02 May After your story on Hinduism, your boss at the Religious News has sent you north of India to bring a report back on Buddhism. For this story, y
PHL 2350, Philosophies of World Religions 1
Course Learning Outcomes for Unit II Upon completion of this unit, students should be able to:
2. Discuss factors which have caused potential for conflict within and between religious groups. 2.1 Summarize cultural differences that lead to variances in Buddhist practices from specified
countries. 2.2 Explain your personal view on being willing to risk punishment for your beliefs.
Course/Unit Learning Outcomes
Unit Lesson Chapter 2, pp. 61–111 Video: Tibetan Spirituality Unit II Reflection Paper
2.2 Unit II Reflection Paper
Reading Assignment Chapter 2: Buddhism, pp. 61–111 In order to access the following resource, click the link below: You will be viewing the Tibetan Spirituality clip for this unit. The transcript for the video can be found by clicking the “Transcript” tab beside each video in the Films on Demand database. TED (Producer). (2007). Tibetan spirituality (Segment 2 of 8) [Video]. In TEDTalks: Phil Borges—
Documenting Our Endangered Cultures. Films on Demand. https://libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/login?auth=CAS&url=http://fod.infobase.com/PortalPla ylists.aspx?wID=273866&xtid=48066&loid=131517
Unit Lesson Unit II Overview As we move from Hinduism to Buddhism, you will notice similarities between these religions. First, Hinduism and Buddhism share similar cosmologies regarding natural law (dharma). Informing morality, natural law provides Hindus and Buddhists with a moral code for the correct way of living. Secondly, Hindus and Buddhists believe in reincarnation. Regarding reincarnation, the primary difference is that Hindus believe a soul exists (atman), whereas Buddhists do not believe that an individual soul exists (Deming, 2015). Nevertheless, both include in their respective faith traditions samsara (eternal wheel of death and rebirth). Hindus and Buddhists alike seek to break that endless cycle of birth, death, and reincarnation. Buddhism also includes all the necessary components to qualify it as a religion: scripture, theology, moral code, revelation, worship, ceremony, ritual, and prayer (or meditation). As we delve deeper into Buddhism and reality, how would you explain the growing popularity of Buddhism in Western culture? Basics of Buddhism: Cosmology and Theology Buddhist cosmology is just as elaborate as Hindu cosmology with one fundamental difference. Where Hindus believe in the existence of a personal self or atman, Buddhists view our concept of self as an illusion (Deming,
UNIT II STUDY GUIDE
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2015). Cosmologically, this is an important distinction because, in Buddhism, there is no sense of personal immortality according to the readings in the Buddhist text, The Lotus Sutra (Deming 2015). According to Buddhist doctrine, a separate, permanent, or immortal self does not exist. Buddhists refer to this concept as an-atman (no-self) along with our own impermanence (Deming, 2015). As your textbook explains, Buddhists and Hindus differ on this point. While Hindus believe that all souls are eternal and part of ultimate reality, Buddhists believe that a person is merely a special process that is constantly changing (Deming, 2015). This means that if your theology teaches that humans have a soul, then that implies that there is something permanent and unchanging about humans. This Hindu religious tenet directly contravenes the Buddhist tenet of impermanence. Buddhism is about the Middle Way, according to Siddhartha (Deming, 2015). Siddhartha discovered that a harmonious life is one that neither gives the body too much nor denies it too much. In other words, he was teaching followers the need to practice discipline in his or her daily life (Deming, 2015). This notion would help minimize the pain and suffering in our lives. To accomplish this, the Buddha imparted to us the Dharma (saving truth), namely, his teachings (Deming, 2015). From this came what we call the Four Noble Truths:
1. Dukkha [pain and suffering] permeate all life. 2. Trishna [desire] leads to our pain and suffering. 3. Eliminating trishna [desire] will minimize or even end pain and suffering (dukkha). 4. Disciplined life will lead to the Noble Eightfold Path (Deming, 2015).
From the Four Noble Truths, we move to the Eightfold Path. One arrives at nirvana by following this Eightfold Path that the Buddha laid out as summarized below, according to Deming (2015):
1. We must possess a right understanding of how everything works to proceed forward. 2. We must follow this path with the right intentions to reach our goal. 3. We must watch our speech and choose our words carefully to guide us on the right path. 4. We must discipline ourselves to practice only right behavior to keep us from straying. 5. We must be ever mindful to pursue a right livelihood. 6. We must spend our energy only on right efforts, which will bring us closer to enlightenment. 7. We must regularly practice meditation to keep our minds focused and sharp. 8. We must exercise right contemplation to bring us peace of mind and contentment.
