Seminary Program

This is where we post the essays from many of our Universal Life Church Seminary students. When students finish a ULC course, they write a comprehensive essay about their experiences with the course, what they learned, didn't learn, were inspired by, etc. Here are their essays.

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Monday, January 29, 2007

Buddhist Studies

Buddhism through the ULC Seminary
The Decline of Buddhism in India

Until King Asoka (c. 270-232 BCE) converted to his wife's religious belief in Buddhism, it was just one of many small sects. From the 2nd Century BCE to the 12th Century CE, Buddhism grew to be the predominant religion practiced on the Indian sub-continent, which consists primarily Afghanistan, Pakistan, the disputed region of Kashmir, the modern state of India, plus Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka.

The 12th Century CE Moslem Invasion of India resulted in the mass killing of Buddhist monks, devastation of all Buddhist monasteries, and enslavement of Buddhist nuns as temple prostitutes. It survived only in the independent Himalayan kingdoms of Bhutan and Sikkim; among some tribal groups in the mountains of Northeast India; and in Sri Lanka.

There were isolated attempts to revive Buddhism during British Colonial Rule. Most important was the foundation of the Mahabodhi Society (Society of Greater Enlightenment) in 1891. Although its initial objective was to wrest control of the Buddhist shrine at Gaya from Hindu control, the Society greatly stimulated the popularity of Buddhist philosophy and its historical importance in India's past. By the late 1890s, recognizable Buddhist communities were alive in Sri Lanka, South India, Bengal, and other localized areas.

With the 1956 mass conversion of 500,000 untouchables (dalits) to Buddhism by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, a member of the Indian Parliament, that sizeable numbers of Indians became practicing Buddhists. They are generally termed Neo-Buddhist (Nava-Baudha) as they do not adhere to either Mahayana or Hinyana, the two traditional schools of Buddhism. As of 1991 there were about 6.32 million Buddhists in India almost 80% of which resided in the state of Maharashuttra and in the city of Nagpur. Buddhism is now the fifth largest religious group in modern-day India.1

Infiltration and Persecutions by Brahmins

The Vedas collectively refers to a corpus of ancient Indo-Aryan religious literature composed in Verdic Sanskrit between 1500 BCE and 500 BCE that are associated with the Vedic civilization. The religion of the Vedic civilization is the predecessor of classical Hinduism. The use of Vedic Sanskrit continued up to the 6th century BCE, when the Indo-Aryan culture began to be transformed into classical forms of Hinduism under challenges from Buddhism and Jainism.

The Vedic Civilization is the Indo-Aryan culture associated with the Vedas and dates back to the 2nd and 1st millennia BCE with origins possibly stretching as far back as the Mehrgarh Culture in the 7th millennium BCE. The rituals and sacrificial rites of Vedic liturgy are mainly reflected in the text of the four Vedas. The religion centered on a clergy, drawn from the Brahmin caste, administering sacrificial rites and the chanting of Vedic hymns. The priests thereby led and assisted the common man to pray for production of children, cattle, and wealth.

Hindu tradition regards the Vedas as uncreated, eternal and being revealed to sages ( Rishis). In later Hinduism, the Vedas hold an exalted position as divine revelation. The Brahmin caste's important role in Hindu religious life was used to establish its superior social status and to justify its exercise of dominion over the lower castes. Both Buddhism and Jainism repudiated the authority of the Vedas and developed separate religions, which challenged the legitimacy and power of Brahmin caste.

For example, Buddha's injunction against improper sexual activities (mithyachara) was directed towards practices found in Vedic Brahmanism. The institution of marriage was extremely weak with relationships like brother-sister and father-daughter commonly ignored. Fertility rites also required priests "to satisfy the sexual need of any woman approaching them at the time of yajhyas, then and there in open ground, in presence of Vedic fire."2

A Brahmin is a member of a particular division in the Indo-Aryan caste system, which was composed of four intransient sections (varnas): Brahmin (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaishya (commoner), and Shudra (servant). The fifth (sometimes erroneously clubbed into the fourth) section is the Dalit (untouchables). The Brahmins are believed to be responsible for society's spiritual progress. Like evangelical Christians, person born into a Brahmin family becomes twice-born (dvija) after their initiation into Vedic education (upanayana). The Brahmins are further divided into priestly and non-priestly castes.

Brahmins are and always have been a very small minority group in India. In 1931, Brahmins were 4.32% of the total population. The Brahmins, even in Uttar Pradesh, where they are most numerous, constitute just 9% of the total populace. In Tamil Nadu they form less than 3% and in Andhra Pradesh they are less than 2%.

The Brahmins propagated specialization of an extreme order, and also restricted social mobility under the caste system. They declared themselves the intellectual bureaucracy in the fields of science, war, literature, religion, and the environment. As the exclusive custodians of religious lore and most educated caste, Brahmins were able to control every sphere of influence in community life. Hindus considered the proper enunciation of verses by Brahmin priests as essential for prosperity and success in war and harvests. Kshatriyas, the second ranking caste perpetuated this order by amassing wealth and commissioning the performance of sacrifices.

Brahmins and Kshatriyas formed the core of each kingdom's civil service. They also developed a law enforcement role that maintained order within the caste system thereby ensuring its perpetuity. This was accomplished through an assembled court of Brahmin intellectuals and Kshatriyas warriors. These courts distributed the finances of their treasuries and also maintained the kingdom's budgets with the assistance of ministers.

Due to the existence of the caste-system, the Brahmins had access to resources that the rest of the Hindu society did not. They quickly adapted to changing conditions and used their influence and money to get into lucrative fields and make a name for themselves. To their credit, they also did well in learning and professional fields like accountancy, medicine, engineering, and business. The Brahmin goals have been the spiritual enlightenment, peace, and prosperity of the whole society. Brahmins played an extraordinary role in the spread of knowledge and vitalizing the Indian society for millennia and resulted into extraordinary diversity of Indian cultures and religious traditions.

The lower caste Indians were by no means satisfied or content with their condemnation to an inferior social standing and exclusion from positions of power and wealth. Even though the first disciples of Buddha were all Brahmins, early Buddhism drew the bulk of their converts from the lower castes who were attracted by its egalitarian principles. To counter this, the Brahmanism morphed into Hinduism by assimilating Buddhist teachings such as "the disapproval of animal sacrifice, the relaxation of caste rules, and the organization of a monastic community along the lines of the Buddhist Sangha."3 This evolution was aided greatly by the fact that the philosophical subtleties of Buddhist reasoning attracted a large number of Brahman to study as monks in Buddhist centers of learning.

Prior to the emergence of Buddhism as the major religion in India, the authoritative position of Brahmin priests in society went unchallenged.4 Buddhist monks, however, had the intellectual abilities and requisite education to advise kings on matters of state. In fact many Brahmans had become Buddhist leaders by virtue of their learning. Individual Buddhists had no bar to civil service employment. As a result of this threat to Brahmin dominance or hegemony, both Buddhists and Jains alike were the victims of outright defamation by the Brahmins throughout the millennium of Buddhist presence in India.

