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Buddhism Teaches that Only Knowledge Brings Redemption

Buddhism Teaches that Only Knowledge Brings Redemption

According to Buddha’s teachings, it is not prayer, not grace, and not sacrifice that brings redemption, but only knowledge.

An abstract understanding of theming is still absent, chiefly in the context of a religion-themed environment. How religion should be themed in an embedding environment to meet expectations of redemption remains undetermined. Never in the history of the world had a stratagem of redemption been put forth so simple in its nature, so free from any superhuman agency, so independent of, so even antagonistic to the belief in a soul, the belief in God, and the aspiration for a future life.

This knowledge lies within the power of the individual. It is won by his own insight, based on the power of his own moral conduct. No god bestows insight, the gods themselves are in need of it. Buddha imparts it. Each man who hears it must make it his own. Hence the last words: Strive unremittingly. In this sense, Buddha’s doctrine is philosophy. It lies in man’s power to acquire it.

The Four Buddhist Truths are frequently misinterpreted to mean that the Buddha’s teaching is cynical, or that it stresses only the suffering, pain and unhappiness which are inherent in us. But it is just the opposite. His teaching shows us convincingly what is disappointing and how to surmount it.

'Buddhism: The Complete Guide Of Buddhism' by Djamel Boucly (ISBN 153497850X) But once this faith in redemption by each man’s efforts was shaken, Buddhist thinking was bound to undergo a change. Now the Buddhist cries out for a helping god. But the gods themselves are in need of liberation, hence ultimately powerless. The Buddhist seeks help without abandoning his idea of a man who redeems himself by insight. And he obtains it when Buddha himself becomes a god. A whole new pantheon comes into being, though its figures are not called gods. Buddha, who wished only to bring a doctrine, becomes a divine figure over all the gods. The belief in Buddha’s insight is no longer philosophical faith, but faith in Buddha.

The first factor indicates to the social motivation of being in a stimulating place with family and friends and sustaining curiosity; the second factor refers to the combination of experiencing the environment of expressions of religious redemption and seeking an escape from daily life; and the third factor includes items related to achieving a sense of redemption, being close to God and achieving fulfillment.

Buddha himself, as his last words show, had no desire to attach his wisdom to his person. But the Buddhists did not preserve the human veneration which opens the student to the master’s teachings. At an early day the impact of Buddha’s personility led to his deification.

Authors such as Matthew Arnold (1822—1888) gained the belief to contest the principal Protestant precept of salvation by faith, as well as the conventional reliance on revelation through miracles, in part from the ethical focus and historicism that he learned from Buddhism and, even more so, from the tactic of comparative religion. There is a central distinction between saying that being is incessantly miserable and saying that sorrow is an unavoidable part of the human condition.

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The Death of the Buddha

The Death of the Buddha

The memory of Buddha’s death and the period preceding it has been preserved. The date of his death, 480 B.C.E, is regarded as certain. His last wandering is described in detail. At first, he tried to get the better of his painful illness and cling to his life. Then he put his will behind him: “Three months hence the Perfect One will enter into Nirvana.”

Journeying onward, he casts a last glance back at the beloved city of Vesali. As they enter a little wood, he gives his last instructions: “Make me a bed between two twin trees, my head to the north. I am tired, Ananda.” And he lay down as a lion lying down to rest.

When one of his disciples wept, he said: “Not so, Ananda. Do not mourn, do not lament. Have I not taught you that it is in the very nature of all things near and dear to us to pass away? How then, Ananda, since whatever is brought into being contains within itself the inherent necessity of dissolution, how can it be that such a being should not be dissolved?”

The disciples believe that with Buddha’s death the word will have lost its master. “Think not so. The doctrine and the order that I have taught you, they will be your master when I am gone. The Perfect One thinks not that it is he who should lead the brotherhood. … I am now grown old, my journey is drawing to its close, I am turning eighty years of age. Therefore, O Ananda, be ye lamps unto yourselves. Rely on yourselves. Hold fast to the truth as a lamp. Seek salvation alone in the truth.”

