- Created by: EmmyAnnG
- Created on: 11-05-18 17:29
Importance of the Pali Canon in Buddhism
- The Pali Canon consists of the Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka and Abhidhamma Pitaka. It is therefore very important as being the key source of wisdom and authority for Theravada Buddhists. It also has a wider readership within Buddhism and many Mahayana texts draw upon it.
- The Patimokkha- in the Vinaya Pitaka- are recited today by the monastic sangha of Theravada every two weeks. Monks and nuns may also memorise the Patimokkha. This shows the continuing importance of the Pali Canon.
- The Dhammapada- sayings of the Buddha- is one of the best-known and most popular Buddhist texts particularly amongst 'convert' Buddhists in the West. It is found in the minor writings of the Sutta Pitaka- therefore suggesting the continuing importance of the Pali Canon.
- Much of the Pali Canon taken as a whole is of relevance only to the monastic Sangha. This is true of the Vinaya Pitaka. In addition, the abstract and complex teaching in the Abhidhamma Pitaka means that it is only of relevance to monks, nuns and scholars who are pursuing dhamma studies, limiting overall importance.
- Buddhists of other traditions such as Mahayana, Vajrayana and Tibetan Buddhism give less importance to the Pali Canon and focus on the Lotus or Heart Sutra.
- Buddhists who follow Pure Land, Nichiren and Zen Buddhism would see little importance to the PC in achieving enlightenment, but rather focus on mediation, koans etc.
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Significance of the Vinaya for the Sangha
- The Vinaya's significance can be seen in that it is regarded as the oldest part of the Tripitaka with the Buddha himself establishing the rules for the Sangha
- The belief that the Patimokkha have been recited since the time of the Buddha- that is before any of the Tripitaka was committed to writing- provides a direct link for the monastic sangha with the historical Buddha himself
- The Patimokkha- in the Vinaya Pitaka- are recited today by the monastic sangha of Theravada every two weeks. Monks and nuns may also memorise the Patimokkha. This shows the continuing significance of the Vinaya. Through the course of over 2500 years, Buddhism has survived due to the continuation of the monastic sangha which in large part has been maintained due to close observance of the Vinaya Pitaka
- The lay sangha do not need the full Vinaya for their own needs
- Mahayana developments valued the details of the Vinaya less- in many Mahayana schools monks and nuns marry
- Triratna describes 'commitment' i.e. beliefs as more important than 'lifestyle' (the Vinaya directs the lifestyle of the monastics
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The teachings in Mahayana Sutras as representative
- Taken as a whole, the Mahayana Sutras portray a universe of demons, kings, asuras, devas, celestial bodhisattvas, multiple realms etc. which is not representative of reality as understood in a scientific way.
- The Mahayana Sutras describe a tier of bodhisattvas who aid can be called upon which detract from focus on a person achieving enlightenment through their own efforts.
- The Sukhavati Pure Land Sutra with its account of the creation of the Pure Land and other Buddha world does not appear to be at all representative of reality as understood in any scientific paradigm expect perhaps the parallel world theory in quantum mechanics
- The Heart Sutra's explanation that all is sunya/empty of inherent existence might be seen as consistent with a scientific understanding of reality as for example via particle physics
- To be fully representative of reality, there arguably has to be some concept of origination with regard to the universe such as the Big Bang Theory- this is wholly lacking in the Mahayana Sutras
- The question might arise of what is meant by the term 'reality' in the first place, and whether there is a category mistake in trying to find such a Western concept in Buddhist texts
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Skilful means as a key to understanding Buddhism's
- Skilful means makes clear that a wide variety of techniques can achieve the purpose of enlightenment
- The Parable of the Burning House shows that skilful means are key because it underlines how the urgency of the human condition and the distracted state of sentient being required a variety of vehicles to achieve enlightenment
- The Parable of the Burning House indicates that the Buddha's teaching is provisional and this explains Buddhism's diversity
- Conversely, it would seem to indicate that ultimately there is no diversity since all paths lead into the one bodhisattva path
- Skilful means helps elucidate the saying from Shurangama Sutta that none of the diverse paths is the truth such,but are all like fingers pointing to the moon.
