My Wilmette Institute course on Buddhism

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Jul 2017
251
Kettering, Ohio USA
#1
This is what I have learned so far from my Wilmette Institute course on Buddhism, from my notes

Like in Baha'u'llah's case there was a dream that said that one day the Buddha would be a great man. We don't know in Buddha's case whether this actually happened or not.
I don't believe the part of him not knowing about suffering before age 29.
Like Christ, the Buddha was tempted by earthly glory by an evil being, but refused it.

The Buddha went to two gurus and didn't find satisfaction with them, then starved Himself. He got enlightenment from none of it. Was there really a period of searching for the Buddha? There probably was. It took 6 years to attain enlightenment.
Did the Buddha really say that His teachings were not cemented in stone, that each should do their own search for truth in His movement? Apparently so.

The Buddha asked His followers to go on pilgrimage at various important sites, according to the history.

The early Pali Canon was called the Tipitika (three baskets) and consisted of the Sutta Pitaka which consists of 5 collections of Sermons by the Buddha, the Vinaya Pitika the Book of Monastic discipline, and the Abhidamma Pitika which consists of philosophical and doctrinal analysis. These reflected the viewpoint of the Theravadin school and may have slanted them for their own purposes. Much of their material was probably lost, some was misunderstood, and the monks projected their own views on the text. This was orally transmitted from about 100 years after the Buddha's death, and later written down. Many of the stories in the scriptures have an allegorical or symbolic meaning. Modern scholars see the Mahayana scriptures as just as authentic as the Pali scriptures which represents the Theravada.

The Buddha called His newborn son Fetter when translated to English, and He left His family then. He thought the path of enlightenment involved leaving home. He was convinced that each person on his own could attain Nirvana on his own discipline. Did the Buddha really refer to gods in His teaching? I doubt it. In that time there was a stirring of dissent from the old Vedic order. The belief of reincarnation was new at that time. The Upansads developed at that time. Brahman is never mentioned in Buddhist texts. The Buddha may have never heard of him.

In the Rig Veda, man dies only once and goes to heaven. One strand of Indian thought was that passion was the root of all evil. The Buddha was not the son of a king, because kingship didn't exist where He was. More than two thirds of the early believers were from large towns. Nearly half came from wealthy or powerful houses. The towns were unhealthy from so many people living together. This may account for the Buddhas message being bought by people in the towns.


In the earliest Buddhist texts, the nikāyas and āgamas, the Buddha is not depicted as possessing omniscience (sabbaññu)[75] nor is he depicted as being an eternal transcendent (lokottara) being.The character of the Buddha in these traditional biographies is often that of a fully transcendent (Skt. lokottara) and perfected being who is unencumbered by the mundane world. The Buddha himself denied that he was either a man or a god. British author Karen Armstrong writes that although there is very little information that can be considered historically sound, we can be reasonably confident that Siddhārtha Gautama did exist as a historical figure.[82] Michael Carrithers goes a bit further by stating that the most general outline of "birth, maturity, renunciation, search, awakening and liberation, teaching, death" must be true.[27]

While later tradition and legend characterised Śuddhodana as a hereditary monarch, the descendant of the Suryavansha (Solar dynasty) of Ikṣvāku (Pāli: Okkāka), many scholars think that Śuddhodana (Buddha's father) was the elected chief of a tribal confederacy.
 
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Sep 2010
4,424
Normanton Far North Queensland
#2
Thank you for your notes.

I have found on many other Forum Discussions that many choose to pursue Buddha because they have found a Spiritual Path that does not include God. That in itself shows how far man has clouded the meanings of the original teachings of Buddha.

It will be an interesting future as the meanings are made apparent.

Regards Tony
 
Sep 2012
306
Panama
#3
...a Spiritual Path that does not include God...
A quick search on Ocean's Buddhist texts turns up no mention of 'capital G' God and just one passing conjecture of something like "even if I were a god...".

Just the same this does not necessarily mean that they're atheists. imho it's not that hard to understand why the Buddha was listed w/ the other major Messengers as their commitment to the spiritual realm is undeniably profound. As one former Buddhist Baha'i said "we never mentioned submission to God because it was always understood as obvious."

