Meaning of BUDDHISM in English

BUDDHISM

a religion and philosophy founded by Siddhartha Gautama in northeast India during the period from the late 6th century to the early 4th century BC. Spreading from India to Central and Southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan, Buddhism has played an influential role in the spiritual, cultural, and social life of much of the Eastern world. During the present century it has attracted some adherents in the West. religion and philosophy that developed from the teachings of the Buddha Gautama (or Gotama), who lived as early as the 6th century BC. Spreading from India to Central and Southeast Asia, China, Korea, and Japan, Buddhism has played a central role in the spiritual, cultural, and social life of the Eastern world and during the 20th century has spread to the West. This article surveys Buddhism from its origins to its elaboration in various schools, sects, and regional developments. Ancient Buddhist scripture and doctrine developed primarily in two closely related literary languages of ancient India, Pali and Sanskrit. In this article, Pali and Sanskrit words that have gained some currency in English are treated as English words and are rendered in the form in which they appear in English-language dictionaries. Exceptions occur in special circumstancesas, for example, in the case of the Sanskrit term dharma (Pali: dhamma), which has meanings that are not usually associated with the English dharma. Pali forms are given in the sections that deal with Buddhists whose primary sacred language was Pali (including discussions of the teaching of the Buddha, which are reconstructed on the basis of Pali texts). Sanskrit forms are given in the sections that deal with Buddhists whose primary focus was on Sanskritic traditions. Additional reading General treatments Among the more popular introductions to Buddhism, William R. LaFleur, Buddhism: A Cultural Perspective (1988), is outstanding. A more advanced overview of the whole Buddhist tradition is provided by Joseph M. Kitagawa and Mark D. Cummings (eds.), Buddhism and Asian History (1989), a collection of some of the articles on Buddhism originally published in Mircea Eliade (ed.), The Encyclopedia of Religion, 16 vol. (1987); these articles, and the others on Buddhism in The Encyclopedia of Religion, contain excellent bibliographies. Another basic introductory work with an extensive bibliography is Heinz Bechert and Richard Gombrich (eds.), The World of Buddhism: Buddhist Monks and Nuns in Society and Culture (1984). Important reference works include Trevor Ling, A Dictionary of Buddhism: Indian and South-East Asian (1981); George P. Malalasekera (ed.), Encyclopaedia of Buddhism (1961 ), appearing in fascicles; and Sylvain Lvi, J. Takakusu, and Paul Demiville (eds.), Hbgirin: dictionnaire encyclopdique du bouddhisme d'aprs sources chinoises et japonaises (1929 ), also issued in fascicles. An extensive, fully annotated bibliography of Western-language materials is provided in Frank E. Reynolds et al., Guide to Buddhist Religion (1981). More recent references can be located in the sections on Buddhism under each country in the ongoing Bibliography of Asian Studies (annual). Historical development in Asian countries Introductions to Buddhist history include E. Zrcher, Buddhism: Its Origin and Spread in Words, Maps, and Pictures (1962); and Peter A. Pardue, Buddhism: A Historical Introduction to Buddhist Values and the Social and Political Forms They Have Assumed in Asia (1971). More extensive introductory works with essays by a wide range of authors include P.V. Bapat (ed.), 2500 Years of Buddhism (1956, reprinted 1976); and Ren de Berval (ed.), Prsence du bouddhisme (1959). Among the major works by individual authors is Charles Eliot, Hinduism and Buddhism: An Historical Sketch, 3 vol. (1921, reprinted 1971), seriously dated but still valuable; sections dealing with Buddhism are included in each of the three volumes and cover all the Buddhist traditions of Asia except that of Japan. The most original and creative of the individually authored works is Paul Mus, Barabudur, 2 vol. (1935, reprinted in 1 vol., 1978); perhaps the greatest Buddhological work ever written in the West, it has been largely neglected because of its length and difficulty; fortunately, however, the main themes are consolidated in a Preface of 305 pages. Hajime Nakamura, Ways of Thinking of Eastern Peoples: India, China, Tibet, Japan, rev. trans. ed. by Philip P. Wiener (1964, reissued 1981), is a wide-ranging work that identifies four different Asian ways of thinking by contrasting the distinctive forms in which Buddhism was expressed in the four countries.One of the best introductions to the historical development of early Buddhism is still Sukumar Dutt, The Buddha and Five After-Centuries (1957, reprinted 1978). The classic treatment of the period, which all serious students will want to consult, is tienne Lamotte, History of Indian Buddhism: From the Origins to the Saka Era (1988; originally published in French, 1958). Two studies that go beyond the early period are A.K. Warder, Indian Buddhism, 2nd rev. ed. (1980), which emphasizes doctrine; and Sukumar Dutt, Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India (1962), which is based on archaeological as well as textual sources. One of the few good books on Buddhism in India during the 7th and 8th centuries AD is Lal Mani Joshi, Studies in the Buddhistic Culture of India, 2nd rev. ed. (1977).The Sri Lankan tradition has been surveyed by Richard F. Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo (1988). It can be supplemented by Gananath Obeyesekere, Frank Reynolds, and Bardwell L. Smith, Two Wheels of Dhamma: Essays on the Theravada Tradition in India and Ceylon (1972); and Bardwell L. Smith (ed.), Religion and Legitimation of Power in Sri Lanka (1978). For the premodern period, Walpola Rahula, History of Buddhism in Ceylon: The Anuradhapura Period, 3d Century BC10th Century AD (1956, reissued 1966), is still useful. For the early modern period, Kitsiri Malalgoda, Buddhism in Sinhalese Society, 17501900: A Study of Religious Revival and Change (1976), makes a major contribution. The contemporary situation is presented in Richard F. Gombrich, Precept and Practice: Traditional Buddhism in the Rural Highlands of Ceylon (1971); and George D. Bond, The Buddhist Revival in Sri Lanka: Religious Tradition, Reinterpretation, and Response (1988).On Southeast Asia, book-length treatments of Buddhism are limited to the countries of the mainland. The best introductory survey that covers most of these countries is Robert C. Lester, Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia (1973); it should be supplemented by Bardwell L. Smith (ed.), Religion and Legitimation of Power in Thailand, Laos, and Burma (1978). More detailed studies of Buddhism in Myanmar include three historical works: Niharranjan Ray, Sanskrit Buddhism in Burma (1936), and An Introduction to the Study of Theravada Buddhism in Burma: A Study in Indo-Burmese Historical and Cultural Relations from the Earliest Times to the British Conquest (1946); and Michael Aung-Thwin, Pagan: The Origins of Modern Burma (1985). Books on more contemporary topics include E. Sarkisyanz, Buddhist Backgrounds of the Burmese Revolution (1965); Winston L. King, A Thousand Lives Away: Buddhism in Contemporary Burma (1964, reissued 1990); and Melford E. Spiro, Buddhism and Society: A Great Tradition and Its Burmese Vicissitudes, 2nd expanded ed. (1982).Various historical and contemporary aspects of Thai Buddhism are explored in Stanley J. Tambiah, World Conqueror and World Renouncer: A Study of Buddhism and Polity in Thailand Against a Historical Background (1976), and The Buddhist Saints of the Forest and the Cult of Amulets: A Study in Charisma, Hagiography, Sectarianism, and Millenial Buddhism (1984); and Donald K. Swearer, Wat Haripujaya: A Study of the Royal Temple of the Buddha's Relic, Lamphun, Thailand (1976). For the Indochinese traditions, the reader can consult the dated classic by Adhmard Leclre, Le Buddhisme au Cambodge (1899, reprinted 1975); see also Thich Thien-An, Buddhism and Zen in Vietnam in Relation to the Development of Buddhism in Asia (1975).By far the best introduction to Chinese Buddhism is Paul Demieville, Le Bouddhisme chinois, which is published in two collections: Henri-Charles Puech (ed.), Histoire des religions, vol. 1 (1970), pp. 12491319; and Paul Demieville, Choix d'tudes bouddhiques, 19291970 (1973), pp. 365435. A readable but dated work is Arthur F. Wright, Buddhism in Chinese History (1959, reprinted 1971). Kenneth K.S. Ch'en, Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey (1964, reprinted 1972), provides a survey of the entire tradition. E. Zrcher, The Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaptation of Buddhism in Early Medieval China, 2 vol. (1959, reprinted 1972), covers the period up to the early 5th century AD. A detailed study of religion and politics at the high point of Chinese Buddhism is Stanley Weinstein, Buddhism Under the T'ang (1987). A significant though often overlooked topic is covered by Daniel L. Overmyer, Folk Buddhist Religion: Dissenting Sects in Late Traditional China (1976). The modern period is treated by Holmes Welch, The Buddhist Revival in China (1968), and Buddhism Under Mao (1972).Joseph M. Kitagawa, Religion in Japanese History (1966), sets Japanese Buddhist traditions in their cultural context. Broad-ranging historical studies that focus more exclusively on Buddhism are Charles Eliot, Japanese Buddhism (1935, reissued 1969); Shinsho Hanayama, A History of Japanese Buddhism (1960); Daigan Matsunaga and Alicia Matsunaga, Foundation of Japanese Buddhism, 2 vol. (197476); and William R. LaFleur, The Karma of Words: Buddhism and the Literary Arts in Medieval Japan (1983). Helen Hardacre, Kurozumikyo and the New Religions of Japan (1986), discusses one of the Buddhist-oriented new religions.For Tibet and neighbouring