- Conversely, more mundane factors may be seen as key to Buddhism's diversity such as the focus on compassion and greater inclusion in Mahyana as opposed to more monastic Theravada
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The success of Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh in e
- The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh are seen by many as the key faced and voices of Buddhism ensuring that it remains relevant in the modern world
- Through international travel, interviews and by making themselves entirely accessible to all forms of modern media, the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh have ensured the continuing relevance of Buddhism.
- As authors of numerous best-selling populist books on Buddhism, both the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh have brought Buddhism to a mass audience including many young people.
- The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh have given Buddhism a platform on the world stage in political/social matters e.g. peace and the environment. They are the most well-known representatives of socially engaged Buddhism.
- Some would argue that conversely, the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh have only ensured that a very simplistic and populist form of Buddhism- lacking in depth and substance has become acceptable in the modern world.
- The beliefs of the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat are only representative of a minority within Buddhism. They have therefore not made Buddhism as a whole, relevant in the modern world.
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Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh have developed new
- The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh have not developed new and innovative expressions of Buddhism- rather they have used skilful means and adapted traditional Buddhism to fit in with the modern world
- Thich Nhat Hanh and Dalai Lama have been leading proponents of Socially Engaged Buddhism which is aimed at giving to Buddhism a new and innovative expression
- The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh have only given new and innovative expressions of Tibetan Buddhism and Zen not of Theravada, Pure Land or Nichiren Buddhism.
- The Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh have simply presented traditional expressions of Buddhism to a modern world which has not really heard about them before. They seem new and innovative whereas, in reality, they are not
- New and innovative expressions of Buddhism require a new understanding of what is key to Buddhism. Through their understanding of kindness, compassion and non-harming, this has been achieved by the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh.
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Extent to which Japanese Buddhism is unique
- Japanese Buddhism is unique partly because of the influence of Daoism and Confucianism on Chinese forms which were exported to Japan and the influence of Shinto on the development of Buddhism in Japan. It is also unique because of the way in which it became aligned with different strands of society in imperial Japan e.g. Pure Land, Nichiren and Zen.
- Japanese Buddhism is unique because of the way in which it aimed to make Buddhism have a mass appeal that was not reliant on the monastic sangha i.e. the populism of Pure Land, Nichiren and Soto Zen.
- Whilst there might be some unique aspects of Japanese Buddhism, most of the beliefs, teachings and practices can be seen to have similarities with Buddhism in other countries e.g. chanting mantras, focused forms of meditation, bodhisattvas etc.
- Japanese Pure Land Buddhism is unique because of its emphasis on Other power rather than Self-Power and its belief in Amitabha Buddha who can be called upon for help and for rebirth in the Pure Land.
- Japanese Nichiren Buddhism is unique because of its focus on one text- the Lotus Sutra- rather than on a range of the many other Buddhist texts and sources of wisdom.
- Japanese Zen Buddhism is unique because of its advocacy of the possibility of enlightenment being achieved instantly by taking a leap into an intuitive understanding of reality.
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Importance of Koan, nembutsu and daimoku as expres
- The Koan (Zen), nembutsu (PL) and daimoku (Nichiren) taken together are valid expressions of Japanese Buddhism and can be seen in terms of one path as all seeking enlightenment
- The Koan is an important expression of Buddhist teaching as it enables the mind to take a leap into an intuitive understanding of reality and thus brings about enlightenment
- The nembutsu is an important expression of Buddhist teaching as it enables the person to be reborn in the Pure Land where enlightenment or Buddhahood can be achieved
- The daimoku is an important expression of Buddhist teaching as it enables a person to take refuge in the Lotus Sutra which in Nicherin is regarded as the culmination of Buddhist teaching and the one yana. Chanting may help to bring about enlightenment.
