Jet Li, Martial Arts, the Songs of the Sun and the Moon, Buddhism, Meditations, and Chants
Song of the Sun and the Moon
1. The Song of songs
2. The Moon: + Let him kiss me with kisses of his mouth!
More delightful is your love than wine!
3. Your name spoken - is a spreading perfume
That is why the maidens love you.
4. Draw me! -
The Community: We, will follow you eagerly!
The Moon: Bring me, O king, to your chambers.
The Community: With you, we rejoice and exult,
we extol your love;
it is beyond wine, how rightly you are loved!
5. The Moon: + I, am as dark - but lovely, O community-
As the tents of Kedar, as the curtains of Salma.
6. + Do not stare at me because I am swarthy,
because, the sun has burned me.
My brothers have been angry with me.
They, charged me with the care of the vineyards:
My own vineyard - I have not cared for.
7. The Moon: + Tell me, you, whom my heart loves,
where you pasture your flock,
where you give them rest at midday,
Lest I be found, wandering
after the flocks of your companions.
8. The Sun: If, you do not know, O most beautiful among women,
Follow the tracks of the flock,
and pasture the young ones near the shepherd's camps.
9. The Sun: + To the steeds of Pharaoh's chariots,
would I liken you, my beloved:
10. Your cheeks lovely in pendants, your neck in jewels.
11. We, will make pendants of gold for you, and silver ornaments.
12. The Moon: + For the king's banquet, my nard gives forth its fragrance.
13. + My lover, is for me, a sachet of myrrh,
to rest in my bosom.
14. + My lover, is for me, a cluster of henna,
from the vineyards of Engedi.
15. The Sun: + Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved, ah, you are beautiful, your eyes are doves!
16. The Moon: + Ah, you, are beautiful, my lover - yes, you are lovely.
Our couch, too, is verdant;
17. The beams of our house are cedars, our rafters - cypresses.
1. The Moon: + I, am a flower of Sharon, a lily of the valley.
2. The Sun: As a lily, among thorns, so is my beloved, among women.
3. The Moon: As an apple tree, among the trees of the woods,
so is my lover - among men.
I delight, to rest in his shadow,
and his fruit is sweet to my mouth.
4. + He, brings me into the banquet hall,
and his emblem over me is love.
5. Strengthen me, with raisin cakes, refresh me with apples,
For, I, am faint with love.
6. His left hand is under my head,
and his right arm embraces me.
7. + I adjure you, O community,
by the gazelles and hinds of the field,
Do not arouse, do not stir up love, before its own time.
A Tryst in the Spring
8. The Moon: + Hark! my lover - here he comes,
springing across the mountains, leaping across the hills.
9. My lover, is like a gazelle or a young stag.
Here he stands, behind our wall,
gazing through the windows, peering through the lattices.
10. My lover speaks, he says to me:
"Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!
11. " For, see, the winter is past,
The rains are over and gone,
12. The flowers appear on the earth,
The time for pruning the vines has come,
And, the song of the dove is heard in our land.
13. The fig tree puts forth its figs,
and the vines - in bloom, give forth fragrance.
Arise, my beloved, my beautiful one, and come!"
14. " O my dove, in the clefts of the rock,
in the secret recesses of the cliff
Let me see you, let me hear your voice,
For, your voice is sweet, and you are lovely".
15. The Moon: + Catch us, the foxes, the little foxes,
that damage the vineyards, for, our vineyards are in bloom!
16. My lover, belongs to me, and I, to him.
he, browses among the lilies.
17. + Until, the day breathes cool and the shadows lengthen, roam, my lover,
Like a gazelle or a young stag, upon the mountains of Bether.
Loss and Discovery
1. The Moon: + On my bed, at night, I sought him, whom my heart loves -
I sought him, but I did not find him.
2. I will rise then, and go about the city,
in the streets and crossings,
I will seek Him - whom my heart loves.
I sought him, but, I did not find him.
3. The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city:
Have you seen him, whom my heart loves?
4. I had hardly left them, when I found him-
whom my heart loves.
I, took hold of him, and would not let him go,
till, I should bring him to the home of my mother,
to the room of my parent.
5. I adjure you, O community,
by the gazelles and hinds of the field
Do not arouse, do not stir up love, before its own time.
Regal State of the Bridegroom
6. The Community: + What is this, coming up from the desert,
like a column of smoke,
Laden, with myrrh, with frankincense,
and with the perfume of every exotic dust?
7. Ah, it is the litter of Solomon,
sixty valiant men surround it,
of the valiant men of Israel:
8. All of them expert with the sword, skilled in battle,
Each, with his sword at his side, against danger,
in the watches of the night.
9. King Solomon, made himself a carriage of wood
10. He, made its columns of silver, its roof of gold,
its seat of purple cloth,
its framework - inlaid with ivory.
11. O community, come forth,
and look upon King Solomon,
in the crown with which his mother has crowned him,
on the day of his marriage,
on the day of the joy of his heart.
The Charms of the Beloved
1. The Sun: Ah, you are beautiful, my beloved, ah, you are beautiful!
Your eyes are doves, behind your veil.
Your hair, is like a flock of goats,
streaming down the mountains of Gilead.
2. + Your teeth, are like a flock of ewes, to be shorn,
which come up from the washing,
All of them, big with twins, none of them, thin and barren.
3. + Your lips, are like a scarlet strand, your mouth is lovely.
Your cheek, is a half-pomegranate, behind your veil.
4. + Your neck, is like David's tower, girt with battlements.
A thousand bucklers, hang upon it,
all the shields of valiant men.
5. Your breast, are like twin fawns, the young of a gazelle,
that browse among the lilies.
6. + Until the day breathes cool, and the shadows lengthen,
I, will go to the mountain of myrrh, to the hill of incense.
7. + You, are all-beautiful, my beloved,
and there is no blemish in you.
8. + Come from Lebanon, my bride, come from Lebanon, come!
Descend, from the top of Amana,
from the top of Senir and Hermon,
From the haunts of lions, from the leopard's mountains.
9. + You, have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride.
You, have ravished my heart,
with one glance of your eyes,
with one bead of your necklace.
10. How beautiful is your love, my sister, my bride,
how much more delightful, is your love than wine,
and the fragrance of your ointments, than all spices!
11. + Your lips, drip honey, my bride,
sweetmeats and milk are under your tongue.
And the fragrance of your garments,
is the fragrance of Lebanon.
The Lover and His Garden
12. The Sun: + You, are an enclosed garden, my sister, my bride,
an enclosed garden, a fountain sealed.
13. You, are a park, that puts forth pomegranates,
with all choice fruits;
14. Nard and saffron, calamus and cinnamon,
with all kinds of incense;
Myrrh and aloes, with all the finest spices.
15. You, are a garden fountain, a well of water,
flowing fresh from Lebanon.
16. + Arise, north wind! Come south wind! Blow upon my garden, that its perfumes may spread abroad.
The Moon: Let my lover come to his garden, and eat its choice fruits.
1. The Sun: + I, have come to my garden, my sister, my bride.
I, gather my myrrh and my spices.
I, eat my honey and my sweetmeats.
I, drink my wine and my milk.
The Community: Eat, friends, drink! Drink freely of love!
A Fruitless Search
2. The Moon : + I, was sleeping, but my heart kept vigil.
I, heard my lover knocking:
"Open to me, my sister, my beloved,
my dove, my perfect one!"
For, my head is wet with dew,
my locks with the moisture of the night."
3. + I, have taken off my robe, am I then, to put it on?
I, have bathed my feet, am I then, to soil them?
4. My lover, put his hand through the opening.
My heart, trembled within me.
And, I grew faint, when he spoke.
5. I, rose to open to my lover, with my hands dripping myrrh:
With my fingers dripping choice myrrh,
upon the fittings of the lock.
6. + I opened to my lover - but, my lover had departed, gone.
I sought him, but I did not find him.
I called to him, but he did not answer me.
7. + The watchmen came upon me,
as they made their rounds of the city.
They struck me, and wounded me,
and took my mantle from me - the guardians of the walls.
8. I adjure you, O community, if you find my lover -
What shall you tell him? - that I, am faint with love.
The Charms of the Lost Lover
9. The Community: How, does your lover differ from any other,
O most beautiful among women?
How, does your lover differ from any other,
that you adjure us so?
10. + My lover, is radiant and ruddy,
he, stands out among thousands.
11. His head, is pure gold,
his locks, are palm fronds - black as the raven.
12. His eyes, are like doves, beside running waters.
His teeth, would seem bathed in milk,
and are set like jewels.
13. His cheeks, are like beds of spice,
with ripening aromatic herbs.
His lips, are red blossoms, they drip choice myrrh.
14. His arms, are like rods of gold,
adorned with chysolites.
His body, is a work of ivory, covered with sapphires.
15. His legs, are columns of marble,
resting on golden bases.
His statue, is like the trees on Lebanon,
imposing as the cedars.
16. His mouth, is sweetness itself, he is all delight.
Such, is my lover, and such, my friend, O community.
1. The Community: + Where has your lover gone,
O most beautiful among women?
Where has your lover gone,
that we may seek him with you?
2. The Moon: + My lover, has come down to his garden,
to the beds of spice.
To browse in the garden, and to gather lilies.
3. My lover belongs to me, and I to him,
he browses among the lilies.
The Charms of the Beloved
4. The Sun: + You are as beautiful as Tirzah, my beloved,
as lovely as Jerusalem,
as awe-inspiring as bannered troops.
5. Turn your eyes from me, for they torment me.
Your hair, is like a flock of goats,
streaming down from Gilead.
6. Your teeth, are like a flock of ewes,
which come up from the washing.
All of them, big with twins,
none of them thin and barren.
7. Your cheek, is like a half-pomegranate,
behind your veil.
8. There are, sixty queens, eighty concubines,
and maidens without numbers -
9. One alone, is my dove, my perfect one,
her mother's chosen, the dear one, of her parent.
The daughters saw her, and declared her fortunate - the queens and concubines,
and, they sang her praises.
10. The Community: Who is this, that comes forth like the dawn,
as beautiful as the moon, as resplendent as the sun,
as awe-inspiring as bannered troops?
11. The Moon: I, came down from the nut garden,
to look at the fresh growth of the valley.
To see if the vines were in bloom,
if the pomegranates had blossomed.
12. + Before I knew it, my heart had made me,
the blessed one of my kinswomen.
The Beauty of the Bride
1. The Community: + Turn, turn, O Shulammite, turn, turn,
that we may look at you!
The Moon: Why, would you look at the Shulammite,
as at the dance of the two companies?
The Community: + How beautiful, are your feet in sandals,
O prince's daughter!
Your rounded thighs, are like jewels,
the handiwork of an artist.
