Buddhism is not just a religion but a world-view.

The concept(s) of "God" or "soul" are not entertained in Buddhism.

Buddha did not deny God, but was silent about it.

Not a religion, not a [life of] Dharma - distinct ethical code.

Not related to other local beliefs/religions/whatever.

Buddha wanted to reform religion around practicality and ethics.

A cohesive system in which all variables are changing constantly and everything is interconnected.

In the Mahayana period, "Buddha" atains level of deity.

Buddha lived 500 years before Christianity.

Dharma, Karma, Nirvana - simple terms essential to Buddhism, they have to be grasped in their many forms of meanings.

Pali – spoken dialect, written in Sanskrit

Buddhism is a world in itself. It's sectarianism (number of sects) is next to only Christianity.

Mahayana – "the great wave"?

Hinayana – orthodoxy, "lesser vehicle"... fewer people

Maha in Sanskrit = Great in English
Bakti = devotion
Buddha = Enlightened one

Buddha is not a name, but rather a title. Gautama (a very common name those days) was a prince in the border region between Nepal and India. He had a very sensitive termpermant, and was handsome with a big head of hair.

Sadhus leave a houseful life for a houseless life.

Asrama = schools
s(italic because it should have a thingy on top) = sh sound

Materialistic life is not the only life.

The prince was sheltered. He was provided many servants, and babied for his temperment. His father wouldn't let him out of the palace until he was a kid of several years old.

Gautama/Buddha questioned things we don't normally question in a way we don't normally do.

Socrates is supposed to have said “Pain and pleasure are always together”

Pain and happiness are cousins.

Buddha uses the word dukkha, literal meaning is pain, but also translated as suffering by some people.

There is a price to be paid for higher life, which makes things as they are, unsatisfactory. Accept it, acknowledge it, and know what to do with it.

Sadhu = An ascetic holy man, Answers.com/sadhu
Samana = one of the 5 Pranas (vital currents), Answers.com/vital currents
Ascetic = Answers.com/ascetic

Father hooked up Prince with a wife. Prince left wife and son for the forrest/woods. After doing so, Buddha visited and taught 64 sects.

Gurus of the time told others to test physical bodies to extremes. In following this advice at one point, Buddha lived on one grain of rice a day.

Greatest yogi. These fakes have no idea what religion is.
Note: Upon reviewing my notes, I am not sure what the above line was about...

Buddha was meditating on existential questions. How to form a new religion to deal with things that all other religions don't deal with.

Buddha got to Bodhi/enlightenment, after which he acquired 5 disciples (5 ascetics) that were people he had previously known.

Oral tradition for two centuries before scriptures documented.

Buddha called himself Tathagata
Tatha = thus
gata = arrived or gone forth

Beliefs in karma and reincarnation, explained without the 'help of the soul', will be explained in days to come.

Appropriate.... intentions, livelihood
Has to be realized, not dogmatic

Buddha enounciated four noble views, fundamental to Buddhism (simple facts of life about dukkha, the aryan truths):

1) no life is free of such occastions of dukkha: Birth is dukkha, old age is dukkha, sickness is dukkha, death, contact with unpleasant things and people, not getting what one wants, love w/attachment (separation is inevitable)

dukkha is unsatisfactoryness, a challenge (pain is a very simplistic translation)

samsara (world, worldliness) entails dukkha

samsara – the world cycle

reincarnation is a mythological way of rejecting the world

someone said punishment of old age is death

The five skandhas(s)/khandas(p) which themselves change

(s) for Sanskrit and (p) for poly

1) rupa – form

if everything changes how can you have a soul that doesn't change? Argue this, the soul does change.

  1. Vedana – sensation

    skandhas can also be called clusters or groups

  2. sanna – perception

  3. samskams – predispositions (cumulative karma)

  4. vijnana - consciousness

all are penetrated by dukkha

2004-01-11 seminar 3

Buddhism is a reaction to Orthodox Brahmanism

samsara (world, worldliness) entails dukkha <- being caught in the cycle of recycleing through birth & death

4 noble truths

  1. All is suffering

samsara entails dukkha

3 marks of existence

  1. all beings are transitory

  2. All is suffering

  3. Anatman – there's no such thing as a permanent soul, no such thing as a self – non self, non ego (atman can mean something like soul)

4 criteria for presentations:

  1. Delivery

  2. Content

  3. Outline

  4. Discussion


2004-01-11 lecture

repitition is a device to philosophise

Sutra(s) or sutta(p)/aphorisms = a text

Ancient Indian language = Sanskrit

Buddha wanted to speak to people directly in their own language, so he spoke in his mother tongue Magadi. Two centuries later Monks happened to start writing in Poly. It is like simplified Sanskrit or spoken Sanskrit.