countries, the best introduction is Guiseppe Tucci, The Religions of Tibet (1980; originally published in German, 1970); it can be supplemented by R.A. Stein, Tibetan Civilization (1972; originally published in French, 1962), which emphasizes the integration of religion and culture in Tibet and Mongolia. The formation of the tradition is treated in depth by David Snellgrove, Indo-Tibetan Buddhism: Indian Buddhists and Their Tibetan Successors, 2 vol. (1987), particularly in vol. 2. Dharma A lucid introduction to basic Buddhist teachings presented in a modernist Theravada mode is Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, 2nd ed. (1967, reissued 1978). For a similar presentation of Buddhist ethics, see H. Saddhatissa, Buddhist Ethics: Essence of Buddhism (1970); and Gunapala Dharmasiri, Fundamentals of Buddhist Ethics (1989). A more nuanced presentation of basic Buddhist teaching by a more diverse group of scholars can be found in Kenneth W. Morgan (ed.), The Path of the Buddha: Buddhism Interpreted by Buddhists (1956, reissued 1986). A high-quality collection of essays covering a variety of traditions may be found in Donald S. Lopez, Jr. (ed.), Buddhist Hermeneutics (1988). An advanced treatment of a broad range of Buddhist positions is provided in J. Takakusu, The Essentials of Buddhist Philosophy, 3rd ed. (1956, reissued 1978). Those interested in the history of Western scholarship will want to consult Guy Richard Welbon, The Buddhist Nirvana and Its Western Interpreters (1968, reprinted 1975).The classic study of the early Buddhist schools is Andr Bareau, Les Sectes bouddhiques du petit vhicule (1955). The doctrine of the Sarvastivadins, which is especially important for later Buddhist philosophy, is presented by Th. Stcherbatsky, The Central Conception of Buddhism and the Meaning of the Word Dharma (1923, reissued 1974). The early Theravada teaching is discussed in John Ross Carter, Dhamma: Western Academic and Sinhalese Buddhist Interpretation (1978); and in the excellent work by Steven Collins, Selfless Persons: Imagery and Thought in Theravada Buddhism (1982). Theravada ethics are discussed in Winston L. King, In the Hope of Nibbana (1964). King has also published Theravada Meditation: The Buddhist Transformation of Yoga (1980), a significant work. The teachings of an important contemporary reformer are comprehensively presented by Louis Gabaude, Une Hermneutique Bouddhique contemporaine de Thalande: Buddhadasa Bhikku (1988).Edward Conze, Buddhist Thought in India: Three Phases of Buddhist Philosophy (1962, reprinted 1983), is a good introduction to the development of Buddhist philosophy in India. More detailed studies include the classic L. de La Valle Poussin, Le Dogme et la philosophie du bouddhisme (1930); and D. Seyfort Ruegg, The Study of Indian and Tibetan Thought (1967), a difficult but important work. The rise of Mahayana is considered by Paul Williams, Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundation (1989). Among the several excellent books on the Buddhist philosopher Nagarjuna, two deserve special mention: T.R.V. Murti, The Central Philosophy of Buddhism (1955, reissued 1980); and Frederick I. Streng, Emptiness: A Study in Religious Meaning (1967). A central topic is treated in William Montgomery McGovern, A Manual of Buddhist Philosophy, vol. 1, Cosmology (1923, reprinted 1977); and Randy Kloetzli, Buddhist Cosmology: From Single World System to Pure Land: Science and Theology in the Images of Motion and Light (1983). For studies of the Indo-Tibetan Tantric tradition, see Shashi Bhushan Dasgupta, An Introduction to Tantric Buddhism, 2nd ed. (1958, reprinted 1974); and Alex Wayman, The Buddhist Tantras: Light on Indo-Tibetan Esoterism (1973), a collection of more specialized essays.Among the East Asian traditions, Ch'an (Zen) has been the most adequately studied. See, for example, Heinrich Dumoulin, Zen Buddhism: A History, 2 vol. (198889; originally published in German, 1959); T.P. Kasulis, Zen Action/Zen Person (1981), a lucid presentation; and Winston King, Death Was His Koan: The Samurai-Zen of Suzuki Shosan (1986). Significant books that introduce the teachings of other East Asian schools include Francis H. Cook, Hua-yen Buddhism: The Jewel Net of Indra (1977); Minoru Kiyota, Shingon Buddhism: Theory and Practice (1978); and Alfred Bloom, Shinran's Gospel of Pure Grace (1965).In recent years Buddhists have begun to address Western philosophy and Christian thought in a serious way. Keiji Nishitani, Religion and Nothingness (1982), is an expression of the Kyoto school of Japanese Buddhist thinkers who have taken Western philosophy very seriously. Gunapala Dharmasiri, A Buddhist Critique of the Christian Concept of God (1974, reissued 1988), is a Sri Lankan Buddhist's more polemical engagement with Christian theology. Sangha The basic constitution of the Buddhist sangha is discussed in John Clifford Holt, Discipline, the Canonical Buddhism of the Vinayapitaka (1981). Sukumar Dutt, Early Buddhist