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Examine the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and the Middle Way. The story of Buddha’s enlightenment includes: Buddha" meaning "awakened one" or "the enlightened one. Buddha achieved enlightenment by gaining the three types of knowledge: complete knowledge of all his own past lives, of the karma and rebirths of all others, and the Four Noble Truths. When referring to the Enlightenment of the Buddha and thus to the goal of the Buddhist path the word enlightenment is normally translating the Pali and Sanskrit word bodhi. Known as the Buddha, is said to have achieved full enlightenment, known as perfect Buddhahood. According to the early Buddhist texts, after realizing that meditative jhana was the right path to awakening, but that extreme asceticism didn't work, Gautama discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification. In a famous incident, after becoming starved and weakened, he is said to have accepted milk and rice pudding from a village girl named Sujata. Such was his emaciated appearance that she wrongly believed him to be a spirit that had granted her a wish. Following this incident, Gautama was famously seated under a pipal tree now known as the Bodhi tree in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth. Kaundinya and four other companions, believing that he had abandoned his search and become undisciplined, left. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment. According to some traditions, this occurred in approximately the fifth lunar month, while, according to others, it was in the twelfth month. From that time, Gautama was known to his followers as the Buddha or "Awakened One." According to Buddhism, at the time of his awakening he realized complete insight into the cause of suffering, and the steps necessary to eliminate it. These discoveries became known as the Four Noble Truths, which are at the heart of Buddhist teaching. Through mastery of these truths, a state of supreme liberation, or Nirvana, is believed to be possible for any being. The Buddha described Nirvana as the perfect peace of a mind that's free from ignorance, greed, hatred and other afflictive states. Nirvana is also regarded as the "end of the world", in that no personal identity or boundaries of the mind remain. Contemporary of Mahavira (Jainism) Born about 563 BCE as Siddhartha, son of wealthy landowner, a Kshatriya chief, who tried to protect him from world. According to birth legends, he was born of miraculous conception. Much told about Buddha is historically unverifiable. At 29 renounced life of wealth and became wandering ascetic. Studied with two Brahmin teachers. Joined five ascetics living in selfdenial— fasting, nakedness, exposure. Decided to practice the Middle Way and experienced Supreme Enlightenment, after enlightenment he ―radiated light‖ and became a ―Buddha.‖ • • • The Four Noble Truths about suffering The Eightfold Path to liberation from suffering Joined five ascetics living in self-denial— fasting, nakedness, exposure
• • • • •
Decided to practice the Middle Way and experienced Supreme Enlightenment After enlightenment he ―radiated light‖ and became a ―Buddha‖ He taught the five ascetics: The Four Noble Truths about suffering The Eightfold Path to liberation from suffering
The Four Noble Truths: The Buddha set Four Noble Truths in the first sermon at Sarnath, the foundation for all future teachings. • The First Noble Truth- Life involves suffering, dissatisfaction, and distress. Is the existence of dukkha; suffering and dissatisfaction. We all experience grief, unfulfilled desires and sickness, old age, physical pain, mental anguish, and eventually death. What we regard as a ―self‖ is an ever changing bundle of fleeting feelings, sense impressions, ideas, and evanescent physical matter. • The Second Noble Truth- Suffering caused by craving, rooted in ignorance. Is the origin of dukkha is craving and clinging to sensory pleasures, to fame and fortune, for all things to stay as they are or for them to be different and attachment to things and ideas. • The Third Noble Truth- Suffering will cease when craving ceases. Is that dukkha will cease when craving and clinging cease. Illusion ends, insight into the true nature of things dawns, and nirvana is achieved. • The Fourth Noble Truth- There is a way to realize this state; the Noble Eightfold Path. Is that craving and suffering can be extinguished by following the Noble Eightfold Path- a path of ethical conduct, concentration, and wisdom. The Eightfold Path: Right View and 2. Right Intention = Wisdom 3.Right Speech 4. Right Action 5.Right Livelihood = Ethical Conduct 6. Right Effort 7. Right Mindfulness 8. Right Concentration = Mental Development. 1. Right View-Right view is the beginning and the end of the path, it simply means to see and to understand things as they really are and to realize the Four Noble Truth. 2. Right Intention-While right view refers to the cognitive aspect of wisdom, right intention refers to the volitional aspect, i.e. the kind of mental energy that controls our actions. Right intention can be described best as commitment to ethical and mental self-improvement.