Aryan/noble. Aryan is what high society called themselves or each-other. Members of the higher ranks of society, aristocracy, etc.

the buddhist monk = bikhu

samsara = the world-cycle

Buddha is a title which means enlightened one. A very superior kind of intelligence. Buddha, handsome prince, one fine day left the household royal life and wandered 6 years in search of a true guru. He did not find any satisfactory. So he sat down under a tree, and for a long time thought about the nature of existence and all that. One day he felt that he knows the basic truth of existence. After securing his own salvation in the buddhist sense. Should he share this or not? Benevolence is the true mark of all wisdom, so he decided to share with others. He looked for 5 Ex-disciples who abandoned him earlier. City of venaris. A little away from where the Buddha was born. He approached the disciples and they responded in disrespectful terms. And Buddha said Hark this is not how you treat one who is enlightened. They were wonderstruck, and he made them the recipients of the essence of his wisdom, the four noble truths. First he tells them that a real wise man and a real Tatha(thus)gata(arrived). Something like a Messiah. Two extremes are to be avoided, and middle path is the best: indulgence, materialism, pursuit of pleasure. On other hand, extreme pursuit of religion, a monk. Be moderate. He begins in a very dramatic way to enounce the 4 Noble Truths (page 274):


dukkha is pain, unsatisfactoryness of existence. Many things [that were listed] - just about everything - is dukkha.

People with a big baggage of karma have to come back and be reborn; birth is dukkha.

“One of the reasons you were born, was because of all the pain you are suffering”; birth is undesirable.

The desire to do good to others exists in all of us. Professor Singh makes use of the media's attention to the tragedy in Thailand as an example.

"God", "soul", Buddha finds as theology, metaphysics. Buddha wants to deal with dukkha. He wants people to recognize/admit they have dukkha, not supress it. Even the richest and most prosperous person has dukkha.

Clusters = skandhas(s)/khandas(p)

Professor Singh goes over the The five skandhas(s)/khandas(p) again:

  1. form

  2. sensation

  3. consciousness

  4. predispositions

  5. perception

They are constantly changing, and because they are constantly changing they are permeated by dukkha. Dukkha shakes one into motion to change those things.


An aryan truth of the cause of dukkha:

The craving that leads to rebirth: tanha(p)/trishna(s) = craving, excessive desire, obsesssion, lust. Even though Buddha speaks philisophically, the mythology is “in-built”, with regards to the rebirth (reincarnation). Trishna brings us into samsara. Cravings divided into 3 things:

1) passions (lust, sex, etc.)
2) craving for existance (wishing for things to remain the same, wishing to remain young, wishing things not to change, wishing to exist forever)
3) craving can also be for non-existance (craving for salvation taken too far like people torturing their body in the name of yoga).

Nirvana is not a goal that can be accomplished in one lifetime. It takes many lifetimes to do good deeds and reduce your baggage of bad karma.

Chain of causation doesn't exist just in the physical realm but also the spiritual realm.

Dying itself is not absolutely called dukkha. People say death is dukkha because they are so attached to samsara.

[I was doing the quiz and missed a bunch of questions]

Attachment is considered counterproductive. It's possible to serve others, love others, with detachment.


It's possible to get rid of dukkha, to get rid of craving, it's possible for us to have Nirvana. It's possible for us to get rid of these negative things. We are pushed into this world through samsara but we are not of this world. Our soul belongs to another life. We seem to be on earth, but at the same time we are on a higher plane. Buddhism just doesn't reference the soul.


Marga(s)/magga(p) = way

the 8-fold way

craving is such a problem that you have to attack it on 8 different fronts. [Prof. Lists the bunch of stuff I will have to look up or catch later].


It took two centuries of oral tradition before a great meeting/convention of Buddhist monks where things were put into writing. Nothing comes directly from the Buddha's own mouth. This is why many sutras begin with the phrase “thus have i heard”.

The notion of dependant origination

pratitya(co-dependent) sampudpada(co-origination)

when we look at physical and spiritual world, it is all causily linked. There is a host of causes for a host of happenings. There are effects and their anticedants. Prof says Finite beings come into being and perish, but as a whole it is all infinite.

[bunch of talk and reading form book about 5 skandhas]

6th sense is buddhi = 4 senses + mind

traditional religions translate buddhi as soul. They elevate mind to the level of the soul, both Hindu and Greek. Buddhism says mind is just one more faculty, there is no such thing as the soul.


mind is a byproduct of the ancient term psyche

Buddhism arose as a reaction to Hindu tradition. Buddha was a Hindu.

anatman(s)/anatta(p) = no soul

when people have a strong notion of self, they are more likely to become victims of self-love or self-obsession, and be less concerned with the dukkha of others.

atman(soul/self) and Brahman(Being/God) - Buddha thought such notions were counterproductive
atman --> moha(attachment) - mamta(mine-ness)

In reality, interconnection is more real than the distinctness. You are part of everything, not detached.

removal of dukkha is the something of Dharma


Buddhism is unique in saying no to the self. You have to widen the scope of yourself.

Two truths:
1) samvriti-satya or vyavaharika
2) higher paramarthika-satya

according to Buddha, the purpose of Dharma is removal of dukkha

sva-bhava = self-nature and/or substantiality (ousia in Greek)

Vedic B
Hinduism materialists
brahman nihilists
atman there is no dharma


self samvriti(conventional)-satya(truth) moha(attachment)
no-self paramarthika(higher)-satya(truth) mamta(mine-ness)

sva - bhava (Sanskrit)
self - nature




Greek Thought






Dharma has many meanings... moral order, integrity, program. In Buddhism, Dharma has a very personal connotation


Topic for today: The silence of the Buddha

Always praised relationship between silence and what Buddha is all about.

Buddhism is silent on the issue of God. Similarly, on certain metaphysical issues which exist in other traditions and considered extremely crucial in philosophy or religion; whether God exists, the [precise] definition of Nirvana [and it's real character] (it is not a thing, therefore it cannot be defined), what happens to a saint when a saint attains salvation..

