Buddhism: A Short History

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The next morning the prince walked past a meditator who sat in deep absorption. When their eyes met and their minds linked, Siddhartha stopped, mesmerized. In a flash, he realized that the perfection he had been seeking outside must be within mind itself. Meeting that man gave the future Buddha a first and enticing taste of mind, a true and lasting refuge, which he knew he had to experience himself for the good of all.


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The Buddha decided he had to leave his royal responsibilities and his family in order to realize full enlightenment. He left the palace secretly, and set off alone into the forest. Over the next six years, he met many talented meditation teachers and mastered their techniques.

At the moment of full realization, all veils of mixed feelings and stiff ideas dissolved and Buddha experienced the all-encompassing here and now. All separation in time and space disappeared. Past, present, and future, near and far, melted into one radiant state of intuitive bliss. He became timeless, all-pervading awareness. Through every cell in his body he knew and was everything. He became Buddha , the Awakened One.

After his enlightenment, Buddha traveled on foot throughout northern India. He taught constantly for forty-five years. This school stresses the historical figure of Gautama Buddha, and the centrality of the monk's life-style and practice meditation. They believe, however, that human beings continue to be "reformed" and reborn, and to collect karma until they reach Nirvana. The The ravada school has compiled a sacred canon of early Buddhist teachings and regulations that is called the Tripitaka. The Mahayana "Greater Vehicle" branch of schools began about the 1st century C.

Mahayana schools in general utilize texts called sutras, stressing that lay people can also be good Buddhists, and that there are other effective paths to Nirvana in addition to meditation—for instance the chanting and good works utilized in Pure Land. They believe that the Buddha and all human beings have their origin in what is variously called Buddha Nature, Buddha Mind, or Emptiness.

This is not "nothing," but is the completely indescribable Source of all Existence; it is at the same time Enlightenment potential.

Shinto, Japan’s native animistic tradition

The form of the historical Buddha was, they say, only one manifestation of Buddha Nature. Mahayana thus speaks of many past and also future Buddhas, some of whom are "god-like" and preside over Buddha-worlds or heavenly paradises. Especially important are bodhi sattvas—who are persons who have reached the point of Enlightenment, but turn back and take a vow to use their Enlightenment-compassion, -wisdom, and -power to help release others from their suffering. Mahayana canon says that finally there is no distinction between "self" and "other," nor between samsara transmigration, rebirth and Nirvana!

Because of this the bodhi sattvais capable of taking on the suffering of others in samsara and of transferring his own merit to them. Although Buddhism became virtually extinct in India ca. The many forms and practices that have been developed within the Buddhist fold have also allowed many different types of people to satisfy their spiritual needs through this great religion.

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A Short History of Violent Buddhism

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    The history of Buddhism

    North Korea: Looking Beyond the Stereotypes. We've compiled resources to help you cut through the stereotypes surrounding North Korea and more deeply examine the country, its people, and the complexities of its politics and nuclear program. Robinson and Willard L. Johnson 4 th Edition; NY: Wadsworth. This is the best overall history of Buddhism that I know of, and fills out the present brief sketch in much more detail.

    He was born in what is today the country of Nepal, close to the border with India. Buddhism was originally one movement within a larger religious tradition now called "Hinduism" — the national religious tradition in India — and shared many ideas and ideals expressed in the Upanishads, the earliest writings developing the distinctive worldview characteristic of classical Hinduism. Buddhism rejected the authority of the Upanishads, and divorced itself from many ethnic customs and traditions important to others in India.

    Partly as a result of this, Hinduism remained primarily an ethnic religion of people on the Indian subcontinent, while Buddhism spread to become an international religion spreading to many other nations and ethnic groups throughout Asia. Old tribal structures were breaking down, and cities and trade were growing. At the same time, there appeared to have been many groups of alienated people who dropped out of conventional society and devoted themselves to spiritual self-discovery. They probably did not originally aim to "start a religion" for the masses of the people. Buddhist teaching and meditation practice was initially a personal spirituality for a much smaller group of individual seekers.

    The legendary Buddha pictured in these writings was originally a wealthy prince who led a sheltered life in a palace. Upon venturing forth from the palace he was shocked by the sight of sick people and dead people, which brought home to him the insecurity and impermanence of the comforts he enjoyed in his palace, and this is when he joined the groups of drop-outs searching for something more enduring. In this first phase of his quest he is pictured as engaged in extreme asceticism, fasting and putting himself through extreme physical hardships.

    A Short History of Violent Buddhism

    The legend says that he eventually realized that such extreme asceticism only brought more mental disturbance. The inner peace he sought could only come through meditation, and required a reasonably healthy body. From the point of view of modern historians, it is unlikely that this story represents true history as Buddhists generally believe. It is a dramatization in story form of the early Buddhist claim that Buddhism was a "middle way" between extreme luxury and extreme hardship. Modern historians, of course, generally hold that the "life of Jesus" told in the Gospels is a dramatization in story form of early Christian ideas, rather than an accurate biography, as most Christians believe.

    Buddhism has existed for years, and in many different countries. During this period it has developed a tremendous variety of forms. It is difficult to speak of one set of teachings and practices that absolutely all people who call themselves "Buddhists" agree upon. The Buddha himself wrote nothing, and Buddhist teachings were originally handed down through oral traditions.

    These traditions were committed to writing only in about B. Modern critical scholars think that not all teachings ascribed to the Buddha in the Pali Canon were actually taught by the historical Buddha. Different Buddhist schools began to develop at a very early period. Around B. For example, many people began treating the Buddha as a god, and espoused worship of several different Buddhas; such worship was accepted by the liberal group.

    But according the Pali Canon the Buddha is not a god but a man who discovered the true path to enlightenment. Originally there were several different schools in the conservative group, but a school calling itself "Theravada" thera-vada, lit. Liberal groups called themselves collectively "Mahayana" maha-yana, lit.

    Theravada is a fairly uniform tradition, and eventually became the dominant Buddhist tradition in Sri Lanka and in Southeast Asia Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia; influential also in Vietnam. It includes for example "Pure Land" Buddhism, a popular form of Buddhism focused on the worship of Amida Buddha who presides over a heaven called "the Pure Land. Mahayana Buddhists refer to the more conservative Buddhists by the derogatory term "Hinayana" hina-yana, lit. But one should be aware that Theravada Buddhists do not like to hear their tradition called "Hinayana.

    Mahayana Buddhists have also popularized the notion, common in the West, that Mahayana Buddhists are altruistic, wanting to achieve Enlightenment "for the sake of all beings," whereas "Hinayana" Buddhists are individualistic and self-centered, each interested only in Nirvana as a personal achievement, and unconcerned about others.

    Buddha’s Holy Life

    Again, we do not find Theravada Buddhists describing themselves in this particular way. Much later, in the sixth century A. Vajranyana Buddhism borrowed many ideas and practices from the Tantric tradition in India, which shares many tendencies common in what modern Westerners call "occultism": calling on various spirits in rituals thought to give practitioners magical powers, incorporation of dance and song into religious ritual, deliberate breaking of normal sexual taboos, and so on.

    Although once popular in many Buddhist lands, Vajrayana or Tantric Buddhism eventually became associated primarily with Tibet. These competing schools of thought in Buddhism were not always linked to competing Buddhist organizations. Sometimes teachers and followers adhering to different schools of thought lived together in the same monasteries.