- The Koan, nembutsu and daimoku are not expressions of Buddhist teachings as they aim to bring about enlightenment in easier ways than those practiced by the Buddha or Theravada
- The Koan, nembutsu and daimoku each in their own way appear to contradict the Buddha's final saying that perfection should be attained through one's own diligence and self-discipline. The nembutsu for example appears to rely on an external power- that of Amida Buddha
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Extent to which there is a close relationship betw
- That there is a close relationship between Buddhism and science can be shown by the fact that Buddhism can be understood as being based on empirical data rather than on blind faith as explained by the Kalama Sutta.
- This relationship can also be seen in what are considered to be scientifically proven benefits of meditation
- Teachings regarding Sunyata that form is emptiness and emptiness is form, and into anicca that everything is impermanent have been seen as entirely compatible with research into subatomic physics
- Conversely, the close relationship is based on a selective understanding of Buddhism. It is contradicted by Asian Buddhist worldviews populated with a diversity of beings and realms.
- The origins of Buddhism are to be found in a pre-scientific age with a very limited understanding of what is understood by science today. Therefore there cannot be a close relationship
- There is required 'belief' and 'faith' for all Buddhists in enlightenment for which there is no scientific proof.
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Scientific worldview and Buddhism are incompatible
- Some Buddhist worldviews populated with a diversity of beings and realms are incompatible with a scientific worldview
- Key Buddhist texts such as the Lotus Sutra and Sukhavati Pure Land Sutra present worldviews that are incompatible with science- Parable of the burning house
- There is no compatibility at all between the scientific worldview and key Buddhist beliefs such as rebirth and karma
- Conversely, the pragmatic approach found in the Kalama sutta presents words from the Buddha himself encouraging what has become a scientific worldview
- Buddhist practices such as samatha have a noticeable psychological and physiological effect and as such are entirely compatible with the empirical research required by a scientific worldview. 6. Buddhism is compatible with a scientific worldview as evidenced by the Dalai Lama’s encouragement of science and his founding of the Mind and Life Institute
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Legitimacy of Western Presentations of Buddhism as
- Presenting Buddhism as atheistic and secular is legitimate given that there is no belief in an overarching creator God.
- The essential teaching of Buddhism as found in the three lakshanas and the Noble Eightfold Path can be regarded as atheistic and secular since there is no mention at all of God
- Presentations of Buddhism as atheistic and secular are entirely consistent with the teaching found in the Kalama Sutta.
- Whilst the teaching of the historical Buddha might be seen as atheistic and secular, he also taught the concept of karma leading to rebirth. The concept of rebirth requires a religious metaphysics.
- Pure Land Buddhism in particular with its reliance on the outside agency and power of Amida/Amitabha Buddha cannot be described as atheistic and secular
- It is only philosophical Buddhism which might have elements of apparent atheism and secularism in it. As practiced by the majority of Buddhists, it has all the identifiable features of any other world religion. The parable of the Poison arrow does not given negative answers to metaphysical questions (i.e. it does not say there is no God). It simply says those questions are not worth asking.
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Whether Buddhism is a religion
- In all its characteristics, Buddhism presents Smart's seven dimensions of religion: practical and ritual, experiential and emotional, narrative or mythic, doctrinal and philosophical, ethical and legal, social and institutional and material.
- Post-mortem existence is, arguably, an entirely religious concept. Buddhism clearly teaches samsara and rebirth indicating that it is a religion.
- Apart from some Western ‘convert’ Buddhists, the vast majority of Buddhists see Buddhism as a religion which impacts deeply on their spiritual lives. This religious affirmation of Buddhism by its practitioners cannot be lightly ignored
- The defining characteristic for a religion is belief in an omnipotent creator God. Buddhism has no such belief.
