Buddhism short historical overview
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  • Shakyamuni left home to set out on a journey to solve the questions of human existence. First he studied under Brahman teachers who had achieved a high level of awareness, and then he underwent a long period of austere practices, before abandoning that course as well. Finally, through intense meditation, he was able to grasp the ultimate truth and attain enlightenment. The truth that he discovered could be defined as the Law of non-self and dependent origination. He traveled throughout India preaching the Law, telling people that by becoming aware of this Law within their own lives, they could free themselves from the shackles of suffering. In other words, he taught that the fundamental cause of suffering in the world must not be sought in the external environment, but within the human heart. Opposite of being escapist, this approach naturally leads to tangible social reform. In such early Buddhist texts as the Sutta-nipata (The Group of Discourses), the Buddha repeatedly instructs both monks and laity to take rational, self-restrained, yet compassionate action. Based on such teaching, he endorses a moderate amount of economic gain for members of society, and recommends that rulers govern with compassion based on the Law. He also endeavors to organize his disciples in a way that promotes equality and eliminates discrimination among practitioners, exerting a positive influence on Indian society, which was strictly bound by the caste system. The above is an explanation of how Shakyamuni Buddha's religious movement attempted to realize a moralistic revolution of society by reforming the hearts and minds of the individuals in that society. After Shakyamuni's passing, however, trends toward doctrinal scholarship and deification of the Buddha in Nikaya and Mahayana Buddhism served to minimize the role of the Buddha as a moral leader
  • One crowning achievement of Korea’s Buddhist heritage that is not included in the Bozar ‘Smile of Buddha’ exhibition is the Tripitaka Koreana. There is a practical reason for this, as it consists of 81,258 woodblocks, weighs 280 tons in total, and would take 30 years to read, even with a reasonable grasp of classical Chinese. The collection of Buddhist scriptures is currently housed in the thousand-year-old Haeinsa temple, and undoubtedly one of the foremost wonders of Korea. 20 different versions of the Tripitaka were made in Asia, but of these the Tripitaka Koreana woodblocks have remained in good condition to this day. A team of around thirty scribes completed the work in 1251, under the shadow of the imminent Mongol invasions. In 2000, after nine years of work involving one hundred experts and a cost of eight million dollars, the Tripitaka Koreana was finally digitalized. Work is also underway to transfer the characters on to copper plate; presumably to ensure their preservation through a cyber-apocalypse, which feels strangely close. Three aspects of the Tripitaka Koreana make it particularly special – the accuracy of the characters, the breadth and profundity of the scriptures, and the beauty and resilience of the woodblocks themselves. Thanks to the efforts of the renowned scholar monk Venerable Sugi, who compared every existing version of the Tripitaka, and the care of the scribes, who were said to have bowed before carving each letter, no errors have been found in the text. Previous versions of the Tripitaka from other nations were drawn upon, meaning that the Tripitaka is a source for many Sanskrit texts that are now lost. The engraved characters are consistent in form, as if they were the work of one hand. The woodblocks themselves were made with specially prepared and treated wood, cut in wintertime to prevent warping, soaked in sea water for three years to remove every trace of resin, and boiled in salt water to prevent insect infestations and mould.
  • The depository buildings which house the Tripitaka Koreana library are unique in almost every sense. Officially the largest wooden storage complex in the world, they are registered together with the Tripitaka itself as part of the UNESCO World Heritage ( http: //whc . unesco .org/ ). The woodblocks of the Tripitaka Koreana were originally stored on Kanghwa Island. The current depository complex was built in 1398 at Haeinsa temple, located far inland, to be beyond the reach of enemy forces invading from the north, and invasions by pirates. The 108 columns of the buildings symbolize the 108 defilements, or impurities, believed to separate the mind from enlightenment in Buddhist philosophy. By placing the words of Buddha within a house of defilements, it was shown that enlightenment exists within these defilements. While the buildings are pleasant to look at, the true wonder is their design, which has ensured the long term preservation the Tripitaka woodblocks by maintaining good ventilation, appropriate humidity levels, and an ideal temperature. Each wall has an upper and lower window, but the windows are different in size. Thanks to the design, fresh air flows in naturally through the larger window, and fully circulates within the building before being let out through the windows on the opposite side. This means that the air circulates naturally and is distributed evenly. The depository was built with mud walls and mud floors. These moderated the temperature during the hot summer days and naturally kept humidity at a stable level. Beneath the mud floors of the depository chambers, there are several layers of charcoal, salt and limestone. These absorb excess moisture during the monsoon season, and release it during the dry winter when humidity levels fall. A failed attempt was made to transfer the woodblocks to a modern cement storehouse in the 1960s. After the wood started to rot, the library was returned to Haeinsa temple. Many things about the buildings are not fully understood. Mysteriously, insects and animals do not approach the complex. Since the founding of Haeinsa temple, there have been seven fires. The Tripitaka Koreana and the buildings in which they are stored have never been burned or damaged. Many Koreans, therefore, have believed that this is due the grace of the heavens.