Nirvana is another name for freedom. We all want to be free.

Prof. reads top of p.289 in sourcebook.

we are checking out a Sutra on p.281

Being Becoming Nothing
vedic | Hindu schools   Carvaka
concepts    theories 

Reads p.143 in World of the Buddha


topic for today is Dharma-pada
pada = steps and/or verses
"The sayings of Dharma", "The teachings of Dharma"

Dharma in Sanskrit means religion. also means moral order, law, ethical code, and basic nature.

In Buddhism there is no concept of God, but there is a great deal of emphasis placed on Dharma. There has to be a guideline by which we live, principle exposition of values - comes under Dharma. Buddhism incorporates the ancient term Dharma and places the same emphasis as other religions place on God. Dharma has to do with the 8-fold path; how to attack the problems of cravings (krishna), making us aware of the problems of our lives on 8 different fronts.

Dharma-pada is a compilation/summary of the Buddhist teachings, by an anonymous Buddhist monk. The footsteps of Religion - Max Muller.

arhats or senior monks
Thera(Elders)-vada(Text) ended up in Sri Lanka

maha = great
sanghhika = Buddhist church/group

4 different sects have 4 different versions of dharma-pada, and not all of them are exactly the same.

simple at first-sight, but there is much to read between the lines. seems to be no logical sequence, since it is a collection/compilation from different kinds of Buddhist texts. The real appeal is in it's simplicity and poetic power; easily commited to memory, so it became a primer to Buddhism, though the real primary text is the Four Noble Truths.

Favourite book of the Lei Buddhists.

Simple but not simplistic.

reading p.305 in Indian Philosophy

yama = the God of death, the Registrar of Karma

mara = the Buddhist devil

bikhshu = the Buddhist monk


We have studied early Budhism, early centuries of Buddhism following Buddha's demise. Sectarianism developed. Debates over [no-]self, God, etc. Some scholars and monks came up with a solution to the debate over self, bringing it in the back door ("no self, but there is a figure"). Though this would have been a heracy. Practicality - self vs Self. self is okay, but not Self (spiritual, narcicistic, self-love and self-obsession). 3300 sects in today's day and age. Buddhism originally became the religion of the arhats. It was no easy task to become a pure Buddhist.

140 AN (After Nirvana) First controversy was whether or not to open Buddhism to the public, or just keep it among the arhats.

Arhat = praiseworthy, saintly figure
Sangha = the Buddhist church/community/group
sthaviras vs.maha(great)sanghika(people/followers of Sangha)

Bhodi Satva = "Buddha to-be"

200 AN 2nd split was with the pudgala(figure)-vadins(oriented), also called personalists

236 AN 3rd split was with vibhajya(divisions)-vadins, divisionists. Based on their particular theory of time. "Time is divided into a series of nows". They were in the business of thinking about the Past, Present, Future, and the interconnections.

Buddha inspired many people, and many philosophers popped up after him. They wanted to resolve seeming contradictions in Buddha's sutras.

abhidharma(the expositions of Buddhist Philosophy) texts

Buddhism was just a minor sect in itself, since in it's early days, Hinduism was the main thing surrounding it, and the two had formal/public/documented debates.

End of Sectarianism...

Emperor Ashoka

Witnessed a great deal of bloodshed, in battles he was involved with. Overcome w/pity and disappointment, so he renounced war, and was the first emperor to do so, because he had come under the spell of Buddhism. He helped with all sorts of Dharmas. Great patron of fine arts, provided subsidies. Often religious artoworks in caves, very remarkable paintings and sculptures. At same time sent missionaries to SouthEast Asia. his son took Budhism to Sri Lanka, which became center of Orthodox Buddhism, whereas it gradually disappeared from Indian soil due to revival of Hinduism.

lived in 3rd century BC. about 270 BC in Eastern north east of india, all the way to Afghanistan. He got the territory by fighting battles. One being Kalinga (now Orissa), The Centre of Hinduism Buddhism and Janism.

After his conversion to Buddhism, distilled what he knew from other languages, in his own language, and put it down on rocks. 14 Edicts spread on his territory, all the way to afghanistan, on rocks, mountains, wooden plaques; proclamations and guidlines for the populous.

prof reads p.239 world of the buddha, p.240, p.243


Mahayana developments in Buddhism:

you must have heard of these two broad movements/sects hinayana(lesser vehicle) and mahayana (larger vehicle)