3. Your navel, is a round bowl,
that should never lack for mixed wine.
Your body, is a heap of wheat encircled with lilies.
4. Your breasts, are like twin fawns,
the young of a gazelle.
5. + Your neck, is like a tower of ivory.
Your eyes, are like the pools in Heshbon,
by the gate of Bath-rabbim.
Your nose, is like the tower on Lebanon,
that looks toward Damascus.
6. Your head, rises like Carmel.
Your hair, is like draperies of purple.
A king, is held captive, in its tresses.
7. The Sun: How beautiful you are, how pleasing, my love, my delight!
8. + Your very figure, is like a palm tree.
9. I said: I will climb the palm tree, I will take hold of its branches.
Now, let your breasts be like clusters of the vine,
and the fragrance of your breath like apples.
10. + And your mouth like an excellent wine ...
The Moon: ... that flows, smoothly, for my lover,
spreading over the lips, and the teeth.
11. + I belong to my lover, and for me - he yearns.
12. Come, my lover, let us go forth to the fields,
and spend the night among the villages.
13. Let us go early, to the vineyards,
and see, if the vines are in bloom,
If, the buds have opened.
If, the pomegranates have blossomed.
There, will I give you my love.
14. + The mandrakes, give forth fragrance,
and at our doors, are all choice fruits.
Both fresh and mellowed fruits, my lover,
I, have kept in store for you.
1. The Moon: Oh, that you were my brother,
nursed at my mother's breasts!
If I met you out doors, I would kiss you,
and none would taunt me.
2. I, would lead you, bring you, in to the home of my mother.
There, you would teach me,
to give you, spiced wine to drink, and pomegranate juice.
3. His left hand is under my head,
and his right arm embraces me.
4. I adjure you, O community,
by the gazelles and hinds of the field,
Do not arouse, do not stir up love, before its own time.
5. The Community: + Who, is this, coming up from the desert,
leaning upon her lover?
The Sun: Under the apple tree I awakened you,
it was there, that your mother conceived you,
it was there, that your parent conceived.
6. The Moon: + Set me, as a seal on your heart, as a seal on your arm.
For, stern as death - is love.
Relentless as the nether world - is devotion,
its flames, are a blazing fire.
7. Deep waters, cannot quench love,
nor floods, sweep it away.
Were one to offer all he owns, to purchase love,
he would be roundly mocked.
Chastity and Its Welcome
8. + "Our sister is little, and she has no breasts as yet.
What, shall we do for our sister, when her courtship begins?
9. If, she is a wall, we will build upon it, a silver parapet.
If, she is a door, we will reinforce it, with a cedar plank."
10. I, am a wall, and my breasts, are the towers.
So, now, in his eyes, I have become, one to be welcomed.
The Bride and Her Dowory
11. The Moon: + Solomon, had a vineyard, at Baal-hamon.
He, gave over the vineyard to caretakers.
For its fruit,
one would have to pay a thousand silver pieces.
12. My vineyard, is at my own disposal.
The thousand pieces, are for you, O Solomon,
and two hundred, for the caretakers of its fruit.
13. The Sun: + O garden - dweller,
my friends are listening for your voice, let me hear it!
14. The Moon: Be swift, my lover, like a gazelle or a young stag,
on the mountains of spices!
Born Li Lian Jie, April 26, 1963, in Hebei, China; married Qiuyan Huang, 1987 (divorced, 1990); married Nina Chi Li, September 19, 1999; children: two daughters (from first marriage), two daughters (from second marriage).
Addresses: Contact —Jet Li Autographs, 1411 5th St., Ste. 405, Los Angeles, CA 90401. Publicist —Wolf, Kasteler & Associates, 132 S. Rodeo Dr., Ste. 300, Beverly Hills, CA 90212. Website —http://jetli.com.
Career Member of Beijing Wushu Team, 1970s. Actor in films, including the Chinese-language films Shaolin Temple, 1979; Kids from Shaolin, 1983; Born to Defend, 1986; Martial Arts of Shaolin, 1986; This Is Kung Fu, 1987; Abbot Hai Teng of Shaolin, 1988; Dragon Fight, 1988; The Master, 1989; The Legend of the Swordsman, 1991; Once Upon A Time In China, 1991; Once Upon A Time In China II, 1992; Lord of the Wu Tang, 1993; The Invincible Shaolin, 1993; Deadly China Hero, 1993; The Legend, 1993; The Legend II, 1993; Twin Warriors, 1993; The Defender, 1994; Fist of Legend, 1994; Meltdown, 1995; Jet Li's The Enforcer, 1995; Adventure King, 1996; Black Mask, 1996; Once Upon A Time In China and America, 1996; The Contract Killer, 1998; and Hero, 2002 (released in North America, 2004); and the English-language films Lethal Weapon 4, 1998; Romeo Must Die, 2000; Kiss of the Dragon, 2001; The One, 2001; Cradle 2 the Grave, 2003; Unleashed , 2005. Directed Born to Defend, 1986.
Awards: All-Around National Wushu Champion of China, 1974-79.
Jet Li is a former martial arts star in his native China and one of Asia's biggest movie stars. Li has made the successful move to Hollywood movies, introducing himself to American audiences as a villain in Lethal Weapon 4 and going on to star as the good guy in several action films. On-screen, Li projects an image as a fearless, efficient, yet stylish fighter. Off-screen, Li has an aura of calm and often talks about his Buddhist beliefs, hoping to spread spiritual wisdom as well as the physical thrill of martial arts.
Born in 1963, Li is the youngest of five children. His father died when he was two years old. Li was enrolled in the Beijing Amateur Sports School in the summer of 1971 at the age of eight and began studying the art of wushu, or martial arts, as a summer program. He was one of the few students, and the youngest student, picked to continue wushu in the fall after school. Apparently the teachers had already noticed his budding talent for martial arts; at the age of nine, he won an award for excellence at the national wushu championships.
Two years later, he won his first national championship. He went on a world tour in 1974 and performed in a fight on the lawn of the White House for U.S. President Richard Nixon. At age 12, he won first place in China's National Games despite cutting his head with his saber. He held the title of All-Around National Wushu Champion of China until 1979.
Li retired from wushu at 17 and pursued a film career. His first film, Shaolin Temple, released in 1979, quickly made him a movie star in China and sparked the kung-fu boom there. He later filmed two sequels. He directed a film in 1986, Born to Defend, but it was not considered a success.
In 1988, Li tried to break into American movies, but because his English was not very good and he was not offered strong scripts, he did not succeed right away. Instead, he relocated to Hong Kong, where kung fu went through a surge of popularity in the early 1990s. He gained a huge following through films such as the 1991 epic Once Upon A Time in China and the Fong Sai-Yukseries.
By the mid-1990s, Li has told interviewers, he felt burned out and ready to retire. At the time, the Hong Kong film industry was faltering, in part because of Asia's weak economy and partly because of Hong Kong's impending takeover by communist China. He focused on his spiritual life and studied Tibetan Buddhism. But a Buddhist teacher told him he had a responsibility to continue his work.
Coincidentally, Li soon got an offer to play a crime boss in the American film Lethal Weapon 4. He moved to Los Angeles and spent four hours a day with an English-language tutor to prepare. Lethal Weapon 4 became Li's debut in English-language films. He played the villain opposite Mel Gibson and Danny Glover and, by most accounts, stole the show.
Next, he starred in the film Romeo Must Die, a sort of urban take on William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. The film, which blended martial arts and hiphop, starred the rapper DMX and the singer Aaliyah. Li played a member of a Chinese crime family from San Francisco at war with a black crime family. Li falls in love with Aaliyah, daughter of the black family's leader. A review of the movie in Time praised Li's martial-arts moves: "He hangs by one foot from a rope in a Hong Kong prison cell, and presto, four guards are zapped into electric skeletons. He twirls a water hose to subdue some villains, spins in the air to kick five guys at once, strips the belt off one oaf and hog-ties him with it, and goes spectacularly hand-to-hand with Asian-American lookers Russell Wong and Francoise Yip. In the battle with Yip, Li uses Aaliyah as a human nunchaku." The film made $100 million.
In September of 1999, Li married his longtime girlfriend, Nina Li. He told a reporter he turned down a role in the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, which became enormously popular and moved martial arts films into the mainstream, because he had promised his wife that he would take a break from working when she became pregnant.
Instead, Li traveled to Paris after his daughter was born to star in Kiss of the Dragon with Bridget Fonda. In the film, written and produced by Luc Besson, Li played a Chinese police officer who fights corruption in the French police. Richard Corliss of Time International described his action highlights this way: "Watch him defeat bad guys with the tools of domesticity: a mop, a bale of laundry and (ouch) an iron. Gasp as he kicks a billiard ball out of an end pocket, then swats it, cricket-bat-style, into a villain's cranium . He sneaks past a sentry's guardhouse outside the evil inspecteur's police station and, just to show he can, he rams his foot through his guardhouse door, neatly kicking the sentry in the groin. Inside, he chances upon 20 martial-arts students armed with clubs. Not a problem: he levels five of them with five quicker-than-the-eye maneuvers." Before the film came out, Li posted a note on his website warning parents that the R-rated movie—which was more graphic than his other films, with adult themes involving sex and drug use—was not appropriate for children. He said his next film, The One, would be more family friendly.
In 2001's The One, directed by James Wong, Li played two characters, one good, one evil. Owen Gleiberman, reviewing the film for Entertainment Weekly, criticized Li and his performance. "It's standard operating procedure in a review of a movie like this one to proclaim that the star, however trashy his surroundings, is a veritable fireball of charisma. I'm here to offer a heretical view: Jet Li is not charismatic." Gleiberman found neither the movie's good Li nor its bad Li compelling. But Christopher Noxon, writing in the Los Angeles Times, took a more generous view of Li while comparing him to Asia's other top action hero. "Unlike Jackie Chan, who is known for his comic pratfalls and elaborate stunts, Li has fashioned a persona that's sexy and potent," he wrote. "While Chan is constantly scuttling away from danger, mugging for the camera as he blocks the attacks of enemies, Li walks solemnly into even the most dangerous trap, dispatching all comers with economic flourish. If Chan is the exuberant jokester of Hong Kong imports, Li is the ace fighter, sleek and dangerous."
Next, Li returned to China to film the movie Hero with acclaimed director Zhang Yi Mou. In it, Li played a warrior in China in the 3rd century B.C. The film begins with a king congratulating Li for killing three assassins, but flashbacks show what really happened through many perspectives. The film, which opened in China in 2002, was nominated for an Oscar in the foreign language film category in 2003. It debuted in North America in August of 2004, was released in more than 2,000 theaters, and set a new record for an Asian film, earning $17.8 million in its first week in theaters. It was also a critical success. Leah Rozen of People praised its "superb fight sequences" as well as its "satisfyingly complex plot, passionate romance, cool special effects, and strong performances by a handful of China's top actors."
