The origin of Buddhism in America can be traced to Chinese immigrants who began to appear on the West Coast in the 1840s. By 1852, around 20,000 Chinese were present in California, and within a decade, nearly one-tenth of the state’s population was Chinese.
Japanese Buddhism developed more slowly in America than the Chinese form, but had much greater impact. By 1890, the Japanese population in the United States was barely 2,000. The World Parliament of Religion, held in 1893, radically changed the landscape for Japanese Buddhism in America. Among the participants was a Rinzai Zen monk, Shaku So[UNK]en, who returned to America in 1905, lecturing in several cities, and establishing a basic ground for the entry of Zen. Upon his return to Japan in 1906, three of his students were selected to promote Rinzai in America: Nyo[UNK]gen Senzaki, Shaku So[UNK]katsu, and Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki.
Rinzai was one of several Zen traditions to develop in America. So[UNK]to[UNK] Zen began to appear in America in the 1950s, and by the mid-1950s, Soyu Matsuoka Ro[UNK]shi had established the Chicago Buddhist Temple. Shunryu Suzuki Ro[UNK]shi arrived in San Francisco in 1959, founding the San Francisco Zen Center shortly thereafter. His (mostly Western) successors continued the So[UNK]to[UNK] lineage. Another form of Zen that took root in America attempts to harmonize the major doctrines and practices of each school into a unified whole. Proponents of this approach include Taizan Maezumi Ro[UNK]shi (who arrived in 1956), Hakuun Yasutani Ro[UNK]shi (who first visited the United States in 1962), and Philip Kapleau. Also significant are Robert Aitken Ro[UNK]shi, who founded the Diamond Sangha in Hawaii in 1959, Eido[UNK] Shimano Ro[UNK]shi, who first came to the United States as a translator for Yasutani Ro[UNK]shi, and Joshu Sasaki Ro[UNK]shi, who founded the Cimarron Zen Center in Los Angeles in 1968 and the Mt. Baldy Zen Center three years later.
Zen was not the only Japanese Buddhist tradition to make an appearance in America before the turn of the twentieth century. In 1899 two Japanese missionaries were sent to San Francisco to establish the Buddhist Mission of North America, an organization associated with the Pure Land school of Japanese Buddhism. Reincorporated in 1944 as the Buddhist Churches of America, it remains one of the most stable Buddhist communities in North America.
In the 1960s, another form of Japanese Buddhism, now known as So[UNK]ka Gakkai International-USA, appeared on the American landscape, and by 1974 it boasted over 200,000 members. This group grew out of the So[UNK]ka Gakkai movement in Japan, a nonmeditative form of Buddhism that based its teachings on the thirteenth century figure Nichiren (1222–1282). Although the group splintered in the late twentieth century, it remained a formidable Buddhist presence in America, having become extremely attractive to European American and African American Buddhists.
At the same time the Chinese were once again making their presence visible in American Buddhism. One notable addition was a largely monastic group known as the Dharma Realm Buddhist Association, created by a venerable monk named Hsüan-Hua. Of even larger size was the Hsi-Lai Temple outside Los Angeles, founded in 1978, and eventually offering a wide variety of Buddhist teachings and services. By 2002 Chinese Buddhist groups could be found in virtually every major metropolitan area.
The Buddhist culture to enter America most recently is the Tibetan. Although a few Tibetan Buddhist groups appeared in the West prior to 1960, the majority came after China’s invasion and occupation of their country. Communities from each of the four major Tibetan sects can now be found in America. The Tibetan groups were the most colorful of all the Buddhist groups prospering in late twentieth century America, possessing a rich tradition of Buddhist art and a powerful psychological approach to mental health. In the early 2000s they continued to grow rapidly.
The final sectarian tradition to be considered is that of the Therava[UNK]da. Most recently, groups from Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Myanmar migrated to the United States to escape the economic and political uncertainty of their native countries. Therava[UNK]da temples sprang up in the Southeast Asian enclaves of major cities. The Therava[UNK]dabased Vipassana[UNK] movement became the most attractive form of this tradition among Euro-Americans.
Five areas of institutional concern can be outlined in the American Buddhist tradition: ethnicity, practice, democratization, engagement, and adaptation. Two questions help to contextualize these mutually influencing issues: first, how Buddhist identity is determined, and finally, the degree to which ecumenicity might play a role in providing a unifying instrument for the exceedingly diverse spectrum of Buddhist traditions in North America.
Who is a Buddhist? Identifying and quantifying American Buddhists has been an important issue. By the mid-1990s, scholars estimated the American Buddhist population to be four to five million. Although there were many possible methods of determining Buddhist identity in America, the most accepted approach was that of self identification. This approach allowed each group to be counted regardless of how they interpreted and practiced Buddhism.
Ethnicity. One late twentieth century attempt to quantify the American Buddhist population estimated that of the total Buddhist population in the United States, perhaps 800,000 were Euro-American convert Buddhists. This suggested that the vast majority of Buddhists in America were Asian immigrants. The relationship between Asian American Buddhists and converted Buddhists was tenuous.
Practice. There was no disagreement among researchers that Asian immigrant Buddhist communities and American convert communities engaged in significantly different expressions of Buddhist practice. The general consensus was that American converts gravitate toward the various meditation traditions, while Asian immigrants maintain practices consistent with ritual activity or Pure Land observance.
Democratization. While Asian Buddhism was, for the most part, primarily hierarchical and highly authoritarian, the forms of American Buddhism that developed in the late twentieth century underwent a process of democratization. It could be observed in changing patterns of authority in the various Buddhist sanghas, or communities, highlighted by a reevaluation of the relationship between the monastic and lay communities. Second, democratization could be witnessed in changing gender roles in American Buddhism, especially in the prominence of women. Finally, it could be seen in the manner in which individuals pursuing a nontraditional lifestyle, particularly with regard to sexual preferences, found a meaningful role in American Buddhist communities.
Engagement. “Socially engaged Buddhism” has application to a wide variety of general human rights issues, such as antiviolence and environmental concerns, but also to the lives of individual Buddhists. The greatest challenge for socially engaged Buddhism in the West is organizational. In the early 2000s, it was far less developed in its organizational patterns and strategies than its Christian or Jewish counterparts. Nonetheless, an exciting array of activities could be documented in the records of the individual American Buddhist communities.
Adaptation. Perhaps the one issue that dominated the early comprehensive books on American Buddhism was adaptation or acculturation. As one early researcher asked, “Is there a characteristically American style of Buddhism?” Some North American Buddhists were concerned about the implications of altering the Buddhist tradition in the name of adaptation. American Buddhism has created, in addition to its distinct practices, a series of enterprises that Asian Buddhism never imagined: residential communities, businesses, farms, hospices, publishing companies, meditation products, cottage industries, and the like. Critics worried that these innovations represented a distraction from the purpose of Buddhist practice.
Ecumenicism. In each of the issues cited above, it is possible to discern the need for cooperative discussions between American Buddhists of all traditions. In July 1987, a conference on world Buddhism in North America was sponsored by the Zen Lotus Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan. It included a wide variety of talks, panel discussions, and meetings in an effort to bring together representatives of the Buddhist traditions in America to work together toward common goals. In the end, they sought to create a protective umbrella under which the issues of ethnicity, practice, democratization, engagement, and adaptation could be addressed productively, ushering in a successful future for the Buddhist movement in America.
Morreale, Don, ed. The Complete Guide to Buddhist America. Boston: Shambhala, 1998.
Prebish, Charles S. Luminous Passage: The Practice and Study of Buddhism in America. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
Prebish, Charles S. and Kenneth K. Tanaka, eds. The Faces of Buddhism in America. Berkeley: The University of California Press, 1998.
Seager, Richard. Buddhism in America. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.
Williams, Duncan Ryu[UNK]ken and Christopher S. Queen, eds. American Buddhism: Methods and Findings in Recent Scholar-ship. Surrey, U.K.: Curzon Press, 1999.
The basic doctrines of early Buddhism, which remain common to all Buddhism, include the “four noble truths”: existence is suffering (dukhka); suffering has a cause, namely craving and attachment (trishna); there is a cessation of suffering, which is nirvana; and there is a path to the cessation of suffering, the “eightfold path” of right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration. Buddhism characteristically describes reality in terms of process and relation rather than entity or substance.
Experience is analyzed into five aggregates (skandhas). The first, form (rupa), refers to material existence; the following four, sensations (vedana), perceptions (samjna), psychic constructs (samskara), and consciousness (vijnana), refer to psychological processes. The central Buddhist teaching of non-self (anatman) asserts that in the five aggregates no independently existent, immutable self, or soul, can be found. All phenomena arise in interrelation and in dependence on causes and conditions, and thus are subject to inevitable decay and cessation. The casual conditions are defined in a 12-membered chain called dependent origination (pratityasamutpada) whose links are: ignorance, predisposition, consciousness, name-form, the senses, contact, craving, grasping, becoming, birth, old age, and death, whence again ignorance.
With this distinctive view of cause and effect, Buddhism accepts the pan-Indian presupposition of samsara, in which living beings are trapped in a continual cycle of birth-and-death, with the momentum to rebirth provided by one’s previous physical and mental actions (see karma). The release from this cycle of rebirth and suffering is the total transcendence called nirvana.
From the beginning, meditation and observance of moral precepts were the foundation of Buddhist practice. The five basic moral precepts, undertaken by members of monastic orders and the laity, are to refrain from taking life, stealing, acting unchastely, speaking falsely, and drinking intoxicants. Members of monastic orders also take five additional precepts: to refrain from eating at improper times, from viewing secular entertainments, from using garlands, perfumes, and other bodily adornments, from sleeping in high and wide beds, and from receiving money. Their lives are further regulated by a large number of rules known as the Pratimoksa. The monastic order (sangha) is venerated as one of the “three jewels,” along with the dharma, or religious teaching, and the Buddha. Lay practices such as the worship of stupas (burial mounds containing relics) predate Buddhism and gave rise to later ritualistic and devotional practices.
India during the lifetime of the Buddha was in a state of religious and cultural ferment. Sects, teachers, and wandering ascetics abounded, espousing widely varying philosophical views and religious practices. Some of these sects derived from the Brahmanical tradition (see Hinduism), while others opposed the Vedic and Upanishadic ideas of that tradition. Buddhism, which denied both the efficacy of Vedic ritual and the validity of the caste system, and which spread its teachings using vernacular languages rather than Brahmanical Sanskrit, was by far the most successful of the heterodox or non-Vedic systems. Buddhist tradition tells how Siddhartha Gautama, born a prince and raised in luxury, renounced the world at the age of 29 to search for an ultimate solution to the problem of the suffering innate in the human condition. After six years of spiritual discipline he achieved the supreme enlightment and spent the remaining 45 years of his life teaching and establishing a community of monks and nuns, the sangha, to continue his work.
After the Buddha’s death his teachings were orally transmitted until the 1st cent. B.C., when they were first committed to writing (see Buddhist literature; Pali). Conflicting opinions about monastic practice as well as religious and philosophical issues, especially concerning the analyses of experience elaborated as the systems of Abhidharma, probably caused differing sects to flourish rapidly. Knowledge of early differences is limited, however, because the earliest extant written version of the scriptures (1st cent. A.D.) is the Pali canon of the Theravada school of Sri Lanka. Although the Theravada [doctrine of the elders] is known to be only one of many early Buddhist schools (traditionally numbered at 18), its beliefs as described above are generally accepted as representative of the early Buddhist doctrine. The ideal of early Buddhism was the perfected saintly sage, arahant or arhat, who attained liberation by purifying self of all defilements and desires.