hinayana & thera(elder)vada both mean the Orthodox part

maha(greater or larger)-sanghikas(Buddhist Church or Group) ultimately gave rise to maha-yana. Protested against the Orthodox who made it too intellectual and heavy to practice. Wanted to bring Buddhism to the masses. Arhats presided over sanghas. Life of an arhat was very ascetical, given up samsara, very much devoted to religious life and has hardly any materialistic life. arhats were supposed to be the people who were candidates for Nirvana. if so difficult to practice, there would be few Buddhists. Since Buddha's message was so important, some of the thinkers in the sangha wanted to take it to the masses/countryside, for people to lead the life of Dharma, four noble truths, including 8-fold path. should be made easy to practice and not hard and not overly intellectual, not just so Brahmans and scholars could practice. maha-sanghikas, the reformers, they took some steps to loosen the grip that arhats had on the religion; arhats were being counter-productive, just after most-strocit discipline, and too demanding, so few Buddhist believers were around. you cannot keep repeating the four noble truths and not expand on them. the meanings of the earliest sturas, memorized by th emonks, became stale after a few centuries - people couldn't find a justification for memorizing all that stuff, but they wanted to introduce some new ideas -innovation - furthermore Hindus had very rich mythology, numerous gods, goddesses, profusion of divine entities in temples, sculptures, fine arts. Buddhist temples had nothing but a few scriptures, so they wanted to make things more interesting, fascinating, captivating. so the maha-yana movement got underway around Christian times - a renaisance, revivalist movements. Message of Buddha presented in new style, new scriptures, new dieties, Buddha was turned into a diety (figure to be worshipped) and made part of Buddhist bhakti(devotion or love). A religion should answer the needs of the heart (love), not intellect. Approaching god through love, which you are familiar with and love each-other. Never the less, even with no concept of god in Buddhism doesn't mean they shouldn't have bhakti. have devotion to elder monks and all that. # of arhats dwindled, and was a cause for concern.

Buddhism that spread into China was mahayana. Much of the old scriptures are in Sri Lanka. One of the centres of Hinayana is Scri Lanka. Other hinayana and theras moved onto Cashmere in the very North, and they established another center. Another minor center was around where Buddha was born,in Nepal. Rest of the world became Mahayana, China, subsequently Japan , neptal, tibet, mongolia... Hinayana did not have missionary spirit, did not look kindly on production of new scriptures and innovations, which tha mahayana did.

Mahayana has many branches new scripts writings artworks etc.. in order to put a frame on it, study philosophical developments, and unsystematic form of mahayana religion (harder to explain, too much detail).. the schools of unsystematic form of mahayana created two very well known philosophical schools:
1) "2nd buddha" nargarjuna presided over: madhya(middle)mika(most)
2) yogachara, a kind of school of idealism, comparable to plato philosophy - only thing that's real is idea. Yoga-oriented school, impressed w/Hinduism, yet a Buddhist sect/school. Presided over by Asanga & Vasubandhu brothers

about 100 BC some mahayanists felt existiing statements of the doctrine have become stale. They felt that Dharma required new reformulation to meet new circumstances, etc. so they wanted to produce new litterature, that could appeal to the Chinese, with their confuscianism and Taoism. Buddhism was made into a universal religion, narrow Indian interpretations were being taken away, making it more exportable. It was quite in harmony with Taoism and Confuscianism, emperors took to it. mahayana creators made all the dharma for all the transmissions. then creative period lasting for 5 centuries (first 5 of Christian era constituted first fundamental mahayana movement).

so mahayana had religious innovations, three bodies of the "super-"buddha:
1) dharmakaya(body of the absolute)
2) sambhoga-kaya (transcendental body)
3) Nirmanakaya (body of transformation)
turning Buddha into super-divine figure, "almost comparable to god", had 3 major tasks, take care of dharma, take care of all physical life, take care of all change and transformation.

all the above shows shift from arhat ideal to bodhi(enlightenment)satva(essence) (buddha-to-be). Most fascinating concept.. we are all bodhisatvas, all at various/different stages of development. Buddha, before attaining enlightenment, was a bodhisatva. they postpone their nirvana [to help] until all other sentient beings can reach. also indicative of the belief that there is so much good in this world. all good people are like bohdisatvas, who have compassion and are good and help people; personification of compassion. through, of course, a myth, but buddha used to have only one deity (buddha himself), so they created a whole bunch of stuff. early buddhism was all about knowledge; four noble truths self-demonstrating, not a dogma. wisdom was a great quality of the hinayana period. mahayana quality was compassion.

from vidya(wisdom) -> karuna(compassion)/religious

salvation needs to be gained through 6 para(higher)mitas(virtues)/perfections
the mystical bodhisatvas
fascinating figures were created, making buddha plural (rather than singular), this way mahayana development took place, lots of innovation, made "more interesting", yet not losing grip on philosophy.

arhats = the praise worthy, Buddha was also given this title
bhikus = Buddhist monks
yoga means union

hinayana in first 5 centuries of Christian era. buddha-ksetras(regions). Presided over by dieties such as amitabha buddha and akshobhya buddha. just an attempt to create buddhas territories extending all over the universe. they were not satisfied with the advent of the buddha sakyamuni, the original historical buddha. historical buddha was just one manifestation of that buddha which controls the whole universe. a subtle attempt to make buddha the replacement of god. but they did so very creatively, new creations, new speculations, to make sure the buddha never looks like god, although it may have some of the attributes. but because god and soul are somewhat forbidden as concepts in buddhism, or buddha would be silent on.. mahayanists were not heretics, against the spirit of buddhism, but whatever the worldview allowed them they created. hinayanists were kind of unhappy about mahayana developments (counterproductive, tampering with tradition and purity of message of the buddha), and did not take kindly to it , and sometimes even left areas where mahayanists were operating. they went on with their own doctrine of development. systemizing abidharma(the systematic texts of traditional Buddhism), compendiums where everything is explained, up to 4th centry AD they were created. up to 12th centry, hinayana continued to prosper as a regular branch of buddhism, even to this day the Sri Lankans are hinayana buddhists. it was among hinayanist sects that various scientific developments also took place - buddhist psychology, 174 kinds of mental dharmas are described, 89 kinds of consciousness - lots of work in psychology. even today psychologists can gain from their ancient speculations. In Nepal (katmandu) and Cashmere is supposed to be created by the manisheri buddha. ashokas missionaries built 500 monistaries for the arhats in the valley of cashmere, he supported all kinds of buddhists. the whole cashmere valley was given as a gift to the sangha by ashoka.