Monachism, 600 B.C.100 B.C. (1924, reissued 1984), traces the early history of the sangha in India. H.D. Sankalia, The University of Nalanda, 2nd rev. and enlarged ed. (1972), recounts the history of one of the most important of all Buddhist monastic establishments.The best study of premodern monasticism in the Theravada world is R.A.L.H. Gunawardana, Robe and Plough: Monasticism and Economic Interest in Early Medieval Sri Lanka (1979). Discussions of more recent monastic situations include E. Michael Mendelson, Sangha and State in Burma: A Study of Monastic Sectarianism and Leadership (1975); and Jane Bunnag, Buddhist Monk, Buddhist Layman: A Study of Urban Monastic Organization in Central Thailand (1973). A more idyllic picture of Theravada monastic life is depicted by Michael Carrithers, The Forest Monks of Sri Lanka: An Anthropological and Historical Study (1983). The relationship between the monastic community and society is definitively treated in Heinz Bechert, Buddhismus, Staat und Gesellschaft in den Lndern des Theravada-Buddhismus, 3 vol. (196673).Good book-length discussions of Buddhist monasteries and monastic life in Central and East Asia are fewer, but the following can be recommended: Robert J. Miller, Monasteries and Culture Change in Inner Mongolia (1959); J. Prip-Mller, Chinese Buddhist Monasteries (1937, reissued 1967); J.J.M. de Groot, La Code du mahyna en Chine: son influence sur la vie monacale et sur le monde laque (1893, reprinted 1980); and Holmes Welch, The Practice of Chinese Buddhism: 19001950 (1967), a detailed discussion of monastic institutions. One aspect of monastic life in Japan has been presented by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, The Training of the Zen Buddhist Monk (1934, reprinted 1974). Neil McMullin, Buddhism and the State in Sixteenth-Century Japan (1984), is a historical study. Myths and legends: Except for the myth of Sakyamuni, Buddhist myths and legends have not, for the most part, received extended scholarly discussion. One of the few studies of Theravada materials is Trevor Ling, Buddhism and the Mythology of Evil: A Study of Theravada Buddhism (1962). John S. Strong, The Legend of King Asoka: A Study and Translation of Asokavadana (1983), though it has a pan-Buddhist relevance, focuses on a Sanskrit Hinayana tradition in superb fashion. For Mahayana and Vajrayana/Esoteric mythology, two major sources are available: the Mythologie asiatique illustre (1928), which provides extensive coverage of the relevant material; and Alice Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism: Their History, Iconography, and Progressive Evolution Through the Northern Buddhist Countries, 2nd ed. (1928, reprinted 1988). Alicia Matsunaga, The Buddhist Philosophy of Assimilation: The Historical Development of the Honji-Suijaku Theory (1969), discusses the way in which Buddhism assimilated local deities and cults in China and particularly in Japan. Images and symbols Two books that provide excellent Pan-Asian introductions are Dietrich Seckel, The Art of Buddhism (1964; originally published in German, 1962); and David L. Snellgrove (ed.), The Image of the Buddha (1978). A less readable collection, though on a very important topic, is Anna Libera Dallapiccola and Stephanie Zingel-Ave Lallemant (eds.), The Stupa: Its Religious, Historical, and Architectural Significance (1979).Although there are many studies of Buddhist images and symbols, few of them focus on the distinctively Buddhist significance of such images. Among the exceptions are Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Elements of Buddhist Iconography, 3rd ed. (1979); an important book-length article by Paul Mus, Le Buddha Par: son origine indienne: akyamuni dans le mahayanisme moyen, Bulletin de l'cole Franaise d'Extrme-Orient, 28:(12)153280 (JanuaryJune 1928); Marie-Thrse Mallmann, Introduction l'iconographie du tntrisme bouddhique (1975); a number of the articles contained in Luis O. Gmez and Hiram W. Woodward, Jr. (eds.), Barabudur: History and Significance of a Buddhist Monument (1981); Ferdinand Diederich Lessing, Yung-Ho-Kung: An Iconography of the Lamaist Cathedral in Peking, with Notes on Lamaist Mythology and Cult (1942), a very complex work; Ryujun Tajima, Les Deux Grand Mandalas et la doctrine de l'sotrisme shingon (1959); and Shin'ichi Hisamatsu, Zen and the Fine Arts (1971, reissued 1982). Popular religious practices Though many books on various topics mention popular religious practices, few full-length studies are available. Stephen F. Teiser, The Ghost Festival in Medieval China (1988), a reconstruction and analysis, is the best work available on premodern rites and ceremonies. Among the full-length studies based to a considerable extent on personal observation, three of the most interesting focus on Thailand and Laos: Kenneth E. Wells, Thai Buddhism: Its Rites and Activities (1960, reprinted 1982); Stanley J. Tambiah, Buddhism and the Spirit Cults in North-East Thailand (1970); and Marcel Zago, Rites