- In general, religion’s concern is with the person’s ontological existence which is linked to an immortal soul created by God and destined for eternal life. This is entirely lacking in Buddhism which demonstrates it is not a religion
- Religions teach that a person’s behaviour is subject to judgment by God who then determines their reward and punishment. By contrast in Buddhism, karma and samsara teach that this is wholly determined by the person.
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British Buddhism compared to other countries.
- British Buddhism is unique because as a minority religion (2011 census 0.4% of the population) it attempts to place Buddhism within the context of Britain which might be termed as Christian (2011 census 58.8% of the population).
- Whilst ‘convert’ British Buddhism may be said to have a unique nature such as Triratna, the same cannot be said of ‘heritage’ British Buddhism such as Amaravati or the Soka Gakkai International Nichiren centre in Taplow.
- ‘Convert’ British Buddhism which finds expression in Triratna is unique as the concept of the monastic sangha is largely rejected, chants are in English, and the dhamma is presented in a simplified and accessible form.
- ‘Convert British Buddhism’ is unique because the term includes exponents and followers of secular/atheistic Buddhism such as Stephen Batchelor who would not be considered truly Buddhist in other countries.
- Some forms of Buddhism in Britain may not be 'unique' because they try hard to replicate all the Asian forms and ceremonies such as Amaravati Monastery – and the International Zen Association of the UK
- British Buddhism is unique because it has to find its expression largely amongst lay people given that there are very few viharas, Buddhist temples and monasteries in the UK.
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legitmacy of convert Buddhism with heritage Buddhi
- The issue stated above has to be rejected since all forms of Buddhism have legitimacy when they ascribe even in the most general terms to the tenets of the Buddha.
- ‘Convert’ Buddhism may not have the same legitimacy as ‘heritage’ Buddhism because the medium of dhamma instruction is in English which through translation simplifies key but complex terms such as ‘anicca’.
- Whilst the widest range of beliefs, teaching and practices may be preserved in ‘heritage’ Buddhism, it is only a simplified and condensed range which is possible within ‘convert’ Buddhism.
- ‘Convert’ Buddhists in Britain do not have easy access to the monastic sangha which has preserved traditions, or to monks, nuns, lamas, Zen masters etc. This raises questions as to its comparative legitimacy
- ‘Heritage’ Buddhism places everything in context - such as meditation within the context of the moral life, following the dasasila and the Noble Eightfold Path, achieving the paramitas and the Bodhisattva path of Mahayana. However, ‘convert’ Buddhism may take things out of context in order to find only what suits the individual and their milieu (personal social environment) best.
- Teachings such as sunyata sand skilful means suggest that all forms of Buddhism have legitimacy if their goal is to alleviate suffering and to show the path to enlightenment.
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Features which contribute to the popularity of Bud
- The popularity of Buddhism in Britain is due to the continued exposure that holidaymakers both young and old have had to countries such as Thailand where Buddhism is the dominant religion.
- Buddhist iconography - particularly in the form of the Buddha rupa which appears in a huge variety of forms from garden ornaments to indoor objets d’art - has played a significant part in making Buddhism identifiable and popular.
- Mass media – particularly the internet - is a significant feature which has made Buddhism popular in Britain since people can have instant access to all schools of Buddhism, Buddhist teachers and Buddhist sacred texts and sources of wisdom and authority, which were previously unattainable.
- Conversely, the most significant feature in the popularity of Buddhism in Britain is due to Britain being a multi-faith and pluralist society.
- The most significant feature in the popularity of Buddhism in Britain is that unlike all the other major world religions, belief in an omnipotent creator God is not required.
- The most significant feature in the popularity of Buddhism in Britain is its apparent rationalism, emphasis on self-reliance and its teaching that enlightenment can occur in this life.
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Buddhism aligns with feminism
- Buddhism is fully aligned with feminism as it teaches that all human sentient beings are able to achieve enlightenment regardless of gender.