His last words were: “All accomplishment is transient. Strive unremittingly.” Then, rising from one stage of contemplation to the next, Buddha entered into Nirvana.

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #2 Andrew

The Crucifixion of St. Andrew, by Mattia Preti, Art Gallery of South Australia

Today the lush hillsides and blue waters of Galilee are virtually unchanged since Biblical times, when the holy apostle Andrew lived and worked as a fisherman. Andrew was the first apostle whom Jesus chose. His brother was Simon, whom Jesus later renamed Peter.

Fascinated in the spiritual life, the young Andrew seems to have left his fishing nets to follow John the Baptist. He walked for miles to find this holy prophet expounding at the Jordan River. After Andrew was baptized by the prophet, there came among them looking for baptism, Jesus of Nazareth.

When John the Baptist saw Jesus, he turned the attention of the crowd toward this solitary figure and said, “Behold the Lamb of God … ” (John 1:29–30.)

Andrew knew that he must seek Jesus out, and he brought his brother Peter, and later Philip to meet Jesus. Though Andrew, Peter, their young cousin John, and Philip were not yet apostles, they escorted Jesus and his mother to the wedding feast at Cana. (John 2:1–11) There they saw him achieve the miracle that changed water into wine. They returned home and took up their trade as fishermen, until Jesus came one day to summon them, saying, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:18–20)

Saint Andrew - Apostle and Patron Saint of Scotland Andrew took the lad with the five loaves and two fish to Jesus. And he assisted in the distribution of the food once Jesus miraculously multiplied the small provisions so that the crowd of 5,000 would have more than enough to eat. (John 6:1–14) He is listed as an apostle in the Acts of the Apostles; it is the last record we have of him in the New Testament.

Presently, the apostle Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland; his cross in the shape of an X is the symbol of the country. He is also declared as patron saint by Orthodox Christians and of fishermen. He is also the patron saint of Greece, Russia, Amalfi (Italy), singers, spinsters, fishmongers, fishermen, gout and sore throats.

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Meditation: Controlling one’s own mind to realize a new mode of consciousness

A carving of the Buddha sitting in meditation pose

The practice of meditation encompasses a range of techniques that can be used by individuals to cause their mind to experience a different level of consciousness. Meditation can be focused on many different goals, including self-regulation, religious experience, building internal energy sources, and relaxation. Typically, meditation is a practice that involves training the mind to engage in a particular habit of reflections. In some traditions, meditation involves attempting to separate the mind from the other experiences of the body, whereas others emphasize a physical element of meditation by encouraging repetitive action or vocalizations. The great Hindu spiritual teacher Swami Sivananda once said, “Meditation is the dissolution of thoughts in Eternal awareness.”

Many religious traditions developed practices that were intended to move the individual beyond the experience of the immediate self, and all of these can be considered forms of meditation. The earliest recommendations for the use of meditation can be found in the Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, produced in India between c. 1500 and c. 500 BCE, and in ancient Buddhist texts, which promote meditation as essential for a path to enlightenment. In Tibetan Buddhism, meditation is both a path toward inner reflection to know oneself better and a path ultimately to move beyond the limits of the self.

In several traditions, meditation is intended to have a calming effect on the mind, which is why the term is often used nowadays to refer to a range of quiet relaxation techniques that do not necessarily have religious meaning. Even in the modern world, the idea of meditation usually means more than just relaxation, however. Communication with a reality that goes beyond the typically limited experience of consciousness requires that consciousness be transformed in some way. Thus, most religions include a form of prayer that can be considered a kind of meditation.

'Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism' by Chogyam Trungpa (ISBN 1570629579) Over 40 years ago, in his seminal book Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism, the Buddhist teacher Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche talked about how we misuse meditation as a defense against what we do not want to feel.

Ego is constantly attempting to acquire and apply the teachings of spirituality for its own benefit. . . . We go through the motions, make the appropriate gestures, but we really do not want to sacrifice any part of our way of life. We become skillful actors, and while playing deaf and dumb to the real meaning of the teachings, we find some comfort in pretending to follow the path.