reading up to p.282 in world of the buddha


Mahayana movement had 2 aspects. characterised by religious innovations (new scriptures, new mythologies, expanding the figure of the buddha into mythological proportions, and God-like devotion to the buddhas, even notion of buddha has been pluralized). whether buddhas come or whether buddhas dont' come, it remains a fixed constitution. mahayana takes things much further than that; buddhism as if it would satisfy the longings of the heart. where-as early buddhism was satisfying the longings of the mind. 2 major schools emerged and flourished in mahayana period. madhya(middle)-mika(most) school & yoga(union)-achara(oriented/conduct) school. latter talks about consciousness w/out referring to a self. Yoga-achara are the Idealists, with Maitryanatha as the legendary founder, Vasubandhu and Asanga were brothers (4th Century CE) who did lots of work. There is a religious dimension to these schools, as well as philisophical.

vijnana = consciousness

yoga-achara: nirvana must be a conscious state

yoga-achara was in existance by 4th century CE. Emphasized yogic meditation. vijnana oriented. main standpoint is basicall consciousness is all-in-all. only what you think is real. The school of Zen is supposed to be an off-shoot of the yoga-achara school (focussing on consciousness still). Nirvana must be a conscious state, because if there is no consciousness, happiness cannot be experienced. Prof Goes on about different kinds of consciousness. Pure consciousness is designated by an important mahayana term: sunya(empty)ta(ness). vijnana = consciousness. when you think of things, your consciousness transforms into those objects. this consciousness ranges over rebirth, according to yoga-achara. other transformations of vijnana are not real, they are maya(illusory). maya is subjective reality. yoga-achara has much to say about psychology or psychological reality, the notion of consciousness was their specialization. ultimate truth can only be known through intuition (not rationality), which is what Hindus already believed. mere reason ends up in self-contradictions, and does not lead to the higher truth.

samvriti(conventional)-satya(truth), param(supreme/higher)ar(supreme/higher)(meaning)-satya(truth). to get from former to latter, you use intuition, according to yoga-achara. Former has a self or is more self-oriented, latter doesn't/isn't. cognition/perception may not be the right one - subject to questions, correction. vijnana alone is true. the criteria for empirical truth is how an object serves it's cognitor.


introduction to the school of madyamika - -middle-most school of buddhism. the other systematic school of philosophy, which has gained world-wide and ever-lasting recognition as unique philosophies in their own right.

they never claimed to be original philosophers, they were only elucidating the words of their master, the buddha himself. concept of self kept coming back through the back-door, there were heracies developing all the time, by the buddhist schools themselves. great work was done by asanga brithers and nagarjana of the two mahayana schools. nagajarna was at the beginning of mahayana, some think he started it, and is an early buddhist philosopher (the kind before it went to China). nagarjana was from a Brahman family, and overwhelmed by the message of the Buddha, totally converted to it.

nagarjana wrote the mula(fundamental)madhya(middle)mika(most)karika(treatise). he was a great expert in Sanskrit and philosophy. he wrote that word in poetry. he sits at boundary of early and later buddhism, so he belongs to both. just as in Western with Descarte, father of modernity. however, decarte has so much connection with medevil philosophy and harks back to it in his work. these guys take the old ways and apply them to new ways. najarjana is like the second buddha, if he is the founder of mahayana, infusing new spirit & vitality into Buddhism. equally focused in philosophy & religion. it is estimated that there are more than 120 translations of nagarjana's treatise/karika. with the advent of extistentialism , the karika was reinterpreted by many scholars. the work has so much depth, it has produced a divergence of interpretations. even tho the work is completely logical and rational, every once in a while nagarjana stops short and pays homage to the buddha. it's beautiful to read the way he writes of his master, the buddha. his message is "reality lies in the middle".

Vedanta Hinduism (a school of thought) - Idealism, Being(Brahman), firm faith in idea of substance(sva-bhava, self-nature) or soul(atman)
on the other side is................................................................but in the middle is Buddhism - Becoming
Carvakas - Nihilism - nothing

