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Introduction to Buddhism


Introduction to Buddhism Lecture One ( 10th Jan.,2008) Dr. Robert C L Law Buddhist Lodge of Laity January, 2008. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Introduction to Buddhism

Introduction to Buddhism
  • Lecture One ( 10th Jan.,2008)
  • Dr. Robert C L Law
  • Buddhist
    Lodge of Laity

  • January, 2008.

Not some existential questions
  • Who am I ?
  • Who are you ?

Much about this course
  • Why English ?
  • An outline of the basic teachings of Buddhism
  • Common misunderstandings about Buddhism
  • Apparent contradictions in the teachings of
    different schools of Buddhism.
  • Buddhism in everyday life

Difficulties with Buddhism (I)
  • Language Problem with Classical Chinese
    translations of scriptures.
  • Pali Sanskrit
  • Siddhattha Gotama Siddhartha Gautama
  • Nibbana Nirvana
  • Kamma Karma
  • Dukkha Dukkha

Difficulties with Buddhism (II)
  • Language Problem with Classical Chinese
    translations of scriptures.
  • Buddhist doctrines --- e.g. no-self difficult to
    grasp .
  • Doctrinal differences between various buddhist
    schools leading to confusion .

Course Outline
  • History of Buddhism and its development
  • Basic Doctrines
  • Four Noble Truth ( ? ? ?)
  • Five Aggregates ( ? ?)
  • Three Dharma Seal ( ? ? ?)
  • Dependent Origination (???)
  • Karma , Rebirth (?,??)
  • Buddhist Meditation

Brief history of Buddhism in India
  • Buddhism originated in India. It not only played
    a predominant role at one time in India, but
    also spread to countries outside India. Nowadays,
    Buddhism is the worlds fourth largest religion
    -- it is estimated that about six per cent of the
    worlds population are Buddhists, making a total
    of 350 million followers .
  • However, the number of Buddhists in India
    constitutes to only about 1 of its total
    population (99 is believers in Hinduism).
  • .

Period Development
1 3000-600 BC ???? Prehistory (3000-700 BC) --Background to Buddhism
2 6th century BC The Buddhas time
3 5th-4th century BC Early Buddhism ????
4 4th-3rd century BC Sectarian Buddhism??????
5 3d century BC Fourth Council of Aloka Cave and appearance of Theravada Buddhism
6 1st century BC Fourth Council of of Kashmir and appearance of Mahayana Buddhism????
7 8th century AD Appearance of Tartaric Buddhism ??
8 9th-12th century Buddhism lost its dominant position in India in the record of ancient Chinese travellers
9 12th-13th century The disappearance of Buddhism?????
11 19th century-- Revival ?
2. Life of the Buddha
  • The Buddha is a historical person. His personal
    name was Siddhattha, and family name Gotama. He
    lived in North India in the 6th century BC. His
    farther, Suddhodana, was the ruler of the kingdom
    of the S?kyas (in modern Nepal). His mother was
    queen M?y?.

The Life of the Buddha
  • Born around 483 BC (?) in what is now Nepal
  • Local community Sakyas ( thus Sakyamuni , the
    Sage of the Sakays) , a prince(?)
  • Mythology born from armpit ?
  • virgin conception?
  • have a son?

Luxurious life in palace
  • The king had three royal palaces built for the
    prince. The first was built from perfumed wood.
    It was warm in the winter season. The second was
    built of cool marble, to be used during summer.
    The third was built of brick for the rainy
  • To make life even more pleasant, the king created
    beautiful parks with lovely pools where swans and
    fish swam and lotus flowers bloomed.

Four sights
Old man
Sick person
  • In his youth he was distressed by unavoidable
    problems of human beings such as aging, illness,
    life and death and he deeply thought over such

Dead body
Wanding holy man
  • When he was confronted with the reality of life
    and the suffering of mankind, he decided to find
    the solution - the way out of this universal
    suffering. He left his kingdom and became an
    ascetic in search of truth at the age of 29.

Ascetic life
  • Six years of rigorous ascetic practices
  • He practised the most severe hardship, e.g.
    sleeping on a bed of thorns, eating only a grain
    of wheat and a sesame seed each day.

Meditationkey to his enlightenment
  • The Long Struggle
  • Finally, he sat under the Bodhi tree for
    forty-nine days. He was determined to discover
    the source of all pain and suffering in the
  • As the morning star appeared in the eastern sky,
    he became an enlightened one, a Buddha. What he
    realized was Dependent Origination (Cause and
    effect) ???.

Enlightenment at Buddha-Gaya
  • One evening, seated under the Bodhi tree, at
    Buddha-Gaya (near Gaya in modern Bihar), at the
    age of 35, Gotama became the Enlightened One.
    It means after fully understanding Dependent
    Origination and the Four Noble Truths, he became
    a wise person. Nothing could make him unhappy.

Helping suffering people
  • From that day on, for 45 years, he taught all
    classes of men and women - kings and peasants,
    Brahmins and outcasts, bankers and beggars, holy
    men and robbers - without making the slightest
    distinction between them, and the way he preached
    was open to all men and women who were ready to
    understand and to follow it.

Significances of his life story
  • Like tax, sickness/death is a fact of life that
    one must face, sooner or later . The Buddha
    realised it at the age of 29 ( How about you ?)
  • Middle Path between sensory indulgence and
    extreme asceticism
  • Meditation/ Introspection---- key to
  • 4. He taught for 45 years over an area of
    several hundred miles. Different people must have
    heard him differently.

