RESPONSES TO PLURALISM

  • Created by: Banisha.
  • Created on: 21-04-18 12:33

KEY IDEAS PLURALISM

Freedom of thought   Individual experience more important than religious authority    Upaya – skilful means – encourages diversity and could also foster pluralism and tolerance of other religions    Good in all religion     This could mean Buddhism changingand losing identity PLURALISM  Respect, tolerance and a willingness to understand and work with others from different world-views is at the heart of pluralism. Can indicate an understanding that on closer view, there are some universal truths within religions other than one’s own and even so far as an acceptance that one’s own religion is not the exclusive source of truth Can indicate an acceptance that others may have differing religious views in order to promote harmony and co-operation Can include looking at how Buddhists work with other faiths and within communities to foster good relationships and promote harmony. 

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KALAMA SUTTA 9,10

Evidences the emphasis in Buddhism of the individual testing the teachings and staying true to experience, rather than accepting the authority of religious truth claims. Buddhist teachings of tolerance and compassion (karuna) help this. Not over-asserting the authority of teachings/tradition Priority given to overcoming the three poisons of greed, hatred and delusion

UPALI 

Upali, who had followed and given alms to the Jains, is encouraged by the Buddha to continue giving them alms, despite his conversion to Buddhism. The Buddha was not ‘asserting his authority’ for the sake of it The authority of a teacher or tradition is not as important as the actual experience of overcoming greed, hatred and delusion

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UPAYA

Concept in Mahayana Buddhism of teaching being considered provisional – different upaya (skilful means) to suit different listeners. Particularly acclaimed for its teaching on “upaya – “skill in means” Explains why Buddhist teachings vary so enormously The Sutra’s ability to justify changing Buddhist teachings and practices to suit particular cultures The magical power of the Lotus Sutra to save beings The sutra’s promise of disproportionately huge results for small acts of faith and devotion e.g. only rejoice in one verse heard could attain Buddhahood Opens up possibility of Buddhahood to all people The Lotus Sutra itself encourages promulgation

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PARABLE OF THE BURNING HOUSE / UPAYA

Burning house: samsaric world in which we are foolishly absorbed like children Father: Buddha, delivering us from our predicament through skill in means (upaya) Inferior carts: early teachings of the “Lesser Vehicle” (“Hinaya”) which are a skilful means of getting Buddha’s followers to start on a path to nirvana Best cart (with white oxen): the higher ideal of perfect Buddhahood as taught in the “Skilful means” or “skill in means” upaya-kansalya” - devices Different teachings are used by the Buddha to encourage the faithful to perfect Buddhahood, according to their individual propensities and capacities Acknowledgement that different people do not start in the same place with understanding something Many paths to the same goal, many means of getting there – conveyances but all aspects of one vehicle. Other parts of the Lotus Sutra also support this. Modern educational theory would be that teaching is “differentiated” sutra

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ADVANTAGES OF UPAYA

Allows for greater diversity and innovation, without schism Enables Buddhism to establish within cultural traditions of China, Japan, Tibet Helped Buddhist missionaries to China, for example, explain contradictory teachings attributed to the Buddha Moves on from austere Theravadin practice as the only route to Nirvana In Sanskrit “upayakausalya Skilful means is a theme in the Lotus Sutra It refers to the ability of enlightened beings to use whatever resources are available to help people on the path to enlightenment

As such the teachings are described as ‘skilful means’ i.e. not ‘The Truth’ in themselves but techniques for achieving a purpose

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KING ASHOKHA

There is good in all religions and they should be respected ‘All religions should reside everywhere, for all of them desire self-control and purity of heart.’ ‘Contact (between religions) is good. One should listen to and respect the doctrines professed by other […] all should be well-learned in the good doctrines of other religions.’ However some commentators maintain Ashoka was not actually a Buddhist, particularly as the core tenets such as The Four Noble Truths have not been found on the Rock Edicts. It may have been expedient for him to promote religion as a form of social control Ahimsa  Wisdom  Generosity   Compassion   Middle Way   Lovingkindness   Anatta and Anicca   Dependent Origination   Tolerance and Understanding   Putting other before yourself   Respect for all regardless of status    Right Speech/Thought/Right Action/Livelihood