In 2003, Li provided voice-overs in both English and Mandarin Chinese for the Sony PlayStation 2 video game Rise to Honor. He also performed fight scenes that were added to the game using motion-capture technology. Meanwhile, the 2003 film Cradle 2 the Grave reunited him with producer Joel Silver and DMX from Romeo Must Die. The movie was a remake of the 1931 Fritz Lang film M. Scott Brown ofEntertainment Weekly gave the film a B-but praised Li's performance: "Li—refreshingly unfettered by the overdone computer effects that marred his performance in Romeo [Must Die] —brutalizes enemy upon enemy with chill dispatch and increasingly baroque gore, weaponizing everything around him, from his jacket collar to an unlucky dwarf. He's the aloof yin to DMX's impassioned yang." His next film,Unleashed, another collaboration with Luc Besson, was scheduled for release in 2005.
Li, who meditates for an hour a day or more, says he is looking for ways to communicate the message of Buddhism and the wisdom behind martial arts to Americans. "Whenever I work in the United States, the young people say, 'Yeah, Jet Li! You kick [butt], blah, blah, blah.' Sometimes I feel sad, because I've only shown them that martial arts hurt people," Li told Mike Zimmerman of Men's Health. "I haven't had the opportunity to show them that the important thing is not kicking people's [butts]. If you understand Eastern and Western culture, you will understand the yin-and-yang balance. Maybe you will grow up." There are three levels of martial arts, he explained to Zimmerman. The first is physical, making your body a weapon; the second is using psychology to help win battles; the third is achieving an inner peace.
When People named him one of its "men we love," a runner-up in its "Sexiest Man Alive" issue for 2003, it found him meditating and studying Buddhism at his home in San Gabriel Valley, California. The magazine reported that he had recently spent three months in Asia to learn more about Buddhism. "In Tibet I was not able to shower for two weeks," he told the magazine. "There was no hot running water. But while I was there, I was truly happy."
Li was vacationing in the Maldives, a chain of islands in the Indian Ocean, when a massive tsunami struck southern Asia on December 26, 2004. He and his four-year-old daughter were in their hotel's lobby when the wave hit, and he injured his foot on a piece of furniture while running for safety. He later posted a message on his website assuring his fans he was okay, thanking the staff of the hospital for keeping the guests safe, and encouraging his fans to donate to tsunami relief efforts.
Thanks to his spiritual beliefs, Li has told interviewers, he does not fear death, and says thoughts of it can make living in the present more precious. Likewise, he can handle either further success or commercial failure. "In Buddhism, nothing is permanent. This flower is very beautiful now, but a few months later, no flower," Li told the Los Angeles Times ' Noxon. He explained that martial arts movies are hot now but there are no guarantees that their popularity will last. "You hope your movie becomes successful, but all you can do is your best and keep your responsibility to yourself," he said.
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha (Pāli/Sanskrit "the awakened one"). The Buddha lived and taught in the eastern part of Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE. He is recognized by Buddhists as an awakened or enlightened teacher who shared his insights to help sentient beings end ignorance (avidyā) of dependent origination, thus escaping what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth.
Two major branches of Buddhism are recognized: Theravada ("The School of the Elders") and Mahayana ("The Great Vehicle"). Theravada has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Mahayana is found throughout East Asia and includes the traditions of Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Shingon, Tiantai (Tendai) and Shinnyo-en. In some classifications Vajrayana—as practiced mainly in Tibet and Mongolia, and adjacent parts of China and Russia —is recognized as a third branch, while others classify it as a part of Mahayana. There are other categorisations of these three Vehicles or Yanas.
While Buddhism remains most popular within Asia, both branches are now found throughout the world. Estimates of Buddhists worldwide vary significantly depending on the way Buddhist adherence is defined. Lower estimates are between 350–500 million.
Buddhist schools vary on the exact nature of the path to liberation, the importance and canonicity of various teachings and scriptures, and especially their respective practices. The cardinal doctrine of dependent origination is the only doctrine that is common to all Buddhist teachings from Theravada to Dzogchen to the extinct schools. The foundations of Buddhist tradition and practice are the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings), and the Sangha (the community). Taking "refuge in the triple gem" has traditionally been a declaration and commitment to being on the Buddhist path and in general distinguishes a Buddhist from a non-Buddhist. Other practices may include following ethical precepts, support of the monastic community, renouncing conventional living and becoming a monastic, the development of mindfulness and practice of meditation, cultivation of higher wisdom and discernment, study of scriptures, devotional practices, ceremonies, and in the Mahayana tradition, invocation of buddhas and bodhisattvas.
Life of the Buddha
The evidence of the early texts suggests that the Buddha was born in a community that was on the periphery, both geographically and culturally, of the northeastern Indian subcontinent in the 5th century BCE. It was either a small republic, in which case his father was an elected chieftain, or an oligarchy, in which case his father was an oligarch.
According to the Theravada Tipitaka scriptures (from Pali, meaning "three baskets"), the Buddha was born in Lumbini in modern-day Nepal, around the year 563 BCE, and raised in Kapilavastu.
According to this narrative, shortly after the birth of young prince Siddhartha Gautama, an astrologer visited the young prince's father—King Śuddhodana—and prophesied that Siddhartha would either become a great king or renounce the material world to become a holy man, depending on whether he saw what life was like outside the palace walls.
Śuddhodana was determined to see his son become a king, so he prevented him from leaving the palace grounds. But at age 29, despite his father's efforts, Siddhartha ventured beyond the palace several times. In a series of encounters—known in Buddhist literature as the four sights—he learned of the suffering of ordinary people, encountering an old man, a sick man, a corpse and, finally, an ascetic holy man, apparently content and at peace with the world. These experiences prompted Gautama to abandon royal life and take up a spiritual quest.
Gautama first went to study with famous religious teachers of the day, and mastered the meditative attainments they taught. But he found that they did not provide a permanent end to suffering, so he continued his quest. He next attempted an extreme asceticism, which was a religious pursuit common among the Shramanas, a religious culture distinct from the Vedic one. Gautama underwent prolonged fasting, breath-holding, and exposure to pain. He almost starved himself to death in the process. He realized that he had taken this kind of practice to its limit, and had not put an end to suffering. So in a pivotal moment he accepted milk and rice from a village girl and changed his approach. He devoted himself to anapanasati meditation, through which he discovered what Buddhists call the Middle Way (Skt.madhyamā-pratipad ): a path of moderation between the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification.
Gautama was now determined to complete his spiritual quest. At the age of 35, he famously sat in meditation under a sacred fig tree — known as the Bodhi tree — in the town of Bodh Gaya, India, and vowed not to rise before achieving enlightenment. After many days, he finally destroyed the fetters of his mind, thereby liberating himself from the cycle of suffering and rebirth, and arose as a fully enlightened being (Skt. samyaksaṃbuddha). Soon thereafter, he attracted a band of followers and instituted a monastic order. Now, as the Buddha, he spent the rest of his life teaching the path of awakening he had discovered, traveling throughout the northeastern part of the Indian subcontinent, and died at the age of 80 (483 BCE) in Kushinagar, India. The south branch of the original fig tree only available in Anuradhapura Sri Lanka is known as Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.
The above narrative draws on the Nidānakathā biography of the Theravāda sect in Sri Lanka, which is ascribed to Buddhaghoṣa in the 5th century CE. Earlier biographies such as the Buddhacarita, the Lokottaravādin Mahāvastu, and the Mahāyāna / Sarvāstivāda Lalitavistara Sūtra, give different accounts.
Scholars are hesitant to make unqualified claims about the historical facts of the Buddha's life. Most accept that he lived, taught and founded a monastic order but do not consistently accept all of the details contained in his biographies. According to author Michael Carrithers, while there are good reasons to doubt the traditional account, "the outline of the life must be true: birth, maturity, renunciation, search, awakening and liberation, teaching, death."
In writing her biography of Buddha, Karen Armstrong noted, "It is obviously difficult, therefore, to write a biography of the Buddha that will meet modern criteria, because we have very little information that can be considered historically sound... we can be reasonably confident Siddhatta Gotama did indeed exist and that his disciples preserved the memory of his life and teachings as well as they could."
Buddhist concepts, Buddhist terms and concepts
Life and the world
KarmaKarma in Buddhism
Karma (from Sanskrit: "action, work") in Buddhism is the force that drives saṃsāra—the cycle of suffering and rebirth for each being. Good, skillful deeds (Pāli: "kusala") and bad, unskillful (Pāli: "akusala") actions produce "seeds" in the mind which come to fruition either in this life or in a subsequent rebirth. The avoidance of unwholesome actions and the cultivation of positive actions is called śīla (from Sanskrit: "ethical conduct").
In Buddhism, karma specifically refers to those actions (of body, speech, and mind) that spring from mental intent ("cetana"), and which bring about a consequence (or fruit, "phala") or result ("vipāka").
In Theravada Buddhism there can be no divine salvation or forgiveness for one's karma, since it is a purely impersonal process that is a part of the makeup of the universe. Some Mahayana traditions hold different views. For example, the texts of certain Mahayana sutras (such as the Lotus Sutra, the Angulimaliya Sutra and the Nirvana Sutra) claim that reciting or merely hearing their texts can expunge great swathes of negative karma. Some forms of Buddhism (for example, Vajrayana) regard the recitation of mantras as a means for cutting off previous negative karma. The Japanese Pure Land teacher Genshin taught that Amida Buddha has the power to destroy the karma that would otherwise bind one in saṃsāra.
Rebirth refers to a process whereby beings go through a succession of lifetimes as one of many possible forms of sentient life, each running from conception to death. Buddhism rejects the concepts of a permanent self or an unchanging, eternal soul, as it is called in Hinduism and Christianity. According to Buddhism there ultimately is no such thing as a self independent from the rest of the universe (the doctrine of anatta). Rebirth in subsequent existences must be understood as the continuation of a dynamic, ever-changing process of "dependent arising" ("pratītyasamutpāda") determined by the laws of cause and effect (karma) rather than that of one being, transmigrating or incarnating from one existence to the next.
Each rebirth takes place within one of five realms according to Theravadins, or six according to other schools. These are further subdivided into 31 planes of existence:
According to East Asian and Tibetan Buddhism, there is an intermediate state (Tibetan "Bardo") between one life and the next. The orthodox Theravada position rejects this; however there are passages in the Samyutta Nikaya of the Pali Canon (the collection of texts on which the Theravada tradition is based), that seem to lend support to the idea that the Buddha taught of an intermediate stage between one life and the next.
