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Buddhism ― When used in reference to a MetaPhysical Orientation as to Tradition, Culture or Preferred Flavour, is primarily defined, usually selfdefined by its members and/or adherents as such, and holding the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha, and/or interpolations thereon as a primary or critical parameter of their Spiritual Paradigm. Most of the Traditions which are selfdefined as Buddhist, interpret these teachings to include that suffering is the basic nature of our current existence and that enlightenment from this condition involves the extinction of the false self to effectuate merging with Nibbana, though their interpretation of the nature of Nibbana often are quite different. Buddhism, like most of the widespread religions of the world, is divided into a number of different Traditions (See other entries reflecting some of these Traditions:
Amarapura (Sri Lankan) Buddhism,
Original Source ReConstructionist Buddhism,
Pali Canon Fundamental Buddhism,
Pure Land Buddhism,
Rational Humanist Buddhism,
Western Emergent Buddhism and
Zen Buddhism). The religion based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha that asserts suffering is inseparable from existence and that enlightenment is achieved by the inward extinction of the self and of the senses. Buddhism is the predominant religion of eastern and central Asia, and is represented by many different sects. The widely known Albert Einstein quote: "Buddhism has the characteristics of what would be expected in a cosmic religion for the future: it transcends a personal God, avoids dogmas and theology; it covers both the natural & spiritual, and it is based on a religious sense aspiring from the experience of all things, natural and spiritual, as a meaningful unity", is a reasonable summation. Since the violent secularization of China and the surrounding countries, Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world, being exceeded in numbers only by Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. It was founded in Northern India by the Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. He was born circa 563 BCE in Lumbini, which is in modern-day Nepal. At the age of 29, he left his wife, children and political involvements in order to seek truth; this was an accepted practice at the time for some men to leave their family and lead the life of an ascetic. He studied Brahmanism, but ultimately rejected it. In 535 BCE, he reached enlightenment and assumed the title Buddha (one who has awakened). He is also referred to as the Sakyamuni, (sage of the Sakya clan). He promoted The Middle Way, rejecting both extremes of the mortification of the flesh and of hedonism as paths toward the state of Nirvana. He had many disciples and accumulated a large public following by the time of his death in his early 80's in 483 BCE. Two and a half centuries later, a council of Buddhist monks collected his teachings and the oral traditions of the faith into written form, called the Tripitaka. This included a very large collection of commentaries and traditions; most are called Sutras (discourses). Some Buddhist Traditions do not represent Buddhism as a religion but rather as a philosophy or way of life. Buddhism when interpreted as a religion shares few concepts with Christianity. For example, Buddhists in general do not believe in a transcendent or immanent or any other type of God or Gods, the need for a personal savior, the power of prayer, eternal life in a heaven or hell after death, and so forth. Buddhists ordinarily do believe in reincarnation: the concept that one must go through many cycles of birth, living, and death in order to reach your eventual destination through enlightenment. After many such cycles, if a person releases their attachment to desire and the self, they can attain Nibbana. The Buddha's Four Noble Truths may be described (somewhat simplistically) as: • to be fully understood: the universality of suffering. • to be abandoned: the desire to have and control things that cause suffering • to be made visible: the supreme truth and final liberation of nirvana, which is achieved as the cause of suffering is eliminated. The mind experiences complete freedom and liberation. • to be brought into being: the truth of the eightfold ariya path leading to the cessation of suffering. His Eightfold Path consists of: 1. right understanding 2. right thinking 3. right speech 4. right conduct 5. right livelihood 6. right effort 7. right mindfulness 8. right concentration [insight versus concentration controversy] Siddartha Gautama was born in the sixth century BCE in what is now Nepal. His father, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the Sakya people, and Siddartha grew up living the extravagant life of a young prince. Tradition tells us that Suddhodana had feared that the prince might leave the palace to take up the life of a religious wanderer. So he arranged for him to be sheltered from all the harsh realities of life. When the prince reached the age of sixteen, Suddhodana arranged for him