Significance (Contd)
  • The Buddha was a human being like you and me.
  • He claimed no inspiration from any god or
    external power. He attributed all his
    realization, attainments and achievements to
    human endeavour and human intelligence.
  • Man is his own master, and he has the power to
    liberate himself from all bondage through his own
    effort and intelligence. The Buddha says, You
    should do your work, for the Buddha only teaches
    the way.
  • The Buddha is only a teacher, who discovered and
    showed the Path to Liberation, Nibbana. We all
    need to tread the Path ourselves.

Brief history of Early Buddhism
  • 1. The First Council 3 months after the Buddha
    passed away --- 500 monks gather to recite the
    teachings(sutta) and precepts (vinaya)
  • The Second Council 100 years ,attended by 700
  • rejection (?) of the Mhasangikas

3. The Third Council
  • Reign of Indian Emperor Asoka (272-231) who
    converted and established the Buddha's Dharma on
    a national level for the first time in Buddhist
  • He ruled from Burma to Iran and from Nepal to
    South India
  • In the 3rd Century B.C. during the time of
    Emperor Asoka, the Third Council was held at
    Pataliputra under the patronage of Emperor Asoka
    about 200 -250 years after the Parinirvana of the

  • (1) Main points of the Third Council
  • At this Council the differences were not confined
    to the Vinaya but were also connected with the
    differences of opinion concerning doctrines among
    the bhikkhus of different sects.
  • At the end of this Council, the President of the
    Council, Moggaliputta Tissa, compiled a book
    called the Kathavatthu ?? refuting the
    heretical, false views and theories held by some
    sects. The teaching approved and accepted by this
    Council was known as Theravada.
  • The Abhidhamma Pitaka was included at this
  • (2) Impact
  • --The modern Pali Tipitaka were now essentially

The 4th Buddhist Council of Kashmir
  • After 250 BC, the Sarvastivadin (who had been
    rejected by the 3rd council, according to the
    Theravada tradition) and the Dharmaguptaka
    schools became quite influential in northwestern
    India and Central Asia, up to the time of the
    Kushan Empire in the first centuries of the
    common era.
  • Main points
  • (1) The 4th Buddhist Council was held under royal
    patron of King Kaniska around 100 AD in Kashmir.
  • (2) Kanishka gathered 500 monks headed by
    Vasumitra, to compile the vast commentary known
    as the Maha-Vibhasha ("Great Exegesis"), an
    extensive compendium and reference work on a
    portion of the Sarvastivadin Abhidharma.
  • Usually associated with the risk of Mahayana

Appearance of the term Mahayana
  • Between the 1st century BCE to the 1st century
    CE, the two terms Mahayana(??). and Hinayana
    (??)appeared in the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra (or
    the Sutra of the Lotus of the Good Law) ?????.
  • After the 1st century CE, the Mahayanists took a
    definite stand and only then the terms of
    Mahayana and Hinayana were introduced.

Hinayana and Theravada
  • We must not confuse Hinayana with Theravada
    because the terms are not synonymous.
  • Theravada Buddhism went to Sri Lanka during the
    3rd century BCE when there was no Mahayana at
    all. Hinayana sects developed in India and had an
    existence independent of the form of Buddhism
    existing in Sri Lanka.
  • Today there is no Hinayana sect in existence
    anywhere in the world. Therefore, in 1950 the
    World Fellowship of Buddhists inaugurated in
    Colombo unanimously decided that the term
    Hinayana should be dropped when referring to
    Buddhism existing today in Sri Lanka, Thailand,
    Burma, Cambodia, Laos, etc.

Formation of Mahayana Buddhism(????)
  • About the 2nd century CE, Mahayana became clearly
  • Nagarjuna The "Second Buddha
  • Beginnings of Mahayana Buddhism (200 CE).
  • Composition of Prajnaparamita literature.
  • Legend reports that Nagarjuna (ca.150-250 CE) was
    the person preordained by the Buddha to recover
    and explicate the Perfection of Wisdom texts. The
    first of these texts was the 'Perfection of
    Wisdom in 8,000 Lines'.
  • The Heart Sutra (??)

Beginning of tantric teaching (8th century) ??
  • From around the 4th century CE, Vajrayana
    (Tantrayana) Buddhism started to develop in India
    as part of the Mahayana tradition.
  • The central practices of tantra include
    visualizations intended to foster cognitive
    reorientation, the use of prayers (mantra) to
    Buddhas that are intended to facilitate the
    transformation of the meditator into a fully
    enlightened Buddha, and often elaborate rituals.
  • It was introduced into Tibet during the 8th

Table for Buddhist Schools and Sects in India
(5th-7th centuries CE)
Name of Chinese Pilgrim Estimated Buddhist Schools
Faxian One orthodox School 96 heretic schools in the middle Kingdom.
Xuanzang 18 orthodox schools
Yijing 4 schools 18-sub sects Divided into 4 groups of Nikayas
Chinese Buddhism ?????
Northern School ??
Mahayana Buddhism
Tibetan Buddhism ?????
Southern School ??
Pali Buddhism ??????
Theravada Buddhism
What Tongue did the Buddha speak?
  • Sanskrit ---the official language for 2000 years
  • Prakrits---- Local dialects--- Magadhi

  • Pali

  • Modern Hindi
  • Religious transmission ---oral

Where do the sutta(sutras) come from?
  • Theravada (??)version----direct descend from the
  • Mahayana(??) version---- teachings hidden and
    discovered later when people are enlightened
    enough to hear it .
  • Esoteric(??) version----- secret teachings not
    lightly disclosed to the uninitiated.

Difficulties with Buddhism( IV)
  • 6. Is the sould one thing and the body another ?
  • 7. Does the Tathagata exist after death?
  • 8. Does he not exist after death ?
  • 9. Does he both ( at the same time) exist and not
    exist after death ?
  • 10. Does he both (at the same time) not exist and
    not not-exist ?