For example, Buddha role as an incarnation of Vishnu was to beguile demons. The Brahmins then argued that Buddhist teachings were developed to attract demons as followers so that they could eventually be destroyed. The low caste heritage of Buddhist converts gave rise to many popular myths concerning the shame associated with their inferiority. The sight of a Buddhist monk, even in dreams, was said to be an inauspicious sign. Brahmins considered it a principal sin to enter the abode of a Buddhist even in time of great peril.5 In this manner, Buddhists were cast by Hindu scholars as no better than the untouchables with whom "all social contact must be broken, even looking at a heretic necessitates lengthy expiations. The Hindu who dines with a Buddhist goes to hell."6

The last flowering of Buddhist thought came after the founding of the Buddhist monastic university at Nalanda in the 5th century CE. In the following centuries, the last three major Buddhist philosophers, Chandrakirti (c. 550-600 CE), Shantarakshita (c. 680-740 CE), and Kamalashila (c. 740-790), developed syncretic schools of thought in response to the rebuttal of Buddhist doctrine by Hindu philosophers. Buddhism, as a religious group, experienced a marked decline thereafter as Buddhism devolved into a core of elite scholar-monks studying in the great monastic universities like Nalanda and Vikramashila in northern India.

Buddhism's loss of its strong point, philosophy, to Hindu scholars caused it to fail in attracting new talent so the number of Buddhist monks began to tail off. By contrast, the Hindu religious teacher Shankara (788-820 CE) spent his life as a wandering monk combating Buddhist atheism.

To the Indian mind, aethism was the original sin of Buddhism for which a tardy, though inescapable, Nemesis was worked out in its ultimate disappearance. . . . But the Buddhist denial of God implied an outrage on the spiritual craving of man, which no amount of righteousness could redeem and no intellectual integrity could condone. 7

Shankara argued that the real world is an illusion (maya), which the body's soul must transcend in order to achieve oneness with brahman. To perpetuate his beliefs in the Vedas, Shankara founded five seats of learning in the current Indian states of Utter Pradesh, Gujarat, Orissa, Karnataka, and Tamil Nadu. An orange-clad order of monks, which adopted Shankara's philosophy (Shankara Acharyas), still occupies those seats today and periodically sends its acharyas away from their home monasteries to visit and preach to devotees.

Buddhism retreat from Hindu intellectuals into monastic communities and educational centers away from the hearts of local communities left easily identifiable targets for the 12th Century CE Moslem invaders. The Buddhists clergy, cloistered in secluded locales, could be wantonly slaughtered en mass. In comparison, the widely dispersed adherents of Hinduism presented few easy target of opportunity, which caused the 12th Century Moslems to concentrate on converting Hindus rather than killing their scattered population. Consequently Hinduism survived in India while Buddhism was almost completely disappeared.

Ineffectual Relations with the Laity

Buddhists monks and nuns lived in the splendid isolation of well-endowed monasteries. The comforts of monastic life so contrasted with the everyday plight of the ordinary Indian that the monasteries became very selective in admitting monks to fellowships. Usually they came from the upper classes including the Brahmins who had the requisite intellectual abilities to study the Buddhist Suttras. This eventually "conspired to sever [Buddhism] from the grass-roots piety of the populace."8

The Buddhist víhãras of Medieval India chiefly relied for their support on ancient endowments and occasional royal donations and seem to have paid little attention to the religious needs of the local laity . . . . [I]t was always the Brahmans who were called upon to assist in the most solemn family rites.9

Because they did not believe in rituals, especially sacrificial offerings and fecundity rites, Buddhists monks and nuns never became integrated in quotidian life. The populace thus came to associate Buddhism as an indistinguishable part of Hinduism with Buddha as another god among the many they worshiped. Specifically, Buddha came to be considered the ninth manifestation (i.e. avatar) of the god Vishnu some time around the 8th Century CE. This "cut the ground from under the feet of Buddhism"10 as it could no longer maintain a clearly distinct identity from Hinduism. Moreover, Buddhism's "pessimism, atheism, and generally rarified character were unsatisfying to the Indian genius."11

Thus the suppression and annihilation of Buddhism in India by the Mongols starting in 1192 could be accommodated as a mere hiving off of a part of Hinduism which was not a fundamental part of Indian life allowing Hindu rites, rituals, and practices to be conducted relatively unfettered. The Buddhist monasteries, shrines, and stupas left standing by the Muslim invaders were unceremoniously converted to shrines for other gods in the Hindu Parthenon. The tolerance and even welcome of all possible ideas and beliefs, alongside the rejection of any social innovation, remains characteristic of Hindu attitudes."12

Schisms and Heterodox Sects

The Buddhism also failed to survive in India because it failed to found a real "church" with a single, unified faith. At the first Buddhist Council, convened about three months after Buddha passed away, only the Dharma taught by Buddha and the Vinaya rules governing the conduct of his disciples were orally codified. While there was no dissent on the Dharma, the Vinaya prompted enough lively discussion that Maha Kassapa, the most revered and senior monk, who was presiding over the Council, declared that no rule laid down by the Buddha should be changed and that no new ones should be added. This edict had the same fate as The Wonderful "One-Hoss Shay" described in Oliver Wendell Holmes's (1858) poem:

That was built in such a logical way

It ran a hundred years to a day,

And then, of a sudden . . .

[I]t went to pieces all at once, --

All at once, and nothing first, --

Just as bubbles do when they burst.

About one hundred years after the First Council, the Second Council was held to consider making changes to the Vinaya rules. Positions quickly hardened with the orthodox monks (Sthavarivad) unable to reach a compromise with a greater community of monks (Mahasanghika) who walked out of the Council. The created the first deep schism in the Buddhist Sangha.

By the Third Council (c. 250 BCE), convened by King Asoka, there were differences about the contents of both the Dharma and the Vinaya. The commission of the Council was to reconcile the differences that had arisen amongst the various schools of Buddhism and to purify the movement from the opportunistic factions that had been attracted solely by Ashoka's royal patronage. "The Teachings of the Elders" (Sthaviras or Theravada) approved and accepted by this Council came only after twelve years of negotiations.

Nonetheless, the heretical views and theories continued to exist and expand after the Third Council's conclusion. By the time of the Fourth Council, Buddhism had completely split into the Mahayana and Hinayana schools. Only because King Asoka son, Ven. Mahinda, brought the "Pali-canon" (Tripitaka), along with the commentaries recited at The Third Council, to Sri Lanka was Theraveda Buddhism preserved.

At the Fourth Council held in Kashmir around 100 CE, 500 monks labored for twelve years to edit the Tripitaka, the threefold collection of sacred texts covering Buddha's Discourses, monastic discipline, and higher teachings. The monks extensively emended the Tripitaka's three Suttas with references and commentaries leading some to dub this the "council of heretical monks". The Mahayana Buddhists believed that their religious canon was still open and they continued to incorporate new literature in it for more than one thousand years after Buddha's death.