The Rise of Mahayana Buddhism
The positions advocated by Mahayana [great vehicle] Buddhism, which distinguishes itself from the Theravada and related schools by calling them Hinayana [lesser vehicle], evolved from other of the early Buddhist schools. The Mahayana emerges as a definable movement in the 1st cent. B.C., with the appearance of a new class of literature called the Mahayana sutras. The main philosophical tenet of the Mahayana is that all things are empty, or devoid of self-nature (see sunyata). Its chief religious ideal is the bodhisattva, which supplanted the earlier ideal of the arahant, and is distinguished from it by the vow to postpone entry into nirvana (although meriting it) until all other living beings are similarly enlightened and saved.
The bodhisattva is an actual religious goal for lay and monastic Buddhists, as well as the name for a class of celestial beings who are worshiped along with the Buddha. The Mahayana developed doctrines of the eternal and absolute nature of the Buddha, of which the historical Buddha is regarded as a temporary manifestation. Teachings on the intrinsic purity of consciousness generated ideas of potential Buddhahood in all living beings. The chief philosophical schools of Indian Mahayana were the Madhyamika, founded by Nagarjuna (2d cent. A.D.), and the Yogacara, founded by the brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu (4th cent. A.D.). In this later Indian period, authors in different schools wrote specialized treatises, Buddhist logic was systematized, and the practices of Tantra came into prominence.
The Spread of Buddhism
In the 3d cent. B.C. the Indian emperor Asoka greatly strengthened Buddhism by his support and sent Buddhist missionaries as far afield as Syria. In succeeding centuries, however, the Hindu revival initiated the gradual decline of Buddhism in India. The invasions of the White Huns (6th cent.) and the Muslims (11th cent.) were also significant factors behind the virtual extinction of Buddhism in India by the 13th cent.
In the meantime, however, its beliefs had spread widely. Sri Lanka was converted to Buddhism in the 3d cent. B.C., and Buddhism has remained its national religion. After taking up residence in Sri Lanka, the Indian Buddhist scholar Buddhaghosa (5th cent. A.D.) produced some of Theravada Buddhism’s most important scholastic writings. In the 7th cent. Buddhism entered Tibet, where it has flourished, drawing its philosophical influences mainly from the Madhyamika, and its practices from the Tantra.
Buddhism came to SE Asia in the first five centuries A.D. All Buddhist schools were initially established, but the surviving forms today are mostly Theravada. About the 1st cent. A.D. Buddhism entered China along trade routes from central Asia, initiating a four-century period of gradual assimilation. In the 3d and 4th cent. Buddhist concepts were interpreted by analogy with indigenous ideas, mainly Taoist, but the work of the great translators Kumarajiva and Hsüan-tsang provided the basis for better understanding of Buddhist concepts.
The 6th cent. saw the development of the great philosophical schools, each centering on a certain scripture and having a lineage of teachers. Two such schools, the T’ien-t’ai and the Hua-Yen, hierarchically arranged the widely varying scriptures and doctrines that had come to China from India, giving preeminence to their own school and scripture. Branches of Madhyamika and Yogacara were also founded. The two great nonacademic sects were Ch’an or Zen Buddhism, whose chief practice was sitting in meditation to achieve “sudden enlightenment,” and Pure Land Buddhism, which advocated repetition of the name of the Buddha Amitabha to attain rebirth in his paradise.
Chinese Buddhism encountered resistance from Confucianism and Taoism, and opposition from the government, which was threatened by the growing power of the tax-exempt sangha. The great persecution by the emperor Wu-tsung (845) dealt Chinese Buddhism a blow from which it never fully recovered. The only schools that retained vitality were Zen and Pure Land, which increasingly fused with one another and with the native traditions, and after the decline of Buddhism in India, neo-Confucianism rose to intellectual and cultural dominance.
From China and Korea, Buddhism came to Japan. Schools of philosophy and monastic discipline were transmitted first (6th cent.-8th cent.), but during the Heian period (794-1185) a conservative form of Tantric Buddhism became widely popular among the nobility. Zen and Pure Land grew to become popular movements after the 13th cent. After World War II new sects arose in Japan, such as the Soka Gakkai, an outgrowth of the nationalistic sect founded by Nichiren (1222-82), and the Risshokoseikai, attracting many followers.
See H. C. Warren, Buddhism in Translations (1896, repr. 1963); D. T. Suzuki, Zen Buddhism (1956); A. Wright, Buddhism in Chinese History (1959, repr. 1979); E. Conze, Buddhism (1953, repr. 1959), Buddhist Scriptures (1959), and Buddhist Thought in India (1962, repr. 1967); E. Zürcher, Buddhism (1962); K. S. S. Ch’en, Buddhism in China (1964, repr. 1972); W. T. de Bary, The Buddhist Tradition in India, China, and Japan (1969); T. Ling, The Buddha (1973); R. Lester, Theravada Buddhism in Southeast Asia (1973); W. Rahula, What the Buddha Taught (2d ed. 1974); D. and A. Matsunaga, Foundations of Japanese Buddhism (1974-76); S. J. Tambiah, World Conqueror and World Renouncer (1976); L. Hurvitz, Scripture of the Lotus Blossom of the Fine Dharma (1976); R. H. Robinson, The Buddhist Religion (3d ed. 1982); and R. Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism (1988); J. Ishikawa, The Bodhisattva (1990).
Buddhism originated in India in the fifth century B.C.E. and from there spread to many lands. The historic Buddha, born around 563 B.C.E., spent most of his eighty years traveling throughout north India preaching the way to salvation by reaching Nirvana and the cessation of rebirths. In some Buddhist traditions, respect for earth deities continues as a reflection of earlier cults of the soil. Animal sacrifices can still be seen in rituals requesting a boon from deities, ancestral spirits, and guardian spirits of localities. Food offerings may be left at stone monuments often containing relics commemorating the life and teachings of the Buddha. But these food practices are not Buddhist.
Buddhism is divided into several branches or ordination traditions. The Mahayana tradition, based on Sanskrit texts, spread into China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. The Buddhism of Tibet, Nepal, and Mongolia is also known as Vajrayana. Theravada Buddhism, “the way of the elders,” is the form of Buddhism found in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia. It is based on Pali texts. More recently, Buddhism has spread to Europe, Australia, and North America, where people are converting in large numbers, partly out of interest in Buddhist meditation practices.
Food rituals transmit collective and individual messages about religious principles. Religion influences dietary intake by prescribing or proscribing certain foods, providing ritual foods or meals, and reinforcing key cultural and social values. Unlike Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, Buddhism has less rigid dietary laws defining what people can eat and with whom they can dine. However, fasting and feasting are integral parts of most religious traditions, and Buddhism is no exception. The special foods used in the annual cycle of Buddhist holidays and festivals differ by country. Food is both a marker of religious affiliation and a marker of ethnic identity. It is therefore impossible to identify foods as specifically Buddhist, as opposed to Thai Buddhist or Japanese Buddhist, for example.
In rice-growing Asian communities where Buddhism is practiced, food in rituals reflects the rhythms of food production, including its scarcity or abundance during the year. In some countries, it is possible to see a contrast between ascetic approaches to food (for example, during the rains’ retreat from July to October) and festive excess (for example, after harvest in November and December).
Food rites mark changes in personal status as well, serving as temporal boundary markers through the life cycle. Special foods may be prepared for birthdays, weddings, funerals, tonsures, and ordinations, for example, particularly if monks officiate. In Theravada traditions, some of these rituals are Brahmanic in origin and feature rice and milk-based dishes. Harvest celebrations also make confections from foods such as rice, peanuts, sugar, sesame seeds, and coconut, possibly related to the sweet offerings of South India, called panchakadjaya (five foods). Puffed rice is used at funerals to symbolize rice that cannot be grown again.
Dietary abstinence relates to a very widespread idea that giving up something desirable increases spiritual potency. In many religious traditions, food refusal also represents a denial of social relationships, a denial of sociability. Fasting is not central to Buddhist practice except for the monastic community. Most Theravada monks eat only once or twice a day, in the early morning and just before noon, as a part of monastic discipline and their dedication to following the path of the Buddha. The Sanskrit term sambhogakaya refers to the monastic practice of eating together. Theravada monks fast after noon and all night, often joined by pious laypersons who partially withdraw from the lay life of the householder on special holidays.
Monks are expected to show moderation and control in all things, including eating. They are warned that wrong mental states easily come to the surface when collecting or eating food. When Theravada monks go on begging rounds, giving people an opportunity to put food into their bowls, they are expected to show no interest in the qualities of the food and even mix the food donations together.
Chinese Buddhism regulates communal meals as part of monastic discipline. Rather than food being collected from begging or donations as in Theravada communities, food in Chinese monasteries is often prepared at the temple by lay devotees. Mahayana monasteries used to grow their own food to provide vegetables for simple meals with rice or rice porridge. Occasionally lay donors might provide a vegetarian feast to celebrate Buddha’s birth, enlightenment, and death, or parinibbana, in order to gain merit.
Zen cooking (shojin ryori) is a style of vegetarian cooking developed by Zen monks that acts as an aid to meditation and spiritual life. Food is prepared as a spiritual exercise with attention to balance, harmony, and delicacy. Some Zen and Chinese Mahayana temples practice the three-bowl eating style, making eating a ritual training. The three bowls contain rice, vegetables, and soup. In fact, eating can be a kind of meditation—remembering to let go of evil, to cultivate good deeds, and to save sentient beings—as each food is put into one’s mouth. In such events, food is consumed according to need with no waste and no overconsumption.
Theravada Buddhists believe that by feeding monks they obtain religious merit that assures them of a good rebirth. Laypeople advance on the path to Nirvana by striving for moral purity and doing good works, especially by giving food to the monks. People also believe that giving food to the monks transfers merit to the dead. By going to the temple on the holy day and giving food to the monks, people hope to help their dead relatives who may be wandering the earth as hungry ghosts or living in hell.
Food As Metaphor
Food is often used in Buddhist texts to explain complex ideas in an easily understood manner. Buddhism rejects the asceticism of fasting and denial found in many religious traditions. After the Buddha fasted for six years, he rejected the extreme of starvation as a route to salvation. Instead, he used the experience of eating and digesting food as a means to understand the instrumentality of food. The element of heat transmutes food into body during the process of digestion. Thus, eating is an important metaphor for understanding bodily existence and the transformation of matter and substance. Eating literally makes us human and embodies us.
The Buddhist path is the middle way requiring monks and laity to eat to maintain life and nourish the body but not to cling to the sensual pleasures of eating. In this philosophical interpretation, it is not material substances such as food that block salvation but the craving for them. When Buddhists gain right understanding, they can use this analytical knowledge to guide daily life, as well as for meditation. Food as an object of meditation is a metaphor for the foulness of the body. Monks concentrate on the repulsiveness of food in order to reduce their craving for food. The cessation of craving food is equated with the cessation of the body and the end of the cycle of rebirths.
