had been so attached to him, his young son, his joyful people, and his most beautiful princess, suppressing his concerns for all of them. The prince, whose eyes were long like spotless lotuses, looked back at the city and uttered a lion’s roar: ‘I will not [re-enter the city] until I have seen the other shore of birth and death’…”
Identifying the Limits of Asceticism “Engaged in much difficult fasting, over six years his body became steadily emaciated… But tormenting his body through such austerities availed nothing. ‘This is not the way to achieve passionlessness, enlightenment, liberation. Better and surer the way I found before beneath the Jambu-tree. Nor can it be attained by one who is weak… How can it be reached by a man who is not calm and at ease, who is so exhausted by hunger and thirst that his mind is unbalanced?’”
THE GREAT AWAKENING The Rightly-Illumined one perceived all of these things and thus was decisively awakened: when birth is destroyed, old age and death ceases; when “becoming” is destroyed, then birth ceases; When attachment is destroyed, “becoming” ceases; when craving is destroyed, attachment ceases; when sensations are destroyed, craving ceases… Reflecting his right understanding, the great hermit arose before the world as the Buddha, The Enlightened One.
2. The teachings of the Buddha Laid out during his first sermon in Sarnath, in a park outside Varanasi (Banaras): Set into motion the “Wheel of the Law”: The Four Noble Truths The Eightfold Path The Middle Way
The Four Noble Truths 1.Life is pervaded by suffering (dukkha – off-center, out of joint). 2.The cause of suffering is desire (tanha – also thirst or craving; desire for private fulfillment). 3.Therefore, the remedy for suffering is the cessation of desire. 4.This is possible through “the path” – specifically the eightfold path; the path will lead to nirvana.
The three marks of human existence What is true of everything in the natural order? 1.Suffering – suffering (dukkha) is pervasive 2.No soul - there is no such thing as a permanent soul (the doctrine of anatta or anatman) 3.Impermanence - All is impermanent, transitory (anicca). “Anicca.” From:
The Eightfold Path NOTE: Preliminary step of “right association.” (WISDOM) 1.Right understanding [knowledge] – comprehending the first 3 Noble Truths 2.Right thought [intent or aspiration] – Fostering thoughts of non-violence and love. To reform our behavior, we must first reform our thoughts. (ETHICAL CONDUCT) 3. Right speech – speech which causes no harm. 4. Right conduct [behavior] – behavior which causes no harm. 5. Right Livelihood – earn a living in such a way that it causes no harm. (MEDITATION/MENTAL DISCIPLINE) 6. Right effort – cultivate good and wholesome states of mind 7. Right mindfulness – becoming aware of one’s self; become mindful 8. Right concentration [absorption] – the practice of deep meditation; eventually this brings joy and happiness, a state of perfect equanimity. Goal is to reach a state of mind in which all distinction between the mind and objects disappears. - Adopted from T. Patrick Burke, The Major Religions (Blackwells, 1996) 65.
The Five Precepts The Five Precepts: do not kill do not steal do not lie do not be unchaste do not take drugs or drink intoxicants
The Middle Way: The Eightfold path is the “middle way” between extreme asceticism and self-indulgence: “Ignorant people practice austerities; those who seek pleasure gratify their senses. As neither method leads people to liberation, these two extremes are utterly wrong; they are not the right ways. “Devoting oneself to ascetic practices with an exhausted body only makes one’s mind more confused. It produces not even a worldly knowledge, not to speak of transcending the senses. It is like trying to light a lamp with water; there is no chance of dispelling the darkness.” …
“Just as one cannot start a fire by [rubbing] rotten pieces of wood, so one cannot destroy one’s ignorance by trying to light the lamp of wisdom with an emaciated body. It is a vain waste of energy… To indulge in pleasures also is not right; this merely increases one’s foolishness, which obstructs the light of wisdom. I stand above these two extremes, though my heart is kept in the middle. Sufferings in me have come to an end; having been freed of all errors and defilements, I have now attained peace.” (DeBary 71)
3. What is nirvana? Nirvana – etymologically means “to blow out” or “to extinguish”; “total annihilation” as a fire ceases to draw… like the wind (Smith, 77). The Buddha himself did not describe Nirvana in detail….
Is Nirvana God? “Nirvana is permanent, stable, imperishable, immovable, ageless, deathless, unborn, and unbecome; it is power, bliss and happiness, the secure refuge, the shelter, and the place of unassailable safety; it is the real Truth and the supreme Reality; it is the Good, the supreme goal and the one and only consummation of our lives; the eternal, hidden and incomprehensible peace” (Smith, 77).
Buddhist texts re: Nirvana Nirvana is “the complete cessation of craving (thirst), letting it go, renouncing it, being free from it, detachment from it.” “Whatever… is the cessation of greed, hatred and delusion, this is called Nirvana.” “If a monk is freed by turning away, by detachment in regard to tings.. It is fitting to call him a monk who has attained Nirvana here and now.” - Texts cited by Donald Mitchell, Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience (Oxford UP, 2002) 60.
Summary of nirvana “Therefore, with inner freedom, detachment from things, care for all beings, the perfection of virtues, and wisdom realizing the Truth, one is finally free from dukkha (suffering) and attains the peaceful status of Nirvana… [this is] more than just a moral attainment or an insight into the Truth. It is said to be a ‘supreme status’ that is ‘holy.’… Nirvana is ultimately a sublime religious status.” - Texts cited by Donald Mitchell, Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience (Oxford UP, 2002) 61.
Discussion point “Is nirvana God?... Some conclude that since Buddhism professes no God, it cannot be a religion; others, that since Buddhism obviously is a religion, religion doesn’t require God” (Smith, The World’s Wisdom, 114). What do YOU think?
“And now, O priests, I take my leave of you; all the constituents of the world are transitory; work out your salvation with diligence.” The Buddha’s last words