et crmonies en milieu bouddhiste lao (1972). There are four quite different but equally interesting works that focus on practices in Tibet and neighbouring regions: Robert B. Ekvall, Religious Observances in Tibet: Patterns and Function (1964); Stephen Beyer, The Cult of Tara: Magic and Ritual in Tibet (1973), an important descriptive and interpretive work; and two anthropological studies by Sherry B. Ortner, Sherpas Through Their Rituals (1978), and High Religion: A Cultural and Political History of Sherpa Buddhism (1989). Contemporary trends Since the mid-1960s, two broad surveys of Buddhism in the modern world have been published. Ernst Benz, Buddhism or Communism: Which Holds the Future of Asia? (1965; originally published in German, 1963), though rather superficial and seriously dated, contains interesting material on Buddhist reform movements that have crossed national boundaries. Heinrich Dumoulin and John C. Maraldo (eds.), Buddhism in the Modern World (1976; originally published in German, 1970), includes essays on Buddhism in various regions and countries in Asia, Europe, and America.Several books have been published that deal with the new Buddhist communities that have been established in India and in the West: Trevor Ling, Buddhist Revival in India: Aspects of the Sociology of Buddhism (1980); Kosho Yamamoto, Buddhism in Europe: Report of a Journey to the West, in 1966, of an Eastern Buddhist (1967); Emma McCloy Layman, Buddhism in America (1976); Charles S. Prebish, American Buddhism (1979); and Louise H. Hunter, Buddhism in Hawaii: Its Impact on a Yankee Community (1971). Frank E. Reynolds Mythology Myth in Buddhism is used at various intellectual levels in order to give symbolic and sometimes quasi-historical expression to apprehended or presumed religious truths. Accepted on its own terms, Buddhism is a supernatural religion in the sense that, without a buddha to reveal them, the truths remain unknown. Only after human beings have received the Buddha revelation can they proceed apparently by their own efforts. This teaching was explicit in the early schools, in which the revelation was still thought of as historically related to Sakyamuni's mission in the world. Gradually the idea formed, in some schools, of the Buddha's continuous revelation and gracious assistance, deriving from his glorified state of time-transcending Enlightenment. Thus the comparatively simple mythology of the great Buddha myth developed into the far more elaborate mythology of the Mahayana. The acceptance of the mythology, whether early or fully developed, depends upon faith. Without faith the whole religion crumbles to nothing, and nothing is left but a demythologized supposedly historical figure who has no special revelation to give. He becomes a wandering ascetic of ancient India, like the many others known to scholars, and his religion has no explanation. One must, thus, emphasize that it was the extraordinary combination of the historical Sakyamuni and the relevant myth that he was seen to fulfill that set the whole great religious tradition known as Buddhism on its varied historical course. It has been observed also how myth is continually used at second or even third remove to bolster the primary myth and to give it a more convincing expression. These subsidiary forms of myth include, for example, stories about the recitation of the Buddhist canon soon after Sakyamuni's decease, details of his previous lives, and descriptions of the six spheres of rebirth. Some Buddhist traditions take these subsidiary forms of myth more seriously than others. Within each tradition there are variations among individual adherents. But, even for those Buddhists who are most skeptical, the various myths associated with the Buddha and his saving activity remain central and useful. They rest on premises always provisional but, insofar as they serve the gaining of the chief objective, never really false. Sakyamuni in literature and art Traditional literary accounts The traditional biographies of Sakyamuni, in whatever language they are written, all derive ultimately from early Indian extracanonical rearrangements of the still earlier, scattered canonical accounts of his great acts. The best-known of the Indian biographies are the Sanskrit works, the Mahavastu, the Buddhacarita, and the Lalitavistara; the Chinese Abhiniskramana-sutra, translated from an Indian original; and the Pali Nidanakatha, as well as the commentary on the Buddhavamsa. These early works themselves are the result of a continual traditional growth, and to ascertain the dates of their final versions helps in no way to estimate the actual age or reliability of much of the material they contain. All that can be said is that this material agrees substantially with the earliest known fragmentary canonical accounts and that, once presented in coherent biographical form, there are only minor variations in the later national versions of the story. The later Sinhalese, Thai, Myanmar (Burmese), and Kampuchean