This variety of meditation is in many respects quite different from what is conservatively understood as “meditation” in our contemporary culture. Meditation buttonholed as a somatic habit consists of two aspects. The first involves paying attention to our body, transporting our conscious intention and focus to and into our physical form. Devoutness is an opening of your heart to the promises you seek—the promises of peace, freedom, or awakening.

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Resplendent Sculpture of Avalokiteshvara from Kurkihar (Bihar, India) from 12th Century

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara from Kurkihar, Bihar

The bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara, a sculpture originated from Kurkihar, during the reign of Ramapala of the Pala dynasty, 11th-12th century. Kurkihar is the historical site was visited by Buddhist pilgrims in the ancient times including the Chinese travelers Fa-Hien and Hieun Tsang. It lies at a distance of approximately 22 km from the Gaya district.

This bodhisattva sits on a double lotus in lalitasana; his right foot rests on a lotus emanating from the base, suggesting that a prabhamandala was in place on another base. His right hand is stretched out, bestowing blessings and boons. The left hand holds a lotus stem which blooms over his left shoulder.

Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara sits on a Double Lotus in Lalitasana Wearing a girdle with pearls around his waist, the other jewels comprise a necklace, bracelets, arm-bands and a beaded sacred thread that drapes over his right thigh. Notable are the twin kirtimukha, faces, on his armbands. His hair, arranged in a coiffure on top of his head, contains an effigy of Amitabha.

Kurkihar: Relic of an ancient Buddhist Monastery

Kurkihar is a village about three miles north east of Wazirgunj. It deserves mention on account of the remarkable abundance of ancient remains. Carved slabs of large size and architectural fragments of all kinds are found in plenty, often built into the walls of houses. Votive stupas are to be found in abundance on the edge of a large tank, great quantities of large bricks of ancient make are still being dug out of the great mound. Some well-preserved statues had been removed by the local zamindar to his house, the most important of which is a figure of bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara.

There is another collection of ancient sculptures in the courtyard of the temple of Bhagwati, among which is a singularly beautiful figure of Buddha in meditation. At Punawan, three miles to the south-west are more Buddhist remains. Here stood the once famous temple of Trailoknath which does not now exist.

A large mound that this village sits on the top of is the remains of what was a Buddhist monastery in antique times. The village hit the headlines in 1930 when one hundred and forty-eight bronze articles were dug out of this mound. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of all sizes, bells, stupas and ritual objects of the finest workmanship were recovered. Most of these are now on display in a special room in the Patna Museum.

The second of Kurkihar’s two Hindu temples still has a large collection of Buddhist sculptures in it that have been found in the area over the years. One of the best of these is a fine statue of Akshobhya Buddha just outside the entrance of the temple. Note the fourteen calved pillars in the temple also, they date from about the 9th century.

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Human Conscience is an Unending Stream of Continuous Thought

William James and his concept of Stream of Consciousness

Although the concept of the mind possessing a streaming consciousness can be found in early Buddhist texts, the first modern approach to the phenomenon was put forward by William James (1842-1910), one of the United States’ first recognized psychologists in his 1,200-word masterwork The Principles of Psychology in 1899.

In this book, James speaks of consciousness as being “unbroken” and states that there are no “gaps,” or as he liked to say no “intrusive alien substances,” that come along to distinguish or break up one period of consciousness from the next. For consciousness to be interrupted by gaps or intrusions, James thought, is like “expecting the eye to feel a gap of silence because it does not hear, or the ear to feel a gap of darkness because it does not see. So much,” he said, “for the gaps that are unfelt.”