3. Right Speech - Right speech is the first principle of ethical conduct in the eightfold path. Ethical conduct is viewed as a guideline to moral discipline, which supports the other principles of the path. 4. Right Action-The right action, involves the body as natural means of expression, as it refers to deeds that involve bodily actions. Unwholesome actions lead to unsound states of mind, while wholesome actions lead to sound states of mind. 5. Right Livelihood- Right livelihood means that one should earn one's living in a righteous way and that wealth should be gained legally and peacefully. The Buddha mentions four specific activities that harm other beings and that one should avoid for this reason: 1.Dealing in weapons, 2.Dealing in living beings (including raising animals for slaughter as well as slave trade and prostitution), 3.Working in meat production and butchery, and 4.Selling intoxicants and poisons, such as alcohol and drugs. 6. Right Effort- Right effort can be seen as a prerequisite for the other principles of the path. Without effort, which is in itself an act of will, nothing can be achieved, whereas misguided effort distracts the mind from its task, and confusion will be the consequence. 7. Right Mindfulness- Right mindfulness is the controlled and perfected faculty of cognition. It is the mental ability to see things as they are, with clear consciousness. 8. Right Concentration- The eighth principle of the path, right concentration, refers to the development of a mental force that occurs in natural consciousness, although at a relatively low level of intensity, namely concentration. Concentration in this context is described as onepointedness of mind, meaning a state where all mental faculties are unified and directed onto one particular object. Right concentration for the purpose of the eightfold path means wholesome concentration, i.e. concentration on wholesome thoughts and actions. The Middle Way: According to the Buddha, the Middle Way is a life lived between the extremes of self-denial and self-indulgence. Neither hedonist nor ascetic are to be imitated, for the Noble Eightfold Path weaves its way through life avoiding both these unenlightened lifestyles. To see the world in the light of the Buddha dharma is to have Right View, not only recognizing the suffering that is caused by desire, but also the Path that leads to the ending of all such suffering, based in the Right Intention to let go of lust, ill-will, and cruelty. In other words, to lead a harmless life. Right Speech, Action, and Livelihood grow out of such an intention, directing one’s lifestyle in a more selfless, rather than selfish, direction. Right Effort is the avoidance of unwholesome states and the cultivation of wholesome ones. Right Mindfulness and Concentration take this well-directed mind and hone it to the point where it is on the precipice of the great void that is known as Nirvana. The perfection of the Path (that is, the Middle Way), is the ripening of the spiritual life; it becomes a fruit ready to drop into the infinity of enlightenment…forever. Living the Middle
Way can take many different forms – not surprising when the many strands of the Buddha dharma are taken into account, along with the many types of people there are – but all are ultimately intent on its original and continuous objective: Nirvana. To cultivate a moral lifestyle hand in hand with a mindful meditative practice is to walk the Middle Way, which gives vision and understanding, as the Buddha put it. This vision is to see things as they are, rather than as we think or want them to be, and this understanding is the knowledge that in the things of the world there is no salvation or enlightenment; awakening to the silent wisdom within is to experience the calm mind that penetrates to the core of our being: the Buddha. The Middle Way is not only the recommended manner of living given us by the Buddha; it is also the realization that beyond these limited erroneous egos and puffed-up personalities we are the Buddha. To truly walk the Middle Way is to traverse this world in the knowledge that we are already enlightened – we just have to enlighten ourselves to the fact! Openly reflecting on the Way is to share with all sentient beings this wondrous hidden truth, helping us to let go a little of our greed, hatred, and delusion, the three poisons that tie us to a life of suffering. For, as the Buddha so wisely taught all those centuries ago, it is in the walking of this Middle Way that one discovers Nirvana, releasing the pain and anguish of the ego into the serenity of our Buddha-nature. 2. Describe the major similarities and differences among Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana traditions. Theravada - ―the path of mindfulness and emphasizes universal compassion and selflessness.‖ "Doctrine of the Elders", bases its practice and doctrine exclusively on the Pali Canon. Conservative and traditional Buddhist way • • • • • • • Study early scriptures—Pali Canon Monastic life of renunciation The Triple Gem Buddha Dharma Sangha Mindfulness meditation teachings—Vipassana This is considered to be the oldest of the surviving Buddhist canons, and its sutras are accepted as authentic in every branch of Buddhism. The Theravada- studies the early scripture in Pali, honor the life of renunciation, and follow mindfulness meditation teachings. This ancient canon or collective writings are called the Pali Canon. Also referred as Tipitaka (Sanskrit: Tripitaka, ―Three Baskets,‖ because the old practice of storing palm-leaf manuscripts in wicker baskets). The triple Gem recited in the Pali
formula: Buddham saranam gacchami ―I go to Buddha for refuge‖ dhammam saranam gacchami ―I go to Dharma for refuge‖ and sangham saranam gacchami ―I go to the Sangha for refuge. Theravada Buddhism follows the Seven Stages of Purification, (Path to purification. It is based on the classical Noble Eightfold Path, but emphasizes insight in the three characteristics of life, namely dukkha, anatta and anicca. It distinguishes four stages of enlightenment, in which the ten fetters are gradually abandoned. Practiced mainly in southern Asian countries for example: Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Burma.