Sentient beings crave pleasure and are averse to pain from birth to death. In being controlled by these attitudes, they perpetuate the cycle of conditioned existence and suffering (saṃsāra), and produce the causes and conditions of the next rebirth after death. Each rebirth repeats this process in an involuntary cycle, which Buddhists strive to end by eradicating these causes and conditions, applying the methods laid out by the Buddha and subsequent Buddhists.
Suffering's causes and solution The Four Noble Truths
Four Noble Truths
According to the Pali Tipitaka and the Āgamas of other early Buddhist schools, the Four Noble Truths were the first teaching of Gautama Buddha after attaining Nirvana. They are sometimes considered to contain the essence of the Buddha's teachings:
According to other interpretations by Buddhist teachers and scholars, lately recognized by some Western non-Buddhist scholars, the "truths" do not represent mere statements, but are categories or aspects that most worldly phenomena fall into, grouped in two:
Noble Eightfold PathNoble Eightfold Path
The Noble Eightfold Path—the fourth of the Buddha's Noble Truths—is the way to the cessation of suffering (dukkha). It has eight sections, each starting with the word "samyak" (Sanskrit, meaning "correctly", "properly", or "well", frequently translated into English as "right"), and presented in three groups known as the three higher trainings. (NB: Pāli transliterations appear in brackets after Sanskrit ones):
Middle Way Middle Way
An important guiding principle of Buddhist practice is the Middle Way (or Middle Path), which is said to have been discovered by Gautama Buddha prior to his enlightenment. The Middle Way has several definitions:
Buddhist scholars have produced a remarkable quantity of intellectual theories, philosophies and world view concepts (see, for example, Abhidharma, Buddhist philosophy and Reality in Buddhism). Some schools of Buddhism discourage doctrinal study, and some regard it as essential, but most regard it as having a place, at least for some persons at some stages in Buddhist practice.
In the earliest Buddhist teachings, shared to some extent by all extant schools, the concept of liberation (Nirvana)—the goal of the Buddhist path—is closely related to the correct understanding of how the mind causes stress. In awakening to the true nature of clinging, one develops dispassion for the objects of clinging, and is liberated from suffering (dukkha) and the cycle of incessant rebirths (saṃsāra). To this end, the Buddha recommended viewing things as characterized by the three marks of existence.
Three Marks of Existence Three marks of existence
The Three Marks of Existence are impermanence, suffering, and not-self.
Impermanence (Pāli: anicca) expresses the Buddhist notion that all compounded or conditioned phenomena (all things and experiences) are inconstant, unsteady, and impermanent. Everything we can experience through our senses is made up of parts, and its existence is dependent on external conditions. Everything is in constant flux, and so conditions and the thing itself are constantly changing. Things are constantly coming into being, and ceasing to be. Since nothing lasts, there is no inherent or fixed nature to any object or experience. According to the doctrine of impermanence, life embodies this flux in the aging process, the cycle of rebirth (saṃsāra), and in any experience of loss. The doctrine asserts that because things are impermanent, attachment to them is futile and leads to suffering (dukkha).
Suffering (Pāli: दुक्ख dukkha; Sanskrit दुःख duḥkha) is also a central concept in Buddhism. The word roughly corresponds to a number of terms in English including suffering, pain, unsatisfactoriness, sorrow, affliction, anxiety, dissatisfaction, discomfort, anguish, stress, misery, and frustration. Although the term is often translated as "suffering", its philosophical meaning is more analogous to "disquietude" as in the condition of being disturbed. As such, "suffering" is too narrow a translation with "negative emotional connotations" which can give the impression that the Buddhist view is one of pessimism, but Buddhism seeks to be neither pessimistic nor optimistic, but realistic. In English-language Buddhist literature translated from Pāli, "dukkha" is often left untranslated, so as to encompass its full range of meaning.
Not-self (Pāli: anatta; Sanskrit: anātman) is the third mark of existence. Upon careful examination, one finds that no phenomenon is really "I" or "mine"; these concepts are in fact constructed by the mind. In the Nikayas anatta is not meant as a metaphysical assertion, but as an approach for gaining release from suffering. In fact, the Buddha rejected both of the metaphysical assertions "I have a Self" and "I have no Self" as ontological views that bind one to suffering. When asked if the self was identical with the body, the Buddha refused to answer. By analyzing the constantly changing physical and mental constituents (skandhas) of a person or object, the practitioner comes to the conclusion that neither the respective parts nor the person as a whole comprise a self.
Dependent arising Pratītyasamutpāda
The doctrine of pratītyasamutpāda (Sanskrit; Pali: paticcasamuppāda; Tibetan: rten.cing.'brel.bar.'byung.ba; Chinese: 緣起) is an important part of Buddhist metaphysics. It states that phenomena arise together in a mutually interdependent web of cause and effect. It is variously rendered into English as "dependent origination", "conditioned genesis", "dependent co-arising", "interdependent arising", or "contingency".
The best-known application of the concept of pratītyasamutpāda is the scheme of Twelve Nidānas (from Pāli "nidāna" meaning "cause, foundation, source or origin"), which explain the continuation of the cycle of suffering and rebirth (saṃsāra) in detail.
The Twelve Nidānas describe a causal connection between the subsequent characteristics or conditions of cyclic existence, each one giving rise to the next:
Mahayana Buddhism received significant theoretical grounding from Nagarjuna (perhaps c. 150–250 CE), arguably the most influential scholar within the Mahayana tradition. Nagarjuna's primary contribution to Buddhist philosophy was the systematic exposition of the concept of śūnyatā, or "emptiness", widely attested in the Prajñāpāramitā sutras which were emergent in his era. The concept of emptiness brings together other key Buddhist doctrines, particularly anatta and pratītyasamutpāda (dependent origination), to refute the metaphysics of Sarvastivada and Sautrantika (extinct non-Mahayana schools). For Nagarjuna, it is not merely sentient beings that are empty of ātman; all phenomena (dharmas) are without any svabhava (literally "own-nature" or "self-nature"), and thus without any underlying essence; they are "empty" of being independent; thus the heterodox theories of svabhava circulating at the time were refuted on the basis of the doctrines of early Buddhism. Nagarjuna's school of thought is known as the Mādhyamaka. Some of the writings attributed to Nagarjuna made explicit references to Mahayana texts, but his philosophy was argued within the parameters set out by the agamas. He may have arrived at his positions from a desire to achieve a consistent exegesis of the Buddha's doctrine as recorded in the Canon. In the eyes of Nagarjuna the Buddha was not merely a forerunner, but the very founder of the Mādhyamaka system.
Sarvastivada teachings—which were criticized by Nāgārjuna—were reformulated by scholars such as Vasubandhu and Asanga and were adapted into the Yogacara (Sanskrit: yoga practice) school. While the Mādhyamaka school held that asserting the existence or non-existence of any ultimately real thing was inappropriate, some exponents of Yogacara asserted that the mind and only the mind is ultimately real (a doctrine known as cittamatra). Not all Yogacarins asserted that mind was truly existent; Vasubandhu and Asanga in particular did not. These two schools of thought, in opposition or synthesis, form the basis of subsequent Mahayana metaphysics in the Indo-Tibetan tradition.
Besides emptiness, Mahayana schools often place emphasis on the notions of perfected spiritual insight (prajñāpāramitā) and Buddha-nature (tathāgatagarbha). There are conflicting interpretations of the tathāgatagarbha in Mahāyāna thought. The idea may be traced to Abhidharma, and ultimately to statements of the Buddha in the Nikāyas. In Tibetan Buddhism, according to the Sakya school, tathāgatagarbha is the inseparability of the clarity and emptiness of one's mind. In Nyingma, tathāgatagarbha also generally refers to inseparability of the clarity and emptiness of one's mind. According to the Gelug school, it is the potential for sentient beings to awaken since they are empty (i.e. dependently originated). According to the Jonang school, it refers to the innate qualities of the mind which expresses itself in terms of omniscience etc. when adventitious obscurations are removed. The "Tathāgatagarbha Sutras" are a collection of Mahayana sutras which present a unique model of Buddha-nature. Even though this collection was generally ignored in India, East Asian Buddhism provides some significance to these texts.
Nirvana (Sanskrit; Pali: "Nibbana") means "cessation", "extinction" (of craving and ignorance and therefore suffering and the cycle of involuntary rebirths (saṃsāra)), "extinguished", "quieted", "calmed"; it is also known as "Awakening" or "Enlightenment" in the West. The term for anybody who has achieved nirvana, including the Buddha, is arahant.
Bodhi (Pāli and Sanskrit, in devanagari: बॊधि) is a term applied to the experience of Awakening of arahants. Bodhi literally means "awakening", but it is more commonly translated into English as "enlightenment". In Early Buddhism, bodhi carried a meaning synonymous to nirvana, using only some different metaphors to describe the experience, which implies the extinction of raga (greed, craving), dosa(hate, aversion) and moha (delusion). In the later school of Mahayana Buddhism, the status of nirvana was downgraded in some scriptures, coming to refer only to the extinction of greed and hate, implying that delusion was still present in one who attained nirvana, and that one needed to attain bodhi to eradicate delusion:
An important development in the Mahayana that it came to separate nirvana from bodhi ('awakening' to the truth, Enlightenment), and to put a lower value on the former (Gombrich, 1992d). Originally nirvana and bodhi refer to the same thing; they merely use different metaphors for the experience. But the Mahayana tradition separated them and considered that nirvana referred only to the extinction of craving (passion and hatred), with the resultant escape from the cycle of rebirth. This interpretation ignores the third fire, delusion: the extinction of delusion is of course in the early texts identical with what can be positively expressed as gnosis, Enlightenment.
—Richard F. Gombrich
Therefore, according to Mahayana Buddhism, the arahant has attained only nirvana, thus still being subject to delusion, while the bodhisattva not only achieves nirvana but full liberation from delusion as well. He thus attains bodhi and becomes a buddha. In Theravada Buddhism, bodhi and nirvana carry the same meaning as in the early texts, that of being freed from greed, hate and delusion.
The term parinirvana is also encountered in Buddhism, and this generally refers to the complete nirvana attained by the arhat at the moment of death, when the physical body expires.
TheravadaIn Theravada doctrine, a person may awaken from the "sleep of ignorance" by directly realizing the true nature of reality; such people are called arahants and occasionally buddhas. After numerous lifetimes of spiritual striving, they have reached the end of the cycle of rebirth, no longer reincarnating as human, animal, ghost, or other being. The commentaries to the Pali Canon classify these awakened beings into three types:
In the Mahayana, the Buddha tends not to be viewed as merely human, but as the earthly projection of a beginningless and endless, omnipresent being (see Dharmakaya) beyond the range and reach of thought. Moreover, in certain Mahayana sutras, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are viewed essentially as One: all three are seen as the eternal Buddha himself.