The new scriptures were re-written in the classical language of Sanskrit instead of the traditional Pali script. Its promulgation permanently established the Buddhist schism because the new Sanskrit canon was never recognized by the Theravada school. These orthodox Buddhists refused to accept

*The elevation of Buddha as a god,

*Worship of Buddha's image in the form of idols,

*The adoption of elaborate rituals from Hinduism, and

*The abandonment of a rigorous ascetic life in monasteries.

Shortly after the Fourth Council, the mendicant monk Nagarjuna (c. 150-250 CE) started to found the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) school of Buddhist philosophy based on some hidden texts that Buddha had preordained him to recover. Nagarjura's interpretations and explanations of the sutras in the "Perfection of Wisdom" texts was the precursor to the emergence of the Mahayana school of Buddhism, which has continued to be the most widely followed.

The Yoga Practice School (Yogachara)of Mahayana Buddhism was developed b y two brothers Asanga (c. 310-390 CE) and Vasubandhu (c. 320-400 CE). Its main scriptural source is the Suttra Explaining the Thought (Samdhinirmochana-sutra) it follows the methods given in Asanga's tretise entitled The levels of Yoga Practice (Yogachara-bhumi). This school emphasizes meditative practice as it believes that all perceived things are conditioned by consciousness.

Somewhere between the 4th and 7th centuries CE, Vajrayana (Tantrayana) Buddhism began to evolve out of the Mahayana school. Based on texts purporting to record what the historical Buddha said, Tantric Buddhism prescribes the use of visualizations, prayers (mantras), and elaborate rituals to reach the Mahayana ideal of Buddhahood. Its teachings are aimed at lay persons rather than monks or nuns and offers a path of realization into the embodiment of the divine which can be reached in a single lifetime. Its emphasis on spiritual physiology utilizes various forms of sexual yoga.

By the time of the Fifth Council (1868-1871) and the Sixth Council (1954-1956), Buddhism had been driven completely out of India. Both the Fifth and Sixth Councils were held in Burma, which was another stronghold of Theravada Buddhism. These were the last revisions of the Pali Canon. The Mahayana school of Buddhism, which was, followed elsewhere in Asia, with the exceptions of Tibet and Thailand, was not involved in the last two Buddhists Councils.

Reliance on Royal Patronage

Buddha died "leaving a thriving monastic order and a dedicated lay community to continue his work."13 This in itself was not sufficient to provide strong internal integrity to prevent corruption of their religious faith or to band together the multitude of Buddhist monastic orders, which subsequently developed, to ward off external foes. With Buddha denying divine enlightenment or mission, his sangha could not organize itself into an Episcopal authority with bishops who would be regarded to form an Apostolic succession from Buddha's original disciples. Similarly the Buddhist emphasis on equality among equals seeking individual enlightenment precluded the governance of a sangha by a Presbyterian type Council of Elders.

Instead the sanghas evolved into Congregational-type self-governing bodies of monks. The eldest monk was normally recognized as their temporal leader only. The Congregational style of organization does not require that leaders from one sangha be necessarily regarded as having equivalent status and respect by another sangha. This lead to great diversity in religious practice and non-pooling of resources as new sanghas continued to be formed. It also meant that each individual sangha needed to find its own sources of funding.

Any person, regardless of caste, could be admitted or ordained into an Sangha of Buddhist monks or nuns. An equivalent organization for the laity was never formed. Indeed, there was not even a manual for the Buddhist laity until the 11th century CE. Buddhism was self-contained within the sangha. Its members (Bhikkus) were expected to lead an ascetic life, sustaining themselves from alms, which could be accepted if given willingly without asking. The need to move from house to house to collect alms oriented the Bhikkus towards intense missionary work since they had to have some cause to call at any door.

Nonetheless, Buddhism always received royal patronage from its inception and alms have never provided the main source of support for its monks. Throughout Medieval times, Indian royalty and merchants became patrons of Buddhist monasteries and raised hemispherical stone sculptures known as stupas over relics of the Buddha.

Buddha himself was heavily patronized by Ajatashatru, the king of what is now the state of Bihar in north India. The various orders always remained highly dependent on Royal patronage and the endowments accumulated there from. After Buddha's death, Bhikkus gradually propagated that the continuance of the Sangha and the ability to reach Nirvana with any certainty dictated a monastic way of life. Buddha's ideal of non-possession (aparigraha) had then to be deemed applicable only to individual monks not to Buddhist organizations like monasteries and libraries.

In the 3rd Century BCE, Samrat Ashoka Maurya, who ruled nearly all of present day India plus Pakistan and Afghanistan, was converted to Buddhism. The Buddhist faith grew rapidly with his patronage. Ashoka sent many Buddhist missions to West Asia, Greece, and South East Asia; commissioned the construction of monasteries and universities; and supported publication of Buddhist literature across the empire. He is believed to have built as many as 84,000 stupas across India, and increased the popularity of Buddhism in Afghanistan.

King Ashoka even sent a mission led by his son and daughter to Sri Lanka, whose King Tissa was so charmed with Buddhist ideals that he adopted it himself and made it the state religion. Ashoka helped convene the Third Buddhist Council of India and founded South Asia's Buddhist orders near his capital, which undertook much of the work in the reform and expansion of Buddhism.

While himself a Buddhist, Ashoka retained the membership of Hindu priests and ministers in his court, and maintained religious freedom and tolerance. Indian society began embracing the philosophy of ahimsa, the moral principle of non-violence and respect for life. This opposed the practice of animal sacrifice, so central to Brahmanism, and was probably the basis for the adoption of vegetarian diets by Buddhists and Hindus alike. Under Ashoka's Maurryan dynasty, social freedom began expanding in an age of peace and prosperity. The caste system and orthodox discrimination were greatly discouraged as Hinduism began inculcating the ideals and values of Jain and Buddhist teachings.

About fifty years after Ashoka's death, the Sunga dynasty (185-73 BCE) overthrew the last Mauryan ruler and started persecuting the Buddhist faith. King Pusyamitra Sunga, the first ruler, supposedly destroyed the 84,000 Buddhist stupas built by Ashoka, offered 100 gold coins for the head of each Buddhist monk, and converted a number of Buddhist monasteries into Hindu temples.

Elsewhere, Buddhism continued to enjoy varying degrees of royal patronage from one king or another. The next major royal patron of Buddhism was Kusgana (aka Kaniska), a Mongol King who ruled north India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan in the 1st Century BCE. He underwrote the Fourth Buddhist Council in the Indian Punjab, which attempted and failed to heal the split of Buddhism into two competing schools.

During the reign of the Gupta kings in the 3rd and 4th Centuries CE, a major center of Mahayana learning was founded at Nalanda in northeastern India. Nagarjuna (c, 150-250 CE) was its most famous teacher and is credited with founding the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) school of Buddhist philosophy, which centered on the doctrine of emptiness. This soon led to the emergence of Mahayana Buddhism marking a clear distinction between the two main schools of Buddhism found today.