Mahayana -"Greater Vehicle" described as ―the path of compassion and wisdom.‖ • • • Sutras (scriptures) Bodhisattvas—those dedicated to Enlightenment Three bodies of Buddha
Pure universal consciousness Body of bliss — communicates dharma to Bodhisattvas Body of transformation — becomes human to help liberate humanity Emptiness: what the eternal is not. This is one of the more liberal and mystical Northern School, stresses compassion rather than intellect efforts at individual salvation. It has developed a rich variety of teachings, including the use of mantras, such as the Daimoku in Nichiren Buddhism, and devotion to Buddha ancestors. Mahayana texts, the Lotus Sutra claimed there was a higher goal than the arhant’s achievement of liberation, namely to aspire to become a bodhisattva and work to achieve the perfect enlightenment to Buddha. Mahayana is mainly practiced in northern Asian countries, for example: China, Japan, Tibet, Korea and Vietnam.
Vajrayana- "Diamond Vehicle" described as ―the indestructible path.‖ • • Branch of Mahayana Buddhism that developed in Tibet Developed three stages:
Hinayana-quieting of the mind, meditation Mahayana-training in compassion, loving kindness Vajrayana-speeded up path that allows enlightenment in a single lifetime • Highest level of practitioners is lamas.
Shares many of the basic concepts of Mahayana, but also includes a vast array of spiritual techniques designed to enhance Buddhist practice. One component of the Vajrayana is harnessing psycho-physical energy as a means of developing profoundly powerful states of concentration and awareness. These profound states are in turn to be used as an efficient path to Buddhahood. ―Vajrayana practices use the subtle vital energies of the body to transform the mind.‖ Sacred text include: Mahayana Canon, various tantras. Vajrayana embodies ideas of both the Yogachara discipline, which emphasizes the ultimacy of mind, and the Madhyamika philosophy, which undermines any attempt to posit a relativistic principle as the ultimate. Dealing with inner experiences, the Vajrayana texts use a highly symbolic language that aims at helping the followers of its disciplines to evoke within themselves experiences considered to be the most valuable available to human beings. Vajrayana thus attempts to recapture the enlightenment experience of the historical Buddha. Historically practiced in Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, and Mongolia. Currently practiced throughout the Tibetan diaspora and increasingly in North America and Europe. The Theravada tradition emphasizes that the Buddha is an historical figure who taught the Dharma as a guide to liberation from suffering, then died like any other human being. By contrast, in the Mahayana tradition, the Buddha came to be regarded as the embodiment of enlightened awareness. Both Theravada and Mahayana scriptures portray Buddha’s and bodhisattvas moving swiftly through intergalactic space and time, appearing in multiple forms at different world systems simultaneously. Both groups agree on Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, karma and nirvana.