For the laity, eating, particularly eating rice, is a means of orienting oneself in relation to all sentient beings whose lives are sustained by food and religion. Reciprocal food giving sustains lay communities as well as the monastic community. In general, Buddhist rituals imbue food with sanctity; the sanctity remains in the food after it has been received by the monks. Communal eating is one means of experiencing Buddhist precepts and concepts in a direct and sensory way.
In some Buddhist communities, members of the laity serve monks and the community by preparing and serving food from a communal kitchen. Mahayana services and ritual events are likely to be vegetarian. Most Chinese gods and goddesses are presumed to be vegetarian, but they may be offered meat in an attempt to provide the best, most valued food. Chinese Buddhism honors a number of deities, such as Kwan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy. A home altar might contain incense, flowers, tea, and fruit to be consumed later. The Kitchen Goddess helps one eat and drink healthily, and representations of her may be seen in household and restaurant kitchens.
Food given to Chinese deities is considered blessed; its essence is consumed by gods and Buddhas before it is eaten by the worshipers. Following chanting services in many temples, a communal meal is served, which may include beans, bean sprouts, vegetables, fruit, and always rice for prosperity.
Food Distribution in Theravada Communities
Four times in the lunar month, or weekly, the following practices might be seen repeated in Theravada communities throughout the rural areas of Southeast Asia. On a holy day, people bring such food as rice and dishes to eat with rice to the temple. Although the food is the best a household can prepare, people bringing the food cannot taste or even smell the food. A true gift that will gain religious merit must be well intentioned, and only by denying themselves even the smell of the food will the offering bear fruit. The monks chant to accept the food and confer blessings on those who have given food.
At the end of the morning service, after the monks have eaten, the laypeople consume the remaining food offered to the monks. By giving to monks who must follow rules of celibacy and denial, religious merit is increased at a greater rate. Generally, everyone who participates in the service shares in consuming the food that has been accepted or blessed by the monks. Even those who have not contributed food are actively encouraged to share the meal, as if the sharing of food may cause the intention to give generously to arise among all partaking of the meal. Following the meal, participants share the merit accrued from feeding monks with all sentient beings.
Buddhism and Vegetarianism
Buddhism in North America is widely associated with vegetarianism, although not all Buddhists are vegetarian and vegetarianism is not part of canonical Buddhism. This association with Buddhism developed because the key principles of Buddhism include ahimsa, or nonviolence and the avoidance of suffering. Theravada Buddhists in Southeast Asia are not generally vegetarian, although their daily meals may not include much meat. Meat dishes are even given to monks since meat is not explicitly forbidden to them by the rules of monastic conduct. Buddhist texts such as the Majjhirma Nikaya refer to the Buddha eating the proper proportion of curry to rice, experiencing flavor but not greed for flavor.
As more Westerners become Buddhist and as more Buddhist immigrants and refugees settle in North American and European cities, Buddhist vegetarian restaurants have prospered, offering devotees and secular vegetarians an opportunity to consume food exemplifying the Buddhist principle of nonviolence. Practicing Buddhist chefs prepare vegetarian feasts for events such as meditation retreats and cater meals for vegetarian practitioners and health-conscious diners. They may also perform dana, or selfless giving, by providing free food to the hungry.
Values of reciprocity and sharing are extremely important to Buddhists. In the strongly individualized and materialistic communities of North America, it is particularly difficult to maintain models of generosity and reciprocity. Commensality—the shared meal of Buddhist merit makers—is a model of reciprocity, redistribution, and generosity. The act of eating together and sharing each other’s food is a concrete and reliable means of establishing a moral community where people know they can develop relations of trust with others and cooperate in joint activities within the domain of religion and in other domains.
Khare, Ravindra S. The Eternal Food: Gastronomic Ideas and Experiences of Hindus and Buddhists. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1992.
McLellan, Janet. Many Petals of the Lotus: Five Asian Buddhist Communities in Toronto. Toronto; Buffalo: University of Toronto Press, 1999.
Van Esterik, Penny. “Feeding Their Faith: Recipe Knowledge among Thai Buddhist Women.” Food and Foodways 1 (1986): 197–215.
Van Esterik, Penny. Taking Refuge: Lao Buddhists in North America. Tempe: Arizona State University, Program for Southeast Asian Studies; Toronto: York Lanes Press, Centre for Refugee Studies, York University, 1992.
Warren, Henry Clarke. Buddhism in Translations. New York: Atheneum, 1969. Original ed. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University, 1896.
—Penny Van Esterik
“Buddhism is not a creed, it is a doubt.” – Gilbert K. Chesterton
“Our civilization, bequeathed to us by fierce adventurers, eaters of meat and hunters, is so full of hurry and combat, so busy about many things which perhaps are of no importance, that it cannot but see something feeble in a civilization which smiles as it refuses to make the battlefield the test of excellence.” – James Joyce
“A religion so cheerless, a philosophy so sorrowful, could never have succeeded with the masses of mankind if presented only as a system of metaphysics. Buddhism owed its success to its catholic spirit and its beautiful morality.” – W. Winwood Reade
Buddhism is one of the great religions of the world, third in size (in terms of number of adherents) after Christianity and Islam. Originating as a splinter sect from Hinduism (much as Christianity began as an outgrowth of Judaism), Buddhism spread throughout Asia, all but disappearing in India, the land of its birth. Buddhism shares many of its basic notions, such as the doctrine of reincarnation, with Hinduism.
As in other areas of the world, Asians have speculated extensively about the significance of dreams, often coming to much the same conclusion as other cultures. Certain dreams, for instance, have often been regarded as messages from the gods. In Buddhism, which claims no supreme divinity as such, dreams can nevertheless represent messages from divine agencies.
The earliest Buddhist scriptures, for example, tell the story of how the future Buddha’s mother had a dream in which four kings carried her bed to a mountain peak where four queens greeted her with jewels and escorted her to a palace of gold: “A white elephant with six shining ivory tusks appeared and painlessly pierced her side with a thrust of its tusk. She awoke to the song of a blue bird and realized that she had immaculately conceived”. This dream was interpreted as signifying that she was pregnant with someone who would become either a world ruler or a world teacher.
Where India outstrips other cultural traditions is in the development of the theme of this life or this world as a kind of dream. According to the mainstream of Hindu religious thought-which was adopted wholesale by Buddhism-the individual soul is trapped in the sufferings involved with life in this world. And because of reincarnation, even death does not release one from this world. In most of the religious traditions of southern Asia, including Buddhism, release or liberation from the cycle of death and rebirth is the ultimate goal of the spiritual life. A metaphor often used to describe the insight that leads directly to liberation is awakening from a dream. However, while certain schools of philosophical Hinduism have argued that this world is literally as insubstantial as a dream, most schools of Buddhist thought have emphasized that this world is as unimportant as a dream.
In the Questions of King Milinda (an early Indian Buddhist work), it is said that the persons who dream are (1) those under the influence of a deity, (2) those who dream under the influence of their experiences, and (3) those with prophetic dreams. This relative sophistication did not carry into the Theravadin tradition, in which dreams generally came to be regarded as the resulting from worldly attachments, and thus as distracting. There was, nevertheless, a distinction drawn between two forms of prophetic dreams auspicious and inauspicious; the former result from the direct influence of a Buddha, and the latter from the unrefined tendencies of human nature. Some of Buddhism’s most interesting contributions to dreams and dream lore have been carried out by Tibetan Buddhists (see Yoga and Tibet).
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs, and practices largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, who is commonly known as the Buddha (meaning “the awakened one” in Sanskrit and P?li). 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 (avidy?), craving (ta?h?), and suffering (dukkha) of dependent origination and realize sunyata.
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—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. Two of the most important teachings are dependent origination and sunyata. 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
This narrative draws on the Nid?nakath?biography of the Therav?da sect in Sri Lanka, which is ascribed to Buddhagho?a in the 5th century CE. Earlier biographies such as the Buddhacarita, the Lokottarav?dinMah?vastu, and the Mah?y?na / Sarv?stiv?daLalitavistara S?tra, 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… [but] 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.”
The evidence of the early texts suggests that Siddh?rtha Gautama 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[which?] (from Pali, meaning “three baskets”), Gautama 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 Gautama, an astrologer visited the young prince’s father—King ?uddhodana—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.
?uddhodana 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, Gautama 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 asceticholy 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. madhyam?-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. samyaksa?buddha). 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 AnuradhapuraSri Lanka is known as Jaya Sri Maha Bodhi.
Writing was uncommon in India at the time Gautama lived. So everything we know about him was carefully memorized and passed on orally until it was written down, probably during the first century BCE.
The English word “Buddhism” is relatively new. It was first used in the Oxford English Dictionary of 1801 (spelled “Boudhism”) and its spelling changed to the present one in 1816, in a comment published in the Asiatic Journal (“The name and peculiarities of Buddhism have a good deal fixed my attention”).
“The Three Jewels”, Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, as well as the concepts of karma, rebirth (and reincarnation) and the practice of yoga existed before Gautama lived but they later became associated with Buddhism.
Life and the world
Karma (from Sanskrit: “action, work”) in Buddhism is the force that drives sa?s?ra—the cycle of suffering and rebirth for each being. Good, skillful deeds (P?li: “kusala”) and bad, unskillful (P?li: “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 ??la (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 (“vip?ka“).
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. In Mahayana Buddhism, 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 sa?s?ra.
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” (“prat?tyasamutp?da“) 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:
- Naraka beings: those who live in one of many Narakas (Hells)
- Preta: sometimes sharing some space with humans, but invisible to most people; an important variety is the hungry ghost
- Animals: sharing space with humans, but considered another type of life
- Human beings: one of the realms of rebirth in which attaining Nirvana is possible
- Asuras: variously translated as lowly deities, demons, titans, antigods; not recognized by Therav?da (Mahavihara) tradition as a separate realm
- Devas including Brahmas: variously translated as gods, deities, spirits, angels, or left untranslated
Rebirths in some of the higher heavens, known as the ?uddh?v?sa Worlds (Pure Abodes), can be attained only by skilled Buddhist practitioners known as an?g?mis (non-returners). Rebirths in the arupa-dhatu (formless realms) can be attained only by those who can meditate on the ar?pajh?nas, the highest object of meditation.
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 (sa?s?ra), 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
According to the Pali Tipitaka and the ?gamas 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:
- Life as we know it ultimately is or leads to suffering/uneasiness (dukkha) in one way or another.
- Suffering is caused by craving. This is often expressed as a deluded clinging to a certain sense of existence, to selfhood, or to the things or phenomena that we consider the cause of happiness or unhappiness. Craving also has its negative aspect, i.e. one craves that a certain state of affairs not exist.
- Suffering ends when craving ends. This is achieved by eliminating delusion, thereby reaching a liberated state of Enlightenment (bodhi);
- Reaching this liberated state is achieved by following the path laid out by the Buddha.
This method is described by early Western scholars, and taught as an introduction to Buddhism by some contemporary Mahayana teachers (for example, the Dalai Lama).
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:
- Suffering and causes of suffering
- Cessation and the paths towards liberation from suffering.