The Mahayana school continued to expand thereafter in India under royal patronage. In the 7th century CE the white Hun and early Islamic invasions, such as that of Muhammad bin Qasim, weakened support for Buddhism in the conquered portions of India, especially among the merchant classes who tended to sponsor Buddhism. Even so, Harsh Vardhana, the 7th century CE ruler over a large portion of north India, extended many favors to the religion despite his being an ardent worshiper of the Hindu god Shiva. Most notable was sponsorship of the 5th Buddhist Council in 643 CE.

Thereafter, Buddhism went into a steady decline culminating in the 1193 capture of Dehli by the Turkish commander, Qutb-ud-Din. Early victories in 1192 and 1194 of the North Indian kingdoms by the Afghan raider Mahmud Ghori had opened up the passage way to the Gangetic plains of India where the Buddhist centers of learning were located. The death knell for Buddhism in India was sounded late in 1193 CE when Turkic-Islamic warriors led by Muhammad Khilji destroyed the great Buddhist library at Nalanda slaughtering all the monks.

Brahmanism beaten and battered by the Muslim invaders could look to the rulers for support and sustenance and get it. Buddhism beaten and battered by the Muslim invaders had no such hope. It was an uncared orphan and it withered in the cold blast of native rulers and was consumed in the fire lit up by the conquerors.

-Dr. B.R. Ambedkar

After the 12th Century Moslem invasion, Buddhism continued to flourish in Bihar and Bengal only because the Pãla kings liberally supported their monasteries.14 Indeed when the Senas (1097-1223 CE) gained rule of Bengal, Buddhism was pushed out towards Tibet while Hindu Saivism was promulgated in its place.

Buddhism failed to obtain any support or weal from the Islamic conquerors because the Muslims sought to convert the Indian population rather than assimilate into it. If for no other reason than conversion to Islam required male circumcision, Indians did not readily agree to become Muslim. This left a large, amorphous population of non-Muslims needing civil order and administrative agencies if long-term occupation were to succeed. The Buddhist religion was at that time entirely maintained by various orders of monks not lay persons and had no influence over the civic or social matters of ordinary Indians. Consequently, Buddhists who did not convert to Islam were wantonly killed and their physical institutions razed to the ground.

Muslim invaders made it a point to extirpate Buddhism from India. They destroyed every vihara, where the monks lived and taught. Thus the 500 viharas built by Ashoka in Kashmir and the 600 feet high stupa built by Kanishka were the first to be destroyed. . . . The invaders also destroyed Taxila and Nalanda, the two great Buddhist universities. The cream of Buddhist scholarship lived here. Thus, every symbol of Buddhism was destroyed as part of a deliberate policy.15

Lacking sufficient other trained civil administrators, the new Muslim rulers simply left the Brahmin-controlled social structure in place without requiring wholesale Brahmin conversion. The Muslims derogatively called everybody who was not a Muslim a "Hindu". Brahmins were simply regarded as the masters of the Hindus.

Moslem Conquest

In the centuries before and after the Christian era, foreign invaders did not face strong military opposition and peacefully settled new kingdoms in India without having to deal with constant rebellions. Greeks, Saksa, Pahlavas, Kusanas, and Hunas all quietly assimilated into Indian society because of the ameliorating effect of the Buddhists tenets of equality, liberty, tolerance, and social harmony on Aryan Brahmanism.16 "To become the sole leaders of the country and to enforce their system of castes has always been the prime motive of Brahmanism."17 As long as Buddhism thrived, they could not achieve this goal.

The pre-Moslem invasions met with only scattered, poorly organized armies. Individual Indian tribes were unwilling to unite forces because Brahmanic ideology led each to consider themselves superior to the others. Consequently, the various Indian states were defeated one-by-one because there was no pooling of resources, unified leadership, or unity of direction among them.

The gateway into India for all invaders was the northwestern region of India (i.e. Afghanistan and Pakistan). For many centuries this remained a Brahman stronghold whose rulers would often form alliances with foreign invaders to overthrow kingdoms who were not sufficiently patronizing to Brahman interests. The ideals of Kshatriya (warrior) caste chivalry also regularly led to internecine conflicts among the Indian kingdoms.18

Around 1000 CE waves of Turkic, Persian, and Afghan Muslims began major incursions through corridors of northwest India. They were able to easily defeat the Indian forces that opposed them by their ability to shoot a crossbow while riding horseback in a cavalry formation. Often no opposition emerged because one or more Brahman kingdom would conclude an alliance that allowed the invaders to proceed unmolested through some part of northwest India. A typical beneficiary of such free passage along parts of an invasion route was Mahmud of Ghazni (979-1040 CE) who carried out ferocious attacks on non-Muslim religions after establishing his base in the Punjab.

The capture of Dehli and the destruction of Nalanda by Turkish Muslims in 1193 marked the nearly complete eradication of Buddhism from India. Islamic conquests of Bihar and Bengal were completed in the 12th century CE. The Kayasthas, a community of scribes, did manage to continue supporting Buddhism in some regions of North India until about the 12th or 13th century CE. Buddhism also managed to survive in the Kashmir valley and nearby Swat valley until the 13th or 14 century CE. In Tamil Nadu and Kerala, Buddhism stayed alive until the 15th or 16th century CE.


US Department of the Army, "Buddhism" in India: A Country Study, (Sep. 1995), downloaded from URL on Apr. 21, 2006.

2 Jamanadas, K., "Conclusion, Chapter 15", Decline and Fall of Buddhism, p. 7, downloaded from URL on Apr. 26, 2006.

3 Goyal, S.R., A Religious History of Ancient India. (Meerut, India: Kusumanjio Prakashan, 1984), p. 369.

4 Singh Baath, Jasrajbir, "The Decline of Buddhism in India", Harvey Cooper Memorial 2000 Award winner, The Sikh Center Roseville, 201 Berkeley Ave., Roseville, CA 95678

5 Goyal, S.R., A Religious History of Ancient India. (Meerut, India: Kusumanjio Prakashan, 1984), p. 368.

6 Klostermaier, Klaus, "Hindu Views of Buddhism," in Roy C. Amore (ed.), Developments in Buddhist Thought: Canadian Contributions to Buddhist Studies. (Waterloo, Canada: Canadian Corporation for Studies in Religion, 1979), p. 66.

7 Basham, A.L., "Review" of R.C. Mitra, The Decline of Buddhism in India (1954), in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 21, No. 1/3 (1958), p. 644.

8 Pals, Daniel L., "Is Religion a Sui Generis Phenomenon?" Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 55, No. 2 (Summer 1987), p. 270.

9 Basham, A.L., "Review" of R.C. Mitra, The Decline of Buddhism in India (1954), in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 21, No. 1/3 (1958), p. 644.

10 Goyal, S.R., A Religious History of Ancient India. (Meerut, India: Kusumanjio Prakashan, 1984), p. 369.

11 Basham, A.L., "Review" of R.C. Mitra, The Decline of Buddhism in India (1954), in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 21, No. 1/3 (1958) , p. 643.