My take is that the Sacred Texts make it clear that the Almighty is so far above our mention that anything we say becomes as base as blasphemy. In that tone I have to respect the Buddhist choice of simply not going there in the first place.
 
Sep 2010
4,424
Normanton Far North Queensland
#4
My take is that the Sacred Texts make it clear that the Almighty is so far above our mention that anything we say becomes as base as blasphemy. In that tone I have to respect the Buddhist choice of simply not going there in the first place.
It is reasonable and Scriptual to take that position.

Baha'u'llah has now explained what the Buddha had offered Humanity and never knowing of, or understanding of Gods Essence is a key point. Thus we direct our mind to what is of God and I see this as the aim of Buddha. We know that knowledge is to be found in each of us.

You can also see the complexity man has made of more ancient Scriptures, when you as the Question as to what is Hindu and who was the Founder. :eek:

Regards Tony
 
Sep 2012
306
Panama
#5
...Baha'u'llah has now explained what the Buddha had offered Humanity...
Pse share any new texts on that. With an 'Ocean search' all that came up to me for Baha'u'llah about Buddha was a mention of the "Fifth Buddha" but it didn't seem to be a direct quote. There was however an interesting passage from Abdu'l-Baha along the lines you discussing:

The teaching of Buddha was like a young and beautiful child, and now it has become as an old and decrepit man. Like the aged man it cannot see, it cannot hear, it cannot remember anything. Why go so far back?
(Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 63)
 
Sep 2010
4,424
Normanton Far North Queensland
#6
Pse share any new texts on that. With an 'Ocean search' all that came up to me for Baha'u'llah about Buddha was a mention of the "Fifth Buddha" but it didn't seem to be a direct quote. There was however an interesting passage from Abdu'l-Baha along the lines you discussing:

The teaching of Buddha was like a young and beautiful child, and now it has become as an old and decrepit man. Like the aged man it cannot see, it cannot hear, it cannot remember anything. Why go so far back?
(Abdu'l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 63)

The Passage you quoted is what I offered, given from another frame of reference. ;)

We can explore more quotes about never knowing God Essence, but only through Messengers. We now know Buddha being of this Station.

Regards Tony
 
Sep 2012
306
Panama
#7
The Passage you quoted is what I offered, given from another frame of reference. ;)

We can explore more quotes about never knowing God Essence, but only through Messengers. We now know Buddha being of this Station.

Regards Tony
Something significant to me about the Buddhist Dispensation is its origins w/ that of the Hindus. While most westerners consider Hindus to be more foreign than say, extraterrestrials, the fact remains that the roots are still visible.

European language is Indo-European and the religion of the Celts had far more in common w/ the Hindus than Greco-Roman beliefs. What strikes me as most salient is the fact that the Bible itself --the mother book of western theology-- begins in a Hindu tradition w/ Adam'n'Eve, Noah, Eber, etc. all living in a Hindu environment.

Given the fact that the word "Hebrew" means 'from the House of Eber" we come to the point that if Judaism is the parent of Christianity, then Hinduism is the grandparent and Buddhism is what, the "uncle"?
 
Mar 2013
520
_
#8
Given the fact that the word "Hebrew" means 'from the House of Eber" we come to the point that if Judaism is the parent of Christianity, then Hinduism is the grandparent and Buddhism is what, the "uncle"?
The problem becomes one of defining Hinduism. It may be a rather pointless task, especially in a historical standpoint as the religions practiced in the subcontinent at the time of the Buddha's teachings were Vedic for the most part but not what we'd think of as Hinduism of today.

The Upanishads had not been written, Chaitanya was not yet born. The law of Manu would not be laid down for centuries. If Jainism existed it was in very early days, and quite possibly DID affect the development of early Buddhism. I will go back to the Upanishads though. This is a time without them, without the Bhagavhad Gita and the entirety of what we'd now think of the Vedanta. If there were various schools discussing advaita, duality and limited duality, we don't know much about them. The Vedas themselves go back much earlier and there is reason to suspect prior to being written their oral tradition goes back thousands of years.