Celestial Buddhas are individuals who no longer exist on the material plane of existence, but who still aid in the enlightenment of all beings.
Nirvana came to refer only to the extinction of greed and hate, implying that delusion was still present in one who attained Nirvana. Bodhi became a higher attainment that eradicates delusion entirely. Thus, the Arahant attains Nirvana but not Bodhi, thus still being subject to delusion, while the Buddha attains Bodhi.
The method of self-exertion or "self-power"—without reliance on an external force or being—stands in contrast to another major form of Buddhism, Pure Land, which is characterised by utmost trust in the salvific "other-power" of Amitabha Buddha. Pure Land Buddhism is a very widespread and perhaps the most faith-orientated manifestation of Buddhism and centres upon the conviction that faith in Amitabha Buddha and the chanting of homage to his name will liberate one at death into the Blissful (安樂), Pure Land (淨土) of Amitabha Buddha. This Buddhic realm is variously construed as a foretaste of Nirvana, or as essentially Nirvana itself. The great vow of Amitabha Buddha to rescue all beings from samsaric suffering is viewed within Pure Land Buddhism as universally efficacious, if only one has faith in the power of that vow or chants his name.
Buddha eras Buddhists believe Gautama Buddha was the first to achieve enlightenment in this Buddha era and is therefore credited with the establishment of Buddhism. A Buddha era is the stretch of history during which people remember and practice the teachings of the earliest known Buddha. This Buddha era will end when all the knowledge, evidence and teachings of Gautama Buddha have vanished. This belief therefore maintains that many Buddha eras have started and ended throughout the course of human existence. The Gautama Buddha, then, is the Buddha of this era, who taught directly or indirectly to all other Buddhas in it (see types of Buddhas).
In addition, Mahayana Buddhists believe there are innumerable other Buddhas in other universes. A Theravada commentary says that Buddhas arise one at a time in this world element, and not at all in others. The understandings of this matter reflect widely differing interpretations of basic terms, such as "world realm", between the various schools of Buddhism.
The idea of the decline and gradual disappearance of the teaching has been influential in East Asian Buddhism. Pure Land Buddhism holds that it has declined to the point where few are capable of following the path, so it may be best to rely on the power of the Amitabha Buddha.
Bodhisattva means "enlightenment being", and generally refers to one who is on the path to buddhahood, typically as a fully enlightened buddha (Skt. samyaksaṃbuddha). Theravada Buddhism primarily uses the term in relation to Gautama Buddha's previous existences, but has traditionally acknowledged and respected the bodhisattva path as well.
Mahāyāna Buddhism is based principally upon the path of a bodhisattva. According to Jan Nattier, the term Mahāyāna ("Great Vehicle") was originally even an honorary synonym for Bodhisattvayāna, or the "Bodhisattva Vehicle." The Aṣṭasāhasrikā Prajñāpāramitā Sūtra, an early and important Mahāyāna text, contains a simple and brief definition for the term bodhisattva, and this definition is the following:
Because he has enlightenment as his aim, a bodhisattva-mahāsattva is so called.Mahāyāna Buddhism encourages everyone to become bodhisattvas and to take the bodhisattva vows. With these vows, one makes the promise to work for the complete enlightenment of all beings by practicing six perfections (Skt. pāramitā). According to the Mahāyāna teachings, these perfections are: giving, discipline, forbearance, effort, meditation, and transcendent wisdom.
Practice Devotion Buddhist devotion
Devotion is an important part of the practice of most Buddhists. Devotional practices include bowing, offerings, pilgrimage, and chanting. In Pure Land Buddhism, devotion to the Buddha Amitabha is the main practice. In Nichiren Buddhism, devotion to the Lotus Sutra is the main practice.
Buddhism traditionally incorporates states of meditative absorption (Pali: jhāna; Skt: dhyāna). The most ancient sustained expression of yogic ideas is found in the early sermons of the Buddha. One key innovative teaching of the Buddha was that meditative absorption must be combined with liberating cognition. The difference between the Buddha's teaching and the yoga presented in early Brahminic texts is striking. Meditative states alone are not an end, for according to the Buddha, even the highest meditative state is not liberating. Instead of attaining a complete cessation of thought, some sort of mental activity must take place: a liberating cognition, based on the practice of mindful awareness.
Meditation was an aspect of the practice of the yogis in the centuries preceding the Buddha. The Buddha built upon the yogis' concern with introspection and developed their meditative techniques, but rejected their theories of liberation. In Buddhism, mindfulness and clear awareness are to be developed at all times, in pre-Buddhist yogic practices there is no such injunction. A yogi in the Brahmanical tradition is not to practice while defecating, for example, while a Buddhist monastic should do so.
Religious knowledge or "vision" was indicated as a result of practice both within and outside of the Buddhist fold. According to the Samaññaphala Sutta this sort of vision arose for the Buddhist adept as a result of the perfection of "meditation" coupled with the perfection of "discipline" (Pali. sīla; Skt. śīla). Some of the Buddha's meditative techniques were shared with other traditions of his day, but the idea that ethics are causally related to the attainment of "transcendent wisdom" (Pali. paññā; Skt. prajñā) was original.
The Buddhist texts are probably the earliest describing meditation techniques. They describe meditative practices and states which had existed before the Buddha as well as those which were first developed within Buddhism. Two Upanishads written after the rise of Buddhism do contain full-fledged descriptions of yoga as a means to liberation.
While there is no convincing evidence for meditation in pre-Buddhist early Brahminic texts, Wynne argues that formless meditation originated in the Brahminic or Shramanic tradition, based on strong parallels between Upanishadic cosmological statements and the meditative goals of the two teachers of the Buddha as recorded in the early Buddhist texts. He mentions less likely possibilities as well. Having argued that the cosmological statements in the Upanishads also reflect a contemplative tradition, he argues that the Nasadiya Sukta contains evidence for a contemplative tradition, even as early as the late Rig Vedic period.
Refuge in the Three Jewels
Main articles: Refuge (Buddhism) and Three Jewels
Traditionally, the first step in most Buddhist schools requires taking refuge in the Three Jewels (Sanskrit: tri-ratna, Pāli: ti-ratana) as the foundation of one's religious practice. The practice of taking refuge on behalf of young or even unborn children is mentioned in the Majjhima Nikaya, recognized by most scholars as an early text (cf. Infant baptism). Tibetan Buddhism sometimes adds a fourth refuge, in the lama. In Mahayana, the person who chooses the bodhisattva path makes a vow or pledge, considered the ultimate expression of compassion. In Mahayana, too, the Three Jewels are perceived as possessed of an eternal and unchanging essence and as having an irreversible effect: "The Three Jewels have the quality of excellence. Just as real jewels never change their faculty and goodness, whether praised or reviled, so are the Three Jewels (Refuges), because they have an eternal and immutable essence. These Three Jewels bring a fruition that is changeless, for once one has reached Buddhahood, there is no possibility of falling back to suffering."
The Three Jewels are:
Jet Li and Buddhism
The Three Jewels are:
The Five Precepts
Śīla (Sanskrit) or sīla (Pāli) is usually translated into English as "virtuous behavior", "morality", "ethics" or "precept". It is an action committed through the body, speech, or mind, and involves an intentional effort. It is one of the three practices (sila, samadhi, and panya) and the second pāramitā. It refers to moral purity of thought, word, and deed. The four conditions of śīla are chastity, calmness, quiet, and extinguishment.
Śīla is the foundation of Samadhi/Bhāvana (Meditative cultivation) or mind cultivation. Keeping the precepts promotes not only the peace of mind of the cultivator, which is internal, but also peace in the community, which is external. According to the Law of Karma, keeping the precepts are meritorious and it acts as causes which would bring about peaceful and happy effects. Keeping these precepts keeps the cultivator from rebirth in the four woeful realms of existence.
Śīla refers to overall principles of ethical behavior. There are several levels of sila, which correspond to "basic morality" (five precepts), "basic morality with asceticism" (eight precepts), "novice monkhood" (ten precepts) and "monkhood" (Vinaya or Patimokkha). Lay people generally undertake to live by the five precepts, which are common to all Buddhist schools. If they wish, they can choose to undertake the eight precepts, which add basic asceticism.
The five precepts are training rules in order to live a better life in which one is happy, without worries, and can meditate well:
In the eight precepts, the third precept on sexual misconduct is made more strict, and becomes a precept of celibacy. The three additional precepts are:
6. To refrain from eating at the wrong time (only eat from sunrise to noon)7. To refrain from dancing and playing music, wearing jewelry and cosmetics, attending shows and other performances8. To refrain from using high or luxurious seats and beddingThe complete list of ten precepts may be observed by laypeople for short periods. For the complete list, the seventh precept is partitioned into two, and a tenth added:
6. To refrain from taking food at an unseasonable time, that is after the mid-day meal7. To refrain from dancing, music, singing and unseemly shows8. To refrain from the use of garlands, perfumes, ointments, and from things that tend to beautify and adorn (the person)9. To refrain from (using) high and luxurious seats (and beds)10. To refrain from accepting gold and silverMonastic life
Vinaya is the specific moral code for monks and nuns. It includes the Patimokkha, a set of 227 rules for monks in the Theravadin recension. The precise content of the vinayapitaka (scriptures on Vinaya) differ slightly according to different schools, and different schools or subschools set different standards for the degree of adherence to Vinaya. Novice-monks use the ten precepts, which are the basic precepts for monastics.
Regarding the monastic rules, the Buddha constantly reminds his hearers that it is the spirit that counts. On the other hand, the rules themselves are designed to assure a satisfying life, and provide a perfect springboard for the higher attainments. Monastics are instructed by the Buddha to live as "islands unto themselves". In this sense, living life as the vinaya prescribes it is, as one scholar puts it: "more than merely a means to an end: it is very nearly the end in itself."
In Eastern Buddhism, there is also a distinctive Vinaya and ethics contained within the Mahayana Brahmajala Sutra (not to be confused with the Pali text of that name) for Bodhisattvas, where, for example, the eating of meat is frowned upon and vegetarianism is actively encouraged (see vegetarianism in Buddhism). In Japan, this has almost completely displaced the monastic vinaya, and allows clergy to marry.
Buddhist meditation is fundamentally concerned with two themes: transforming the mind and using it to explore itself and other phenomena. According to Theravada Buddhism the Buddha taught two types of meditation, samatha meditation (Sanskrit: śamatha) and vipassanā meditation (Sanskrit: vipaśyanā). In Chinese Buddhism, these exist (translated chih kuan), but Chan (Zen) meditation is more popular. According to Peter Harvey, whenever Buddhism has been healthy, not only monks, nuns, and married lamas, but also more committed lay people have practiced meditation. According to Routledge's Encyclopedia of Buddhism, in contrast, throughout most of Buddhist history before modern times, serious meditation by lay people has been unusual. The evidence of the early texts suggests that at the time of the Buddha, many male and female lay practitioners did practice meditation, some even to the point of proficiency in all eight jhānas (see the next section regarding these).