12 Mahmood, Cynthia Keppley, "Sikh Rebellion and the Hindu Concept of Order," Asian Survey, Vol. 29, No. 3, (Mar. 1989), p. 338.

13 US Department of the Army, "Buddhism" in India: A Country Study, (Sep. 1995), downloaded from URL on Apr. 21, 2006.

14 Basham, A.L., "Review" of R.C. Mitra, The Decline of Buddhism in India (1954), in Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Vol. 21, No. 1/3 (1958), p. 645.

15 The Buddhist Channel, "Was Buddhism Driven Out of India?", downloaded from URL on Apr. 23, 2006.

16 Jamanadas, K., "Foreign Invasions and Caste, Chapter 2", Decline and Fall of Buddhism, p. 1, downloaded from URL on Apr. 26, 2006.

17 Jamanadas, K., "Conclusion, Chapter 15", Decline and Fall of Buddhism, p. 2, downloaded from URL on Apr. 26, 2006.

18 Jamanadas, K., "Foreign Invasions and Caste, Chapter 2", Decline and Fall of Buddhism, p. 10, downloaded from URL on Apr. 26, 2006.

Appendix I: TIMELINE

the Decline of Buddhism in India

Pre-historic Pakistan: Original Indus Valley Civilization: meditation, asceticism.

1800 - 1500 BCE. India: Invasion of Aryans in India: introduction of oral Vedas, Brahma, priesthood, caste system, ritual offering.

1500 BCE onwards India: development of (pre-) Hindu schools like Mimamsa, Samkhya, Vedanta.

1500-500 BCE India: The Indo-Aryans compose their religious literature (Vedas) in classical Sanskrit.

624-560 BCE North India: Birth of Siddhartha Gautama

589-525 BCE North India: Enlightenment of the Buddha in Bodhgaya (at age 36). During the full-moon night of July, the Buddha delivers his first discourse near Varanasi, introducing the world to the Four Noble Truths and commencing a 45-year career of teaching the religion he called "Dhamma-vinaya".

590-470 BCE India: Mahavir - Founder of Jainism, contemporary of the Buddha.

544-480 BCE India: Passing away of Gautama Buddha.

6th Century BCE India: the Indo-Aryan form of Brahmanism begins to be transformed into the classical forms of Hinduism under the philosophiocal challenges of Buddhism and Jainism.

543 -479 BCE India: 1st Buddhist Council in Rajaghgraha during the rains retreat following the Buddha's Parinibbana. 500 Arahant Bhikkhus, led by Ven. Mahakassapa, gather to recite the entire body of the Buddha's teachings. The recitation of the Vinaya by Ven. Upali becomes accepted as the Vinaya Pitaka; the recitation of the Dhamma by Ven. Ananda becomes established as the Sutta Pitaka.

443-379 BCE India: 2nd Buddhist Council in Vesali, 100 years after the Buddha's parinirvana, to discuss controversial points of Vinaya. The first schism of the Sangha occurs, in which the Mahasanghika school parts ways with the traditionalist Sthaviravadins. At issue is the Mahasanghika's reluctance to accept the Suttas and the Vinaya as the final authority on the Buddha's teachings. This schism marks the first beginnings of what would later evolve into Mahayana Buddhism.

297 BCE North India: King Asoka (274-236 BCE) converted to Buddhism; Buddhism developed from small local group to state religion. 

247 BCE India: 3rd Buddhist Council, convened by King Asoka at Pataliputra (Patan?) India. Disputes on points of doctrine lead to further schisms, spawning the Sarvastivadin and Vibhajjavadin sects. The two Pitakas are enlarged to include the Abidhamma, forming the Tripitaka (three baskets.)The Abhidhamma Pitaka is recited at the Council. The modern Pali Tipitaka is now essentially complete, although some scholars have suggested that at least two parts of the extant Canon -- the Parivara in the Vinaya, and the Apadana in the Sutta -- may date from a later period. Asoka sends missionaries to Sri Lanka ( his son Mahindra), Kanara, Karnataka, Kashmir, Himalaya region, Burma, Afghanistan and even Egypt, Macedonia and Cyrene. 

240 BCE Sri Lanka: Ven. Mahinda establishes the Mahavihara (Great Monastery) of Anuradhapura, Sri Lanka. The Vibhajjavadin community living there becomes known as the Theravadins. Mahinda's sister, Ven. Sanghamitta, arrives in Sri Lanka with a cutting from the original Bo tree, and establishes the bhikkhuni-sangha (nuns) in Sri Lanka.

236 BCE India: After death of Asoka, period of persecution of Buddhism under Pusyamitra Sunga

185 BCE India: Brahmin general Pusyamitra Sunga overthrows the Mauryan dynasty and establishes the Sunga Empire, starting of wave of persecution against Buddhism.

180 BCE India: Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius invades India as far as Pataliputra, and establishes the Indo-Greek kingdom (180-10 BCE), under which Buddhism flourishes.

c. 150 BCE India: Indo-Greek king Menander I converts to Buddhism under the sage NÄ gasena, according to the account of the Milinda Panha.

1st Cent BCE India: Erection of the great Stupa at Sanchi. The Ratnaguna Samcayagatha--a summary of the Prajna Paramita is written down. This includes the oldest literal reference to Bodhisattva, Mahasattva, and Bodhiyana.

1st Century Sri Lanka: According to Theravadins, during the reign of King Vatta Gamini in Sri Lanka, the Buddhist monks assembled in Aloka Vihara and wrote down the Tripitaka in Pali. Additionally, the oldest surviving Buddhist manuscripts - indeed the oldest surviving Indian manuscripts of any kind - probably date from this period.

94 BCE Sri Lanka: 4th Buddhist Council (acc. to Theravadins) at Cave Aloka in Malaya district - see also 2nd Century India for another '4th Council'.

35 BCE Sri Lanka: King Vattagamani orders the Buddhist teachings (Theravada canon) to be committed to writing. Division between Mahavira and Abhayagiri vihara in Sri Lanka.

148 China: An Shigao, a Parthian prince and Buddhist monk, arrived in China and proceeded to make the first translations of Theravada texts into Chinese.

2nd Century India: Appearance of Mahayana Buddhism as separate school. 4th Buddhist Council in India under royal patron Kaniska. 

100s/200s Vietnam: Indian and Central Asian Buddhists travel to Vietnam.

178 China: The Kushan monk Lokaksema travels to the Chinese capital of Loyang and becomes the first known translator of Mahayana texts into Chinese.

c. 200 India: Buddhist monastic university at Nalanda flourishes; remains a world center of Buddhist study for over 1,000 years.

2nd-3rd Century India: Master Nagarjuna who is often referred to as "the second Buddha" by Tibetan and East Asian Mahayana (Great Vehicle) traditions of Buddhism. Nagarjuna trenchant criticisms of Brahminicand Buddhist substantialist philosophy, theory of knowledge and approaches to practice rested on the central concept of the "emptiness (sunyata) of all things (dharmas)". This emphasized the incessantly changing, intrangient nature of all phenomena to the vexation of opposed Verdic thought.

c. 310-400 North India: The Yoga Practice or Consciousness-Only school (Yogachara) of Mahayana Buddhism is developed through key treatises written by two brothers, Asanga and Vasubandhu. who had converted from Brahaminism. It emphasizes specific meditative practices arguing that all things are conditioned by consciousness, which can be controlled.