Compared to the Vedic rituals, Buddha's teachings, such as we have in their earliest available forms, were iconoclastic indeed. I think we get hung up on whether or not Buddha was teaching about God. I think that's rather beside the point, and frankly, it's a little negative to say people become Buddhists because of a lack of God. Admittedly, God hasn't gotten a lot of good press after centuries of people killing and torturing each other over who loves Him best.

Rather than deity placation, in Buddhism the focus was on the dharma, and still is, though obviously ritual and to some degree veneration of Buddha instead of practice, has become the norm. This came at a time when there was probably in that region a very real need for this faith to escape from priest classes and myriad deities including one's household deities. Buddha does not appear anyway in the writings to deny the existance of higher god-like beings but certainly is not fixated on them. The importance was on, again, the practice.

We know for example that early Buddhism does not involve itself in idolotry or heavy symbolism. At most Buddhism identieid itself with a symbol of a footprint or of the wheel of dharma, reminders of the way. It was not until Buddhism became popular with the post-Alexandrian Greek kingdoms of Asia that the visual simulation, espeially the statues, became important, and probably changed the faith radically. And there WERE many Greek Buddhists at this time. One record records over 30,000 Greek bhikkus (monks) attending one international gathering.

During this time at some point however their did appear a more, for lack of a better term, from of what we'd now call Hindu faith in india that would be recognizeable to us now, and much as Manicheans dissapeared from the world, Buddhism gradually dissipated from much of the subcontinent, though Theravada continued to thrive in Sri Lanka, and Mahayana in the extreme north. In some other places where Buddha was still revered, though now as an Avatar of Vishnu. In other places interestingly that station is taken by Krishna.

All religions have strayed, in time from their original focus, extreme examples like Samaritans notwithstanding. It must be rememberd that after many centuries Buddhism had modified to be a religion not just for monks with the time for study, but for common people unable to read who still wanted the Light they could receive from the one who brought the Four Noble Truths.


as for the uncle question.. there are similar deity names in many Indo-European religions, certainly they show up in Zoroastrianism, and it was in a geographically and political location to influence many of the religions around it.
 
Sep 2012
306
Panama
#9
...The problem becomes one of defining Hinduism...
We can define it anyway we want. Like, everyone else does.

In fairness we may as well start w/ the consensus of descriptions we get from today's adherents. You may be coming across something different but what I got so far is like what's here and here that say things like Hindu is not a religion (and then they go on to tell all about the 'Hindu Religion') and that they have have many gods (and then they say "Hinduism believes in only on God but allows its followers to worship the God in man forms...").

The fact that it's so contradictory and disorganized makes it very easy for me to consider virtually all major religions as having Hindu origins. That and the general agreement that Hindu origins appear to be around 3K BC within a few hundred miles of where Abraham came from a thousand years later.
 
Jul 2017
251
Kettering, Ohio USA
#10
This is the latest from my Wilmette course on Buddhism.

If you look at the Four Noble Truths you can see that they divide quite naturally into two groups. The first two, suffering and the cause of suffering belong to the realm of birth and death. Symbolically they can be represented as a circle, in the sense that they are circular. The causes of suffering lead to suffering, suffering produces the causes of suffering which again produce suffering. They are circular. They belong to samsara. The second two, the end of suffering and the path to the end of suffering can be symbolized in terms of a spiral. Movement is no longer circular. It is now directed upwards. In Buddhism, specifically the truth of suffering can be divided into two categories, broadly speaking, physical and mental. You may ask, "Is craving alone a sufficient cause of suffering? Is craving alone enough to explain suffering? Is the answer as simple as that?" The answer is no. There is something that goes deeper than craving. There is something which in a sense is the foundation of craving. And that something is ignorance (Avidya). Specifically in Buddhism, we are speaking about ignorance regarding the self, taking the self as real. This is the fundamental cause of suffering. We take our body or ideas or feelings as a self, as a real independent ego just as we take the tree stump for a potential assailant. Once we have this idea of self we have an idea of something that is apart from or different from ourselves. Once we have this idea of something that is apart or different from ourselves, then it is either helpful or hostile. It is either pleasant or unpleasant to ourselves. From this notion of self we have craving and ill-will.

