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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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Master of Buddhism Essay

Master of Buddhism Essay

The Master of Buddhism course by Tricia Stirling was instructive and very helpful in jogging my memories of Buddhism classes long ago.  She lays out the history of Buddhism, its legends and its evolution in a concise way that holds your attention and keep you looking forward to the next lesson.  Particularly useful, is the way she quotes from Buddhist scriptures and gives references to where you can look for more information in each particular form of Buddhism be it Theravada (teaching of the elders), Hinayana (the lesser vehicle), Mayahana (the greater vehicle), Vajrayana (the diamond vehicle) and all the subdivisions derived from them. 

In past studies of Buddhism, I was struck with core similarities between Buddhism and mystic Christianity.  I was reminded of this again as I read through the lessons of this course, in particular the one on monasticism.  Christians seek union with God which relieves us from our suffering, Buddhists seek release from the suffering and the cycle of rebirth.  In Christianity, it's taught that God is love (1 John 4:8) and so when a Christian is told that the greatest commandment is to "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." (Matt. 22:36-40), they are essentially being told to Love the Greatest Love with all their heart, mind, and soul, and to love others as themselves.  In Buddhism, compassion and love for those who are in the midst of the cycle of rebirth leads Buddhists to help guide others to their release and to also be filled with compassion and love.  Love and desiring to help others to be released from the bondage of behaviors that bind them to their inner darkness are both present in the two religions. 

Accepting the five precepts was another similarity I found with Christianity.  In the 15th lesson, it's stressed that to go against the five precepts after taking them on was to be in a worse state than before accepting the five precepts. The same has been said about Christians after baptism, that to return to a previous state of sin (or in Buddhism, it would be wrong living), is worse than not to have accepted the faith at all.  There are many such parallels between the two religions.  The point system described in this lesson assigned to meritorious deeds is also like the Catholic system of indulgences, as well as the practice of going on pilgrimages to places their religious leaders were born, preached, or performed miracles at. 

An ideal set forward to Christians, to seek first the Kingdom of Heaven, is very similar to what is found in The Teaching of Buddha, published by Bukkyo Dendo Kyokai, Tokyo,  "Lay followers should always keep in mind that sooner or later they will be obliged to part with their parents and families and pass away from this life of birth and death; therefore, they should not become attached to things of this life but should set their minds on the world of Enlightenment wherein nothing passes away."  It's nice to see this much harmony in the spiritual traditions.  I can see why Thomas Merton was drawn to Buddhism as well as to his own faith. 

This course sets out the different paths of Buddhism, goes into the practices of laypeople, and provides history and background that makes it sensible and easy to understand.  I'd definitely recommend this course to anyone seeking to learn more about Buddhism.

Rev. Janet

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