320-467 India: The University at Nalanda grew to support 3000-10,000 monks.

320 to 1000 India: Development of Vajrayana Buddhism, based on Mahayana. 

4th Century India: Master Vasubandhu; known for his teachings on mind-only (Cittamatrin) and worship of Amitabha, desire for rebirth in the Pure Land, leading to the development of the later Pure Land schools.

4th Century Sri lanka: King Mahasena introduces Mahayana monks. 

4th-7th Centuries India: Vajrayana or Tantrayana Buddhism emerged from Mahayana Buddhism as the third major vehicle (Yana) of Buddhism alongside Theravada and Mahayana. It offers additional techniques (upaya) to enable lay persons to reach Buddahood in a single lifetime or less. It is a core part of every Tibetan Buddhist school. Tantric Buddhism's emphasis on spiritual physiology utilizes various forms of sexual yoga.

399-414 India: Fa Xian travelled from China to India, then returned to translate Buddhist works in to Chinese.

425 Sri Lanka: Buddhaghosa composes the Visuddhimagga (The Path of Purity) which eventually becomes the classic Sri Lankan textbook on the Buddha's teachings.

485 Japan: Five monks from Gandhara travel to the country of Fusang (Japan, or possibly the American continent), where they introduced Buddhism.

499 India: Monks of the Sarvastivadin school decide on new canon.

c. 550-600 India: Life of Chandrakirti, an abbot of Nalanda, whose works include the Prasannapada (Clear Words), the highly acclaimed commentary on Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, and the Madhyamakavatara, his supplement to Nagarjuna's text,and its auto-commentary. The Madhyamakavatara is used as the main sourcebook by most of the Tibetan monastic colleges in their studies of emptiness and the philosophy of the Madhyamaka school.

6th Century Kashmir: invasion of Huns with persecution of monks. After their departure, slow restoration.

600s India: Xuan Zang travelled to India, noting the persecution of Buddhists by Sasanka (king of Gouda, a state in north-west Bengal), before returning to Chang An in China to translate Buddhist scriptures. End of sporadic Buddhist rule in the Sindh.

c. 689-740 India: The life of the Indian sage, Shantarakshita, abbot of Nalanda University, who is believed to have been instrumental in the introduction of Buddhism to Tibet. He was brought to Tibet at the instigation of King Trisong Detsen, some time before 767 CE, and oversaw the translation of a large body of scriptures into Tibetan.

c. 740-790 Tibet: The life of Kamalashila, a Indian Tantric Buddhist philosopher, who insisted that only after extensive mental and moral training under a master could enlightenment be obtained. His two year debate (792-794) against the Chinese Buddhist monk, Mo-ho-yen, led to the royal establishment of Tantric Buddhism as the state religion of Tibet.

788-820 India: The life of Shankara, an ascetic Hindu philosopher and theologian, who traveled widely arguing against Buddhist atheism and reformed Hinduism with a monistic interpretation of the Vedanta. His Advaita Vedana school of Hinduism ascribed all reality to a single unitary source, identified as "Brahma". He declared all plurality and differentiation as nothing but an illusion. Shankara founds five Hindu universities to propagate his philosophy.

700s Afghanistan: Under the reign of King Trisong Deutsen, Padmasambhava traveled from Afghanistan to establish Tantric Buddhism in Tibet (later known as the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism), replacing Bonpo as the kingdom's main religion. Buddhism quickly spreads to Sikkim and Bhutan.

7th and 8th Century Kashmir: revival of Buddhism, strong influence of tantric schools. 

810 India: King Devapala (ca. 810-845) donates the "income of five villages" for the founding and preservation of a Buddhist Library and Sutra copying facility at the Nalanda Universities.

c. 1000 India: Waves of Turkic, Persian, and Afghan Muslim invaders begin to male major incursions through the corridors of northwest India.

979-1040 India: Mahmud of Ghazni carries out ferocious attacks on non-Muslims after estab lishing his base in the Punjab.

10th and 11th Century Sri Lanka: disruption of Sri Lankan sangha by Tamil Nadu invaders. Lineage of nun ordination dies out

1050 Sri Lanka: disruption of sangha by Tamil Nadu invaders. Lineage of nuns ordination dies out.

1070 Sri Lanka: reinstatement of monks ordination 

1097-1233 India: Senas gain rule of Bengal from the Pala kings and promoted Hindu Saivism while pushing Buddhist out toward Tibet.

11-13th Centuries India: Encounter with Islam, iconoclasm, decline of (mainly Mahayana) Buddhism in Northern India. Sacking of Nalanda university in 1197, and Vikramasila University in 1203 by Muslims. 

1164 Sri Lanka: Polonnaruwa destroyed by foreign invasion. With the guidance of two monks from a forest branch of the Mahavihara sect -- Vens. Mahakassapa and Sariputta -- King Parakramabahu reunites all bhikkhus in Sri Lanka into the Mahavihara sect. 

1192 & 1194Pakistan: The Afghan raider opens up the passage ways to the Gangetic plains of the Indian heartland.

1193 India: The Turkish Commander, Qutb-ud-Din captures Dehli, Turkic -Islamic warriors under Muhammad Khilji raze the Buddist university at Nalanda.

12th Century Sri Lanka: King Parrakama Bahu abolishes schools other than Mahavira

1236 Shri Lanka: monks from India revive monk ordination lineage.

15th Century India: Final decline of Buddhism in Southern India, due to influence of various Hindu schools.

16th Century: Sri Lanka; persecution and virtual eradication of Buddhism.

17th Century Sri Lanka: reintroduction of Dharma twice from Burma (same as original tradition)

1753 Sri Lanka: reinstatement of monks ordination from Thailand - the Siyam Nikaya lineage.

c. 1860 Sri Lanka: against all expectations, the monastic and lay community brought about a major revival in Buddhism, a movement that went hand in hand with growing nationalism. The revival followed a period of persecution by foreign powers. Since then Buddhism has flourished and Sri Lankan monks and expatriate lay people have been prominent in spreading Theravada Buddhism in Asia, the West and even in Africa.

1879 Burma: A council was convened under the patronage of King Mindon of Burma to re-edit the Pali canon. The king then had the texts engraved on 729 stones, which were then set upright on the grounds of a monastery near Mandalay.

1949 India: Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya is returned to partial Buddhist control.

1950 Sri Lanka: World Fellowship of Buddhists is founded in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

1956 India: Indian untouchable leader B. R. Ambedkar converts to Buddhism with more than 350,000 followers, beginning the modern Neo-Buddhist movement.