The Buddha described Nirvana as supreme happiness, as peace, as immortal. Similarly, He has described Nirvana as uncreated, unformed, as beyond the earth, as beyond water, fire, air, beyond the sun and moon, unfathomable, unmeasurable. How does one remove these causes of suffering? What are the means through which one can remove the defilements that lead to suffering? This is the path taught by the Buddha. It is the Middle Path, the path of moderation. Here too when we look at the specific instructions with regard to following the path to the end of suffering, we can see that the instructions refer not only to one’s body - actions and words - but also to one’s thoughts. In other words, the Noble Eightfold Path, the path to the end of suffering is a comprehensive path, an integrated therapy. It is designed to cure the disease through eliminating the causes, through treatment that applies not only to the body but also to the mind. Right understanding is the first step of the Noble Eightfold Path and it is followed by Right Thought, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration. Why do we begin with Right Understanding? It is because in order to climb a mountain we have to have the summit clearly in view. In this sense, the first step depends on the last. We have to have our goal in view if we are to travel a path to reach that goal. In this sense, Right Understanding gives direction and an orientation to the other steps of the path. We see here that the first two steps of the path, Right Understanding and Right Thought refer to the mind. Through Right Understanding and Right Thought we eliminate ignorance, greed and anger. But it is not enough to say that through Right Understanding and Right Thought we eliminate ignorance, greed and anger because in order to achieve Right Understanding and Right Thought we also need to cultivate, to purify our mind and our body. The way that this is done is through the other six steps of the path. We purify our physical existence so that it will be easier to purify our mind, and we purify our mind so that it will be easier to attain Right Understanding.

Buddhist traditions have traditionally disagreed on what it is in a person that is reborn, as well as how quickly the rebirth occurs after each death. Some Buddhist traditions assert that "no self" doctrine means that there is no perduring self, but there is avacya (inexpressible) self which migrates from one life to another. The majority of TheBuddhist traditions, in contrast, assert that vijñāna (a person's consciousness) though evolving, exists as a continuum and is the mechanistic basis of what undergoes rebirth, rebecoming and redeath. The rebirth depends on the merit or demerit gained by one's karma, as well as that accrued on one's behalf by a family member. Nirvana literally means "blowing out, quenching, becoming extinguished". In early Buddhist texts, it is the state of restraint and self-control that leads to the "blowing out" and the ending of the cycles of sufferings associated with rebirths and redeaths. Many later Buddhist texts describe nirvana as identical with anatta with complete "emptiness, nothingness".

The five precepts (panca-sila) are moral behavioural and ritual guidelines for lay devotees in Buddhism, while those following a monastic life have rules of conduct (patimokkha). The five precepts apply to both male and female devotees, and these are:
1. Abstain from killing (Ahimsa);
2. Abstain from stealing;
3. Abstain from sensual (including sexual) misconduct;
4. Abstain from lying;
5. Abstain from intoxicants.
A wide range of meditation practices has developed in the Buddhist traditions, but "meditation" primarily refers to the practice of dhyana c.q. jhana. It is a practice in which the attention of the mind is first narrowed to the focus on one specific object, such as the breath, a concrete object, or a specific thought, mental image or mantra. After this initial focussing of the mind, the focus is coupled to mindfulness, maintaining a calm mind while being aware of one's surroundings. The practice of dhyana aids in maintaining a calm mind, and avoiding disturbance of this calm mind by mindfulness of disturbing thoughts and feelings.

The four immeasurables or four abodes, also called Brahma-viharas, are virtues or directions for meditation in Buddhist traditions, which helps a person be reborn in the heavenly (Brahma) realm. These are traditionally believed to be a characteristic of the deity Brahma and the heavenly abode he resides in.
The four Brahma-vihara are:
1. Loving-kindness (Pāli: mettā, Sanskrit: maitrī) is active good will towards all;
2. Compassion (Pāli and Sanskrit: karuṇā) results from metta; it is identifying the suffering of others as one's own;
3. Empathetic joy (Pāli and Sanskrit: muditā): is the feeling of joy because others are happy, even if one did not contribute to it; it is a form of sympathetic joy;
4. Equanimity (Pāli: upekkhā, Sanskrit: upekṣā): is even-mindedness and serenity, treating everyone impartially.
Buddhism asserts that there is nothing independent, except the state of nirvana.