stories are all firmly based on the earlier Pali versions. The Koreans and Japanese have derived their accounts direct from the Chinese, who in turn derive their traditions, via Central Asia, from Indian sources. The Tibetans, who represent the extreme limits of Indian Buddhist developments, draw their versions from the same earlier Indian versions. The biography of Sakyamuni included by the Tibetan historian Bu-ston (12901364) in his Chos 'byung (History of Buddhism) differs from other traditional accounts only by its listing of the later Mahayana doctrines as part of Sakyamuni's teaching program on Earth. All in all, the unity of the mythological and quasi-historical interpretations of the life and death of the historical Buddha, in whatever Buddhist country they have been retold, remains impressive. The kernel of truth in the claim of the Theravadin Buddhists of Sri Lanka and mainland Southeast Asia to represent unadulterated original Buddhism derives from the fact that they have remained faithful to the early enthusiastic acclamation of Sakyamuni as the one and only Buddha of the present dispensation. Though other buddhas were recognized from a very early date, the attention of the early community was focused almost exclusively on the person and activities of Sakyamuni. All of the early canonical accounts agree in describing Sakyamuni's experience of Enlightenment as a definitive victory over Mara, the Evil One, and as resulting in a threefold knowledge: that of his own previous births, that of the births and deaths of all other sentient beings, and that of the saving insight that brings final release from the whole unhappy process. However symbolically one may treat the descriptions of the various possible spheres of rebirth among gods, humans, animals, ghosts (pretas), and the denizens of hell, belief in the cosmological myth of continual rebirth is an integral component in the fundamental myth. Sakyamuni was acclaimed Great Sage (Mahamuni) and Lord (Bhagavat) not because he achieved a state of spiritual equilibrium in the context of ordinary existence but because he attained the supramundane state of nirvana. There are no textual indications that he was ever regarded by his followers as a kind of Socratic sage but rather as a typical perfected yogi (ascetic with magical powers) of his day, possessedas was then expectedof miraculous powers and divine insight, combined with an altogether extraordinary concern for the spiritual advancement of others. Thus, from the first, his state of Enlightenment, or buddhahood, was recognized as transcendent (lokottara) and as the transient embodiment of such supramundane knowledge. Sakyamuni was identified with the pre-Buddhist Indian myth of the Great Man (Mahapurusa), conceived of as the universal religious teacher who appears on Earth when the circumstances are ripe. He was thus accepted as the seventh in an imagined series of previous buddhas. Why the seventh is not known, unless the number was derived from astronomical association, and the question may be pointless from the mythical viewpoint. His contemporary Mahavira, leader of the Jains, was linked to a similar series of 24. The essential mythical idea consists not in the numbers but in the notion of a necessary soteriological process. The title Tathagata, probably meaning He Who Has Thus Attained, is regularly used by Sakyamuni of himself, and it would seem likely (whatever 19th-century demythologizing scholars might say to the contrary) that he did indeed use this title. Apart from such utter confidence in his achievement, his religious movement would doubtless have died with him. Not only do buddhas appear at more or less regular intervals, but the final appearance of any buddha is the culmination of a whole series of previous lives, during which he gradually advances toward enlightenment. Such a belief accords with the whole worldview in which Buddhism had its origin, and it may be supposed fairly that Sakyamuni believed this of himself. In any case, the earliest known Buddhist tradition most certainly presented him as so believing. Popular mythology soon set to work to give some tangible substance to the fundamental myth, and no scholar would doubt that the stories of Sakyamuni's previous lives (Jataka), included in such profusion in the early canonical texts, are accretions, culled from Indian folk literature in order to exploit an opportunity provided by an aspect of the fundamental myth. Another example of an aspect of the fundamental myth supplemented by later additions concerns Mara, the Evil One, who represented the force of spiritual evil that Sakyamuni was conscious of having confronted and overcome. Mara is explicitly identified as Concupiscence and as Death, the twin foes of all those who strive toward the tranquil and immortal state of nirvana. At the same time, he is identified with various demons and evil spirits, and the texts usually describe him in these terms. It should be noted that the definitive victory over Mara, on