to be married to his cousin, a charming princess named Yasodhara. One day, however, Siddartha ventured out into the world and was confronted with the inevitability of aging, illness, and death. Overcome by dismay, the young prince wondered if there might be a happiness that was not subject to change and decay. Then, seeing a forest wanderer, he decided that only by taking up the wilderness life could he find the answer to his question. That night, at the age of twenty-nine, he left his kingdom and newborn son and entered the wilderness. For six years, Siddartha submitted himself to rigorous ascetic practices. First he studied with different religious teachers, but, dissatisfied with what they saw as their highest goal, he set out to practice extreme physical austerities on his own. Yet even through the ultimate in self-denial, he did not reach his goal. Then one day he remembered a state of calm mental absorption he had experienced while sitting under a tree as a child, and realized that only through such a state of calm could liberation be found. And yet the strength of that calm could not be reached when the body was weak through austerities. The path to true happiness required balance-the middle way-rather than extremes of indulgence or self-denial. So on that day he ended his extreme austerities and and accepted a gift of milk-rice offered to him by a young woman. That night Siddartha sat under the bodhi tree and meditated until dawn. In the first watch of the night he remembered his past lives; in the second watch, around midnight, he saw how beings die and are reborn through the power of their karma, which in turn was shaped by the skillfulness of their intentions; in the third watch, toward dawn, he purified his mind of all cravings, attachments, and defilements, and finally of all intentions, both skillful and not. With that, he attained awakening at the age of thirty-five, thus earning the title Buddha, or "Awakened One." For the remainder of his life, the Buddha taught the dharma to others-men, women, and children; rich and poor; people from all walks of life and all levels of society-so that they, too, might attain awakening. He established a sangha, or community of monks and nuns, to maintain his teachings after his death. Then, one full moon night in May when he had reached the age of eighty, he lay down between two trees in a forest park and gave his last teachings to the assembled followers, counseling them to be heedful in completing their practice of the dharma. With that, he entered total nirvana. Buddhist Sects: Buddhism is not a single monolithic religion. Many of its adherents have combined the teachings of the Buddha with local religious rituals, beliefs and customs. Little conflict occurs, because Buddhism at its core is a philosophical system to which such additions can be easily grafted. After the Buddha's death, splits occurred. There are now at least three main systems of thought within Buddhism which are geographically (Southern, Eastern and Northern) and philosophically separate. Each tradition in turn has many sects. The Three Main Vehicles Today in the West, through Western converts to Buddhism and Asian immigrant communities, we have an unprecedented opportunity to experience every kind of Buddhism, and furthermore, to bring to our understanding an educated, historical perspective of the whole sweep of Buddhist activity.
For an introduction to Buddhism, we offer the most generalized, commonly accepted, main "yanas" or vehicles of the Buddha's teachings which have come to be known as Theravada Mahayana and Vajrayana.
The Basics of Buddhist Wisdom Dr. C. George Boeree Shippensburg University http://www.theinspirationstation.com/worldreligions1.htm
The Four Noble Truths:
1. Life is suffering;
2. Suffering is due to attachment;
3. Attachment can be overcome;
4. There is a path for accomplishing this.
1. 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 ourselves. 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.
2. 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.
3. 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 interconnectedness.
4. And then there is the path, called dharma. 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.
The Eightfold Path:
1. Right view is the true understanding of the four noble truths.
2. Right aspiration is the true desire to free oneself from attachment, ignorance, and hatefulness. These two are referred to as prajña, or wisdom.
3. Right speech involves abstaining from lying, gossiping, or hurtful talk.
4. Right action involves abstaining from hurtful behaviors, such as killing, stealing, and careless sex.
5. Right livelihood means making your living in such a way as to avoid dishonesty and hurting others, including animals. These three are refered 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.
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.
8. Right concentration is meditating in such a way as to progressively realize a true understanding of imperfection, impermanence, and non-separateness. The last three are known as samadhi, or meditation.