1966 Sri Lanka: World Buddhist Sangha Council convened by Theravadins in Sri Lanka with the hope of bridging differences and working together. The first convention was attended by leading monks, from many countries and sects, Mahayana as well as Theravada. Nine Basic Points Unifying the Theravada and Mahayana written by Ven. Walpola Rahula were approved unanimously;

2004 Sri Lanka: Buddhist monks acting as candidates for the Jaathika Hela Urumaya party win nine seats in elections.

Appendix II

Nine basic points Uniting Therevada and Mahayana Buddhism

1. The Buddha is our only Master.

2. We take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.

3. We do not believe that this world is created and ruled by a God.

4. We consider that the purpose of life is to develop compassion for all living beings without discrimination and to work for their good, happiness, and peace; and to develop wisdom leading to the realization of Ultimate Truth

5. We accept the Four Noble Truths, namely Dukkha, the Arising of Dukkha, the Cessation of Dukkha, and the Path leading to the Cessation of Dukkha; and the law of cause and effect (Pratitya-samutpada)

6. All conditioned things (samskaara) are impermanent (anitya) and dukkha, and that all conditioned and unconditioned things (dharma) are without self (anaatma).

7. We accept the Thirty-seven Qualities conducive to Enlightenment (bodhipak-sadharma) as different aspects of the Path taught by the Buddha leading to Enlightenment.

8. There are three ways of attaining bodhi or Enlightenment: namely as a disciple (sraavaka), as a Pratyeka-Buddha and as a Samyak-sam-Buddha (Perfectly and Fully Enlightened Buddha). We accept it as the highest, noblest, and most heroic to follow the career of a Bodhisattva and to become a Samyak-sam-Buddha in order to save others.

9. We admit that in different countries there are differences regarding Buddhist beliefs and practices. These external forms and expressions should not be confused with the essential teachings of the Buddha.

-Walpola Rahula

--By Rev. Herbert Jensen


The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

The Universal Life Church offers handfasting ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and free minister training.

As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge selection of Universal Life Church  minister supplies. Since being ordained with the Universal Life Church for so many years and it's Seminary since the beginning, I've watch the huge change and growth that has continued to happen.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Religious Philosophy

Religious Philosophy at ULC Seminary

Rev. Vicki A Bennett D.D.

This course gave me huge amounts of information to contemplate about how we came to create religions and the theories were quite illuminating, but the question still remains, ‘Why do we need to create gods?’ And better yet, why create them and then spend time erecting huge buildings to them so that we can then ‘worship’ our creation? 

I have been pondering this question for years, I mean, who was the first human who said, ‘I have seen/felt something that I can't describe and so there must be someone/something out there greater than us. Let us call this being ‘God’.

Who was this first human who came up with the word, ‘God’? And how did that word come to be synonymous with a being who created the universe and all the beings in it? And is the theory of the three great problems of life, conflicts against nature, against others and against ourselves really giving us an answer?

In college, I studied anthropology (cultural and physical) and was struck by a number of what I considered dichotomies in the theory of evolution. When we look at a particular culture, we analyze their way of life by certain critical criteria. First we assess their language skills and then writing (literature or history) and finally architecture or building skills.

If evolution is the way we all came to be here then why didn’t we evolve together? Why the great disparity in our abilities and skills? How can great civilizations evolve without spreading throughout the planet? What happened to the ‘hundredth monkey’ theory while all this was taking place?

We have the Greeks, Romans and Chinese building great civilizations with modern architecture, sewer systems, aqueducts and roads and the Egyptians and Mayans building huge pyramids and temples. Math, astronomy, philosophy and literature are commonplace as is the worship of gods, lots of gods.

We also have the tribal cultures at the same time and place; living in mud huts, teepees, etc. worshiping the god of thunder, of harvest, grandfather sun and grandmother moon. In the tribal cultures we see language skills, but oral tradition only and no architecture other than the basic needs for shelter.

Why the great disparity between the cultures? What drives one culture to become philosophers, engineers, architects and world conquerors and another to live in harmony with nature? Could it somehow be related to the search within? Could the perception of the spiritual experience somehow shape an entire civilization?

We would have to conclude that for the majority of the planet’s religions interaction with others is the major point love one another as you love yourself’ and the golden rule. So the search for truth is superseded by society’s need for morality and law. And yet sin (disobedience) is the norm and so the church has to institute a ‘sacrament’ for forgiveness as a way to keep its members coming back into the fold.

The more traditional (native) faiths are based on the premise that all life is sacred (the natural problem) and that everyone has something important to contribute to the tribe. Every member is supposed to follow their spiritual path because as one becomes a spiritual warrior he/she acts for the betterment of the entire tribe. The Lakota say, ‘Mitakuye Oyasin’ meaning ‘we are all one’(it translates to ‘all my relations’) but when they greet you, they mean that everything is connected to the One, The Great Spirit. And that connectedness includes every animal, rock and tree.

So what is the common thread that unites us in our need to create gods? Is it the three great problems of life as Russell and Smith so elegantly describe them? Is it merely a question of how to get people to behave morally and ethically? Or is it something deeper and much harder to explain?

I think that it is something much deeper and impossible to classify, something broader than the three great problems. From my personal experience, there is something unreachable, something ‘built-in that if we try to ignore, comes back again and again until we follow it. And then again I could just have an enormous amount of reuptake receptors in my brain’ I was raised Catholic, found them to be hypocritical when it came to their treatment of women or anyone who questioned the dogma that we were just asked to swallow blindly. I asked to be excommunicated when I was a junior in high school. (Long story, don’t ask...)

I tumbled through college, marriage, divorce, more college, another marriage, grad school, another divorce’ when suddenly something unexpected came tugging at me. ‘Who am I and why am I here? ’ok’ well, I am an artist and a college professor and I don’t know.
I missed that ‘feeling’ for lack of a better term that I had felt in childhood, that sense of spirit that had been so easy.
But the memory of the church was one of bitterness and frustration, so where do I go? The Catholic Church did not allow us to read the bible on our own, as we would after all, not be able to understand what god was really saying and go on to misinterpret the entire thing and then be swayed by Satan.

So I joined a bible study group that met at the university and I experienced a resurgence of the spirituality that I had had as a child. But then the darkness came again. The group was a Christian fellowship and started pressuring me to join and be one of them. They were even more anti-woman than the Catholics and had several of the women there come and speak with me’meaning, tell me how I was expected to act as a member of their church.

And to them, as I had been divorced twice, I was expected not to date at all. I was forbidden to date any of the men in the fellowship as I was a ‘fallen woman’and I was forbidden to date outside of the fellowship as those men where not ‘saved’and would lead me to Satan (again).

The whole idea of aligning myself with another group of people who were sincere in their attempt to control me ruined the new spiritual experience and I broke away from them, put my bible away and felt completely lost.

I decided to attempt therapy to see if the answers were somewhere within me and I just couldn’t reach them. One day my therapist said to me, ‘You need to remember that you are a spiritual being having a physical experience.'