The blessed one was silent on intellectual voluptuousness. too much meta-physicals is not fruitful, on the one side. Buddhism says no to metaphysics, but it accounts for a dynamic reality that is in flux. nagarjana had a mandate, a very complex one, when he came on the scene, as he studied earlier, there were numerous schools operating within buddhism, at least 30 mentioned in ancient documents. some of the schools were on the wrong path - finding it very difficult to completely get rid of the concept of soul or self, so they gave other names to something that was like the soul, but they didn't call it the soul, rather gestarut, or figure, but brought it from the back door into Buddhism. rival philosophical schools which were debating with eachother, what was really the intellectual meaning of what the Buddha said. Buddha spoke in simple metaphore, language of the people, simple manner... "here is the dukkha, and the cause of the dukkha", you must control them, moderate conduct, 8-fold path, etc. that moderation is to be effected in language, livlihood, consciousness, meditation, and so on, 8 different levels/areas of your life. at the end be assured that craving can be eliminated without a remainder. it is also possible for humans to get to a cravingless state, though most only know it sporadically and for a short time. therefore buddhism is not pessimistic, but does show the way toward salvation or nirvana. salvation for a human being is salvation from the bondage of craving, because that is what prevents us from being happy. so these sorts of things had to be explained in the light of the fact that there is no self, on the ohter hand schools like sarvastivadins, one of the major schools when nagarjana appeard on the horizon, they had a theary of sva-bhava and there were these people part of the mahayana movement talking about another concept bodhi(Buddha)chitta(consciousness). we all have consciousness of becoming in corner of our mind there is this potential of being as enlightened as the buddha himself was. in a way we are all little buddhas, that is the viewpoint of the mahayanists. on the other hand, concept of buddha nature was dangerous and heretical, like talking about the self without talking about the self "you all have a nature, that is to be called buddha nature", admitting nature of a self through the back-door. svabhava means self-nature. very creative new concepts thrown in by mahayana. but dangerous concepts according to nagarjana, beacuase they bring self through the back door. they talk as if human being has human nature, but there is no human nature. nagarjana tries to explain that there is no svabhava but there is emptyness. the theory of dependant origination in more detail he tries to explain. introduces sunya(emptiness). tatha(that)ta(ness) is sunya(empty)ta(ness). in other words, all things don't have a substance, they are empty of substance. so the notion of substance and notion of idea is a delusion. but in fact things are not detached from eachother, they all exist as a network. they don't have individual essences, like in Platonic philosophy "this table has a tableness", the substantiality of the idea of table is present in this table - as we have been tought. buddhism turns the tables and says there is no such thing as the idea or the substance by referring to which all the things in that class can be understood. in fact things are intertwined, there is no X with a substance of X, but X Y and Z, and so on. are meshed intertwined and exist as networks. i exist because i had a cause, and i exist because therefor ein turn i am able to cause other things to exist. everything is to be looked at in this fashion. when you get rid of notion of substance, svabhana, etc. you raise yourself from conventional truth, to higher truth. because at the level of conventional truth, we have the self, our selves, but when a person uplifts himself or herself into the real truth, higher truth, realizes that there is no self. in fact i am part of a stream of existance, iw as no more, i came into being, i will be no more. i'll just be modified into something else, but in a way i always am, and in a way i never am. this is a different kind of logic, what it says is you change one tiny thing and you have changed the whole universe, all things have domino effect, so an entities cause and an entitie's effect and the entity itself they are intertwined. you can't just pluck out the entity and say this is the entity X because it has a substantiality. in other words you have to think of the whole network, you have to think of things belonging to eachother, causing eachother modifying eachother, moving on and on. there was no radical event when this universe suddently began, according to Buddhism, no Genesis so to speak, the world has always been like this, the chain of causation.. comparable to heraclidues, but not plato or fermentioties. very change-oriented dynamic explanation of reality.

X -> y -> Z you can't really detach the Y from X or Z, they are essentially connected, no seperate existance based on substance called this Y, has to be connected to it's origin and what follows. but when the new thinkers create concepts of svabhava and bodhicitta they are going against the spirit of codependant origination which nagarjana didn't like. there were 2 reformers in ancient times: mogliputra(3rd C BC), appears in some discourses of the buddha, and Nagarjuna (2nd C AD). they both were the reformers in the sense that they tried to clean up the speculation of various buddhist sects and opposed the rival non-buddhist sects. hinduism had sects, 6 schools of philosophy with numerous sects each. nagarjuna had to deal with buddhist and hindu sects, latter was becoming very popular. so he had to say all the sects were in the dark, and wrong, and correct view of the buddha is an improvement over all hundu philosophy at the same time buddha himself is not being correctly interpreted by buddhists. all of it he unloads in his famous karika, 30 chapters, discusses famous buddhist doctrines. only problem is notbody has understood it entirely. so a very sharp scholar of our times dr kalupahana from univ of hawaii says that actually the whole karika is a commentary on an original text called katayana sutra. so nagarjana takes on buddhist text which is very important in which the silence of the buddha is described, and basically explains in minutest details what the silence of the buddha means.

one thing remains for sure, that nagarjana's work on the whole is a commentary on the original sutras which are the words of the buddha himself - nothing but a commentator, nevertheless he is called the 2nd buddha because his commentary is so suggestive.

some of the buddhist sects were preaching in those days that they were trying to preach that time has a series of nows, that time can be divided from eachother, past present future, moment after moment after moment.. moment in Sanskrit is ksna. lot of problems arise if you get rid of self and substance coz then u cannot explain movement of time. there is nothing eternal behind the movement of time. how past present and future are conencted? and that has to be philisophically explained, hard to do w/out self and substance. aditional problem for nagarjana! what is time? that to will be explaind in the karika. and on the other hand there were some other schools which were creating a new concept of pudgala(figure, ghost)a ghostly phenonmenon. over and above 5 skandhas you ahve a figure. nagarjana says no figure, exactly as buddha said, 5 skandhas and nothing else. nagarjana also explains very minutely that there are two truths, samvriti(conventional truth) and paramarthika(higher truth). at conventional level things appear to be different, and we embrace conventional truth, truth of appearances, but if u raise your consciousness you realize that Y is not just y but Y is X & Z. and nirvana according to nagarjana is simply disappearance of ignorance. so when we overcome conventional truth which is full of ignorance we get glimpses of nirvana here in this life. nirvana is not an abode beyond series of reincarnations but you do get aquaintance with nirvana each time u get rid of conventional truth, getting newly inspired to move slowly to absolute nirvana, according to nagarjana. at higher truth things are empty of substance. tatata is sunyata, thatness of that is empty, thatness of that has nothing to do with self or substance. and that is a state in which you are having a discourse with nirvana while being alive.


