In my Buddhism class with Dr. Lammerts, we discussed three broad categories for Buddhist practice based on the goal of the practice.
1. Nibbanic Buddhism: This is the practice that aims for liberation from samsara, that is Nibbana (sanskrit=Nirvana). This is the practice championed by The Buddha himself and the monks of the sangha. The goal is lofty and so the practice is high in discipline and renunciation and meditative practice.
2. Kammatic Buddhism: This practice aims at good karma. It goes about accruing good karma in this life and for the next by doing good deeds and following the eightfold path to the best of ones ability, leading to a happier life and hopefully a favorable rebirth. This is practiced by the majority of Buddhists who are cultural practitioners or laypeople. The range of dedication and commitment varies, but most do not worry about Nirvana as much as being happy.
3. Apotropataic Buddhism: A very supernatural form of Buddhism which varies from country to country. It aims at using blessings, chants rituals to ward of demons, ghosts and bad lucks and karmas. Extremely popular among laypeople and often performed or carried out by monks.
There are many varying degrees of Buddhist practice. When we talk about how logical and scientific and atheistic Buddhism is that is not always the case in the actual practice. There is most likely a practice that fits your dedication and comfort level!
Cigarrettes, drinking, and any other way to escape our suffering is only a temporary patch. If we don’t want a remedy but the actual cure, we have to actively face our troubles. By understanding ourselves, can we understand what our troubles are. It is time for self-reflection.
extremely relevant to the last question i received.
idomindit-deactivated20130505 asked: I am convinced that I want to become a Buddhist, but I want to understand the religion and its philosophy better first. I drink occasionally, but never outside me and my boyfriends appartment and I never get drunk. I eat meat too. I wonder if those are things I should quit if I am to become a Buddhist!? I have had a diffucult life with a lot of negative feelings such as anxiety, worries and jealousy. Buddhism feels to me like the right way to a healthy mind.
personally, that is exactly how i feel. it is different for each person, but i felt things like alcohol and meat were escapes from hard truths. facing difficult truths and working through them mean we can leave them behind completely rather than dwell on them. However, if these things are not hindering your mindfulness and happiness then partaking in alcohol might not be a problem for you and you might not need give it up. Same for meat. If you see animals as lesser, if you feel their pain and fear of death is different from you then it is not a problem.
make sure that when you are contemplating a Buddhist lifestyle or a full conversion that you really do your research. For example, read some of the scriptures not just commentaries by contemporary authors. Get at the source. Read it critically and decide what makes sense, what does not, and could you accept Buddha as the basic teacher. I would suggest the Pali Cannon (which is available in a single volume by many book publishers and can be found at a local library or bookstore).
Or perhaps there is a particular living/contemporary teacher that truly inspires you and you wish to become his/her student directly.
There is no right or wrong way to practice. It is very important for you to understand that Buddhism is not a perfect religion, just like a Christian or Muslim or Jew or Hindu may have never read the Bible or Quran or the Upanishads, many Buddhists are culturally or casually Buddhists.
Your understanding of the world will shape the teachings that you adopt. I am of the opinion that the Four Noble Truths are absolute truths, and therefore the Eightfold Path leads to the cessation of suffering. I believe that the Buddha was an enlightened being whose example is worth replicating if I wish to attain enlightenment. these are the very basics of my beliefs, you will find them reiterated in many books about Buddhism. Therefore, I am of the opinion that all people will benefit from the teachings of the Buddha, the complete teachings! But only when a person is ready to adopt them.
Buddha’s teachings are the MIDDLE WAY. Being a part of civilian life and a spiritual life is an important balance.
As for your anxiety and other negative emotions: meditation, meditation, meditation. Try different types, try with different teachers, try with groups and alone. Try chanting. Try breathing. Try mindfulness. I guarantee with true determination and a curious mind, dedication and honest love you will find a technique that works for you!
if Buddha existed? There is no hard evidence that the man ever lived.
My new Buddhism class has re-raised many questions that plague me in my Buddhist practices. I have also received similar questions and concerns from the e-sangha over the course of this blog. That is to say, questions about the Buddhist cannon’s version of realms, realities, worlds, supernatural beings, Hindu dieties, reincarnation, soul belief and….
the very existence of the Buddha.