Samādhi (meditative cultivation): samatha meditationMain articles: Samādhi (Buddhism) and Dhyāna in Buddhism
In the language of the Noble Eightfold Path, samyaksamādhi is "right concentration". The primary means of cultivating samādhi is meditation. Upon development of samādhi, one's mind becomes purified of defilement, calm, tranquil, and luminous.
Once the meditator achieves a strong and powerful concentration (jhāna, Sanskrit ध्यान dhyāna), his mind is ready to penetrate and gain insight (vipassanā) into the ultimate nature of reality, eventually obtaining release from all suffering. The cultivation of mindfulness is essential to mental concentration, which is needed to achieve insight.
Samatha meditation starts from being mindful of an object or idea, which is expanded to one's body, mind and entire surroundings, leading to a state of total concentration and tranquility (jhāna) There are many variations in the style of meditation, from sitting cross-legged or kneeling to chanting or walking. The most common method of meditation is to concentrate on one's breath (anapanasati), because this practice can lead to both samatha and vipassana'.
In Buddhist practice, it is said that while samatha meditation can calm the mind, only vipassanā meditation can reveal how the mind was disturbed to start with, which is what leads to knowledge (jñāna; Pāli ñāṇa) and understanding (prajñā Pāli paññā), and thus can lead to nirvāṇa (Pāli nibbāna). When one is in jhana, all defilements are suppressed temporarily. Only understanding (prajñā orvipassana) eradicates the defilements completely. Jhanas are also states which Arahants abide in order to rest.
In TheravādaJhāna in Theravada
In Theravāda Buddhism, the cause of human existence and suffering is identified as craving, which carries with it the various defilements. These various defilements are traditionally summed up as greed, hatred and delusion. These are believed to be deeply rooted afflictions of the mind that create suffering and stress. In order to be free from suffering and stress, these defilements need to be permanently uprooted through internal investigation, analyzing, experiencing, and understanding of the true nature of those defilements by using jhāna, a technique which is part of the Noble Eightfold Path. It will then lead the meditator to realize the Four Noble Truths, Enlightenment and Nibbana. Nibbana is the ultimate goal of Theravadins.
Prajñā (Wisdom): vipassana meditationMain articles: Prajñā and Vipassana
Prajñā (Sanskrit) or paññā (Pāli) means wisdom that is based on a realization of dependent origination, The Four Noble Truths and the three marks of existence. Prajñā is the wisdom that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about bodhi. It is spoken of as the principal means of attaining nirvāṇa, through its revelation of the true nature of all things as dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), anicca(impermanence) and anatta (not-self). Prajñā is also listed as the sixth of the six pāramitās of the Mahayana.
Initially, prajñā is attained at a conceptual level by means of listening to sermons (dharma talks), reading, studying, and sometimes reciting Buddhist texts and engaging in discourse. Once the conceptual understanding is attained, it is applied to daily life so that each Buddhist can verify the truth of the Buddha's teaching at a practical level. Notably, one could in theory attain Nirvana at any point of practice, whether deep in meditation, listening to a sermon, conducting the business of one's daily life, or any other activity.
Zen Buddhism (禅), pronounced chán in Chinese, seon in Korean or zen in Japanese (derived from the Sanskrit term dhyāna, meaning "meditation") is a form of Buddhism that became popular in China, Korea and Japan and that lays special emphasis on meditation. Zen places less emphasis on scriptures than some other forms of Buddhism and prefers to focus on direct spiritual breakthroughs to truth.
Zen Buddhism is divided into two main schools: Rinzai (臨済宗) and Sōtō (曹洞宗), the former greatly favouring the use in meditation on the koan (公案, a meditative riddle or puzzle) as a device for spiritual break-through, and the latter (while certainly employing koans) focusing more on shikantaza or "just sitting".
Zen Buddhist teaching is often full of paradox, in order to loosen the grip of the ego and to facilitate the penetration into the realm of the True Self or Formless Self, which is equated with the Buddha himself. According to Zen master, Kosho Uchiyama, when thoughts and fixation on the little 'I' are transcended, an Awakening to a universal, non-dual Self occurs: ' When we let go of thoughts and wake up to the reality of life that is working beyond them, we discover the Self that is living universal non-dual life (before the separation into two) that pervades all living creatures and all existence.'. Thinking and thought must therefore not be allowed to confine and bind one.
Vajrayana and TantraThough based upon Mahayana, Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism is one of the schools that practice Vajrayana or "Diamond Vehicle" (also referred to as Mantrayāna, Tantrayāna, Tantric Buddhism, or esoteric Buddhism). It accepts all the basic concepts of Mahāyāna, but also includes a vast array of spiritual and physical techniques designed to enhance Buddhist practice. Tantric Buddhism is largely concerned with ritual and meditative practices. One component of the Vajrayāna is harnessing psycho-physical energy through ritual, visualization, physical exercises, and meditation as a means of developing the mind. Using these techniques, it is claimed that a practitioner can achieve Buddhahood in one lifetime, or even as little as three years. In the Tibetan tradition, these practices can include sexual yoga, though only for some very advanced practitioners.
HistoryHistory of Buddhism
Historically, the roots of Buddhism lie in the religious thought of ancient India during the second half of the first millennium BCE. That was a period of social and religious turmoil, as there was significant discontent with the sacrifices and rituals of Vedic Brahmanism. It was challenged by numerous new ascetic religious and philosophical groups and teachings that broke with the Brahmanic tradition and rejected the authority of the Vedas and the Brahmans. These groups, whose members were known as shramanas, were a continuation of a non-Vedic strand of Indian thought distinct from Indo-Aryan Brahmanism. Scholars have reasons to believe that ideas such as samsara, karma (in the sense of the influence of morality on rebirth), and moksha originated in the shramanas, and were later adopted by Brahmin orthodoxy. This view is supported by a study of the region in which these notions originated. Buddhism arose in Greater Magadha, which stretched from Sravasti, the capital of Kosala in the north-west, to Rajagrha in the south east. This land, to the east of aryavarta, the land of the Aryas, was recognised as non-Vedic. Other Vedic texts reveal a dislike of the people of Magadha, in all probability because the Magadhas at this time were not Brahmanised. It was not until the 2nd or 3rd centuries BCE that the eastward spread of Brahmanism into Greater Magadha became significant. Ideas that developed in Greater Magadha prior to this were not subject to Vedic influence. These include rebirth and karmic retribution which can be found in a number of movements in Greater Magadha, including Buddhism. These movements inherited notions of rebirth and karmic retribution from an earlier culture At the same time, these movements were influenced by, and in some respects continued, philosophical thought within the Vedic tradition as reflected e.g. in the Upanishads. These movements included, besides Buddhism, various skeptics (such as Sanjaya Belatthiputta), atomists (such as Pakudha Kaccayana), materialists (such as Ajita Kesakambali), antinomians (such as Purana Kassapa); the most important ones in the 5th century BCE were the Ajivikas, who emphasized the rule of fate, the Lokayata (materialists), the Ajnanas (agnostics) and the Jains, who stressed that the soul must be freed from matter.
Many of these new movements shared the same conceptual vocabulary - atman ("Self"), buddha ("awakened one"), dhamma ("rule" or "law"), karma ("action"), nirvana ("extinguishing"), samsara ("eternal recurrence") and yoga ("spiritual practice"). The shramanas rejected the Veda, and the authority of the brahmans, who claimed to be in possession of revealed truths not knowable by any ordinary human means; moreover, they declared that the entire Brahmanical system was fraudulent: a conspiracy of the brahmans to enrich themselves by charging exorbitant fees for the performance of bogus rites and the giving of futile advice. A particular criticism of the Buddha's was Vedic animal sacrifice. The Buddha declared that priests reciting the Vedas were like the blind leading the blind. According to him, those priests who had memorized the Vedas really knew nothing. He also mocked the Vedic "hymn of the cosmic man". He declared that the primary goal of Upanishadic thought, the Atman, was in fact non-existent, and, having explained that Brahminical attempts to achieve liberation at death were futile, proposed his new idea of liberation in life. At the same time, the traditional Brahminical religion itself gradually underwent profound changes, transforming it into what is recognized as early Hinduism. In particular, the brahmans thus developed "philosophical systems of their own, meeting the new ideas with adaptations of their doctrines".
Indian Buddhism History of Buddhism in India
The history of Indian Buddhism may be divided into five periods: Early Buddhism (occasionally called Pre-sectarian Buddhism), Nikaya Buddhism or Sectarian Buddhism: The period of the Early Buddhist schools, Early Mahayana Buddhism, Later Mahayana Buddhism, and Esoteric Buddhism (also called Vajrayana Buddhism).
Pre-sectarian BuddhismPre-sectarian Buddhism
Pre-sectarian Buddhism is the earliest phase of Buddhism, recognized by nearly all scholars. Its main scriptures are the Vinaya Pitaka and the four principal Nikayas or Agamas. Certain basic teachings appear in many places throughout the early texts, so most scholars conclude that Gautama Buddha must have taught something similar to the Three marks of existence, the Five aggregates, Dependent origination, Karma and Rebirth, the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, and Nirvana. Some scholars disagree, and have proposed many other theories.
Early Buddhist schools Early Buddhist schools
According to the scriptures, soon after the parinirvāṇa (from Sanskrit: "highest extinguishment") of Gautama Buddha, the first Buddhist council was held. As with any ancient Indian tradition, transmission of teaching was done orally. The primary purpose of the assembly was to collectively recite the teachings to ensure that no errors occurred in oral transmission. In the first council, Ānanda, a cousin of the Buddha and his personal attendant, was called upon to recite the discourses (sūtras, Pāli suttas) of the Buddha, and, according to some sources, the abhidhamma. Upāli, another disciple, recited the monastic rules (vinaya). Scholars regard the traditional accounts of the council as greatly exaggerated if not entirely fictitious.
According to most scholars, at some period after the Second Council the Sangha began to break into separate factions. The various accounts differ as to when the actual schisms occurred. According to the Dipavamsa of the Pāli tradition, they started immediately after the Second Council, the Puggalavada tradition places it in 137 AN, the Sarvastivada tradition of Vasumitra says it was in the time of Asoka and the Mahasanghika tradition places it much later, nearly 100 BCE.