  • The Law in Buddhism can be interpreted in many different ways, but generally it is explained in terms of three basic concepts: non-self, dependent origination, and non-substantiality. These concepts deny the existence of the individual, and view the phenomenal world in terms of relationships and relativity. Therefore, the truth of existence lies in a realm of negation, and the true nature of all things is grounded in nothingness. Accordingly, if attainment of a higher state of life that is not governed or influenced by ceaselessly changing phenomena is desired, then there is no choice but for human beings to rid themselves of all substantialistic attachments. This is the reasoning that lies at the heart of early Buddhism, which concerns itself mostly with emancipation from the various sources of desire that give rise to illusion. Furthermore, in early Buddhism the Buddha taught the rejection of a life of illusion, but at the same time he also taught compassion for all living things--protecting and helping them grow--and regarded respect for life a fundamental rule of behavior. Consequently, the Law, while a principle of negation, also possesses a life-affirming aspect.

Buddhism short historical overview Buddhism short historical overview Presentation Transcript

  • Introduction ----- Historical OverviewNichiren Buddhism
  • Historical Buddha• Buddha = Shakyamuni = Gautama Buddha = Siddharta• Lived from ~ 560 to ~ 480 BCE• "Shakyamuni" means "sage of the Shakyas," Shakya being the name of the tribe or clan to which his family belonged.• Family name was Gautama (Best Cow), first name Siddhartha (Goal Achieved).• Son of King Shuddhodana.• Renounced secular life at age nineteen (twenty-nine) and attained enlightenment at thirty (thirty-five).• In the fifty years (forty-five) from the time of his awakening until he died (at the age of eighty), Shakyamuni continued to travel through much of India to disseminate his teachings. 2
  • 三蔵 Tripitaka - “Three Baskets”• The Buddhist canonical texts are: 1. Sutra Pitaka - the Buddhas doctrinal teachings, 2. Vinaya Pitaka - rules of monastic discipline 3. Abhidharma Pitaka - commentaries on the sutras and vinaya• 20 different versions of the Tripitaka were made 3
  • Buddhist Councils• The First Council to compile Shakyamunis teachings – In the 480 BCE, the year of Shakyamuni death – Cave of the Seven Leaves near Rajagriha – Ananda recited the sutras and Upali recited the vinaya.• The Second Council to settle interpretations of the teachings – In the 390 BCE, in Vaishali• The Third Buddhist council to purify the Buddhist movement – In the 250 BCE, at Asokarama in Patiliputta – Under the patronage of Emperor Asoka – The pali canon (Tripitaka) was drafted.• 18 Buddhist schools were active in India and Nepal at the end of the II century BCE. 4
  • The Tripitaka Koreana • The Tripitaka Koreana – thirty scribes completed the work in 1251 – 81,258 woodblocks – weighs 280 ton – 30 years to read • The woodblocks – cut in wintertime to prevent warping – soaked in sea water for three years to remove every trace of resin – boiled in salt water to prevent insect infestations and mould. • In 2000 finally digitalized – after nine years of work – involved one hundred experts – cost of 8 million dollars • Work is underway to transfer the characters onto copper plates 5
  • The Tripitaka Koreana Storage• Built in 1398 at Haeinsa temple• The largest wooden storage complex in the world• Design true wonder – Each wall has an upper and lower windows different in size – Naturally good ventilation• Mud walls and floor maintain temperature• Several layers of charcoal, salt and limestone UNESCO World Heritage ( beneath the floors which maintain humidity http://whc.unesco.org/) level• Attempt to transfer the woodblocks to a modern cement storehouse in the 1960s failed. Wood started to rot.• Many things are not fully understood. – Mysteriously, insects and animals do not approach the complex. – Since the founding of Haeinsa temple, there have been seven fires. The Tripitaka Koreana and the storage buildings have never been burned or damaged. 6