Thus, according to the Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism they are
- “The noble truth that is suffering”
- “The noble truth that is the arising of suffering”
- “The noble truth that is the end of suffering”
- “The noble truth that is the way leading to the end of suffering”
The traditional Theravada understanding is that the Four Noble Truths are an advanced teaching for those who are ready for them. The East Asian Mahayana position is that they are a preliminary teaching for people not yet ready for the higher and more expansive Mahayana teachings.
Noble 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: P?li transliterations appear in brackets after Sanskrit ones):
- Prajñ? is the wisdom that purifies the mind, allowing it to attain spiritual insight into the true nature of all things. It includes:
- d???i (ditthi): viewing reality as it is, not just as it appears to be.
- sa?kalpa (sankappa): intention of renunciation, freedom and harmlessness.
- ??la is the ethics or morality, or abstention from unwholesome deeds. It includes:
- v?c (v?ca): speaking in a truthful and non-hurtful way
- karman (kammanta): acting in a non-harmful way
- ?j?vana (?j?va): a non-harmful livelihood
- Sam?dhi is the mental discipline required to develop mastery over one’s own mind. This is done through the practice of various contemplative and meditative practices, and includes:
- vy?y?ma (v?y?ma): making an effort to improve
- sm?ti (sati): awareness to see things for what they are with clear consciousness, being aware of the present reality within oneself, without any craving or aversion
- sam?dhi (sam?dhi): correct meditation or concentration, explained as the first four jh?nas
The practice of the Eightfold Path is understood in two ways, as requiring either simultaneous development (all eight items practiced in parallel), or as a progressive series of stages through which the practitioner moves, the culmination of one leading to the beginning of another.
The Four Immeasurables
While he searched for enlightenment, Gautama combined the yoga practice of his teacher Kalama with what later became known as “the immeasurables”. Gautama thus invented a new kind of human, one without egotism. What Thich Nhat Hanh calls the “Four Immeasurable Minds” of love, compassion, joy, and equanimity are also known as brahmaviharas, divine abodes, or simply as four immeasurables. Pema Chödrön calls them the “four limitless ones”. Of the four, mett? or loving-kindness meditation is perhaps the best known. The Four Immeasurables are taught as a form of meditation that cultivates “wholesome attitudes towards all sentient beings.” The practitioner prays:
- May all sentient beings have happiness and its causes,
- May all sentient beings be free of suffering and its causes,
- May all sentient beings never be separated from bliss without suffering,
- May all sentient beings be in equanimity, free of bias, attachment and anger.
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:
- The practice of non-extremism: a path of moderation away from the extremes of self-indulgence and self-mortification
- The middle ground between certain metaphysicalviews (for example, that things ultimately either do or do not exist)
- An explanation of Nirvana (perfect enlightenment), a state wherein it becomes clear that all dualities apparent in the world are delusory (see Seongcheol)
- Another term for emptiness, the ultimate nature of all phenomena (in the Mahayana branch), a lack of inherent existence, which avoids the extremes of permanence and nihilism or inherent existence and nothingness
Nature of existence
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 (sa?s?ra). To this end, the Buddha recommended viewing things as characterized by the three marks of existence.
Three Marks of Existence
The Three Marks of Existence are impermanence, suffering, and not-self.
Impermanence (P?li: 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 (sa?s?ra), 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 (P?li: ????? dukkha; Sanskrit ???? du?kha) 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 P?li, “dukkha” is often left untranslated, so as to encompass its full range of meaning.
Not-self (P?li: anatta; Sanskrit: an?tman) 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.
The doctrine of prat?tyasamutp?da (Sanskrit; Pali: paticcasamupp?da; Tibetan: rten.cing.’brel.bar.’byung.ba; Chinese: ??) 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 prat?tyasamutp?da is the scheme of Twelve Nid?nas (from P?li “nid?na” meaning “cause, foundation, source or origin”), which explain the continuation of the cycle of suffering and rebirth (sa?s?ra) in detail.
The Twelve Nid?nas describe a causal connection between the subsequent characteristics or conditions of cyclic existence, each one giving rise to the next:
- Avidy?: ignorance, specifically spiritual ignorance of the nature of reality
- Sa?sk?ras: literally formations, explained as referring to karma
- Vijñ?na: consciousness, specifically discriminative
- N?mar?pa: literally name and form, referring to mind and body
- ?a??yatana: the six sense bases: eye, ear, nose, tongue, body and mind-organ
- Spar?a: variously translated contact, impression, stimulation (by a sense object)
- Vedan?: usually translated feeling: this is the “hedonic tone”, i.e. whether something is pleasant, unpleasant or neutral
- T????: literally thirst, but in Buddhism nearly always used to mean craving
- Up?d?na: clinging or grasping; the word also means fuel, which feeds the continuing cycle of rebirth
- Bhava: literally being (existence) or becoming. (The Theravada explains this as having two meanings: karma, which produces a new existence, and the existence itself.)
- J?ti: literally birth, but life is understood as starting at conception
- Jar?mara?a: (old age and death) and also ?okaparidevadu?khadaurmanasyop?y?sa (sorrow, lamentation, pain, sadness, and misery)
Sentient beings always suffer throughout sa?s?ra, until they free themselves from this suffering by attaining Nirvana. Then the absence of the first Nid?na—ignorance—leads to the absence of the others.
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 ??nyat?, or “emptiness”, widely attested in the Prajñ?p?ramit?sutras which were emergent in his era. The concept of emptiness brings together other key Buddhist doctrines, particularly anatta and prat?tyasamutp?da (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 ?tman; 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 M?dhyamaka. 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 M?dhyamaka system.
Sarvastivada teachings—which were criticized by N?g?rjuna—were reformulated by scholars such as Vasubandhu and Asanga and were adapted into the Yogacara (Sanskrit: yoga practice) school. While the M?dhyamaka 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 (prajñ?p?ramit?) and Buddha-nature (tath?gatagarbha). There are conflicting interpretations of the tath?gatagarbha in Mah?y?na thought. The idea may be traced to Abhidharma, and ultimately to statements of the Buddha in the Nik?yas. In Tibetan Buddhism, according to the Sakya school, tath?gatagarbha is the inseparability of the clarity and emptiness of one’s mind. In Nyingma, tath?gatagarbha 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 “Tath?gatagarbha 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 (sa?s?ra)), “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 (P?li and Sanskrit, in devanagari: ????) 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 [was] 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, How Buddhism Began
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 arahant at the moment of death, when the physical body expires.
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.
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: jh?na; Skt: dhy?na). 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. s?la; Skt. ??la). 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. paññ?; Skt. prajñ?) 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
Traditionally, the first step in most Buddhist schools requires taking refuge in the Three Jewels (Sanskrit: tri-ratna, P?li: 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:
- The Buddha. This is a title for those who have attained Nirvana. See also the Tath?gata and Gautama Buddha. The Buddha could also be represented as a concept instead of a specific person: the perfect wisdom that understands Dharma and sees reality in its true form. In Mahayana Buddhism, the Buddha can be viewed as the supreme Refuge: “Buddha is the Unique Absolute Refuge. Buddha is the Imperishable, Eternal, Indestructible and Absolute Refuge.”
- The Dharma. The teachings or law of nature as expounded by the Gautama Buddha. It can also, especially in Mahayana, connote the ultimate and sustaining Reality which is inseparable from the Buddha. Further, from some Mahayana perspectives, the Dharma embodied in the form of a great sutra (Buddhic scripture) can replace the need for a personal teacher and can be a direct and spontaneous gateway into Truth (Dharma). This is especially said to be the case with the Lotus Sutra. Dr. Hiroshi Kanno writes of this view of the Lotus Sutra: “it is a Dharma-gate of sudden enlightenment proper to the Great Vehicle; it is a Dharma-gate whereby one awakens spontaneously, without resorting to a teacher”.
- The Sangha. Those who have attained to any of the Four stages of enlightenment, or simply the congregation of monastic practitioners.
According to the scriptures, Gautama Buddha presented himself as a model. The Dharma offers a refuge by providing guidelines for the alleviation of suffering and the attainment of Nirvana. The Sangha is considered to provide a refuge by preserving the authentic teachings of the Buddha and providing further examples that the truth of the Buddha’s teachings is attainable.
??la (Sanskrit) or s?la (P?li) 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 p?ramit?. It refers to moral purity of thought, word, and deed. The four conditions of ??la are chastity, calmness, quiet, and extinguishment.
??la is the foundation of Samadhi/Bh?vana (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.
??la 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:
- To refrain from taking life (non-violence towards sentient life forms), or ahims?
- To refrain from taking that which is not given (not committing theft)
- To refrain from sensual (including sexual) misconduct
- To refrain from lying (speaking truth always)
- To refrain from intoxicants which lead to loss of mindfulness (specifically, drugs and alcohol)
The precepts are not formulated as imperatives, but as training rules that laypeople undertake voluntarily to facilitate practice. In Buddhist thought, the cultivation of dana and ethical conduct will themselves refine consciousness to such a level that rebirth in one of the lower heavens is likely, even if there is no further Buddhist practice. There is nothing improper or un-Buddhist about limiting one’s aims to this level of attainment.
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 performances
- 8. To refrain from using high or luxurious seats and bedding
The 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 meal
- 7. To refrain from dancing, music, singing and unseemly shows
- 8. 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 silver
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: ?amatha) and vipassan?meditation (Sanskrit: vipa?yan?). In Chinese Buddhism, these exist (translated chih kuan), but Chán (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 jh?nas (see the next section regarding these).
Sam?dhi (meditative cultivation): samatha meditation
In the language of the Noble Eightfold Path, samyaksam?dhi is “right concentration”. The primary means of cultivating sam?dhi is meditation. Upon development of sam?dhi, one’s mind becomes purified of defilement, calm, tranquil, and luminous.
Once the meditator achieves a strong and powerful concentration (jh?na, Sanskrit ????? dhy?na), his mind is ready to penetrate and gain insight (vipassan?) 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 (jh?na) 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 vipassan? meditation can reveal how the mind was disturbed to start with, which is what leads to knowledge (jñ?na; P?li ñ??a) and understanding (prajñ?P?li paññ?), and thus can lead to nirv??a (P?li nibb?na). When one is in jhana, all defilements are suppressed temporarily. Only understanding (prajñ? or vipassana) eradicates the defilements completely. Jhanas are also states which Arahants abide in order to rest.
In Therav?da 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 jh?na, 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.
Prajñ? (Wisdom): vipassana meditation
Prajñ? (Sanskrit) or paññ? (P?li) means wisdom that is based on a realization of dependent origination, The Four Noble Truths and the three marks of existence. Prajñ? is the wisdom that is able to extinguish afflictions and bring about bodhi. It is spoken of as the principal means of attaining nirv??a, through its revelation of the true nature of all things as dukkha (unsatisfactoriness), anicca (impermanence) and anatta (not-self). Prajñ? is also listed as the sixth of the six p?ramit?s of the Mahayana.
Initially, prajñ? 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 (?), pronounced Chán in Chinese, seon in Korean or zen in Japanese (derived from the Sanskrit term dhy?na, 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 (???) and S?t? (???), the former greatly favouring the use in meditation on the koan (??, 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 Tantra
Though based upon Mahayana, Tibeto-Mongolian Buddhism is one of the schools that practice Vajrayana or “Diamond Vehicle” (also referred to as Mantray?na, Tantray?na, Tantric Buddhism, or esoteric Buddhism). It accepts all the basic concepts of Mah?y?na, 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 Vajray?na 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.