The following is from the Dhammapada, and I have those that especially agree with Baha'i.

11. They who imagine truth in untruth, and see untruth in truth, never arrive at truth, but follow vain desires.
12. They who know truth in truth, and untruth in untruth, arrive at truth, and follow true desires.
13. As rain breaks through an ill-thatched house, passion will break through an unreflecting mind.
14. As rain does not break through a well-thatched house, passion will not break through a well-reflecting mind.
15. The evil-doer mourns in this world, and he mourns in the next; he mourns in both. He mourns and suffers when he sees the evil of his own work
16. The virtuous man delights in this world, and he delights in the next; he delights in both. He delights and rejoices, when he sees the purity of his own work.
21. Earnestness is the path of immortality (Nirvâna), thoughtlessness the path of death. Those who are in earnest do not die, those who are thoughtless are as if dead already.
78. Do not have evil-doers for friends, do not have low people for friends: have virtuous people for friends, have for friends the best of men.
143. Is there in this world any man so restrained by humility that he does not mind reproof, as a well-trained horse the whip?
158. Let each man direct himself first to what is proper, then let him teach others; thus a wise man will not suffer.
160. Self is the lord of self, who else could be the lord? With self well subdued, a man finds a lord such as few can find.
163. Bad deeds, and deeds hurtful to ourselves, are easy to do; what is beneficial and good, that is very difficult to do.
179. He whose conquest is not conquered again, into whose conquest no one in this world enters, by what track can you lead him, the Awakened, the Omniscient, the trackless?
193. A supernatural person (a Buddha) is not easily found, he is not born everywhere. Wherever such a sage is born, that race prospers.
223. Let a man overcome anger by love, let him overcome evil by good; let him overcome the greedy by liberality, the liar by truth!
226. Those who are ever watchful, who study day and night, and who strive after Nirvâna, their passions will come to an end.
253. If a man looks after the faults of others, and is always inclined to be offended, his own passions will grow, and he is far from the destruction of passions.
365. Let him not despise what he has received, nor ever envy others: a mendicant who envies others does not obtain peace of mind.

The Buddhist concept that human beings are reborn into a series of heavens or hells depending on their actions in this life can therefore be seen, from a Bahá'í perspective, as an account of spiritual reality that has been pictured as a series of literal physical places and events. A Bahá'í interpretation of such scriptural passages as the one describing hell above would be to say that these are not intended to be taken literally but rather to create a vision of a spiritual reality. Similarly, the concept that one is reborn into this world and plays out the consequences of the deeds done in previous lives is a "concretisation", a physical picture, of what, according to the Bahá'í view, actually occurs spiritually. Our actions do have consequences for us in our future life but that is a spiritual life.

The Buddhas are in reality denizens of a higher plane who are temporarily in this world in order to guide us (DN 13:1:42-3; tr. Davids, Suttas 186). When asked about the way to attain a state of union with Brahma, Gautama Buddha replied: "Know, Vasettha, that (from time to time) a Tathagata is born into the world, a fully Enlightened One, blessed and worthy, abounding in wisdom and goodness, happy, with knowledge of the world, unsurpassed as a guide to erring mortals, a teacher of gods and men, a Blessed Buddha. He, by himself, thoroughly understands, and sees, as it were, face to face this universe--the world below with all its spirits, and the worlds above, of Mara and of Brahma--and all creatures, Samanas and Brahmins, gods and men, and he makes this knowledge known to others. The truth doth he proclaim both in its letter and in its spirit, lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, lovely in its consummation: the higher life doth he make known, in all its purity and in all its perfectness" (DN 13:1:44; tr. Davids, Suttas 186-7). Bahá'u'lláh expresses these same ideas in his writings when he says that the Manifestations of God (Tathagatas) are the intermediaries between the highest reality and this world (see "Manifestation of God"). They are thoroughly familiar with the highest reality and can show us the path to that world.