3. Explain some main trends in Buddhism today, addressing the application of Buddhist principals to social issues, women roles, and the practice of meditation. Some major shifts within Buddhism, and the dialogue between feminists. Receiving national attention is focused on a range of social issues that includes : addressing gender discrimination. Buddhism does not consider women as being inferior to men. Buddhism, while accepting the biological and physical differences between the two sexes, does consider men and women to be equally useful to the society. The Buddha emphasizes the fruitful role the women can play and should play as a wife, a good mother in making the family life a success. In the family both husbands and wives are expected to share equal responsibility and discharge their duties with equal dedication. The husband is admonished to consider the wife a friend, a companion, a partner. In family affairs the wife was expected to be a substitute for the husband when the husband happened to be indisposed. In fact, a wife was expected even to acquaint herself with the trade, business or industries in which the husband engaged, so that she would be in a position to manage his affairs in his absence. This shows that in the Buddhist society the wife occupied an equal position with the husband. The various schools and traditions within Buddhism hold different views as to the possibilities of women's spiritual attainments. In Mahayana schools,
Buddhahood is the universal goal for Mahayana practitioners. The Mahayana sutras, like the Pali Canon literature, maintain that a woman can become enlightened, only not in female form. Vajrayana Buddhism also recognizes many female yogini practitioners as achieving the full enlightenment of a Buddha. Buddhism is known to be less of a culturally based religion, which has helped immensely in its spread throughout the world. In more recent times women have enjoyed much freedom within Buddhism. Although Asian cultures still frown on women masters, such as in Japan and Korea, other cultures put women on a more equal basis. Buddhism in America, has greatly expanded women's role in Buddhism. Both Buddhism and Hinduism affirm the equality of women in relation with the divine, be it Buddha nature or relationship with God (Brahman). Buddhism regards spiritual health as the key to other kinds of health. Religious practices of meditation, moral conduct, recitations of Buddhist texts, and rituals help people to cultivate awareness of the true nature of reality. For example, cutting through the delusions of the egoistic self through meditation practice aids the individual to understand his or her ―True Self.‖ One that is conjoined with the true nature of reality. Upon this realization, a person is free to enter the enlightened state of Nirvana or is able to help the world in a way that is not hindered by personal delusions. Whether done individually or as a group, Buddhist spiritual practices are meant to impact all domains of well-being, and in doing so, demonstrate that within the overarching tradition, achieving a holistic vision of the universe is consummate with liberation from suffering. "Zen" (Japanese) and "Ch'an" (Chinese) derive from the Sanskrit word Dhyana, meaning "meditation." Zen Buddhism focuses on attaining enlightenment (bodhi) through meditation as Gautama did. It teaches that all human beings have the Buddha-nature, or the potential to attain enlightenment, within them, but the Buddha-nature been clouded by ignorance. To overcome this ignorance, Zen rejects the study of scriptures, religious rites, devotional practices, and good works in favor of meditation leading to a sudden breakthrough of insight and awareness of ultimate reality. Training in the Zen path is usually undertaken by a disciple under the guidance of a master. Discussion Questions 1 and 2 1. What are the major similarities and differences between Hinduism and Buddhism? Similarities between Hinduism and Buddhism: On Reincarnation Buddhism : Buddhism believes in the process of reincarnation based on deeds of the present life. Hinduism : Hinduism also believes that everyone is a part of an impersonal world and therefore, one's soul reincarnates into another body of any being, based on the deeds of the present life. On Salvation
Buddhism : One has to work for salvation oneself and therefore, cannot blame others for the same. The salvation depends on the good deeds of a person. Hinduism : In Hinduism also, one attains salvation as per one's own fate and deeds. There are four paths or four yoga’s to attain salvation : Karma Yoga - Way of good works, Bhakti Yoga Way of love and faith, Jnana Yoga - Way of knowledge, and Raja Yoga - Way of salvation. On Enlightenment Buddhism and Hinduism : Both of them believe that there are many paths to attain enlightenment such as overcoming through your feelings and desires and controlling over the six conscious senses. On Sufferings Buddhism and Hinduism : Both the schools of thought believe that excessive attachment to things and people in the physical world causes pain and suffering. Therefore, we must get ourselves free from the illusions of 'Maya' or worldly desires. Yogic Practices Buddhism and Hinduism : Both of them gives an emphasis on the practice of meditation and other forms of yoga, which not only helps one to concentrate on the truth of life, but also facilitates the path of enlightenment and liberation. Tantric Practices Buddhism : Buddhism has a major sect, 'Tantrayana', which is mainly based upon the tantric practices. Hinduism : Tantric practices are also prevalent in Hinduism, especially among the worshippers of the Goddess Kali and the god Shiva. Likewise Hinduism, the Mahayana Buddhism believes that the original teachings of the Buddha are from the Hindu practices, including prayers and the concept of God(even the Buddha as God in all His incarnations). Mahayana Buddhism also introduces the idea of (temporary) heavens and hells.