Consciousness, rather than being “chopped up,” was likened instead by James to a river or stream, a process that is ever-flowing even in the event of a sudden interruption, such as an explosion or losing one’s footing and falling over. These sorts of things-a clap of thunder or the sound of a gunshot—are about as disconnected from our present thoughts as “a joint in bamboo is a break in the wood.” The thunder clap is as intrinsically a part of our continuing, unbroken consciousness as the joint is a part of the bamboo in which it grows. James believed that our cognitive experiences overlap one another and are linked by what he called “fringes,” subconscious tabs, which act as clasps that are necessary in binding our conscious thoughts together, and prevent us from living in a chaotic inner world of random, unrelated experiences.

James’s theory influenced literature and became a narrative device to depict the multitudinous thoughts and feelings that pass through an individual’s mind. James Joyce’s Ulysses (1922) is one of the best-known examples of the stream of consciousness technique. William James wrote in Principles of Psychology (1890) that, “The attempt at introspective analysis in these cases is in fact like seizing a spinning top to catch its motion, or trying to turn up the gas quickly enough to see how the darkness looks.”

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Get to Know the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ: Apostle #1, Peter

Repentance of St. Peter by Jusepe de Ribera, Oil on canvas, Spain, 17th century, State Hermitage Museum in Saint Petersburg, Russia

Holy Scripture identifies Peter the first of all the apostles, though Peter, a modest fisherman, never put himself first. In many ways the holy apostle is most like us, for his compound nature exposes him to be very human; he is passionate and loyal, cowardly and courageous.

Once called Simon, he was given the name Peter (meaning rock) by Jesus, who said of him, “Upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matthew I 6:13-19)

Jesus moreover told Peter at the Last Supper that he would deny him. Peter loved his master, yet that night, after Jesus’ arrest by the temple soldiers, a terrified Peter swore three times he did not know Jesus. Then he recalled Jesus’ prediction and was almost driven to misery for his timidity. Unlike Judas, the apostle who betrayed Jesus, Peter deeply atoned and was pardoned.

Following the Resurrection, Jesus appeared to his apostles. On one such occasion he was by the Sea of Galilee as they were out fishing. Identifying him, they swiftly turned their boat toward the shore. But Peter was too impatient and eager— spontaneously he jumped into the water and swam to his master. (John 21:1–8.) Whilst all the rest were filled with the greatest joy to see Jesus, Peter alone seems to have been driven by his brash heart.

Symbols of St. Peter, the Apostle: Keys, Cockerel at Holy Trinity Church, Hildersham, UK After Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles rousing them to preach the word of God, Peter and the others endangered their lives everyday going about their master’s work. In the Acts of the Apostles we discover that it wasn’t long before Peter was imprisoned, but as he lay asleep in his cell, an angel of the Lord came and liberated him.

The location of Peter and Andrew’s house is still marked today. A church was built on the site in A.D. 352. Later it was substituted by a basilica, and excavators unearthed two ancient fish hooks and a small axe for cutting stone. Possibly the fish hooks and axe belonged to Peter and his brother.

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The Four Noble Truths in Buddhism

Buddha Statue at Borobodur Temple in Indonesia

Siddhartha Gautama, the historical Buddha, taught that the Buddhist path to enlightenment lies in freedom from desire.

According to traditional biographies, Siddhartha Gautama (c. 563-483 BCE) was a prince from northern India who renounced his privileged life to seek spiritual awakening. At first he followed the ascetic tradition of Indian holy men, mortifying the flesh with extreme fasting and other hardships. After seven years of such striving, and now so emaciated as to be barely alive, he came to sit under the Bodhi Tree at Gaya. One evening, he accepted a little nourishing food, relaxed, and felt a profound change overtake him. After sitting through the night, at dawn he achieved a state of perfect understanding, becoming a Buddha (enlightened one).

Siddhartha’s insight into the nature of reality was later formulated as the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism.

  • 'Buddhism in Practice' by Donald S. Lopez Jr. (ISBN 0691129681) The first truth is that life, as usually lived, is suffering “Birth is suffering, aging is suffering, illness is suffering, death is suffering.” The Pali Canon of Buddhist scriptures (duhkha)-frustration of desire, losing what we want, having to live with what we do not want.
  • The second truth is that suffering results from clinging to the illusory things of the world with desire or hatred, striving for one or fleeing another.
  • The third truth spells out the solution: the achievement of nirvana, the state of enlightenment in which the world can be seen for the delusion that it is. Freedom from illusion will mean freedom from attachment to illusory desires.
  • The final truth sets out the practical path to enlightenment dharma—including right understanding, right speech, right action, and right concentration.