Class lead by John Mayer

Tibetan Buddhism is Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle) Buddhism. Also called Tantric Buddhism. It's not the only Tantric Buddhism, but it certainly is Tantric Buddhism.

What is Tantra? It characteriszes some practices that developped in India, first, both among Hindus and among Buddhists, and the Tantric practices were not necessarily the stuff that was written into the texts of the holy books, but they were just practices.

Roman Catholic example: part of being a Roman Catholic is to participate in the mass, and the mass is the distribution in the church of a little piece of bread and a little bit of wine because in the scriptures, shortly before easter, Jesus has last supper with his disciples, and he gives them bread and wine and asks them to have this kind of rememberance meal; by that time jesus knows he's in for it on Good Friday. and so he realizes it will be important for his disciples to commemorate him. However, it has been made into an elaborate ceremonious thing, a ritual/custom not part of the Bible. Customs have become ritualized.

The Tantra in India is the ritualization of Hindu and Buddhist practices. It's not a matter of changing what's done, but if for example you are told in Hinduism that you have 5 or 6 energy centres, called Chakras, and the lowest one is punderini and one of the obviuos things that Hindus want to do is to integrate the energies of the chakras, lowwest with higher, and so the practice is called pundolini yoga. a method that is taught by certain teachers on how to do something that is desirable, and this method may involve highly ritual things, it's not just a method of well you punch yourself in the centre and release it... there are some things you might want to do to achive the objective, and about sounds and colours and how to sit and what sorts of attire should you follow and so on. well that is the Tantra, it doesn't change the fundamentals, but it teaches a lot of rituals. skeptics, will say oh well that's a lot of mumbo jumbo; if you want to create enlightenment or liberation, the starting point is 10,000 prostrations. is there any logical tie between gaining your liberation or becoming enlightened and bowing down [prostrating] in your own room to no one in particular, you just have to do that. OK well a skptic will say that's a lot of mumbo jumpbo, but on the other hand if you are a part of the tradition and told that's how it's done, locked up for 3 months in solitary, where you can practice your 10,000 prostrations, well, that's all part of Tantra. now this tantric development is singularly pluralistic. which means that there's not just one way of achieving things, there are a lot of different techniques, and the way that the Indian Tantric practicitioners learned it was from their particular teacher or master who in turn learnt it from his teacher/master, but you know perfectly well that if you have lived a few states further east or south, you would have had a somewhat different teacher, with his different teacher, so they would do it a little differently. one may say you can drink milk and other may say no milk, taboo!! and so there are these routines and rituals which communities of poe;les have develop[ed over time. usually it is passed on from teacher to disciple and may well be that with the best intent tthe disciple doing exactly, well it may end up a little different, or have experiences that suggest to him different ideas or things (what's neccessary, what should be done). and so the handing down may have considerable change. and people who practice, hundi or budist tantra, realize they have a lineage that goes back to their teacher, and teacher's teacher, and some great soul who taught many people, or who originated the practice, but originating it is not the same as having it accepted and transmitted form generations. buddhism is not the original religion of Tibet. buddhism came in largely from bankok, and in bangkok there were a lot of tantric traditions, by bengali buddhists and hindus. these kidns of people who then taught the people like butmasambaba who took buddhism to tibet in 8th c. so there are no original theoretic differences between tibetan buddhism and other varities of buddhism. tibetan buddhism really wanted to avoid dogmas. they had 3 schools of buddhism in tibet: Nyingma (oldest), Karma Kargyu, and Geiugpa (yellow hat tradition, the newest). many of you know about dalia lama, who is very international known figure, working toward peace in the world and so on. he is the head of the geigupa sect of buddhist. not only the head, but independatnylt of being the head, he used to be the king of Tibet b4 chinese occupation. he had double role, ruler of all tibet and the head of the Geuigupa tradition of buddhism.

tibetan buddhism is essentially tantric and it's tantrism is exactly what is of great interest to all of us, and that has something to do with the fact that the tibetans had a pre-buddhist religion that had all kinds of dieties in it, and that was called the bon religion. and when buddhism came to tibet, it sort of integrated itself [world views] with the pre-existing earlier. many of their gods would become guardian dieties of buddhist sacred palces, scaring off evilspirits. because of that tibet developed an artform which is the heart of tibetan buddhism. artform is interesting concept, because here u have many friends who write poems, sing, dance, etc. that is entertainment, decoration, self expression.. but in tibet the production of these arts, all of them, were part and parcel of the religious practices of tibetan buddhists. so one of the arts is called tanka(or maybe written tanga, not sure) painting.

*shows a diety in "yab-yum"* possibly exhibits elements from China

being and becoming belong together. tibbetan buddhists think ritual practices is enlightenment. To them, debating existance of God, the devil, etc. are useless mind-games. bliss is not a reward for doing it, if you do it right, you will be blissed-out by doing it. they don't want to explain why things are done the way they are done, just as Buddha did not answer questions about whether the world is infinite or finite (or other such questions like existance of God).