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”.
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 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
According to the scriptures, soon after the parinirv??a (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, ?nanda, a cousin of the Buddha and his personal attendant, was called upon to recite the discourses (s?tras, P?li suttas) of the Buddha, and, according to some sources, the abhidhamma. Up?li, 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 P?li 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 Mah?s??ghikas. 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 Therav?da 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 Mah?s??ghikas 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 Therav?da 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 Sa?gha 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 Mah?y?na, which formed between 100 BCE and 100 AD, are still not completely understood. The earliest views of Mah?y?na Buddhism in the West assumed that it existed as a separate school in competition with the so-called “H?nay?na” schools. The split was on the order of the European Protestant Reformation, which divided Christians into Catholic and Protestant. Due to the veneration of buddhas and bodhisattvas, Mah?y?na was often interpreted as a more devotional, lay-inspired form of Buddhism, with supposed origins in st?pa veneration. The old views of Mah?y?na as a lay-inspired sect are now largely considered misguided and wrong.
There is no evidence that Mah?y?na 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. Initially it was known as Bodhisattvay?na (the “Vehicle of the Bodhisattvas”). Paul Williams has also noted that the Mah?y?na never had nor ever attempted to have a separate Vinaya or ordination lineage from the early schools of Buddhism, and therefore each bhik?u or bhik?u?? adhering to the Mah?y?na formally belonged to an early school. This continues today with the Dharmaguptaka ordination lineage in East Asia, and the M?lasarv?stiv?da ordination lineage in Tibetan Buddhism. Therefore Mah?y?na was never a separate rival sect of the early schools. From Chinese monks visiting India, we now know that both Mah?y?na and non-Mah?y?na monks in India often lived in the same monasteries side by side.
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 Mah?y?na s?tras are called the Mah?y?nists, while those who do not perform these are called the H?nay?nists.
Much of the early extant evidence for the origins of Mah?y?na comes from early Chinese translations of Mah?y?na texts. These Mah?y?na teachings were first propagated into China by Lokak?ema, the first translator of Mah?y?na s?tras into Chinese during the 2nd century CE. Some scholars have traditionally considered the earliest Mah?y?na s?tras to include the very first versions of the Prajñ?p?ramit?series, along with texts concerning Ak?obhya Buddha, which were probably composed in the 1st century BCE in the south of India.
Late Mahayana Buddhism
During 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.
Vajrayana (Esoteric Buddhism)
- Vajrayana Buddhism was influenced by Hinduism, and therefore the research has to include research on Hinduism as well.
- The scriptures of Vajrayana have not yet been put in any kind of order.
- Ritual has to be examined as well, not just doctrine.
Development of Buddhism
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 A?oka and his descendants led to the construction of more st?pas (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 Therav?da 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 A?oka, 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 Gandh?ra. 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.
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:
- difficulties in defining who counts as a Buddhist;
- syncretism among the Eastern religions. Buddhism is practiced by adherents alongside many other religious traditions- including Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto, traditional religions, shamanism, and animism– throughout East and Southeast Asia.
- difficulties in estimating the number of Buddhists who do not have congregational memberships and often do not participate in public ceremonies;
- official policies on religion in several historically Buddhist countries that make accurate assessments of religious adherence more difficult; most notably China, Vietnam and North Korea. In many current and former Communist governments in Asia, government policies may discourage adherents from reporting their religious identity, or may encourage official counts to underestimate religious adherence.
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.
- Theravada Buddhism, using Sanskrit and P?li as its scriptural languages, is the dominant form of Buddhism in Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Sri Lanka, and Burma. The Dalit Buddhist movement in India (inspired by B. R. Ambedkar) also practices Theravada. Approximately 124 million adherents.
- East Asian forms of Mahayana Buddhism that use Chinese scriptures are dominant in most of China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Vietnam as well as such communities within Indochina, Southeast Asia and the West. Approximately 500 million to one billion.
- Tibetan Buddhism is found in Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia, areas of India (it’s the majority religion in Ladakh; significant population in Himachal Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh and Sikkim), China (particularly in Tibet and Inner Mongolia), and Russia (Kalmyk Autonomous Republic). Approximately 20 million adherents.
Most Buddhist groups in the West are at least nominally affiliated with one of these three traditions.
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
Two of his disciples became the inspiration for two main schools of Buddhism that were developed at least 200 years after Gautama died. Gautama praised both of them and to this day both schools are “authentic”. Sariputta inspired the Theravada school, generally known to be analytical and monastic. Maudgalyayana inspired the Mahayana school which emphasizes compassion and tends to be democratic.
Buddhists generally classify themselves as either Theravada or Mahayana. This classification is also used by some scholars[page needed] 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 ?r?vakay?na, 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:
- Both accept the Buddha as their teacher.
- Both accept the Middle way, Dependent origination, the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path and the Three marks of existence.
- Both accept that members of the laity and of the sangha can pursue the path toward enlightenment (bodhi).
- Both consider buddhahood to be the highest attainment.
This is a rough timeline of the development of the different schools/traditions:
|Timeline: Development and propagation of Buddhist traditions (ca. 450 BCE – ca. 1300 CE)|
|450 BCE||250 BCE||100 CE||500 CE||700 CE||800 CE||1200 CE|
|Early Buddhist schools||Mahayana||Vajrayana|
|Sri Lanka &
|Central Asia||Greco-Buddhism||Tibetan Buddhism|
|Silk Road Buddhism|
|East Asia||Chán, Tiantai, Pure Land, Zen, Nichiren||Shingon|
|450 BCE||250 BCE||100 CE||500 CE||700 CE||800 CE||1200 CE|
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 Vibhajjav?da 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 P?li 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 P?li 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.
Therav?da 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.
Theravadin Buddhists think that personal effort is required to realize rebirth. Meditation is done by forest monks for the most part, while village monks teach and serve their lay communities. Laypersons can perform good actions, producing merit which can be traded to the gods who may reward it with material benefits.
In 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:
- Sammasambuddha, usually just called Buddha, who discovers the truth by himself and teaches the path to awakening to others
- Paccekabuddha, who discovers the truth by himself but lacks the skill to teach others
- Savakabuddha, who receive the truth directly or indirectly from a Sammasambuddha
Bodhi and nirvana carry the same meaning, that of being freed from craving, hate, and delusion. In attaining bodhi, the arahant has overcome these obstacles. As a further distinction, the extinction of only hatred and greed (in the sensory context) with some residue of delusion, is called anagami.
Mahayana Buddhism flourished in India from the 5th century CE onwards, during the dynasty of the Guptas. Mah?y?na centres of learning were established, the most important one being the N?land? 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; Chán; and Zen. In Korea, nearly all Buddhists belong to the Chogye school, which is officially Son (Zen), but with substantial elements from other traditions.
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.
The Buddha’s death is seen as an illusion, he is living on in other planes of existence, and monks are therefore permitted to offer “new truths” based on his input. Mahayana also differs from Theravada in its concept of ??nyat?(that ultimately nothing has existence), and in its belief in bodhisattvas (enlightened people who vow to continue being reborn until all beings can be enlightened).
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,[dubious– discuss] 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.[dubious– discuss]
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 (??), Pure Land (??) 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.
Bodhisattva means “enlightenment being”, and generally refers to one who is on the path to buddhahood, typically as a fully enlightened buddha (Skt. samyaksa?buddha). 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.
Mah?y?na Buddhism is based principally upon the path of a bodhisattva. According to Jan Nattier, the term Mah?y?na (“Great Vehicle”) was originally even an honorary synonym for Bodhisattvay?na, or the “Bodhisattva Vehicle.” The A??as?hasrik? Prajñ?p?ramit? S?tra, an early and important Mah?y?na 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-mah?sattva is so called.
Mah?y?na 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. p?ramit?). According to the Mah?y?na teachings, these perfections are: giving, discipline, forbearance, effort, meditation, and transcendent wisdom.
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 Vajray?na and its tantric practice started. In the Tibetan tradition, it is claimed that the historical ??kyamuni 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. N?land? University became a center for the development of Vajray?na theory and continued as the source of leading-edge Vajray?na 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 (Vajray?na) stems from the late (9th–12th century) N?land? 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.[page needed]
Vajrayana combined and developed a variety of elements, a number of which had already existed for centuries. In addition to the Mah?y?na scriptures, Vajray?na 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 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 mainly written in P?li, Tibetan, Mongolian, and Chinese. Some texts 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 Mah?y?na considers these merely a preliminary, and not a core, teaching. The Tibetan Buddhists have not even translated most of the ?gamas (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 Therav?da Buddhism take the scriptures known as the P?li Canon as definitive and authoritative, while the followers of Mah?y?na Buddhism base their faith and philosophy primarily on the Mah?y?na s?tras and their own vinaya. The P?li sutras, along with other, closely related scriptures, are known to the other schools as the ?gamas.
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.
The P?li 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 P?li Tipitaka is the only early Tipitaka (Sanskrit: Tripi?aka) 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 S?rv?stiv?da, Dharmaguptaka, Sammitya, Mah?sa?ghika, K??yap?ya, and Mah???saka 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 Mah?k??yapa (P?li: Mah?kassapa) presided. The goal of the council was to record the Buddha’s teachings. Up?li recited the vinaya. ?nanda, 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 s?tras 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.”
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 Mah?y?na (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. [The Buddha’s] 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.
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
- Buddhism and Jainism
- Buddhism and Hinduism
- Buddhism and Christianity
- God in Buddhism (Buddhism, mysticism, and monotheism)
- Buddhism and Eastern teaching (Buddhism and East Asian teaching)
- Buddhism and psychology
- Buddhism and science
- Buddhist ethics (Buddhism and ethics)
- Buddhist philosophy (Buddhism and Western philosophy)
- Buddhism and Thelema
- Outline of Buddhism
- Buddhism by country
- Criticism of Buddhism
- Index of Buddhism-related articles
- List of books related to Buddhism
- List of Buddhist temples
- Dharma Drum Retreat Center
- Indian religions
- Easily confused Buddhist representations
- Iconography of Gautama Buddha in Laos and Thailand
- ^ “Buddhism”. (2009). In Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved November 26, 2009, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online Library Edition.
- ^ “Nine Yana categorisation”. Rigpawiki.org. 2011-08-17. http://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Nine_yanas. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- ^ Major Religions Ranked by Size; U.S. State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report 2004. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2004/ Accessed 20 September 2008; Garfinkel, Perry. “Buddha Rising”, National Geographic Dec. 2005: 88–109; CIA – The World Factbook
- ^ a bLopez, Story of Buddhism. p. 239
- ^ abLopez, Buddhism. p. 248
- ^ Robinson et al., Buddhist Religions, page xx; Philosophy East and West, vol 54, ps 269f; Williams, Mahayana Buddhism, Routledge, 1st ed., 1989, pp. 275f (2nd ed., 2008, p. 266)
- ^ Padmasambhava, Jamgon Kongtrul, Erik Pema Kunsang (2004). Light of Wisdom. Rangjung Yeshe Publications. ISBN 9789627341376. http://books.google.com/?id=qjbBKG06To0C&pg=PA111#v=onepage&q=. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ Swearer, Donald. Becoming the Buddha. 2004. p. 177
- ^ Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism Vol. 1, p. 352
- ^ Lopez (1995). Buddhism in Practice. Princeton University Press. p. 16. ISBN 0691044422.