Although the Buddha is one who has attained nirvana, it is not true that anyone who reaches nirvana is automatically a Buddha. Indeed, the Buddha specifically states that his station is one "which no worldling can attain" (Dhammapada 272) and is unknowable.The Buddha in the quotation cited above states that the Tathagata is one who brings into being a new dhamma, one which has not arisen before, and yet elsewhere the Buddha states that the dhamma that he brings is an ancient dhamma, preached by previous Buddhas (SN 2:104). This apparent contradiction is fully in accord with Bahá'u'lláh's teaching on progressive revelation.

The Soul or Self. The Buddhist teaching of Anatta (no self) is perhaps the most difficult to reconcile with Bahá'í teaching (see "Soul, Spirit and Mind"). There are clear differences but also some similarities. We have seen that the Buddha regarded the existence of the self or soul as one of the inexpressibles. Any statement about it--even to say either that it exists or it does not exist--would be to take a dogmatic position and this would not be in accordance with the reality of the situation. Reality is transcendent to thought and conceptualizations.
The soul or self is also regarded as a relative or contingent existence and not an absolute reality in the writings of Bahá'u'lláh (GWB 81:157; PM 58:91). The Bahá'í writings are full of statements about the nothingness of self. For example, in writing of one aspect of the station of the Manifestation (Buddhahood), Bahá'u'lláh states that they, the Manifestations (Buddhas) of every age, when comparing themselves to the Absolute "have considered themselves as utterly effaced and non-existent . . . they have regarded themselves as utter nothingness, and deemed their mention in that Court an act of blasphemy. For the slightest whisperings of self, within such a Court, is an evidence of self-assertion and independent existence. In the eyes of them who have attained unto that Court, such a suggestion is itself a grievous transgression" (KI 180). In considering the stages of the human being's journey to his ultimate goal, Bahá'u'lláh names the last of these stages "The Valley of True Poverty and Absolute Nothingness." Put into Buddhist terms, this passage states that in order for human beings to achieve their ultimate goal of the Absolute (Nirvana), they must die to their self and extinguish all attachments to this world of Samsara (SV 36).

Bahá'ís consider that Bahá'u'lláh is the fulfillment of the prophecy of the Buddha that in due time another Buddha would come to the world, the Mettaya (Maitreya) Buddha: "In due time, O monks, there will arise in the world an Exalted One named Mettaya, an arahat, fully awakened, full of wisdom and a perfect guide, himself having trodden the path to the very end, with knowledge of the worlds, unsurpassed as an educator, teacher of gods and men, an exalted Buddha, just as in the present period I am now . . . And he will proclaim the teaching that is lovely in its origin, lovely in its progress, and lovely in its consummation . . . He will be the head of an order of many thousand of monks, just as in the present period I am the head of an order of many hundreds" (DN, Mahaparinibbana-Suttana 3:76). Shoghi Effendi specifically identifies Bahá'u'lláh with the Maitreya Buddha (GPB 95) and as the fifth Buddha (GPB 94).

In Mahayana sources there are many more prophecies relating to the Maitreya Buddha. One of these is that found in the Mahasannipata sutra (Ta-tsi-king, see Cowell et al. 115-6n), in which it is prophesied that the Maitreya Buddha would come after five epochs of five hundred years each from the time of Gautama Buddha. This period of 2,500 years was completed in 1956 C.E. according to the traditional Buddhist calendar. Also of importance from the Bahá'í viewpoint is the name of the Mahayana savior figure Amitabha, who is considered to preside over a Pure Land (Sukhavati) to the west of India. Bahá'ís point out the similarity between this name (which may be translated as Light of the Infinite) and that of Bahá'u'lláh (which may be translated as Glory or Light of God), who came from a land to the west of India. There is also a parallel between the repetition of the name of Amitabha in many Buddhist Pure Land sects, and the repetition of the Greatest Name (q.v.) in Bahá'í prayer (see "Prayer.4.b").
 
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