In the context of the traditional Indian belief in reincarnation, nirvana is seen as the escape from the endless cycle of death and rebirth. Freedom is found in the realization that even the self is an illusion.

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St. Thomas Aquinas’s Five Proofs of God’s Existence

St. Thomas Aquinas receiving the Holy Spirit (in the shape of a dove), by Andrea di Bartolo (c. 1368-1428)

Intellectual arguments for the existence of God, based on reason and observation Of the many attempts to prove the existence of God, arguably the best are the five proofs, or five ways, that were offered by St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-74) in his unfinished work Summa Theologica (1265-74) They are:

  1. motion (motion cannot begin on its own and so there must have been a first mover);
  2. causation (the sequence of causes that created the universe must have a first cause);
  3. contingency of creation (all things depend upon other things for their creation, so there must be a being that caused the initial creation);
  4. degrees of perfection (there are differing degrees of beauty in the universe, so there must be a perfect standard-God to which all things are compared);
  5. intelligent design (the universe follows laws that appear to have order, which implies the existence of a Great Designer).

Technically more of an attempt to clarify the ways in which people conceptualize the creator as described in Christianity, the five proofs are generally seen as earnest arguments for the reality of God. Thus, like many other philosophical claims, the five proofs have taken on a significance different to the one intended by their author. After all, Aquinas, being a Roman Catholic, already knew of God’s existence through faith. In Summa Theologica (1265-74), St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “It is better to … deliver … contemplated truths than merely to contemplate.”

The adequacy, or inadequacy, of the five proofs brings up the provocative issue of the relationship between the divine and rationality. Indeed, the five proofs highlight the strained relationship between that which is known a posteriori (through experience) and that which is known a priori (through reason), which then calls into question the priority of philosophical inquiry over scientific inquiry, and vice versa.

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Buddhism: Philosophy or Theology?

Buddhism: Philosophy or Theology?

In glorious works of art and literature we behold this transformed Buddhism with its elaborately sensuous pantheon interposed between the believer and Nirvana. The question arises: What has all this to do with Buddha? And we answer: In the world of the gods, the innumerable rites and cults, the institutions and sects, and the free monastic communities, a vestige of the philosophical origin remains discernible; something of the spiritual light first embodied in Buddha is reflected even in the most primitive figures of later Buddhism.

Buddhism proposes an ultimate reality. Some forms of Buddhism may call this nirvana, others buddhahood, and so forth, but all schools and sects of Buddhism do have a notion of ultimacy. Religion, conversely, regularly provides us with answers to life’s big questions from the start. We learn what to think and believe, and our job is to live up to that, not to interrogate it. If we relate to the Buddha’s teachings as final answers that don’t need to be examined, then we’re observing Buddhism as a religion.

In all Buddhism there remains a trace of his wonderful self-abandonment, of the life that lets itself be wafted into eternity. There remains the Buddhist love which partakes in the suffering and joy of all living beings and refrains from violence. Despite all the terrible things that have happened in Asia as everywhere else, an aura of gentleness lies over the peoples that have been touched by Buddhism. Buddhism is the one world religion that has known no violence, no persecution of heretics, no inquisitions, no witch trials, no crusades.

For something to be a religion, there must be a personal transformation that results from the individual’s experience of ultimate reality. This is most usually showed by a positive change in morality and/or ethics, expressions of compassion, kindness, or similar forms of conduct. If we apply this description, it’s clear that Buddhism is a religion.

True to its origin, Buddhism has never known a cleavage between philosophy and theology, between free reason and religious authority. The question of such a distinction has not heen raised. Philosophy itself was a religious activity. And this fundamental principle has remained unchanged: knowledge itself is liberation and redemption.

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