- ^ Carrithers, Michael. “The Buddha”, in the Oxford University paperback Founders of Faith, 1986, p. 10.
- ^ Armstrong, Karen (September 28, 2004). Buddha. Penguin Press. p. xii. ISBN 0143034367.
- ^ abRichard Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988, page 49.
- ^ UNESCO, Lumbini is the birthplace of the Lord Buddha, Gethin Foundations, p. 19, which states that in the mid-3rd century BCE the Emperor Ashoka determined that Lumbini was Gautama’s birthplace and thus installed a pillar there with the inscription: “… this is where the Buddha, sage of the ??kyas (??kyamuni), was born.”
- ^ For instance, Gethin Foundations, p. 14, states: “The earliest Buddhist sources state that the future Buddha was born Siddh?rtha Gautama (Pali Siddhattha Gotama), the son of a local chieftain—a r?jan—in Kapilavastu (Pali Kapilavatthu) what is now the Indian–Nepalese border.” However, Professor Gombrich (Therav?da Buddhism, p. 1) and the old but specialized study by Edward Thomas, The Life of the Buddha, ascribe the name Siattha/fitta to later sources.
- ^ Kohn, Michael (1991). The Shambhala Dictionary of Buddhism and Zen. Shambhala. p. 143. ISBN 0-87773-520-4.
- ^ “The Middle Way of the Buddha”. Buddhamind.info. http://www.buddhamind.info/leftside/arty/his-life/middle.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- ^ “Buddhism – The Middle Path”. Buddhanet.net. http://www.buddhanet.net/cbp2_f4.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- ^ Keown, Dictionary of Buddhism, p. 267
- ^ Skilton, Concise, p. 25
- ^ Armstrong, p. xiii.
- ^ Waterhouse, David (2005). The origins of Himalayan studies: Brian Houghton Hodgson in Nepal and Darjeeling, 1820-1858. Routledge via Amazon Look Inside. p. 53. ISBN 0415312159. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0415312159/.
- ^ Armstrong, p. 42.
- ^ “The Soka Gakkai Dictionary of Buddhism: karma”. Soka Gakkai International. http://www.sgilibrary.org/search_dict.php?id=1166. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
- ^ The idea of reincarnation existed in the Upanishads, in Hinduism and Taoism as well as ancient predecessors of Christianity and Judaism, in Das, Surya (1998). Awakening the Buddha Within: Tibetan Wisdom for the Western World. Broadway Books. p. 110. ISBN 0767901576. http://www.amazon.com/dp/0767901576/.
- ^ Johnson, Larry. “Buddhist Yoga”. Now Yoga. http://www.nowyoga.com/pages/buddhistyoga.html. Retrieved January 12, 2011.
- ^ Journal of Buddhist Ethics: “Zen as a Social Ethics of Responsiveness” (PDF), T. P. Kasulis, Ohio State University
- ^ Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, p. 40
- ^ Dr. Richard K. Payne (ed.), Tantric Buddhism in East Asia, Wisdom Publications, Boston, 2006, p. 74
- ^ Keown, Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 1996, p. 107
- ^ Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, p. 34
- ^ Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism (Volume Two), p. 711
- ^ The 31 Planes of Existence (PDF), Ven. Suvanno Mahathera
- ^ Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, p. 33
- ^ André Bareau, Les Sectes bouddhiques du Petit Véhicule, École Française d’Extrême-Orient, Saigon, 1955, pp. 212–223: the top of p. 212 says: “Here are the theses of the Theravadins of the Mahavihara”; then begins a numbered list of doctrines over the following pages, including on p. 223: “There are only five destinies … the kalakanjika asuras have the same colour, same nourishment, same foods, same lifespan as the petas, with whom … they marry. As for the Vepacittiparisa, they have the same colour, same nourishment, same foods, same lifespan as the gods, with whom they marry.”(Translated from the French)
- ^ Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Vol. 1, p. 377
- ^ The Connected Discourses of the Buddha. A Translation of the Samyutta Nikaya, Bhikkhu Bodhi, Translator. Wisdom Publications.
- ^ Thera, Piyadassi (1999). “Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta”. The Book of Protection. Buddhist Publication Society. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.011.piya.html. In what is said in Therav?da to be the Buddha’s first sermon, the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta, which was given to the five ascetics with whom he had practiced austerities. He talks about the Middle Way, the noble eightfold path and the Four Noble Truths.
- ^ See for example: The Four Noble Truths
- ^ Gethin, Foundations, p. 60
- ^ (2004), Volume One, p. 296
- ^ Harvey, Introduction, p. 47
- ^Hinnels, John R. (1998). The New Penguin Handbook of Living Religions. London: Penguin Books. pp. 393f. ISBN 0140514805.
- ^ Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, p. 92
- ^ a bArmstrong, p. 77.
- ^ Nhat Hahn, Thich, p. 36.
- ^ a bRoth, Beth. “Family Dharma: A Bedtime Ritual”. Tricycle (Tricycle Foundation). http://www.tricycle.com/online-exclusive/family-dharma-bedtime-ritual. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
- ^ Chodron, Pema (2002). The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times. Shambhala via Amazon Look Inside. p. 37. ISBN 1570629218. http://www.amazon.com/dp/1570629218/.
- ^ “Unit Six: The Four Immeasurables”. Buddha Dharma Education Association & Buddhanet. http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/bs-s15.htm. and “Unit Six: Loving-Kindness”. Buddha Dharma Education Association & Buddhanet. http://www.buddhanet.net/e-learning/buddhism/pbs2_unit06.htm. Retrieved January 10, 2011.
- ^ “A View on Buddhism: The Four Immeasurables”. Rudy Harderwijk (viewonbuddhism.org). http://viewonbuddhism.org/immeasurables_love_compassion_equanimity_rejoicing.html. Retrieved January 11, 2011.
- ^ Kohn, Shambhala, pp. 131, 143
- ^ Jeffrey Po, “Is Buddhism a Pessimistic Way of Life?”
- ^ Rahula, Walpola (1959). “Chapter 2”. What the Buddha Taught. Grove Press. ISBN 0-8021-3031-3.
- ^Prebish, Charles (1993). Historical Dictionary of Buddhism. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-2698-4.
- ^ Keown, Damien (2003). Dictionary of Buddhism. Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-860560-9.
- ^ Thanissaro Bhikkhu, The Not-Self Strategy, See Point 3 – The Canon quote Thanissaro Bhikkhu draws attention to is the Sabbasava Sutta.
- ^ This twelve nidana scheme can be found, for instance, in multiple discourses in chapter 12 of the Samyutta Nikaya—Nidana Vagga (e.g., see SN 12.2, Thanissaro, 1997a). Other “applications” of what might be termed “mundane dependent origination” include the nine-nidana scheme of Digha Nikaya 15 (e.g., Thanissaro, 1997b) and the ten-nidana scheme of Samyutta Nikaya 12.65 (e.g., Thanissaro, 1997c). So-called “transcendental dependent origination” (also involving twelve nidanas) is described in Samyutta Nikaya 12.23 (e.g., see Bodhi, 1995). In addition, Digha Nikaya 15 describes an eleven-nidana scheme (starting with “feeling”) that leads to interpersonal suffering (“the taking up of sticks and knives; conflicts, quarrels, and disputes; accusations, divisive speech, and lies”).
- ^ Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, page 56
- ^ Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, p. 57
- ^ Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, p. 58
- ^ Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, p. 59
- ^ Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, p. 60
- ^ Christian Lindtner, Master of Wisdom. Dharma Publishing 1997, p. 324.
- ^ Dan Lusthaus, “What is and isn’t Yogacara”
- ^ Williams, Paul. Buddhist Thought. Routledge 2000, page 161.
- ^ raga, Pali-English Dictionary, The Pali Text Society
- ^ dosa, Pali-English Dictionary, The Pali Text Society
- ^ moha, Pali-English Dictionary, The Pali Text Society
- ^ a bRichard F. Gombrich, How Buddhism Began, Munshiram Manoharlal, 1997, p. 67
- ^ “”Access to Insight”, a Theravada Buddhist website, discusses Buddha Eras”. Accesstoinsight.org. 2010-06-05. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/bullitt/bfaq.html#maitreya. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ “Gautama Buddha discusses the Maitreya Buddha in the Tipitaka”. Accesstoinsight.org. 2010-06-08. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/dn/dn.26.0.than.html. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ Kogen Mizuno, Essentials of Buddhism, Shunju-sha, 1972, English translation, Kosei, Tokyo, 1996, p. 57
- ^ Dispeller of Delusion. Vol. II. Pali Text Society, p. 184
- ^ Harvey, p. 170
- ^ Zen Buddhism: A History (India and China) by Heinrich Dumoulin, James W. Heisig, Paul F. Knitter (page 22)
- ^ Barbara Stoler Miller, Yoga: Discipline of Freedom: the Yoga Sutra Attributed to Patanjali; a Translation of the Text, with Commentary, Introduction, and Glossary of Keywords. University of California Press, 1996, page 8.
- ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge, 2007, page 73.
- ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge, 2007, page 105.
- ^ Michael Carrithers, The Buddha. Taken from Founders of Faith, published by Oxford University Press, 1986, page 30.
- ^ Alexander Wynne, The origin of Buddhist meditation. Routledge, 2007, p. 72.
- ^ abDharmacarini Manishini, Western Buddhist Review. Accessed at http://www.westernbuddhistreview.com/vol4/kamma_in_context.html
- ^ Richard Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988, page 44.
- ^ Johannes Bronkhorst, The Two Traditions of Mediation in Ancient India. Franz Steiner Verlag Weisbaden GmbH, pages 1-17.
- ^ Randall Collins, The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change. Harvard University Press, 2000, page 199.
- ^ abAlexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 51.
- ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 56.
- ^ Bhikku, Thanissaro (2001). “Refuge”. An Introduction to the Buddha, Dhamma, & Sangha. Access to Insight. http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/thanissaro/refuge.html#goi.
- ^ Middle-Length Discourses of the Buddha, tr. Nanamoli, rev. Bodhi, Wisdom Publications, 1995, pp. 708f
- ^ Professor C.D. Sebastian, Metaphysics and Mysticism in Mahayana Buddhism, Sri Satguru Publications, Bibliotheca Indo-Buddhica Series No. 238, Delhi, 2005, p. 83
- ^ Professor C.D. Sebastian, Metaphysics and Mysticism in Mahayana Buddhism, Delhi, 2005, p. 82
- ^ Hiroshi Kanno, Huisi’s Perspective on the Lotus Sutra as Seen Through the Meaning of the Course of Ease and Bliss in the Lotus Sutra, p. 147, http://www.iop.or.jp/0414/kanno2.pdf, consulted 5 February 2010
- ^ Stewart McFarlane in Peter Harvey, ed., Buddhism. Continuum, 2001, page 187.
- ^ Stewart McFarlane in Peter Harvey, ed., Buddhism. Continuum, 2001, pages 195-196.
- ^ Morgan, Peggy; Lawton, Clive A., eds. (2007). Ethical Issues in Six Religious Traditions (2nd ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. pp. 62–63. ISBN 9780748623303.