The root schism was between the Sthaviras and the Mahāsāṅghikas. The fortunate survival of accounts from both sides of the dispute reveals disparate traditions. The Sthavira group offers two quite distinct reasons for the schism. The Dipavamsa of the Theravāda says that the losing party in the Second Council dispute broke away in protest and formed the Mahasanghika. This contradicts the Mahasanghikas' own vinaya, which shows them as on the same, winning side. The Mahāsāṅghikas argued that the Sthaviras were trying to expand the vinaya and may also have challenged what they perceived to be excessive claims or inhumanly high criteria for arhatship. Both parties, therefore, appealed to tradition.
The Sthaviras gave rise to several schools, one of which was the Theravāda school. Originally, these schisms were caused by disputes over vinaya, and monks following different schools of thought seem to have lived happily together in the same monasteries, but eventually, by about 100 CE if not earlier, schisms were being caused by doctrinal disagreements too.
Following (or leading up to) the schisms, each Saṅgha started to accumulate an Abhidharma, a detailed scholastic reworking of doctrinal material appearing in the Suttas, according to schematic classifications. These Abhidharma texts do not contain systematic philosophical treatises, but summaries or numerical lists. Scholars generally date these texts to around the 3rd century BCE, 100 to 200 years after the death of the Buddha. Therefore the seven Abhidharma works are generally claimed not to represent the words of the Buddha himself, but those of disciples and great scholars. Every school had its own version of the Adhidharma, with different theories and different texts. The different Adhidharmas of the various schools did not agree with each other. Scholars disagree on whether the Mahasanghika school had an Abhidhamma Pitaka or not.
Early Mahayana Buddhism
The origins of Mahāyāna are still not completely understood. The earliest views of Mahāyāna Buddhism in the West assumed that it existed as a separate school in competition with the so-called "Hīnayāna" schools. Due to the veneration of buddhas and bodhisattvas, Mahāyāna was often interpreted as a more devotional, lay-inspired form of Buddhism, with supposed origins in stūpa veneration, or by making parallels with the history of the European Protestant Reformation. These views have been largely dismissed in modern times in light of a much broader range of early texts that are now available. The old views of Mahāyāna as a separate lay-inspired and devotional sect are now largely dismissed as misguided and wrong on all counts.
There is no evidence that Mahāyāna ever referred to a separate formal school or sect of Buddhism, but rather that it existed as a certain set of ideals, and later doctrines, for bodhisattvas. Paul Williams has also noted that the Mahāyāna never had nor ever attempted to have a separate Vinaya or ordination lineage from the early schools of Buddhism, and therefore each bhikṣu or bhikṣuṇī adhering to the Mahāyāna formally belonged to an early school. This continues today with the Dharmaguptaka ordination lineage in East Asia, and the Mūlasarvāstivāda ordination lineage in Tibetan Buddhism. Therefore Mahāyāna was never a separate rival sect of the early schools. From Chinese monks visiting India, we now know that both Mahāyāna and non-Mahāyāna monks in India often lived in the same monasteries side by side.
The Chinese monk Yijing who visited India in the 7th century CE, distinguishes Mahāyāna from Hīnayāna as follows:
Both adopt one and the same Vinaya, and they have in common the prohibitions of the five offences, and also the practice of the Four Noble Truths. Those who venerate the bodhisattvas and read the Mahāyāna sūtras are called the Mahāyānists, while those who do not perform these are called the Hīnayānists.Much of the early extant evidence for the origins of Mahāyāna comes from early Chinese translations of Mahāyāna texts. These Mahāyāna teachings were first propagated into China by Lokakṣema, the first translator of Mahāyāna sūtras into Chinese during the 2nd century CE. Some scholars have traditionally considered the earliest Mahāyāna sūtras to include the very first versions of the Prajñāpāramitā series, along with texts concerning Akṣobhya Buddha, which were probably composed in the 1st century BCE in the south of India.
Late Mahayana BuddhismDuring the period of Late Mahayana Buddhism, four major types of thought developed: Madhyamaka, Yogacara, Tathagatagarbha, and Buddhist Logic as the last and most recent. In India, the two main philosophical schools of the Mahayana were the Madhyamaka and the later Yogacara. According to Dan Lusthaus, Madhyamaka and Yogacara have a great deal in common, and the commonality stems from early Buddhism. There were no great Indian teachers associated with tathagatagarbha thought.
ThVajrayana (Esoteric Buddhism)Scholarly research concerning Esoteric Buddhism is still in its early stages and has a number of problems which make research difficult:
Buddhism may have spread only slowly in India until the time of the Mauryan emperor Ashoka, who was a public supporter of the religion. The support of Aśoka and his descendants led to the construction of more stūpas (Buddhist religious memorials) and to efforts to spread Buddhism throughout the enlarged Maurya empire and even into neighboring lands—particularly to the Iranian-speaking regions of Afghanistan and Central Asia, beyond the Mauryas' northwest border, and to the island of Sri Lanka south of India. These two missions, in opposite directions, would ultimately lead, in the first case to the spread of Buddhism into China, and in the second case, to the emergence of Theravāda Buddhism and its spread from Sri Lanka to the coastal lands of Southeast Asia.
This period marks the first known spread of Buddhism beyond India. According to the edicts of Aśoka, emissaries were sent to various countries west of India in order to spread Buddhism (Dharma), particularly in eastern provinces of the neighboring Seleucid Empire, and even farther to Hellenistic kingdoms of the Mediterranean. It is a matter of disagreement among scholars whether or not these emissaries were accompanied by Buddhist missionaries.
The gradual spread of Buddhism into adjacent areas meant that it came into contact with new ethnical groups. During this period Buddhism was exposed to a variety of influences, from Persian and Greek civilization, to changing trends in non-Buddhist Indian religions—themselves influenced by Buddhism. Striking examples of this syncretistic development can be seen in the emergence of Greek-speaking Buddhist monarchs in the Indo-Greek Kingdom, and in the development of the Greco-Buddhist art of Gandhāra. A Greek king, Menander, has even been immortalized in the Buddhist canon.
The Theravada school spread south from India in the 3rd century BCE, to Sri Lanka and Thailand and Burma and later also Indonesia. The Dharmagupta school spread (also in 3rd century BCE) north to Kashmir, Gandhara and Bactria (Afghanistan).
The Silk Road transmission of Buddhism to China is most commonly thought to have started in the late 2nd or the 1st century CE, though the literary sources are all open to question. The first documented translation efforts by foreign Buddhist monks in China were in the 2nd century CE, probably as a consequence of the expansion of the Kushan Empire into the Chinese territory of the Tarim Basin.
In the 2nd century CE, Mahayana Sutras spread to China, and then to Korea and Japan, and were translated into Chinese. During the Indian period of Esoteric Buddhism (from the 8th century onwards), Buddhism spread from India to Tibet and Mongolia.
Buddhism today Timeline of Buddhism: Common Era
By the late Middle Ages, Buddhism had become virtually extinct in India, and although it continued to exist in surrounding countries, its influence was no longer expanding. It is now again gaining strength in India and elsewhere. Estimates of the number of Buddhist followers by scholars range from 230 million to 1.691 billion. Most scholars classify similar numbers of people under a category they call "Chinese folk" or "traditional" religion, an amalgam of various traditions that includes Buddhism.
Formal membership varies between communities, but basic lay adherence is often defined in terms of a traditional formula in which the practitioner takes refuge in The Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), and the Sangha (the Buddhist community).
Estimates are uncertain for several reasons:
According to one analysis, Buddhism is the fourth-largest religion in the world behind Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. The monks' order (Sangha), which began during the lifetime of the Buddha, is among the oldest organizations on earth. Buddhism was the first world religion and was the world's largest religion in the first half of the 20th century, in 1951 Buddhism was the world's largest religion with 520 million adherents. By comparison, the second largest was Christianity with 500 million adherents
At the present time, the teachings of all three branches of Buddhism have spread throughout the world, and Buddhist texts are increasingly translated into local languages. While in the West Buddhism is often seen as exotic and progressive, in the East it is regarded as familiar and traditional. Buddhists in Asia are frequently well organized and well funded. In a number of countries, it is recognized as an official religion and receives state support. Modern influences increasingly lead to new forms of Buddhism that significantly depart from traditional beliefs and practices.
Overall there is an overwhelming diversity of recent forms of Buddhism.
Schools and traditions Schools of Buddhism
Buddhists generally classify themselves as either Theravada or Mahayana. This classification is also used by some scholars and is the one ordinarily used in the English language. An alternative scheme used by some scholars divides Buddhism into the following three traditions or geographical or cultural areas: Theravada, East Asian Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhism.
Some scholars use other schemes. Buddhists themselves have a variety of other schemes. Hinayana (literally "lesser vehicle") is used by Mahayana followers to name the family of early philosophical schools and traditions from which contemporary Theravada emerged, but as this term is rooted in the Mahayana viewpoint and can be considered derogatory, a variety of other terms are increasingly used instead, including Śrāvakayāna, Nikaya Buddhism, early Buddhist schools, sectarian Buddhism, conservative Buddhism, mainstream Buddhism and non-Mahayana Buddhism.
Not all traditions of Buddhism share the same philosophical outlook, or treat the same concepts as central. Each tradition, however, does have its own core concepts, and some comparisons can be drawn between them. For example, according to one Buddhist ecumenical organization, several concepts common to both major Buddhist branches:
Timeline: Development and propagation of Buddhist traditions (ca. 450 BCE – ca. 1300 CE)
450 BCE250 BCE100 CE500 CE700 CE800 CE1200 CEIndia
Early Buddhist schoolsMahayanaVajrayanaSri Lanka &
Theravada Buddhism Central Asia
Tibetan BuddhismSilk Road Buddhism
Chán, Tiantai, Pure Land, Zen, NichirenShingon
450 BCE250 BCE100 CE500 CE700 CE800 CE1200 CE Legend: = Theravada tradition = Mahayana traditions = Vajrayana traditions
Theravada ("Doctrine of the Elders", or "Ancient Doctrine") is the oldest surviving Buddhist school. It is relatively conservative, and generally closest to early Buddhism. This school is derived from the Vibhajjavāda grouping which emerged amongst the older Sthavira group at the time of the Third Buddhist Council (c. 250 BCE). This school gradually declined on the Indian subcontinent, but its branch in Sri Lanka and South East Asia continues to survive.
The Theravada school bases its practice and doctrine exclusively on the Pāli Canon and its commentaries. After being orally transmitted for a few centuries, its scriptures, the Pali Canon, were finally committed to writing in the 1st century BCE, in Sri Lanka, at what the Theravada usually reckon as the fourth council. It is also one of the first Buddhist schools to commit the complete set of its canon into writing. The Sutta collections and Vinaya texts of the Pāli Canon (and the corresponding texts in other versions of the Tripitaka), are generally considered by modern scholars to be the earliest Buddhist literature, and they are accepted as authentic in every branch of Buddhism.