- Unlike other world religions, Buddhism has a focus on what might be termed feminist virtues such as community, compassion, connection, peace, balance, interdependence, etc. Patriarchy is a source of suffering for women (and men) and if Buddhism’s main aim is to counter suffering, it must align itself with feminism.
- Particularly within Mahayana, Buddhism is fully aligned with feminism with regard to dominant and positive iconography and belief in bodhisattvas such as Guanyin, the female form of Avalokitesvara.
- Conversely, Buddhism is not aligned with feminism because the Buddha himself reflected the misogyny of his time in his reluctance to ordain Mahapajapati and her women companions as nuns.
- Theravada Buddhism is not aligned with feminism as it preserves the patriarchy of Buddhism found in the lack of recognition given to nuns and in the Eight Garudhammas – particularly the first. Also Dragon King’s daughter in Lotus Sutra, where both feminist and patriarchal readings possible. it is not as simple as Theravada=anti-feminist and Mahayana = feminist.
- The Patimokkha in the Vinaya Pitaka suggests that Buddhism is not aligned with feminism given the 227 rules for monks and the 311 for nuns.
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Practices as expressions of Buddhist ideas
- Mantra focus is found elsewhere in Buddhism – Pure Land nembutsu, & Nichiren Daimoku.
- Mudra appear throughout Buddhist iconography. However, the practice is unique to Vajrayana (although palms together ’gassho’- gesture is pan-Buddhist)
- Is it possible that practices express Buddhist ideas better than teachings/metaphors/narrative, because they are embodied and repeated?
- The idea that practices, shared by the sangha, may provide a container for the passing on of the dharma from one generation to the next.
- According to the Pali texts the Buddha did not teach many practices and was largely antiritualistic in his approach.
- Practices are understood as skilful means, meaning that they may be appropriate for a particular community at a particular time in history but do not have universal valence.
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Mindfulness movement can be considered to be Buddh
- It can be considered as Buddhist because the Noble Eightfold Path refers to Right Mindfulness.
- Buddhist meditation traditions such as samatha have always had the same goal as that espoused by the contemporary Mindfulness movement.
- One of the goals of Buddhism is to alleviate human suffering. This is precisely the goal of the contemporary Mindfulness movement which skilful means would suggest makes it Buddhist.
- Conversely, the contemporary Mindfulness movement is simply a form of mindlessness i.e. escaping from the human condition rather than facing its reality in terms of the three lakshanas.
- The fact that the contemporary Mindfulness movement is espoused by its founder Jon Kabat Zinn as being non-Buddhist indicates that it should in fact not be considered as Buddhist.
- Thich Nhat Hanh recommends the practice of mindfulness through slow walking meditation and through smiling. He is a renowned Buddhist teacher which suggests that mindfulness is Buddhist
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Mindfulness movement offers an antidote to sufferi
- Buddhism teaches that suffering is caused by dosa (hatred), lobha (greed) and moha (delusion/ignorance). An effect of mindfulness is that the mind is focused and calmed in order that these three might be removed.
- The contemporary Mindfulness movement may offer an antidote to suffering through its focus on detachment from external stimuli and desires. This would correspond with tackling the cause of suffering as revealed in the second Noble Truth: tanha.
- At some levels suffering is caused by ‘the monkey’ mind asking the same type of questions in the Parable of the Poisoned Arrow. The contemporary Mindfulness movement aims to bring quietness and stillness to the overly active questioning mind.
- The contemporary Mindfulness movement sidesteps the causes of suffering by focusing only on the treatment of the symptoms. In this way suffering is just postponed and not properly addressed.
- The fact that the contemporary Mindfulness movement finds ready acceptance in the world of business and education indicates that it is concerned mainly with helping to calm people and make them more productive rather than deal with their pain.
- It is no more and no less helpful in being an antidote to suffering than any other type of selfhelp therapy ranging from self-hypnosis to Cognitive Behaviour Therapy.
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