Differences Between Hinduism And Buddhism: On God Buddhism : The original Buddhist doctrine does not entail any godly figures, though the later Buddhist sects introduced some Godly figures.
Hinduism : The Hindus believe in 300,000 Gods. On Rituals Buddhism : Buddhism does follow some rituals but only in the form of meditation, and bowing and different forms of worship while offering prayer in the Buddhist temples. Buddhist practices also do not require any priests. Hinduism : The rituals, being followed by the Hindus are more complex and vary from birth to death of a person. Besides, priests do play important role in all the rituals. On Caste System Buddhism : There are four major sub sects in Buddhism, but none of them follow the caste system. Hinduism : On the contrary, there are a number of castes and sub-castes in Hinduism, and the Hindus follow them rigidly. On Asceticism Buddhism : As the middle way, Buddhism rejects extreme asceticism as well as great wealth. Hinduism : Most of the Hindus believe in extreme asceticism. On Vedas Buddhism : The Buddhists do not believe in the Vedas. Rather they firmly believe in the teachings of the Lord Buddha and the Buddhist scriptures. Hinduism : Hinduism believes in the supremacy of four Vedas - Rig-Veda, Samveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. On Stages of Life Buddhism : The Buddhists do not believe in the stages of life. People can join any of the stages any time depending upon their spiritual preparedness. Hinduism : The Hindus believe in the four stages of life, also known as the 'ashramas' Brahamacharya Ashram or Student life, Grihastha Ashram or family life, Vanprastha Ashram or the age at which a person leaves all the worldly desire and home, and Sanyasa Ashram - when a person meditates and awaits for the ultimate truth, death. 2. What are the Buddhist understandings of time and reality? There is no Buddhist story about how the universe was originally created, as the Buddhist universe has no beginning in the sense that the Christian universe does. Early Buddhism shared
an understanding of time and the nature of the universe with the Brahmanic religion of the time, which taught that the universe had been created and destroyed over and over again over vast periods of time. Within each cycle, there are stages, or kalpas, and the nature of existence is different in each stage. Later Buddhism expanded this vision to include multiple universes, each with its own Buddha and each of which is going through these cycles of creation and destruction. According to Buddhism, ultimate reality is samsara, endless existence, but it is also impermanent, ever in flux, ever changing. It is empty, yet full. That is, form is always a temporary state of being. Some forms last for millennia, like mountains and oceans, and some are as brief as a lightning bolt. Elements come together to create a particular form, but eventually those elements will break apart again and the object will cease to exist. This is true of everything in the universe. The Wheel of Life and Death, it depicts the universe as a series of concentric circles all within the grasp of Mara, the lord of death. Several realms for gods of different types and several different hells, as well as an animal realm and a realm for humans, are contained within the wheel. As Buddhism evolved, the number of realms beyond the earthly realm expanded exponentially. Mahayana Buddhist texts describe many heavenly realms to which people can be reborn, including a number of Pure Lands, each with its own Buddha, as well many horrifying hells. How do these differ from theistic understandings? Buddhism as a Non-Theistic Religion. Buddhism is unique amongst the religions of the world because it does not have any place for God in its soteriology. Indeed most Asian religions with the possible exception of some extremely devotional forms of Hinduism are essentially nontheistic, in that God does not occupy the central place that is accorded to him in monotheistic religious traditions. But Buddhism goes beyond most of these other religions in that it is positively anti-theistic because the very notion of God conflicts with some principles which are fundamental to the Buddhist view of the world and the role of humans in it. It is principally concerned with developing a method of escape from the worldly ills. This involves undertaking a method of mental discipline and a code of conduct which is sufficient to satisfy the most demanding of spiritual requirements. Indeed only very little of the Buddha's voluminous discourses deal directly with the question of God. He was more interested in expounding a way to personal salvation, and to improve the weal of mankind both in this world and in the worlds to come. It is this task that informs most of the discourses of the Buddha which later came to be compiled into the various Canons of Buddhism.
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