That one sentence changed my life. I realized that what I was searching for couldn’t be answered by psychology or religion; I needed to be able to get in touch with my own spirituality. Suddenly I found millions of people who were searching just as I was. Spirituality was a single path, one that you walked alone. The search was deep within and once the path was started, it led you along to the final road.
I suddenly saw my life as a swiftly flowing stream and decided that I had one of two choices, I could swim against the flow and fight like hell to reach what I believed to be a safe shore, or I could just lie back and allow it to take me to my final destination. The moment I stopped fighting the flow and allowed my life to just be, I was led to one person after another who challenged my way of thinking and pushed me to the next level where I met another person or experience that led me forward.
There was no longer a need to belong to a group who thought like I did; no need to bask in the safety of an organized religion, just peace within. I taught myself to meditate for hours, to release my spirit from my body and soar above the earth and beyond.

Every person who came into my life taught me something new, some new way to ‘see’ the path I was on. The simple act of opening to any and all experiences with the eyes of a child, unbiased, non-judgmental, just allowing everything to be, gave me back the sense of who I was and what I was here for.

I spent 8 years with the Lakota sharing sweat lodges and dancing with them and I finally took my refuge vows (Buddhist) last summer at the Dharma Center. So after 24 years walking my spiritual path, I practice a mix of Buddhist/Native American beliefs, but I do not belong to any group. For me the studies with the Lakota and Buddhist teachers were just a part of my path and not the entirety. I know that my path lies within me and that no other person or set of beliefs other than my own will make me whole.

What I have found in my personal search is that Enlightenment is the only true path and all obstacles must be overcome along the way. I believe that if everyone simply followed their own path, we would have no need for organized religions and we could all become ONE. And in becoming aware of our unity, we would finally realize that we are God.


The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

The Universal Life Church offers handfasting ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and free minister training.

As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge selection of Universal Life Church  minister supplies. Since being ordained with the Universal Life Church for so many years and it's Seminary since the beginning, I've watch the huge change and growth that has continued to happen.

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Paganism For A New Age

It is amazing how the various paths and aspects of Paganism resonate through out many religions, spiritual paths and even secular life. Yet, still, Paganism (and its various branches) is considered a minority religion and still a victim of misunderstanding and persecution. I truly believe that organizations such as The Universal Life Church and The ULC Seminary are potential catalysts for understanding and cooperation among various spiritual paths.

Paganism for a new age. I love this title. Pagans here in the Twenty First Century are obviously different from the Pagans of Old. It is true that much of ancient Paganism has been lost, but much more of it still exists today than most people are willing to admit. However, just because it was once done one way does not mean this is the appropriate way today. Also, today's proper way may not work tomorrow. The teacher of this course obviously understands that concept and I appreciate this teacher's willingness to pass that on to the students.

Paganism is a pro-active, experienced based spiritual path. One can study the philosophy and theology of Paganism for ages and never begin to understand the intricacies until the person actually practices Paganism. This is a hands on, get yourself dirty, go out and practice it way of life. The teacher emphasized this aspect in just about every lesson by not just giving the student words to read, but actual things to do. Light a candle and focus, learn meditative breathing, commune with Divine Spirit. These are just a few of the practices touched upon. No matter how often you read about these concepts, one can never truly understand until it is actually done.

By Rev. Jon Denny


The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

The Universal Life Church offers handfasting ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and free minister training.

As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge selection of Universal Life Church  minister supplies. Since being ordained with the Universal Life Church for so many years and it's Seminary since the beginning, I've watch the huge change and growth that has continued to happen.

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A Course in Miracles

A Course in Miracles
First of all, I would like to say that I have enjoyed this class so very much. I looked forward to my weekly discourses. Loretta does an amazing job of telling it like it is, in a clear, kind and loving way.

In my darkest night, I reached out, and there was light.

I found all the classes in this course to be of great interest. However Discourse 11, Letting go of the past, has been the story of my life. To me, letting go of the past is total and complete forgiveness. We can not totally heal our bodies until we totally forgive. Forgiveness is not a momentary thought, it's ongoing. There will always be someone to forgive.

"The Holy Spirit teaches you that your past cannot touch you in the purity of the present moment" This is a profound statement!

To err is human, to forgive is divine. Alexander Pope, An Essay on Criticism
English poet & satirist (1688 - 1744)

I totally relate to true forgiveness. After an extremely abusive childhood, I spent my late teenage years and early twenties contemplating ‘Why me?’ I read self help books, I made changes in my life, however, the nagging question of why me remained. I didn’t have great stories to share with my friends about early childhood or teenage years. It was when I realized that I had life lessons to be learned that I could forgive, let go and move on.

I thought it was all over, I loved my parents, I saw them, I laughed with them, but still there were some deep seated issues that had not been totally forgiven, I just wasn’t aware of what they were.

I had developed fibromyalgia, which is extremely painful. It was painful to raise my arms above my head, almost impossible. When my legs started giving out, I knew I had to do something fast.

I had a 12 year old son and there was no way, this was going to slow me down. I did many things to get rid of this disease, but one of the most important things I did was to forgive. It was in the darkest night that I reached out and found light.. Through many meditations and hypnosis I was able to let go of not only issues with an extremely abusive childhood but also physical pain. Today I am free of fibromyalgia, I am one of the lucky ones. Every time a pain seeps back, I work on forgiveness.

I believe that forgiveness is a very personal issue, sometimes in forgiving the other person doesn't know they have been forgiven. They may not even be aware they have done something to offend you. You forgive in the quietness of your heart, expect nothing in return other than a release, you enjoy the burden that has been lifted from your shoulders, from your heart. It is the cutting of the etherical cord that has been holding you back for so long.

It is interesting to note how different religions view forgiveness,

The Buddhist say forgiveness is necessary for good emotional health

Christianity says it is our duty as a Christian and that is why Jesus died for us. It is part of The Lord’s prayer.

The Hindus see people who can forgive to be very powerful

Islam’s say that forgiveness is necessary for peace

In Judaism, Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) when Jews ask for forgiveness of those they have done wrong to them the previous year.

There is actually a designated day of forgiveness, last year it was August 6, 2006 sponsored by the Wordwide Forgiveness Alliance. Forgiveness is necessary by everyone; for everyone as if we are going to have World Peace.

I like the meditation that Loretta offered in discourse 11. I would also like to suggest if you are forgiving childhood issues that you do a meditation to address your inner child, showing your inner child love and promising to protect it from future related issues.

Rev. Nancy Kuhn


The Universal Life Church is a comprehensive online seminary where we have classes in Christianity, Wicca, Paganism, two courses in Metaphysics and much more. I have been a proud member of the ULC for many years and the Seminary since its inception.

The Universal Life Church offers handfasting ceremonies, funeral ceremonies and free minister training.

As a long time member of ULC, Rev. Long created the seminary site to help train our ministers. We also have a huge selection of Universal Life Church  minister supplies. Since being ordained with the Universal Life Church for so many years and it's Seminary since the beginning, I've watch the huge change and growth that has continued to happen.

Try our new free toolbar at: ULC Toolbar