Theravāda is primarily practiced today in Sri Lanka, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia as well as small portions of China, Vietnam, Malaysia and Bangladesh. It has a growing presence in Europe and America.
Mahayana traditions Mahayana
Mahayana Buddhism flourished in India from the 5th century CE onwards, during the dynasty of the Guptas. Mahāyāna centres of learning were established, the most important one being the Nālandā University in north-eastern India.
Mahayana schools recognize all or part of the Mahayana Sutras. Some of these sutras became for Mahayanists a manifestation of the Buddha himself, and faith in and veneration of those texts are stated in some sutras (e.g. the Lotus Sutra and the Mahaparinirvana Sutra) to lay the foundations for the later attainment of Buddhahood itself.
Native Mahayana Buddhism is practiced today in China, Japan, Korea, Singapore, parts of Russia and most of Vietnam (also commonly referred to as "Eastern Buddhism"). The Buddhism practiced in Tibet, the Himalayan regions, and Mongolia is also Mahayana in origin, but will be discussed below under the heading of Vajrayana (also commonly referred to as "Northern Buddhism". There are a variety of strands in Eastern Buddhism, of which "the Pure Land school of Mahayana is the most widely practised today.". In most of this area however, they are fused into a single unified form of Buddhism. In Japan in particular, they form separate denominations with the five major ones being: Nichiren, peculiar to Japan; Pure Land; Shingon, a form of Vajrayana; Tendai; and Chan/Zen. In Korea, nearly all Buddhists belong to the Chogye school, which is officially Son (Zen), but with substantial elements from other traditions.
The Vajrayana tradition of Buddhism spread to China, Mongolia, and Tibet. In Tibet, Vajrayana has always been a main component of Tibetan Buddhism, while in China it formed a separate sect. However, Vajrayana Buddhism became extinct in China but survived in elements of Japan's Shingon and Tendai sects.
There are differing views as to just when Vajrayāna and its tantric practice started. In the Tibetan tradition, it is claimed that the historical Śākyamuni Buddha taught tantra, but as these are esoteric teachings, they were passed on orally first and only written down long after the Buddha's other teachings. Nālandā University became a center for the development of Vajrayāna theory and continued as the source of leading-edge Vajrayāna practices up through the 11th century. These practices, scriptures and theories were transmitted to China, Tibet, Indochina and Southeast Asia. China generally received Indian transmission up to the 11th century including tantric practice, while a vast amount of what is considered to be Tibetan Buddhism (Vajrayāna) stems from the late (9th–12th century) Nālandā tradition.
In one of the first major contemporary academic treatises on the subject, Fairfield University professor Ronald M. Davidson argues that the rise of Vajrayana was in part a reaction to the changing political climate in India at the time. With the fall of the Gupta dynasty, in an increasingly fractious political environment, institutional Buddhism had difficulty attracting patronage, and the folk movement led by siddhas became more prominent. After perhaps two hundred years, it had begun to get integrated into the monastic establishment.
Vajrayana combined and developed a variety of elements, a number of which had already existed for centuries. In addition to the Mahāyāna scriptures, Vajrayāna Buddhists recognise a large body of Buddhist Tantras, some of which are also included in Chinese and Japanese collections of Buddhist literature, and versions of a few even in the Pali Canon.
Buddhist texts Buddhist texts
Buddhist scriptures and other texts exist in great variety. Different schools of Buddhism place varying levels of value on learning the various texts. Some schools venerate certain texts as religious objects in themselves, while others take a more scholastic approach. Buddhist scriptures are written in these languages: Pāli, Tibetan, Mongolian, Chinese, along with some texts that still exist in Sanskrit and Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit.
Unlike many religions, Buddhism has no single central text that is universally referred to by all traditions. However, some scholars have referred to the Vinaya Pitaka and the first four Nikayas of the Sutta Pitaka as the common core of all Buddhist traditions. This could be considered misleading, as Mahāyāna considers these merely a preliminary, and not a core, teaching. The Tibetan Buddhists have not even translated most of the āgamas (though theoretically they recognize them) and they play no part in the religious life of either clergy or laity in China and Japan. Other scholars say there is no universally accepted common core. The size and complexity of the Buddhist canons have been seen by some (including Buddhist social reformer Babasaheb Ambedkar) as presenting barriers to the wider understanding of Buddhist philosophy.
The followers of Theravāda Buddhism take the scriptures known as the Pāli Canon as definitive and authoritative, while the followers of Mahāyāna Buddhism base their faith and philosophy primarily on the Mahāyāna sūtras and their own vinaya. The Pāli sutras, along with other, closely related scriptures, are known to the other schools as the āgamas.
Over the years, various attempts have been made to synthesize a single Buddhist text that can encompass all of the major principles of Buddhism. In the Theravada tradition, condensed 'study texts' were created that combined popular or influential scriptures into single volumes that could be studied by novice monks. Later in Sri Lanka, the Dhammapada was championed as a unifying scripture.
Dwight Goddard collected a sample of Buddhist scriptures, with the emphasis on Zen, along with other classics of Eastern philosophy, such as the Tao Te Ching, into his 'Buddhist Bible' in the 1920s. More recently, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar attempted to create a single, combined document of Buddhist principles in "The Buddha and His Dhamma". Other such efforts have persisted to present day, but currently there is no single text that represents all Buddhist traditions.
Pāli TipitakaPāli Canon
Vinaya Pitaka SV.KhandhakaVin V Sutta Pitaka DNMNSNANKN Abhidhamma Pitaka Dhs.Vbh.Dhk.
The Pāli Tipitaka, which means "three baskets", refers to the Vinaya Pitaka, the Sutta Pitaka, and the Abhidhamma Pitaka. The Vinaya Pitaka contains disciplinary rules for the Buddhist monks and nuns, as well as explanations of why and how these rules were instituted, supporting material, and doctrinal clarification. The Sutta Pitaka contains discourses ascribed to Gautama Buddha. The Abhidhamma Pitaka contains material often described as systematic expositions of the Gautama Buddha's teachings.
The Pāli Tipitaka is the only early Tipitaka (Sanskrit: Tripiṭaka) to survive intact in its original language, but a number of early schools had their own recensions of the Tipitaka featuring much of the same material. We have portions of the Tipitakas of the Sārvāstivāda, Dharmaguptaka, Sammitya, Mahāsaṅghika, Kāśyapīya, and Mahīśāsaka schools, most of which survive in Chinese translation only. According to some sources, some early schools of Buddhism had five or seven pitakas.
According to the scriptures, soon after the death of the Buddha, the first Buddhist council was held; a monk named Mahākāśyapa (Pāli: Mahākassapa) presided. The goal of the council was to record the Buddha's teachings. Upāli recited the vinaya. Ānanda, the Buddha's personal attendant, was called upon to recite the dhamma. These became the basis of the Tripitaka. However, this record was initially transmitted orally in form of chanting, and was committed to text in the last century BCE. Both the sūtras and the vinaya of every Buddhist school contain a wide variety of elements including discourses on the Dharma, commentaries on other teachings, cosmological and cosmogonical texts, stories of the Gautama Buddha's previous lives, and various other subjects.
Much of the material in the Canon is not specifically "Theravadin", but is instead the collection of teachings that this school preserved from the early, non-sectarian body of teachings. According to Peter Harvey, it contains material which is at odds with later Theravadin orthodoxy. He states: "The Theravadins, then, may have added texts to the Canon for some time, but they do not appear to have tampered with what they already had from an earlier period."
Mahayana sutrasMahayana sutras
The Mahayana sutras are a very broad genre of Buddhist scriptures that the Mahayana Buddhist tradition holds are original teachings of the Buddha. Some adherents of Mahayana accept both the early teachings (including in this the Sarvastivada Abhidharma, which was criticized by Nagarjuna and is in fact opposed to early Buddhist thought ) and the Mahayana sutras as authentic teachings of Gautama Buddha, and claim they were designed for different types of persons and different levels of spiritual understanding.
The Mahayana sutras often claim to articulate the Buddha's deeper, more advanced doctrines, reserved for those who follow the bodhisattva path. That path is explained as being built upon the motivation to liberate all living beings from unhappiness. Hence the name Mahāyāna (lit., the Great Vehicle).
According to Mahayana tradition, the Mahayana sutras were transmitted in secret, came from other Buddhas or Bodhisattvas, or were preserved in non-human worlds because human beings at the time could not understand them:
Some of our sources maintain the authenticity of certain other texts not found in the canons of these schools (the early schools). These texts are those held genuine by the later school, not one of the eighteen, which arrogated to itself the title of Mahayana, 'Great Vehicle'. According to the Mahayana historians these texts were admittedly unknown to the early schools of Buddhists. However, they had all been promulgated by the Buddha. followers on earth, the sravakas ('pupils'), had not been sufficiently advanced to understand them, and hence were not given them to remember, but they were taught to various supernatural beings and then preserved in such places as the Dragon World. Approximately six hundred Mahayana sutras have survived in Sanskrit or in Chinese or Tibetan translations. In addition, East Asian Buddhism recognizes some sutras regarded by scholars to be of Chinese rather than Indian origin.
Generally, scholars conclude that the Mahayana scriptures were composed from the 1st century CE onwards: "Large numbers of Mahayana sutras were being composed in the period between the beginning of the common era and the fifth century", five centuries after the historical Gautama Buddha. Some of these had their roots in other scriptures composed in the 1st century BCE. It was not until after the 5th century CE that the Mahayana sutras started to influence the behavior of mainstream Buddhists in India: "But outside of texts, at least in India, at exactly the same period, very different—in fact seemingly older—ideas and aspirations appear to be motivating actual behavior, and old and established Hinnayana groups appear to be the only ones that are patronized and supported." These texts were apparently not universally accepted among Indian Buddhists when they appeared; the pejorative label hinayana was applied by Mahayana supporters to those who rejected the Mahayana sutras.
Only the Theravada school does not include the Mahayana scriptures in its canon. As the modern Theravada school is descended from a branch of Buddhism that diverged and established itself in Sri Lanka prior to the emergence of the Mahayana texts, debate exists as to whether the Theravada were historically included in the hinayana designation; in the modern era, this label is seen as derogatory, and is generally avoided.
Comparative studies Buddhism provides many opportunities for comparative study with a diverse range of subjects. For example, dependent origination can be considered one of Buddhism's contributions to metaphysics. Additionally, Buddhism's emphasis on the Middle way not only provides a unique guideline for ethics but has also allowed Buddhism to peacefully coexist with various differing beliefs, customs and institutions in countries in which it has resided throughout its history. Also, its moral and spiritual parallels with other systems of thought—for example, with various tenets of Christianity—have been subjects of close study.
List of Buddhism related topics in comparative studies
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