SETTING IN MOTION THE WHEEL OF THE LAW
Budda's first teaching: "And the Blessed one thus addressed the five Bhikkhus [monks]. "There are two extremes, O Bhikkhus, which he who has given up the world, ought to avoid. What are these two extremes'? A life given to pleasures, devoted to pleasures and lusts: this is degrading, sensual, vulgar, ignoble, and profitless; and a life given to rnortifications: this is painful, ignoble, and profitless. By avoiiding these two extremes, O Bhikkhus, the Tathagata [a title of Buddha meaning perhaps "he who has arrived at the truth"] has gained the knowledge of the Middle Path which leads to insight, which leads to wisdom which conduces to calm, to knowledge, co the Sambodhi [total enlightenment], to Nirvana [state of release from samsara, the cycle of existence and rebirth]. The Eightfold Path "Which, O Bhikkhus, is this Middle Path the knowledge of which the Tathagata has gained, which leads to insight, which leads to wisdom, which conduces to calm, to knowledge, to the Sambodhi, to Nirvana? It is the Holy Eightfold Path, namely, Right Belief [understanding the truth about the universality of suffering and knowing the path to its extinction], Right Aspiration [a mind free of ill will, sensuous desire and cruelty], Right Speech [abstaining from lying, harsh language and gossip], Right Conduct [avoiding killing, stealing and unlawful sexual intercourse], Right Means of Livelihood [avoiding any occupation taht brings harm directly or indirectly to any other living being], Right Endeavor [avoiding unwholsome and evil things], Right Memory [awareness in contemplation], Right Meditation. [concentration that ultimately reaches the level of a trance], This, O Bhikkhus, is the Middle Path the knowledge of which the Tathagata has gained, which leads to insight, which leads to wisdom, which conduces to calm, co knowledge, to the Sambodhi, to Nirvana. The Four Noble Truths "This, O Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of Suffering: Birch is suffering; decay is suffering; illness is suffering; death is suffering. Presence of objects we hate, is suffering; Separation from objects wc love, is suffering; not to obtain what we desire, is suffering. Briefly,... clinging to existence is suffering. "This, O Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the Cause of suffering Thirst, which leads to rebirth, accompanied by pleasure and lust, finding its delight here and there. This thirst is threefold, namely, thirst for pleasure, thirst for existence, thirst for prosperity. "This, O Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the Cessation of suffering: it ceases with the complete cessation of this thirst, -- a cessation which consists in the absence of every passion with the abandoning of this thirst, with doing away with it, with the deliverance from it, with the destruction of desire. "This, O Bhikkhus, is the Noble Truth of the Path which leads to the cessation of suffering: that Holy Eightfold Path, that is to say, Right Belief, Right Aspiration, Right Speech, Right Conduct, Right Means of Livelihood, Right Endeavor, Right Memory, Right Meditation.... "As long, O Bhikkhus, as I did not possess with perfect purity this true knowledge and insight into these four Noble Truths... so long, O Bhikkhus, I knew that I had not yet obtained the highest, absolute Sambodhi in the world of men and gods.... "But since I possessed, O Bhikkhus, with perfect purity this true knowledge and insight into these four Noble Truths... then I knew, O Bhikkhus, that I had obtained the highest, universal Sambodhi.... "And this knowledge and insight arose in my mind: "The emancipation of my mind cannot be lost; this is my last birth; hence I shall not be born again!" The Kalama Sutta In the Kalama Sutta, we find the Kalamas, a people of apparently skeptical natures, asking Buddha for guidance in distinguishing good teachers from bad ones, and proper teachings from evil ones. The Buddha answers in three parts, which are treasures of wisdom. First, he outlines the criteria we should use to distinguish good from bad teachers and teachings: "It is proper for you, Kalamas, to doubt, to be uncertain.... Do not go upon what has been acquired by repeated hearing; nor upon tradition; nor upon rumor; nor upon what is in a scripture; nor upon surmise; nor upon an axiom; nor upon specious reasoning; nor upon a bias towards a notion that has been pondered over; nor upon another's seeming ability; nor upon the consideration, 'The monk is our teacher....' "What do you think, Kalamas? Does greed appear in a man for his benefit or harm? Does hate appear in a man for his benefit or harm? Does delusion appear in a man for his benefit or harm?" -- "For his harm, venerable sir." -- "Kalamas, being given to greed, hate, and delusion, and being overwhelmed and vanquished mentally by greed, hate, and delusion, this man takes life, steals, commits adultery, and tells lies; he prompts another too, to do likewise. Will that be long for his harm and ill?" -- "Yes, venerable sir...." "Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are bad; these things are blamable; these things are censured by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill,' abandon them. " Next, Buddha presents The Four Exalted Dwellings or Brahma Vihara: "The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who in this way is devoid of coveting, devoid of ill will, undeluded, clearly comprehending and mindful, dwells, having pervaded, with the thought of amity, all corners of the universe; he dwells, having pervaded because of the existence in it of