whatever spiritual or popular level this may be understood, remains an inalienable element of the myth. It is just as important as the belief, universally attested in the earliest traditions of all Buddhists, in the omniscience and the miraculous powers of Sakyamuni. Since Sakyamuni's followers were interested in him as a marvelous being and a transcendent Buddha, such historical reminiscences as may have been preserved in the story are incidental to the recounting of such things as the great acts of his previous lives, his miraculous birth in his last life, the drama of his final Enlightenment while sitting under the pipal tree, his stupendous decision to convert and save others (as symbolized by his first sermon in the Deer Park near Varanasi ), and his final decease at Kusinara. Popular religious practices Like other great religious traditions, Buddhism has generated a wide range of popular practices. Among these, there are two simple practices that are deeply rooted in the experience of the earliest Buddhist community and that have remained basic to all Buddhist traditions. The first of these is the practice of venerating the Buddha or other buddhas, bodhisattvas, or saints who manifest the same reality. This sometimes takes the form of showing respect, meditating on the qualities of the Buddha, or giving gifts. These gifts are often given to the relics of the Buddha, to images made to represent him, and to other traces of his presence (such as, for example, places where his footprint can supposedly be seen). After the Buddha's death the first foci for this sort of veneration seem to have been his relics and the stupas that were built to hold them. About the beginning of the Common era, anthropomorphic images of the Buddha were produced, and they took their place alongside relics and stupas as focal points for venerating the Buddha. Still later, in the context of the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions, the veneration of other buddhas and bodhisattvas came to supplement or replace the veneration of the Buddha Gautama. In the course of Buddhist history, the forms have become diverse, but the practice of honouring and even worshiping the Buddha or Buddha-figure has remained a central component in all Buddhist traditions. The second basic practice is the reciprocal exchange that takes place between Buddhist monks and Buddhist laypersons. Like the Buddha himself, the monks embody or represent the higher levels of spiritual achievement, which they make available in various ways to the laity. The laity make merit and improve their soteriological condition by giving the monks material gifts that function as sacrificial offerings. Though the exchange is structured differently in different Buddhist traditions, it has remained until recently a component in virtually all forms of Buddhist community life. Both of these fundamental forms of Buddhist practice appear independently within the tradition. The veneration of the Buddha or Buddha figure is a common ritual often practiced independently of other rituals. So, too, the practice of exchange between monks and laypersons often structures rituals such as the dana (gift-giving) in the Theravada tradition, which are performed independently of other rituals. Both of these forms of practice, however, are embedded in one way or another in virtually all other Buddhist rituals, including calendric rituals, pilgrimage rituals, rites of passage, and protective rites. Calendric rites and pilgrimage Uposatha The four monthly holy days of ancient Buddhism continue to be observed in the Theravada countries of Southeast Asia. These uposatha daysthe new moon and full moon days of each lunar month and the eighth day following the new and full moonshave their origin, according to some scholars, in the fast days that preceded the Vedic soma sacrifices. In the Buddhist context laypersons and monks are expected to perform religious duties during the uposatha days. The uposatha service typically includes the repetition of the precepts, the offering of flowers to the Buddha image, the recitation of Pali sutras, meditation practices, and a sermon by one of the monks for the benefit of the visitors. The more pious laymen may vow to observe the eight precepts for the duration of the uposatha. These are the five precepts normally observed by all Buddhistsnot to kill, steal, lie, take intoxicants, or commit sexual offensesupgraded to include complete sexual continence, plus injunctions against eating food after noon, attending entertainments or wearing bodily adornments, and sleeping on a luxurious bed. The monks observe the uposatha days by listening to the recitation by one of their members of the Patimokkha, or rules of conduct, contained in the Vinaya Pitaka and by confessing any infractions of the rules they have committed. The three major events of the Buddha's lifehis birth, Enlightenment, and entrance into final nirvanaare commemorated in all Buddhist countries but not everywhere on the same