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The Postmodern Catholic

Unit IV Buddhism
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Sacred Paths
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Islam Notes

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Unit IV Buddhism


A. Introduction

         Began in Northern India (Nepal) around 530 BCE

         A reaction to Hinduism


        Corruption of the caste system

         Buddhism stems from "Buddha", meaning he who is awake, who "woke up“, “the Awakened One”

B. Siddhartha, the prince

         Born in Nepal  (566-486 BCE)

         Born to King Suddhodhana and Queen Mahamaya

         Tradition says that Siddhartha’s father was given the prophecy that his son would either be a mighty ruler OR an ascetic who would become enlightened and lead others to enlightenment

         Siddhartha’s mother died only seven days after his birth

         King Suddhodhana was driven to make sure his son would become his successor

         He refused to expose Siddhartha to life’s miseries by spoiling him

         Siddhartha eventually married and had a son

1. The Four Passing Sights

         While on a pleasure excursion, Siddhartha notices an old man

         He questions his servant, Channa, who eventually exposes Siddhartha to the truths and realities of life that had been denied him

         Sid. later sees a diseased man and witnesses a burial

         He is reduced to tears and suffering

         For the first time, Siddhartha feels the pains of life and moves into compassion for all humans

         He notices a wandering ascetic and contemplates if this is the direction he should follow

         Should he abandon…




2. The Great Going Forth

         At 29, Siddhartha decides to leave everything behind and enter the forests of Northern India

         He joined five other ascetics

         He slept on the ground, begged for food (a grain of rice, a sesame seed, a nectarine, and water), and rarely bathed

         For six years, he took this path and almost died

         Siddhartha continued, not once being distracted by Mara

         He saw the beginnings of the universe and felt eternal bliss

         Tradition says that Sid. could have slipped into Nirvana (“to blow out” the flames of desire), but remained b/c of his compassion for all beings

         He remained a teacher for the next fifty years

         C. The Dharma (doctrines)

         Four Noble Truths

         Eightfold Path

         Five Precepts

         Three Marks of Existence


         1. The Four Noble Truths

         Dukkha (suffering or dis-ease of life)

         To live is to suffer

         Trauma of birth, sickness, aging process, fear of death, losses, etc.

         Tanha (desire or attachments)

         The root cause of this suffering is desire

         Nirodha (the cessation of suffering is possible

         Magga (the cure)

2. The Eightfold Path

  1. Right Intentions
  2. Right Speech
  3. Right Views
  4. Right Conduct
  5. Right Livelihood
  6. Right Effort
  7. Right Mindfulness
  8. Right Meditation

3. The Five Precepts

All lay Buddhists (Sangha) are to

refrain from…

         Sensual misconduct


         Destroying life


         Using intoxicants

The Three Marks of Existence

         Dukkha (suffering)

        Life has become disordered

         Anicca (impermanence)

        The realization of change

         Anatta (no-self)

        Since all things change, including the Self, there cannot be a permanent Self

5. Nirvana

         Nirvana means “to blow out”…the flames of desire

         It is possible to achieve nirvana in this lifetime

         Selfishness brings about bad karma, which keeps the individual in samsara

         A bodhisattva (Buddha in the making) who achieves nirvana before physical death reaches parinirvana

D. The “Rafts”

  1. Mahayana
    1. Vajrayana / Tibetan
    2. Ch’an / Zen
  2. Hinayana / Theravada
  3. Hinayana “small raft”…Theravada “Way of the Elders”
  4. Claims to hold onto the original doctrines of the Buddha
  5. Salvation is purely up to the individual
  6. The ultimate virtue is wisdom (bodhi)
  7. The ideal person: Arhat (saint) who attains parinirvana
  8. Practice centers on monasticism and meditation

Mahayana “Great Raft”

         Largest group…began in 200 BCE

         Claims to follow the example of the Buddha

         Salvation is granted through grace

         Ultimate virtue is compassion

         Ideal person is bodhisattva “one whose essence is perfect wisdom” b/c they have attained nirvana and guide others

         Practice centers on ritual & meditation

2a. Tibetan / Vajrayana

         Vehicle of the Diamond”

         Dates back to 200 CE in Tibet

         Has an official hierarchy: lamas “teachers”

         Dalai Lama “ocean of wisdom”

         Goal is to fight desires by focusing on good desires

        Mantras: monotonous, hypnotic, repeated phrases

        Mudras: choreographed hand movements

        Mandalas and thangkas: artistic symbols used to excite the senses

2b. Zen / Ch’an Buddhism


         Began in China in 520 BCE with the monk, Bodhidharma

         Preaches acceptance of the world as it is, w/ no preconceived notions

         Focuses on meditation

         Scriptures contain almost illogical sayings: “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

         Understand the mind w/o using the body


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D. “The more I am able to affirm others, to say ‘yes” to them in myself, by discovering them in myself and myself in them, the more real I am. I am fully real if my own heart says yes to everyone” Thomas Merton