- ^ Richard Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988, page 89. He is quoting Carrithers.
- ^ B. Alan Wallace, Contemplative Science. Columbia University Press, 2007, p. 81.
- ^ Welch, Practice of Chinese Buddhism, Harvard, 1967, p. 396
- ^ Peter Harvey, An Introduction to Buddhism. Cambridge University Press, 1990, page 144.
- ^ Damien Keown, Charles S Prebish, editors, Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Routledge, 2007. p. 502
- ^ Sarah Shaw, Buddhist Meditation: An Anthology of Texts from the P?li Canon. Routledge, 2006, page 13. Shaw also notes that discourses on meditation are addressed to “bhikkhave”, but that in this context the terms is more generic than simply (male) “monks” and refers to all practitioners, and that this is confirmed by Buddhaghosa.
- ^ According to Charles S. Prebish (in his Historical Dictionary of Buddhism, Sri Satguru Publications, Delhi, 1993, p. 287): “Although a variety of Zen ‘schools’ developed in Japan, they all emphasize Zen as a teaching that does not depend on sacred texts, that provides the potential for direct realization, that the realization attained is none other than the Buddha nature possessed by each sentient being …”.
- ^ Prebish comments (op. cit., p. 244): “It presumes that sitting in meditation itself (i.e. zazen) is an expression of Buddha nature.” The method is to detach the mind from conceptual modes of thinking and perceive Reality directly. Speaking of Zen in general, Buddhist scholar Stephen Hodge writes (Zen Masterclass, Godsfield Press, 2002, pp. 12–13): “… practitioners of Zen believe that Enlightenment, the awakening of the Buddha-mind or Buddha-nature, is our natural state, but has been covered over by layers of negative emotions and distorted thoughts. According to this view, Enlightenment is not something that we must acquire a bit at a time, but a state that can occur instantly when we cut through the dense veil of mental and emotional obscurations.”
- ^ (Critical Sermons on the Zen Tradition, Hisamatsu Shin’ichi, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2002, passim) Commenting on Rinzai Zen and its Chinese founder, Linji, Hisamatsu states: “Linji indicates our true way of being in such direct expressions as ‘True Person’ and ‘True Self’. It is independent of words or letters and transmitted apart from scriptural teaching. Buddhism doesn’t really need scriptures. It is just our direct awakening to Self …” (Hisamatsu, op. cit., p. 46).
- ^ Kosho Uchiyama, Opening the Hand of Thought: Approach to Zen, Penguin Books, New York, 1993, p. 98
- ^ Harvey, Introduction, pp. 165f
- ^ Williams, Mahayana Buddhism, Routledge, 1st ed., 1989, p. 185
- ^ Routledge Encyclopedia of Buddhism, p. 781 .
- ^ Gethin, Sayings of the Buddha, Oxford University Press, 2008, p. xv
- ^ a bc Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Buddhism: The foundations of Buddhism: The cultural context. Retrieved 19-07-2009.
- ^ a bEncyclopædia Britannica Online. Hinduism: History of Hinduism: The Vedic period (2nd millennium – 7th century BCE); Challenges to Brahmanism (6th – 2nd century BCE); Early Hinduism (2nd century BCE – 4th century CE). Retrieved 19-07-2009.
- ^ Warder, A.K. 2000. Indian Buddhism. P.32
- ^ Y. Masih (2000) In : A Comparative Study of Religions, Motilal Banarsidass Publ : Delhi, ISBN 81-208-0815-0 Page 18. “There is no evidence to show that Jainism and Buddhism ever subscribed to vedic sacrifices, vedic deities or caste. They are parallel or native religions of India and have contributed to much to the growth of even classical Hinduism of the present times.”
- ^ S. Cromwell Crawford, review of L. M. Joshi, Brahmanism, Buddhism and Hinduism, Philosophy East and West (1972): “Alongside Brahmanism was the non-Aryan Shramanic culture with its roots going back to prehistoric times.”
- ^ “This confirms that the doctrine of transmigration is non-aryan and was accepted by non-vedics like Ajivikism, Jainism and Buddhism. The Indo-aryans have borrowed the theory of re-birth after coming in contact with the aboriginal inhabitants of India. Certainly Jainism and non-vedics [..] accepted the doctrine of rebirth as supreme postulate or article of faith.” Masih, page 37.
- ^ Karel Werner, The Longhaired Sage in The Yogi and the Mystic. Karel Werner, ed., Curzon Press, 1989, page 34. “Rahurkar speaks of them as belonging to two distinct ‘cultural strands’ … Wayman also found evidence for two distinct approaches to the spiritual dimension in ancient India and calls them the traditions of ‘truth and silence.’ He traces them particularly in the older Upanishads, in early Buddhism, and in some later literature.”
- ^ Gavin D. Flood (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University — Press : UK ISBN 0-521-43878-0 – “The origin and doctrine of Karma and Samsara are obscure. These concepts were certainly circulating amongst sramanas, and Jainism and Buddhism developed specific and sophisticated ideas about the process of transmigration. It is very possible that the karmas and reincarnation entered the mainstream brahaminical thought from the sramana or the renouncer traditions.” Page 86.
- ^ Padmanabh S. Jaini 2001 “Collected Paper on Buddhist Studies” Motilal Banarsidass Publ 576 pages ISBN 81-208-1776-1: “Yajnavalkya’s reluctance and manner in expounding the doctrine of karma in the assembly of Janaka (a reluctance not shown on any other occasion) can perhaps be explained by the assumption that it was, like that of the transmigration of soul, of non-brahmanical origin. In view of the fact that this doctrine is emblazoned on almost every page of sramana scriptures, it is highly probable that it was derived from them.” Page 51.
- ^ Govind Chandra Pande, (1994) Life and Thought of Sankaracarya, Motilal Banarsidass ISBN 81-208-1104-6 : Early Upanishad thinkers like Yajnavalkya were acquainted with the sramanic thinking and tried to incorporate these ideals of Karma, Samsara and Moksa into the vedic thought implying a disparagement of the vedic ritualism and recognising the mendicancy as an ideal. Page 135.
- ^ “The sudden appearance of this theory [of karma] in a full-fledged form is likely to be due, as already pointed out, to an impact of the wandering muni-and-shramana-cult, coming down from the pre-Vedic non-Aryan time.” Kashi Nath Upadhyaya, Early Buddhism and the Bhagavadgita. Motilal Banarsidass Publ., 1998, page 76.
- ^ Satapatha Brahmana 126.96.36.199
- ^ Oldenburg, Hermann, The Doctrine of the Upanishads and Early Buddhism, 1915, reprinted 1991 by Shridhar B. Shrotri, Delhi, Motilalal Banardass
- ^ Greater Magadha, Studies the Culture of Early India, Bronkhorst, Johannes, Brill Academic Publishers Inc, 2007, Series: Handbook of Oriental Studies, Section 2 South Asia Series, ISBN 9789004115194
- ^ Warder, A.K. 2000. Indian Buddhism. P.30-32
- ^ Warder, A.K. 2000. Indian Buddhism. P.39
- ^ Warder, A.K. Indian Buddhism. P.33
- ^ Walpola Rahula, What the Buddha Taught, pages 9-10.
- ^ “The brahmin by caste alone, the teacher of the Veda, is (jokingly) etymologized as the ‘non-meditator’ (ajh?yaka). Brahmins who have memorized the three Vedas (tevijja) really know nothing: it is the process of achieving Enlightenment — what the Buddha is said to have achieved in the three watches of that night — which constitutes the true ‘three knowledges.'” R.F. Gombrich in Paul Williams, ed., “Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies.” Taylor and Francis 2006, page 120.
- ^ Richard Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism: A Social History from Ancient Benares to Modern Colombo. Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1988, page 85.
- ^ Richard Francis Gombrich, How Buddhism began: the conditioned genesis of the early teachings Continuum International Publishing Group, 1996, pages 38-39
- ^ Michael Carrithers, The Buddha, 1983, pages 41-42. Found in Founders of Faith, Oxford University Press, 1986.
- ^ Alexander Wynne, The Origin of Buddhist Meditation. Routledge 2007, page 21.
- ^Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Vedic religion. Retrieved 19-07-2009.
- ^ Warder, A.K. 2000. Indian Buddhism. P.35
- ^ A History of Indian Buddhism — Hirakawa Akira (translated and edited by Paul Groner) – Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1993, p. 7
- ^ Mitchell, Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 2002, p. 34 & table of contents
- ^ Skorupski, Buddhist Forum, vol I, Heritage, Delhi/SOAS, London, 1990, p. 5; Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies, vol 21 (1998), part 1, pp. 4, 11
- ^ see also the book Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks, University of Hawai’i Press, by Dr Gregory Schopen
- ^ Encyclopedia of Religion, Macmillan, New York, sv Councils, Buddhist
- ^ Journal of the P?li Text Society, volume XVI, p. 105)
- ^ Janice J. Nattier and Charles S. Prebish, 1977. Mah?s??ghika Origins: the beginnings of Buddhist sectarianism in History of Religions, Vol. 16, pp. 237–272
- ^ Harvey, Introduction to Buddhism, p. 74
- ^ ab“Abhidhamma Pitaka.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica, 2008.
- ^ Encyclopedia of Buddhism. Routledge. p. 485.
- ^ a bc Keown, Damien (1996). Buddhism: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford University Press. pp. 58, 61. ISBN 978-0-19-285386-8.
- ^Akira, Hirakawa (translated and edited by Paul Groner) (1993. A History of Indian Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass: p. 260
- ^ Akira, Hirakawa (1993), A History of Indian Buddhism: From Sakyamuni to Early Mahayana: p. 271
- ^ “One of the most frequent assertions about the Mahayana … is that it was a lay-influenced, or even lay-inspired and dominated, movement that arose in response to the increasingly closed, cold, and scholastic character of monastic Buddhism. This, however, now appears to be wrong on all counts.” Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism (2004): p. 494
- ^Nattier, Jan (2003), A few good men: the Bodhisattva path according to the Inquiry of Ugra: p. 193-194
- ^ Williams, Paul (2008) Mahayana Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations: p. 4-5
- ^ Williams, Paul (2000) Buddhist Thought: A Complete Introduction to the Indian Tradition: p. 97
- ^ Williams, Paul (2008) Mah?y?na Buddhism: The Doctrinal Foundations: p. 5
- ^“The most important evidence — in fact the only evidence — for situating the emergence of the Mahayana around the beginning of the common era was not Indian evidence at all, but came from China. Already by the last quarter of the 2nd century CE, there was a small, seemingly idiosyncratic collection of substantial Mahayana sutras translated into what Erik Zürcher calls ‘broken Chinese’ by an Indoscythian, whose Indian name has been reconstructed as Lokaksema.” Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism (2004): p. 492
- ^Akira, Hirakawa (translated and edited by Paul Groner) (1993. A History of Indian Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass: p. 263, 268
- ^ “The south (of India) was then vigorously creative in producing Mahayana Sutras” – Warder, A.K. (3rd edn. 1999). Indian Buddhism: p. 335.
- ^ Akira, Hirakawa (translated and edited by Paul Groner) (1993. A History of Indian Buddhism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass: p. 253
- ^ A History of Indian Buddhism — Hirakawa Akira (translated and edited by Paul Groner) – Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1993, p. 8,9
- ^ Peter Harvey, “An Introduction to Buddhism.” Cambridge University Press, 1993, page 95.