Buddhism: Communal and Social Aspects As a community, Buddhists follow the teachings of the Buddha to gain good karma, which ensures that they have a more desirable reincarnation. Buddhists refer to this practice as dana (giving), which helps prepare one for more advanced training such as with the Eightfold Path, for example (Deming, 2015). In other words, there is room for both the everyday person practicing Buddhism and one who chooses to become a Buddhist monk and thereby follow a more disciplined teaching. Through teaching and practice, people can then renounce sensual pleasures and focus more on meditation that helps relieve their pain and suffering (Deming, 2015). Recall from the Four Noble Truths that sensual pleasures produce desires, and desires lead to suffering and pain. As Buddhism grew and spread, new forms of Buddhism emerged such as Theravada Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhism. Theravada Buddhists preferred the older and more established traditions of. Mahayana Buddhists, on the other hand, promoted another brand of Buddhism, which relied more on the newer Sanskrit texts (Deming, 2015). Though these two traditions might have differed in terms of the details, they both still shared common core Buddhist teachings such as the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. One common feature that most religions share is that they usually spread geographically. Buddhism is no different. Starting in India, Buddhism eventually spread to China, Indonesia, Vietnam, Burma, Cambodia, and even to the United States (Deming, 2015). As your textbook points out, wherever Buddhism spread, that region gave Buddhism its own flavor. For example, in China, Buddhism incorporated certain Daoist influences, yet in Japan, Buddhism acquired certain Zen features (Deming, 2015). This all speaks to the flexibility of Buddhism to adapt to different cultures and peoples. We see from this that Buddhism is a global religion rich in ritual, tradition, and ceremony.
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The Buddhist community comes together for important holidays such as the celebration of the Chinese New Year and the Buddha’s birthday. Buddhist communities throughout the world celebrate holidays in different ways as well. These celebrations follow the lunar calendar, which explains why the Buddha’s birthday falls on a different day each year (Deming, 2015). By examining the celebration of these religious ceremonies, we can study and better understand how Buddhists express their beliefs through engagement with other members of the faith. Transfer of Learning After reading Chapter 2, you should be able to discuss the commonalities and differences among the various Buddhist schools. How do these various Buddhist traditions enhance or enrich Buddhism itself? What is it about Buddhism that makes it so popular here in the West? Now that you have studied Hinduism and Buddhism, what do you see as major differences between the two? How do Hindus and Buddhists think about time and reality, for example? You should now be able to explain differing interpretations of religious tenets common to both Hinduism and Buddhism. You might hear some people argue that Buddhism is more of a philosophy than a religion. On the surface, it is easy to see how one would think that about Buddhism because of its focus on meditation and such. In the United States, for example, those following Buddhism prefer the Tibetan tradition with its emphasis on meditation. That is, meditation appeals more to the taste of Westerners than philosophical discussions on the nature of reality that you might encounter in the Mahayana tradition, which is more scholastic in its approach. Nevertheless, as outlined above, Buddhism is a religion in every sense of the word. Buddhism has a strict moral code that influences the daily lives of its followers. By practicing right behavior, one can “bank” moral credit in this life, which will eventually lead to good karma in one’s reincarnation. The essential point, morally speaking, is what you do counts. Conclusion Natural law informs both Hinduism and Buddhism for a correct way of living. Both religions share similar cosmologies with respect to reincarnation and karma. However, as you have now learned, Hinduism and Buddhism part ways when it comes to the nature of the soul, or lack thereof. On the one hand, Hindus believe humans possess a soul (atman), which is immutable, everlasting, and permanent. Buddhists, on the other hand, believe humans are devoid of soul or self (an-atman). We are merely an aggregate of processes that change over time. Nothing is permanent or immutable. How does this Buddhist notion differ from the Christian notion of an everlasting soul? Buddhists believe that the denial of this realization causes a great deal of pain and suffering for some. Realizing this, Buddha himself offered us an antidote to this suffering. By following the Eightfold Path, we can each reach enlightenment as long as we accept the truth that nothing is permanent. The message here is that our own salvation is within each of us. Unlike Hinduism, which exists within a rigid caste system—a system of haves and have nots—Buddhism views everyone equally. All sentient beings in their current manifestations are merely living out their own karmas from previous lives. We are all responsible for our own actions. Enlightenment is open to everyone.
Reference Deming, W. (Ed.). (2015). Understanding the religions of the world: An introduction. Wiley-Blackwell.
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