Wednesday, February 09, 2011
BUDDHISM COURSE ESSAY
John Ozanich D.D.
Of the several ULC Seminary courses I’ve taken, the Buddhist Studies course is by far the most well written, well organized, informative and easy to read course. It is the only course I’ve yet encountered that provided a lesson outline so that the student was aware of where they were in the course lesson by lesson. It flowed quite well, expounding and defining what was necessary as it went and structuring important fundamentals in a logical way.
From the course, I learned the important fundamentals of the Buddhist faith. I learned of the life of the first Buddha, Siddartha Gautama and what trials brought him to a place of enlightenment, of his travels and experiences, some of his specific lessons to his disciples and how he used the knowledge gained to try to aid other in also following his path to enlightenment. I learned the initial requirement of taking refuge under the protection and guidance of The Three Jewels – the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. The levels of refuge and method of requesting refuge were covered:
To the Buddha for refuge I go !
To the Dharma for refuge I go !
To the Sangha for refuge I go!
The Four Noble Truths are the basis of Buddhist philosophy.
1. Dukkha – all worldly life is suffering
2. Samudaya – the cause of suffering is attachment
3. Nirodha – there is an end to suffering (Nirvana)
4. Marga – the path to Nirvana is the Eight Fold Path
Samsara is the repeating cycle of suffering, living and dying for the unenlightened. It is represented by a six-spoked wheel dividing existence into six categories:
1. the World of Gods
2. the World of Titans
3. the World of Humans
4. the World of Animals
5. the World of Hungry Ghosts
6. the World of Hell
I then learned of the Buddhist councils convened after the Buddha’s death to continue coordinating the Sangha and resolves questions which arose from time to time. The initial council was convened after concerns about faithful and consistent following of the Buddha’s teachings arose. Mahakashyapa convened the council with over 500 arhats where they recited the teachings of Buddha to ensure all was known and consistent among them. 100 years after the Buddha’s death, the second Buddhist council convened due to a rift in the Sangha. A contingent of the Sangha felt that the Elders were interpreting the teaching of the Buddha too rigidly. The disagreement led to the first major rift in the Buddhist faith. The Elders continued a rigid application of the Buddha’s teachings while the others split off. The Elders became the Theravada (“Way of Elders”) branch while the others formed the Mahayana (“Great Vehicle”) tradition. While both revere the Buddha, the Theravada believe the primary goals is to become arhats while the Mahayana tradition believes the primary goal is to become bodhisattva. While arhats will achieve enlightenment to pass into parinirvana, bodhisattva will stay within this realm to help others achieve enlightenment. Some time after the Second Buddhist Council, King Ashoka reigned. After a period of bloody conquest, he came to be appalled and regret the consequences of his brutality. He turned to Buddhism to amend his ways and eventually became a major contributor to the Buddhist faith. Ashoko’s influence became the foundation of the spread of Buddhism throughout the world.
We learned of the history of the current Tibetan Dalai Lama, the history of the current situation between Tibet and China, and the struggles of the Dalai Lama to liberate his people from Chinese occupation.
Finally, I learned of Buddhist virtues, the Four Immeasurables:
1. Loving kindness
And also learned of the Six Perfections of a Bodhisattva:
2. Ethical behavior
4. Joyous effort
Awesome course !
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