  • Kumarajiva (344 - 413)• Kumarajiva – translated 98 sutras and essays from Sanskrit to Chinese – 52 are available today• The best translations of the sutras in classic Chinese – Excellent linguistic skills – Very good understanding of the concepts 7
  • Dependent Origination, Non-self and Non-Substantiality• Any phenomenon “exists” only because of the “existence” of other phenomena (Dependent Origination) in a complex web of cause and effect covering past, present and future.• Because all things are thus conditioned and transient (Non- Substantiality), they have no real independent identity (Non- Self) and the perception of a constant “self” is an illusion. ------------• “You could not step twice into the same river; for other waters are ever flowing on to you.” – Heraclitus, Greek philosopher (540 BC - 480 BC), On the Universe• No man ever steps in the same river twice, for its not the same river and hes not the same man 8
  • The Four Noble Truths1. There is suffering (birth, aging, death, separation)2. There is the origin of suffering, which is attachment to desire3. There is the cessation of suffering4. There is the way out of suffering - The Noble Eightfold Path: – right views (understanding) – right way of life – right thinking (aspiration) – right endeavour (effort) – right speech – right mindfulness – right action – right meditation (concentration). 9
  • Theravada School• Theravada = Teaching of the Elders• School formed in India approx. one hundred years after Shakyamunis death• Conservative, emphasizing strict adherence to the established precepts and a literal interpretation of doctrine as stated in the Pali Tripitaka.• Introduced to Sri Lanka, where it developed and spread to other parts of South and Southeast Asia. 10
  • Theravada Believer• Aims at personal awakening.• Applies a strict control on himself cancelling the influence of desires as a source of sufferings.• Desires will disappear temporarily with the death and definitively with the conclusion of the cycle of reborn and reaching the nirvana• Only Shakyamuni could aspire to the status of Buddhahood.• Only monks can reach the status of arhat (one worthy of respect) and the nirvana. 11
  • Mahayana School• Mahayana = The Great Vehicle• Around the end of the first century BCE a new Buddhist movement arose.• Its adherents called it Mahayana, indicating a teaching that can serve as a vehicle to carry a great number of people to a level of enlightenment equal to that of the Buddha.• The new ideas where written in Sanskrit in contrast with the pali used in the Tripitaka of the Theravada tradition.• Mahayana school emphasizes altruistic practice (called the bodhisattva practice) as a means to attain enlightenment for oneself and help others attain it as well.• Mahayana school excludes monks, pratyekabuddha, women and evil people from attaining enlightenment. 12
  • Mahayana Schools• Before II century - Madhyamika period – Madhyamika (Nagarjuna teachings on Wisdom Sutra) – Flower Garland – Pure Land of Amida Buddha – Zen (Vimalakirti sutra)• Betwenn II and IV century - Vijnanavada period – Yogochara (Asaga and Vasunbandhu own teachings) – Tíen-tái (Tíen-tái teachings on Nirvana sutra) – Zen (Lankavatara sutra)• From IV century - Mahavairochana period (exoteric) – Pure Word (Mahavairochana and Diamond Crown sutras) based on mantra, muda and mandala• From XIII century - Nichiren Daishonin (1222 - 1282) – Teachings based on Lotus sutra 13
  • Shakyamuni’s Last teachings and WordsLast 8 years of Shakyamuni’s teachings - Lotus Sutra – All human beings have a potential for the enlightenment – Sufferings come from the delusion about life, which is eternal…. he calmly lay down and spoke his last words.• "You must not think that your teachers words are not here any more, or that you are left without a teacher. The teachings and precepts I have expounded to you shall be your teacher."• His final words: "Decay is inherent in all composite things. Work out your salvation with diligence." 14
  • Historical Overview - End 15