What matters, however, is that we are suffering. What the teachings of The Buddha offer is a way to end that suffering. The truth and wisdom can be seen in these practices by living them and seeing the incredible differences in your life.
Whether or not Siddhartha Gautama, the Prince of the Sakya clan, actually said and did the things that are collected in the suttras is not as important as the suttras themselves.
Let’s take for example the story of Buddha’s birth recounted in the Pali cannon (Tipitaka): The existence that would become the Buddha was reclining in the heavenly realm, after hundreds of thousands of lifetimes used perfecting the six perfections. This being decides it is indeed time to be reborn in the world of man and attain ultimate liberation, thus never being born or dying again. The princess Maya immaculately conceives and gives birth through her side to a child able to walk and talk, and the child states “I am the perfect one. This is my last birth”. The Devas bath this child in water as a sign of respect to this perfect one. A wise brahmin examines the child, given the name Siddhartha Gautama, bore all the signs of a prophesied king who would conquer all the known world with the sword OR with spiritual wisdom. Not liking this, the King decreed that Siddhartha would never know of suffering so that he would never seek spiritual wisdom. But the devas interfered. In order to start the Prince on his quest for enlightenment a deva disguised as a chariot driver took Siddhartha into the kingdom, where four other devas disguised as an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and an ascetic were witnessed by Siddhartha. Shocked, the young prince left his kingdom, gave up all his titles and possessions and became a wandering aesthetic. After years of practice, he sat beneath the Bodhi tree and determined not to stir again until he became liberated from life and death. As he meditated, Mara the demon of death attacked him with ten armies of demons, and each time Siddhartha did not stir, he was not tempted by the promises of the demons, and when Mara finally called out to him “What right have you to enlightenment?” Siddhartha answered that he had perfected the perfections, and he touched his hand to the Earth, “I call upon the Earth to bear witness that I am the enlightened one. I am the Buddha” and the Earth Goddess shook the ground and the armies of Mara were defeated.
So. Did any of these things actually happen? Are the demons and devas and prophecies real or metaphorical? Symbols are truths?
What does this matter. A symbol teaches us a truth. A truth is absolute wisdom. The things we learn from these parables are what is important, not the tale itself. This idea that Maya died after giving birth to the Buddha teaches us how great joys are also great sufferings, how life is only possible through death. Buddha fighting off Mara and his armies teach of the strength of mind needed to attain liberation. The beginning of the tale, in which the many thousands of lives of Buddha are mentioned indicate that it is not EASY to become a Buddha.
For me: the supernatural parts of the tale and the dramas are most likely embellishments, as nothing in my experiences indicates the existence of such beings and powers. The story is moving, but the teachings are real. And what can be learned from the story matters. What can be gained from practicing the teachings are visible.
I feel this same way about other religions, as I have no god belief. These stories and parables may not be literal, but the teachings are. The man who became Buddha, The Buddha Himself, may be a legend, a tale, a symbol, but attempting to live up to that symbol will bring you great joy, as it has for me.
It does NOT matter. What matters is that we are in suffering and we can get out.
I have just started my new semester at Rutgers and boy howdy is Buddhism going to be my favorite class…
This professor certainly challenges beliefs and preconceptions.
For example, the first day he asked the class for the first things they think of or know of about Buddhism. I have collected the answers to share with you:
- No god
- No self
- No worshipping
He then gave definitions of Buddhism from various sources, all of which we as a class dissected and tore apart.
His point is that Buddhism is very hard to pin down. We say “no self” that exists now nor after death, yet Thai Buddhist Ghost stories are very famous. There is no creator god, yet the devas (demigods, celestials, spirits) are major characters in the stories of Buddhas life. The Buddha is not worshiped…really? what constitutes worship? what constitutes prayer? the image of Buddha is cleaned and clothed and incense and candles are burned for it. What defines “worship”?
Buddhism is a religion believed to be unique in it’s non-violence, is also famous around the world for it’s martial arts. Believed by westerners as a religion free of wars, Buddhist Monks in Japan supported conquests by Japan to become a imperial power. Ashoka was an emperor who converted to Buddhism as he warred across the subcontinent.