- ^ Dan Lusthaus, Buddhist Phenomenology. Routledge, 2002, pages 236-237.
- ^ Peter Harvey, “An Introduction to Buddhism.” Cambridge University Press, 1993, page 113. “There were no great Indian teachers associated with this strand of thought.”
- ^ A History of Indian Buddhism — Hirakawa Akira (translated and edited by Paul Groner) – Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, Delhi, 1993, p. 9
- ^ Gombrich, Theravada Buddhism, Routledge, 2nd ed, 2006, page 135
- ^ Zürcher (1972), pp. 22-27.
- ^ Hill (2009), p. 30, for the Chinese text from the Hou Hanshu, and p. 31 for a translation of it.
- ^ Zürcher (1972), p. 23.
- ^ Carol E. Henderson, Culture and Customs of India. Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, page 42.
- ^ Joseph B. Tamney in William H. Swatos, editor, Encyclopedia of Religion and Society. Rowman Altamira, 1998, page 68.
- ^ “Chinese Cultural Studies: The Spirits of Chinese Religion”. Academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu. http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/core9/phalsall/texts/lopez.html. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ “Windows on Asia – Chinese Religions”. Asia.isp.msu.edu. 2011-09-23. http://asia.isp.msu.edu/wbwoa/east_asia/china/religion.htm. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- ^ “Religions and Beliefs in China”. Travelchinaguide.com. http://www.travelchinaguide.com/intro/religion. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ “SACU Religion in China”. Sacu.org. http://www.sacu.org/religion.html. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ “Index-China Chinese Philosophies and religions”. Index-china.com. http://www.index-china.com/index-english/people-religions-s.html. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ “Buddhism in China”. AskAsia. http://www.askasia.org/teachers/essays/essay.php?no=16. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ “Buddhism And Its Spread Along The Silk Road”. Globaled.org. http://www.globaled.org/curriculum/china/bessay1.htm. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ “U.S. Department of States – International Religious Freedom Report 2006: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)”. State.gov. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/irf/2006/71338.htm. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ State Attitudes to Religion[dead link] (PDF), The Atlas of Religion, Joanne O’Brien & Martin Palmer, openDemocracy.net
- ^ “Center for Religious Freedom – Survey Files”. Crf.hudson.org. http://crf.hudson.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=survey_files. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ “The Range of Religious Freedom”. http://crf.hudson.org/articledocs/TheRangeofReligiousFreedom.doc. Retrieved 2010-08-25.
- ^ A. C. Paranjpe (30 September 1998). Self and identity in modern psychology and Indian thought. Springer. p. 351. ISBN 978-0-306-45844-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=7Eqa6eoerDAC&pg=PA351. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
- ^Urmil? Pav?ra (June 2009). The weave of my life: a Dalit woman’s memoirs. Columbia University Press. pp. xv–xviii. ISBN 978-0-231-14900-6. http://books.google.com/books?id=5EELAQAAMAAJ. Retrieved 10 March 2012.
- ^ “Buddha Rising, Buddhism in the West, map – National Geographic Magazine”. Ngm.nationalgeographic.com. http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/ngm/0512/feature4/map.html. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- ^ http://oproject.files.wordpress.com/2007/09/mapofwar.jpg
- ^ “History of Religion”. Maps of War. 2006-11-12. http://www.mapsofwar.com/ind/history-of-religion.html. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- ^ http://library.thinkquest.org/05aug/02016/images/map_of_religions.png
- ^ http://www.wadsworth.com/religion_d/special_features/popups/maps/matthews_world/images/w001.jpg
- ^ “Wads Worth – Religions in Asia”. http://www.wadsworth.com/religion_d/special_features/popups/maps/matthews_world/images/w091.jpg. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- ^ Britannica[dead link]
- ^“The Range of Religious Freedom”. http://crf.hudson.org/articledocs/TheRangeofReligiousFreedom.doc. Retrieved 2011-10-24.
- ^ Garfinkel, Perry (December 2005). “Buddha Rising”. National Geographic: 88–109.
- ^ The world’s living religions page 335
- ^ An introduction to Hinduism page 76
- ^ Sources of Japanese Tradition: From earliest times through the sixteenth century page 101
- ^ http://www.ascd.org/ASCD/pdf/journals/ed_lead/el_195401_bush.pdf
- ^ Buddhism: religion in Korea paghe 13
- ^ On the antiquity of intellectual man page 104
- ^ Eclectic magazine: foreign literature, Volume 40
- ^ The Eclectic magazine of foreign literature, science, and art, Volume 103
- ^ Religions of Primitive Peoples – Page 28 4
- ^ The Wisdom of Life, and Other Essays page 217
- ^ Universal classics library: Volume 29
- ^ Christianity and non-Christian religions compared – page 79
- ^ Why India lives – page 228
- ^ Prabuddha bharata: or awakened India: Volume 69
- ^ The Vedanta kesari: Volume 51
- ^ a bMajor Branches of Buddhism, Adherents.com, retrieved on 2008-01-15
- ^ The Everything Buddhism Book – page 121
- ^ Philosophy East and West, volume 54, page 270
- ^ Armstrong, pp. 130—131.
- ^ Keown, Buddhism, Oxford University Press, 1996, page 12
- ^ Smith, Buddhism; Juergensmeyer, Oxford Handbook.
- ^ “Tibetan Buddhism”. American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. Houghton Mifflin Company. 2004. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/tibetan%20buddhism. Retrieved 2007-07-07.
- ^ (Harvey, 1990); (Gombrich,1984); Gethin (1998), pp. 1–2, identifies “three broad traditions” as: (1) “The Therav?da tradition of Sri Lanka and South-East Asia, also sometimes referred to as ‘southern’ Buddhism”; (2) “The East Asian tradition of China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, also sometimes referred to as ‘eastern’ Buddhism”; and, (3) “The Tibetan tradition, also sometimes referred to as ‘northern’ Buddhism.”; Robinson & Johnson (1982) divide their book into two parts: Part One is entitled “The Buddhism of South Asia” (which pertains to Early Buddhism in India); and, Part Two is entitled “The Development of Buddhism Outside of India” with chapters on “The Buddhism of Southeast Asia”, “Buddhism in the Tibetan Culture Area”, “East Asian Buddhism” and “Buddhism Comes West; Penguin handbook of Living Religions, 1984, page 279; Prebish & Keown, Introducing Buddhism, ebook, Journal of Buddhist Ethics, 2005, printed ed, Harper, 2006
- ^ See e.g. the multi-dimensional classification in Encyclopedia of Religion, Macmillan, New York, 1987, volume 2, pages 440ff
- ^ A Comparative Study of the Schools, Tan Swee Eng
- ^ Cousins, L.S. (1996); Buswell (2003), Vol. I, p. 82; and, Keown & Prebish (2004), p. 107. See also, Gombrich (1988/2002), p. 32: “…[T]he best we can say is that [the Buddha] was probably Enlightened between 550 and 450, more likely later rather than earlier.”
- ^ Williams (2000, pp. 6-7) writes: “As a matter of fact Buddhism in mainland India itself had all but ceased to exist by the thirteenth century CE, although by that time it had spread to Tibet, China, Japan, and Southeast Asia.” Embree et al. (1958/1988), “Chronology,” p. xxix: “c. 1000-1200: Buddhism disappears as [an] organized religious force in India.” See also, Robinson & Johnson (1970/1982), pp. 100-1, 108 Fig. 1; and, Harvey (1990/2007), pp. 139-40.
- ^ Gethin, Foundations, page 1
- ^ Hawkins, p. 88.
- ^ Clarke & Beyer, The World’s Religions, Routledge, 2009, page 86
- ^ Macmillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism (Volume One), pages 430, 435
- ^ Hawkins, pp. 40, 46.
- ^ “Bodhisattva Ideal in Buddhism”. Access to Insight. http://www.buddhanet.net/budsas/ebud/ebdha126.htm. Retrieved 2010-10-18.
- ^Nattier, Jan (2003), A few good men: the Bodhisattva path according to the Inquiry of Ugra: p. 174
- ^ Mall, Linnart. Studies in the Astasahasrika Prajnaparamita and Other Essays. Motilal Banarsidass. 2005. pp. 53-54.
- ^ Hirakawa, Akira. A History of Indian Buddhism: from ??kyamuni to Early Mah?y?na. Motilal Banarsidass. 2007. p. 297.
- ^ Conze, Edward. The Perfection of Wisdom in Eight Thousand Lines and its Verse Summary. Grey Fox Press. 2001. p. 89.
- ^ The Bodhisattva Vow: A Practical Guide to Helping Others, pages 4-12, Tharpa Publications (2nd. ed., 1995) ISBN 978-0-948006-50-0
- ^ Davidson, Ronald M. (2003). Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231126190.
- ^ Prebish & Keown, Introducing Buddhism, page 89
- ^ A.K. Warder, Indian Buddhism, 3rd edition (2000)
- ^ Eliot, Japanese Buddhism, Edward Arnold, London, 1935, page 16
- ^ Gethin, Sayings of the Buddha, Oxford University Press, 2008, page xiv
- ^“Buddhism”. Knowledge Resources. Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs. http://berkleycenter.georgetown.edu/resources/traditions/buddhism. Retrieved 2011-11-21.
- ^ Journal of the Pali Text Society, volume XVI, page 114
- ^ Peter Harvey, The Selfless Mind. Curzon Press, 1995, page 9.
- ^ David Kalupahana, “Sarvastivada and its theory of sarvam asti.” University of Ceylon Review 24 1966, 94-105.
- ^ Indian Buddhism, 3rd edition, page 4
- ^ a bMacMillan Encyclopedia of Buddhism, 2004, page 494
- ^Thelema & Buddhism (PDF) in Journal of Thelemic Studies, Vol. 1, No. 1, Autumn 2007, pp. 18-32
- Armstrong, Karen (2001). Buddha. Penguin Books. p. 187. ISBN 0-14-303436-7.
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- Coogan, Michael D. (ed.) (2003). The Illustrated Guide to World Religions. Oxford University Press. ISBN 1-84483-125-6.
- Cousins, L. S. (1996). “The Dating of the Historical Buddha: A Review Article”. Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society Series 3 (6.1): 57–63. http://indology.info/papers/cousins/. Retrieved 2007-07-11. ; reprinted in Williams, Buddhism, volume I; NB in the online transcript a little text has been accidentally omitted: in section 4, between “… none of the other contributions in this section envisage a date before 420 B.C.” and “to 350 B.C.” insert “Akira Hirakawa defends the short chronology and Heinz Bechert himself sets a range from 400 B.C.”
- Davidson, Ronald M. (2003). Indian Esoteric Buddhism: A Social History of the Tantric Movement. New York: Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231126190.
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- Embree, Ainslie T. (ed.), Stephen N. Hay (ed.), Wm. Theodore de Bary (ed.), A.L. Bashram, R.N. Dandekar, Peter Hardy, J.B. Harrison, V. Raghavan, Royal Weiler, and Andrew Yarrow (1958; 2nd ed. 1988). Sources of Indian Tradition: From the Beginning to 1800 (vol. 1). NY: Columbia U. Press. ISBN 0-231-06651-1.
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