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MAIN POINTS OF PLURALISM

Religious experience for Buddhists trumps authority and dogmatism There is an emphasis within Buddhism is on freedom of thought and the individual testing the teaching and staying true to experience, even if that means following a path different to Buddhism (with reference to the Kalama Sutta v.9 & v.10)/ The Buddha’s conversation with Upali(MajjhimaNikaya56.16) shows that other religions should be respected  Many Buddhists would consider that there is good within all religions and they should be respected. This can be seen as part of the doctrine of upaya(skillful means) which indicated that teaching is provisional to suit different listeners and no teaching is absolute truth. Emperor Ashoka, as indicated by Rock Edicts 7 and 12, emphasised  seeing good within all religions/ However, Buddhism is unique in many ways (e.g. no creator God, no dogmatism, reliance on ‘own power’ not ‘other power’); it could be followed alongside another religion or in a non-religious way. This freedom of thought and openness could mean that Buddhism is in danger of losing its own identity. There are also some controversial modern day examples of Buddhists not showing tolerance (e.g. Sri Lanka, Burma/Myanmar).

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MORE INFORMATION ABOUT KING ASKHOKA

  • Buddhism’s most powerful patron – came to power as Emperor in 268BCE.
  • He died in 239BCE.
  • Brutal and violent military campaigns established land across much of modern India until he grew sickened by the violence and converted to the non-violent values (ahimsa) of Buddhism.
  • 1.He was responsible for the spread of Buddhism.
  • 2.He was responsible for the beneficial application of Buddhist values to social economic and political life.
  • He sent his family on religious pilgrimages to foreign places,
  • and staged massive assemblies so holy men from the world over could converse upon the philosophies of the day.
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MORE INFORMATION ABOUT KING ASKHOKA

  • Once his empire was established Asoka initiated many social projects:
  • 1.Wells, reservoirs and trees for fruit & shade.
  • 2.Welfare services appeared
  • 3.Temporary financial support for ex-prisoners
  • 4.Rest houses for travellers
  • 5.Old people and orphans had to be cared for.
  • 6.Justice was made fair and equitable and torture was banned.
  • This could be seen as a compassionate society’ with generous people and was the first attempt ever to employ Buddhist principles across an entire society.
  • Elsewhere edicts stipulate that:Buddhists should behave responsibly, obey parents and superiors, help the poor and sick, and be generous and fair.
  • Some rock edicts – eg  Lumbini pillar to commemorate
  • the Buddha's birthplace, gave specific support to Buddhists.
  • Without this and the many Buddhist stupas Asoka had built,
  • Buddhists then and now, would have had little in the way of
  • pilgrimage sites to focus upon and there would have been no
  • evidence pointing to the Buddha’s birthplace
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IMPORTANCE OF ASHOKHA

 ethical ideas were revolutionary at the time of Asoka - a military leader and protectorate of his people. Asoka changed this notion to one of protecting his people morally and directing resources and edicts to ensure a peaceful life for all - early example of modern ‘engaged Buddhism.’ Asoka lived by what he said were  the values everyone else should live by – his importance as a leader and role  model therefore cannot be overlooked  when considering how he helped Buddhism to spread-  both his people and visitors to his nation cannot help but be  impressed by a leader who leads by example. Sri Lankan monasticism was responsible for committing the Pali Canon to writing, therefore not only helping to preserve the Buddha’s teaching
The Pali canon provides the doctrinal basis for all types of Buddhism, Theravada and Mahayana alike/ The edicts of Ashokaare essentially that of a lay person, so it could  be argued that its precisely because of their non-sectarian and universal nature, that they have mass appeal- they capture the heart of the Buddha’s teaching e.g. compassion & ahimsa

Ashoka’s architectural legacy in the form of monuments known as stupasalso provides:

early historical evidence for Buddhism as well as centres of pilgrimage and popular devotion e.g. the Buddha’s birthplace at Lumbini

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