all living beings, everywhere, the entire world, with the great, exalted, boundless thought of amity that is free of hate or malice. "He lives, having pervaded, with the thought of compassion, all corners of the universe; he dwells, having pervaded because of the existence in it of all living beings, everywhere, the entire world, with the great, exalted, boundless thought of compassion that is free of hate or malice. "He lives, having pervaded, with the thought of gladness, all corners of the universe; he dwells, having pervaded because of the existence in it of all living beings, everywhere, the entire world, with the great, exalted, boundless thought of gladness that is free of hate or malice. "He lives, having pervaded, with the thought of equanimity, all corners of the universe; he dwells, having pervaded because of the existence in it of all living beings, everywhere, the entire world, with the great, exalted, boundless thought of equanimity that is free of hate or malice. And finally, Buddha reveals how, no matter what our philosophical orientation, following this path will lead to happiness, The Four Solaces: "The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, and such a purified mind, is one by whom four solaces are found here and now. "'Suppose there is a hereafter and there is a fruit, result, of deeds done well or ill. Then it is possible that at the dissolution of the body after death, I shall arise in the heavenly world, which is possessed of the state of bliss.' This is the first solace found by him. "'Suppose there is no hereafter and there is no fruit, no result, of deeds done well or ill. Yet in this world, here and now, free from hatred, free from malice, safe and sound, and happy, I keep myself.' This is the second solace found by him. "'Suppose evil (results) befall an evil-doer. I, however, think of doing evil to no one. Then, how can ill (results) affect me who do no evil deed?' This is the third solace found by him. "'Suppose evil (results) do not befall an evil-doer. Then I see myself purified in any case.' This is the fourth solace found by him. "The disciple of the Noble Ones, Kalamas, who has such a hate-free mind, such a malice-free mind, such an undefiled mind, and such a purified mind, is one by whom, here and now, these four solaces are found." (quotations adapted from The Anguttara Nikaya 3.65, Soma Thera Trans., emphases added.)
One source (J. R. Hinnels, A Handbook of Living Religions, Penguin, 1991) divides the religion into three main groups by their location:
• Southern Buddhism (known as Theravada Buddhism) has 100 million followers, mainly in Burma, Cambodia, Laos, Sri Lanka and Thailand, and parts of Vietnam. It started in Sri Lanka when Buddhist missionaries arrived from India. They promoted the Vibhajjavada School (Separative Teaching). By the 15th century, this form of the religion reached almost its present extent.
Concepts and practices include:
• Dana - thoughtful, ceremonial giving
• Sila - accepting Buddhist teaching and following it in practice; refraining from killing, stealing, wrong behavior, use of drugs. On special days, three additional precepts may be added, restricting adornment, entertainment and comfort.
• Karma - the balance of accumulated sin and merit, which will determine one's future in the present life, and the nature of the next life to come.
• The Cosmos - consists of billions of worlds grouped into clusters; clusters are grouped into galaxies, which are themselves grouped into super-galaxies. The universe also has many levels: four underworlds and 21 heavenly realms.
• Paritta - ritual chanting
• Worship - of relics of a Buddha, of items made by a Buddha, or of symbolic relics.
• Festivals - days of the full moon, and three other days during the lunar cycle are celebrated. There is a New Year's festival, and celebrations tied to the agricultural year.
• Pilgrimages - particularly to Buddhist sites in Sri Lanka and India. Eastern Buddhism is the predominant religion in China, Japan, Korea and much of Vietnam.
Buddhism's Mahayana tradition entered China during the Han dynasty (206 BCE to 220 CE). It found initial acceptance there among the workers; later, it gradually penetrated the ruling class.
Buddhism reached Japan in the 6th century. It underwent severe repression during the 1960's in China during the Cultural Revolution.
• Eastern Buddhism contains many distinct schools: T'ein-t'ai, Hua-yen, Pure Land teachings, and the Meditation school. They celebrate New Years, harvest festivals, and five anniversaries from the lives of Buddha and of the Bodhisattva Kuan-yin. They also engage in Dana, Sila, Chanting, Worship and Pilgrimage.
• Northern Buddhism has perhaps 10 million adherents in parts of China, Mongolia, Russia and Tibet. It entered Tibet circa 640 CE. Conflict with the native Tibetan religion of Bon caused it to go largely underground until its revival in the 11th century. The head of the Gelu School of Buddhist teaching became the Dalai Lama, and ruled Tibet. It has been, until recently, wrongly dismissed as a degenerate form of Buddhism. Ceremony and ritual are emphasized. They also engage in Dana, Sila, Chanting, Worship and Pilgrimage. They developed the practice of searching out a young child at the time of death of an important teacher. The child is believed to be the successor to the deceased teacher. They celebrate New Years, harvest festivals and anniversaries of five important events in the life of the Buddha. Buddhist and Tibetan culture suffered greatly during the Cultural Revolution when an attempt was made to destroy all religious belief.