day. In the Theravada countries the three events are all observed together on Vesak, the full moon day of the sixth lunar month (Vesakha), which usually occurs in May. (The Magha Puja takes place three months earlieron the full moon of Februaryand celebrates the Buddha's first exposition of the Patimokkha.) In Japan and other Mahayana countries, the three anniversaries of the Buddha are observed on separate days (in some countries the birth date is April 8, the Enlightenment date is December 8, and the death date is February 15). Festival days honouring other buddhas and bodhisattvas of the Mahayana and Vajrayana traditions are also observed, and considerable emphasis is placed on anniversaries connected with the patriarchs of certain sects. Padmasambhava's anniversary, for example, is especially observed by the Rnying-ma-pa sect in Tibet, and the birthday of Nichiren is celebrated by his followers in Japan. Sangha, society, and state Buddhists of all times and places have recognized the importance of community life, and over the centuries there has developed a distinctive pattern involving a symbiotic relationship between monks (and in some cases nuns) and the lay community. The relationship between the monastics and the laity has differed from place to place and from time to time, but throughout most of Buddhist history both groups have played an essential role in the process of constituting and reconstituting the Buddhist world. Moreover, both the monastics and the laity have engaged in a variety of common and complementary religious practices that have expressed Buddhist orientations and values, structured Buddhist societies, and addressed the soteriological and practical concerns of Buddhist individuals. Monastic institutions The sangha is the assembly of Buddhist monks that has, from the origins of Buddhism, authoritatively studied, taught, and preserved the teachings of the Buddha. In their communities monks have served the laity through example and, as directed by the Buddha, through the teachings of morality (Pali: sila; Sanskrit: sila). In exchange for their service the monks have received support from the laity, who thereby earn merit. Besides serving as the centre of Buddhist propaganda and learning, the monastery offers the monk an opportunity to live apart from worldly concerns, a situation that has usually been believed necessary or at least advisable in order to follow strictly the path that leads most directly to release. The major systems and their literature Theravada (sthaviravada) Adherents of Theravada accept as authoritative the Pali canon of ancient Indian Buddhism and trace their lineage back to the Sthaviras (Pali: Theras; Elders), who followed in the tradition of the senior monks of the first Buddhist sangha. During the reign of the emperor Asoka (3rd century BC), the Theravada school traveled to Sri Lanka, where it divided into three subgroups, known after their monastic centres as the Mahaviharavasi, the Abhayagiriviharavasi, and the Jetavanaviharavasi. The Mahavihara form of the Theravada tradition became dominant in Sri Lanka about the beginning of the 2nd millennium AD and gradually spread eastward, becoming established in Myanmar in the late 11th century, in Thailand in the 13th century, and in Kampuchea and Laos by the 14th century. Beliefs, doctrines, and practices Cosmology In the Theravada view there is a plurality of universes surrounded by water and mountain chains. Every universe has three planes: (1) the sphere of desire ( kama-dhatu), (2) the sphere of material form (rupa-dhatu), which is associated with meditational states in which sensuous desire is reduced to a minimum, and (3) the sphere of immateriality or formlessness (arupa-dhatu), which is associated with meditational states that are even more exalted and vacuous. On the plane of desire, creatures are divided into five or six species: hell beings; pretas, a species of wandering, famished ghosts; animals; human beings; gods; and a sixth group not universally acknowledged, the asuras (demigods). The matter of the world is made up of four elements: earth, water, fire, and air, held together in various combinations. Time moves in cycles (kalpas), involving a period of involution (destruction by fire, water, air), a period of stability, a period of renewal, and a period of duration, at the end of which the destruction comes again and the cycle continues. Human existence is a privileged state because only as a human being can a bodhisattva become a buddha. Moreover, human beings have the capability of choosing to do good works (which will result in a good birth) or bad works (which result in a bad birth); and, above all, they have the capacity to become perfected saints or even buddhas. All these capacities and activities are accounted for in terms of a series of dhammas (Sanskrit: dharmas), instant points in continual motion or changing states, subject to appearing, aging, and disappearing.

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