This class will provide me with much food for thought, and much that i will wish to share so i would like to acknowledge my professor, Dr. D.Christian Lammerts who will be quoted and expounded upon on this blog often starting from now.
so sorry for the lack of posts….some followers must have gotten annoyed and have abandoned ship.
As many of you know, i have been living in upstate new york for an internship, but i am currently in the process of moving myself BACK to jersey for school. In this process i have had very little access to internet, very much to do, and very little energy for blogging.
please help me out by submitting your own personal experiences with dharma in everyday life, your favorite teachings, or your questions that inspire me with what to write and post about.
Thanks for your patience.
I will be posting more teachings of Buddha from now on! I include my own thoughts in the discussions bit on the post. These discussions are only my opinion on the verses, suttas, and gathas. I hope they will provide insight for those new to the tradition.
I think this is important to include because many on the blog have asked me how to get more involved in Buddhism or where to start learning. As the name would suggest, The Buddha is the center of Buddhism! Even traditions that do not venerate him are based upon his teachings. Why not start there?!
And so, sorta inspired by a bible study, I will be putting up teachings. I think reading and discussing these pieces is one of the most important practices of dharma. Please add your own thoughts in the reblogs, AND COULD SOMEONE EXPLAIN THE COMMENTS OPTION TO ME?
1. Because of Ignorance (avidya) the principle of individuation as discriminated from Enlightenment which is the principle of unity and sameness the primal unity becomes divided into thinking, thinker and discriminated thoughts by reason of which there appear the formations of karma.
2. Because of these forms, the principle of consciousness emerges.
3. Because of the principle of consciousness, mentality and body emerge.
4. Because of mentality and body, the six sense minds and organs appear.
5. Because of the six sense minds and organs, sensations and perceptions arise.
6. Because of sensations and perceptions, feelings and discrimination arise.
7. Because of feelings and sensations, thirst and craving arise.
8. Because of thirst and craving, grasping and clinging appear.
9. Because of grasping and clinging, conception takes place.
10. Because of conceptions, the continuing process of existence goes on.
11. Because the continuing process of existence, growth, sickness, old age, decay and death take place.
12. Because of sickness, old age and death, sorrow, lamentation, pain, grief and despair arise. Thus arises the whole mass of suffering.
In all this: No doer of the deeds is found, no one who ever reaps their fruit. Empty phenomena are there. Thus does the world roll on. No god, no Brahma, can be found, No maker of this wheel of life. Empty phenomena are there, Dependent upon conditions all.
E-SANGHA DISCUSSION: This seems on the surface difficult to understand, wordy and round about. But read it again. And maybe a third time. Now let’s try to translate: the Buddha is here saying that ignorance is the opposite of enlightenment, where one sees existence as it truly is, non-separate. We wrongly believe that our thoughts are separate from us and that we are the thinker, but this is the definition of ignorance. Buddha explains that ignorance is the cause of karma, the law of reaction. The truth, as it is implied here, is that ”thought is the one who thinks”. Both thought and thinker are the same. And through this ignorance of “who is thinking” we create a false individual who in turns suffers the karma!
Many who first read Buddhist teachings, or perhaps read only casually, find these ideas outlined here disturbing. What is the purpose of our existence? It would appear here that Buddha concludes that to exist is to suffer! And that is hard for many people to accept. Many religious traditions turn to gods and destinies and meanings to guide our purpose on Earth. Buddha says that trying to find a purpose here on Earth is to suffer.
And yet I do not find the teachings depressing or pessimistic in the least. Why would he come back to us after his awakening under the Bodhi Tree if this life were hopeless and nothing but suffering is to be gained?
He returned to teach because there IS A WAY OUT of suffering. And THAT is our purpose. Our purpose on this Earth is to realize our suffering and break free. In that case, the essence of our existence is to BE HAPPY.
Buddha teaches that ultimately we can break the chain of The Twelve Nirdanas, and move to a place beyond duality, into the realm where thinker and thought are non-different. And he has taught this is a place of great peace and tranquility, though he was not able to completely explain to us trapped in duality. What he describes is a place free of suffering, and what we prescribes is the Middle Way, The Eightfold Path. What he promises is freedom of suffering only.
But then, freedom of suffering is our ultimate purpose.