Buddhism September 21, Keywords: Karma, samsara, nirvana Four noble truths Three treasures Mahayana Guanyin

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1 Buddhism September 21, 2015 Keywords: Karma, samsara, nirvana Four noble truths Three treasures Mahayana Guanyin

2 Basic Buddhist ideas The problem of human suffering Suffering is caused by desire Resolved not by fulfillment of desire but by the ending of desire Those who desire will experience a cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) The quality of one s rebirth depends on the moral character of one s actions (karma), which should be motivated by non-attachment, benevolence, and understanding The lowest realm of rebirth is hell; the highest is nirvana (lit. blowing out ), a salvation from rebirth How is nirvana attained? Nirvana is not attained only through merit, but also through wisdom (realizing the true nature of existence through meditation)

3 Wisdom the Four Noble Truths Life is suffering Suffering is caused by craving Suffering can have an end There is a path which leads to the end of suffering The Eightfold Path: Right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, right concentration

4 Five Precepts A minimum morality for those living in the world do not take life do not steal do not engage in sexual misconduct do not lie, speak poorly of others do not use alcohol

5 The Three Treasures The Buddha the historical Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama (6 th c. BCE) The Sangha the community of monks The Dharma the Buddhist law It is the Buddha who finds the path to liberation and shows it to others. The Dharma is the path itself, and the Sangha are one s companions who offer assistance along the way

6 Buddhism quickly develops a popular aspect Deification of the historical Buddha Emphasis on miracle stories Focus on heavenly pleasures and tortures of hell Pilgrimage to sites holding relics of the Buddha East Asia would later have a Buddhist religious landscape filled with pilgrimage sites such as Wutai shan

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8 The early spread of Buddhism Buddhism at its very roots was a religion of itinerant wanders: It was also a religion of pilgrimage: relic shrines by King Ashoka in the 3 rd c. BCE, the earliest powerful patron of Buddhism {How does Buddhism change when it becomes a state religion?} Many urban residents, including merchants, converted These merchants began to take Buddhism with them The emperor also sponsored missionary efforts

9 Buddhism s Spread in Southeast Asia In SE Asia, from 3 rd c. BCE, Buddhism Theravada spread along with commerce Theravada: emphasized misery of life in the world, goal of personal salvation, individual effort (rather than assistance of clergy or spiritual beings) From 7 th c. CE, we begin to see missionaries from Chinese Buddhism (Mahayana)

10 Buddhism s Spread to China Traveling monks, missionaries, silk traders brought the religion eastward (and, soon, back westward) From about 3 rd century CE, began to attract wide interest in China. From 6 th to 9 th c., Buddhism enjoyed state patronage. Reasons for initial success in China: 1. The religion was highly adaptable success of (strategic) translation and tolerance for prior cultural traditions. 2. Highly developed view of life after death fit the moment a time of political and economic pressure, high death rates from epidemic disease. 3. Offered hope of deliverance from suffering. 4. Offered physical healing (also in Japan, SOJT 105) 5. Offered source of spiritual support for insecure states.

11 Translation in East Asian Buddhism Translation of Buddhist texts primarily undertaken by teams of collaborators In many cases, these translations were modified to suit the needs of an audience (contrast with ideas of Christian or Muslim scriptures?)

12 Buddhism s Spread to China Mahayana distinctives: The possibility of universal liberation from suffering (Mahayan = the great vehicle ) A belief in beings that might help gain salvation for the ordinary holy people, bodhisattvas (lit. wisdom [Bodhi]-being [sattva]) and saints, sought purity not only for their own sake but to save other suffering mortals; they delayed entrance into nirvana to assist others Guanyin the most popular bodhisattva in East Asia

13 Guanyin Becomes a female figure. A compassionate universal savior, gives assistance regardless of class, gender, or even moral qualifications. Could not only bring spiritual enlightenment, but also save one from worldly difficulties, grant material satisfactions, a good death and postmortem salvation. No native god or goddess in China prior to Guanyin possessed all these abilities (Yu 2001: 5).

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15 Early Buddhism in Japan and Korea Korea: Buddhism enters in the 4 th century Gains royal support (until Choson in the 14 th century) as a state-protective cult Becomes the main religion of the aristocratic classes in Korea (while shamanism remains predominant among the commoners until Koryo (10 th c.)) Royal support in Korea is key to the spread of Buddhism to Japan Japan: Buddhism enters in 6 th century Gains political support in the Asuka and Nara period (see SOJT, p.101) Japan almost becomes a Buddhist theocracy In both Korea and Japan, Buddhism benefits from its association with Chinese culture (see SOJT, p.101-2) In all of East Asia, Buddhism would become interwoven with existing religious traditions and practices

16 From Korea to China Korean monks wrote commentaries on Buddhist works that were influential for Chinese Buddhist schools such as Chan and Tiantai, and Buddhism in Yunnan and Tibet (Jorgenson, 2005) Buswell (2010), emphasizes that Korean monks saw themselves not as Korean but as joint collaborators in a religious tradition that transcended contemporary notions of nation

17 How was Buddhism affected by its relation to the state? It becomes propertied: we see the establishment of temples, impressive art works, new types of architectural spaces It becomes violent: war is justified as a way to protect the Dharma It becomes political. For instance, in Japan: From a source of ritual support for the state (Nara, Heian) To an institution with equal partnership (or even power) with the state Until its depoliticization under Nobunaga (late 16 th century) This is not necessarily antithetical to Buddhist teaching Cakravartin king Texts on Buddhist kingship/state (Sutra of the Golden Light)

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