Guy from last week presenting again, on Zen Buddhism

gnosis - Greek word for knowledge (in English, comes up in prognosis [foretelling, diagnosis])


Exam details:

April 19, 9AM @ WC Bob Davis Gym

2 kinds of questions:

  1. Short notes "write short notes on 4 of the following", 4 out of 6 topics. Point form is not alright - use proper English, short answer style. "A paragraph or two". Just try to answer the factual question. You don't have to evaluate or express your judgements of the issue at hand. Just write whatever you know about the topic. All topics will be chosen from the exam topics handed out to you in the hand-outs. Analysis not required. Every question is about 10 marks each.
  2. Essay-type questions. 3 out of 4 - some choice. Do evaluate, give reasons, not just opinions. "I thing Buddhism makes great sense, for the following reasons...", "I think the following concept does not make sense..." giving reasons and examples. Don't shy away from analysis, give some analysis. 60 marks, 20 each.

In all, 7 questions, so time yourself - exam is of 3 hours duration. Maybe about 3 pages. Part 2 is worth more than 1, it is better to make sure you do your best with it.


In Buddhism, the silence of the Buddha is something very remarkable. by his own attitude he sent a message that theological and intellectual speculation is profitless, and therefore if too much verbiage is being used on a certain issue at times you're better off to be silent. and silence is not just avoidance of wisdom, but part of wisdom. so buddhism already had this opposition to metaphysics and linguistic cleverness, which comes by way of 2 much logic 2 much argumentation. the buddha did not just teach just byargument , but by his exemplary lifestyle, and showed in her personality what Nirvana is. consequently legend tells us in one of his sermons one of his daily habits, after breakfast he addressed his disciples the lay monks who would assemble every morning to hear him, he came forward, did not say anything, but held a lotus flower in his hand. he let everybody see the flower, smiled, and went back to his pavilion. quite mysterious for some ppl present, but there were others who understood it's meaning, that he was teaching true silence. that this life is blissful when it is craving less, when obsessions are given up life of detachment from the samsaric cravings is a noble one. he showed by his attitued, and that is why his disciples called him they happy one, the eye of the universe. he personified the happyness that comes from detachmnet and lack of obsessions. and that according to some was th ebeginning of Zen. Zen is a byproduct of mahayana buddhism moving into china and japan eventually. and when mahayana which was already full of new mythology, gods and goddesses even borrwoed from hunduism, and new buddha figures, and new concepts of bodhisatvas, it was treated as most fascinating spiritualism by the chinese. mind you at that time in china confuscianism and taoism were already involved as two domainant things.. but when mahayana entered china, and many intellectuals were returning from india, with buddha scriptures, they started translating into chinese, and for that task patronage was given by rulers who also found it fascinating. all these programs and ventures were fully under-way. one reason that buddhism sailed through china was that it was not opposed to confucianism and taoism, where as they prepard a condusive ground for buddhism to enter. it is said that through confluence of taoism and mahayana buddhism , the ground was ripe for Zen buddhism to arise. an attepmt to bypass mahayana and go back to the buddha gautama's teachings. a peculiar chinese version of mahayana buddhism which was reinterpreted and achieved it's full flowering in japan. the story of the two zen masters dogan and isai, traveled from japan to china for the sole purpose of learning there.

Zen was application of buddhism to the needs of chinese ppl. the orthodox or hinayana, the other major division of buddhism, Zen seems to have moved further and further away from orthadox hinayana 'lesser vehicle' of buddhism. where it is fruition of mahayana, it is somewhat contradictory or opposed to hinayana. so zen is known for it's spiritual vitality and stimulating demonstrations - koans, satoris - to conveince disciple to the way of exporing nature of things.

Zen is essentially defined as heart of the Buddha. Brings heart of Buddhism, aims at heart/crux of the matter. Buddha hradya(heart).

dhyana means concentration or focus referring to meditation. meditation is focusing on something or focusing away from samsara.
In Chinese chan-na, in Japanese Zenna

Just like Nirvana, Zen is also indefinable.

It is a speculative mysticism, there are Zen masters and they seek a few apprentices or disciples, and Zen truths/principles are only demonstrated after long training. Personal experience is most important in Zen, there is a Japanese term called goruku(sayings). Zen has little to do with rationality and linguistic gains. Basic ideas of Zen are as follows: get in touch with inner workings of our being without any aides, without memorizing of sutras or rituals, focusing on personal experience, all authority is to be rejected (even the authority of the Buddha). Zen masters inspire disciples of these things. Buddha is no big deal if you don't know the heart of his message. Prof goes on to give A whole bunch of proof that Zen follows Gautama's teachings. all authority comes from within. it is me who decides whether or not to acknowledge an authority. even reason is not final, it hinders mind's communication w/itself. A Zen master said that Zen is your everyday thought. Impermanent, something y ou can't put a finger on or define once and for all, but as elusive. mysticism ceased to be mystical is Zen, said another master.

In the Sung dynasty which lasted from 960-1279 CE, Zen was in these 2 or 3 hundred years most dominant Chinese school of Buddhism. It wiped off all the other buddhist schools at the time of the Sung dynasty. Really flourishing around 10th century CE in China, because other sects of Buddhism stressed the need for complete faith in something beyond one's self, creating major figures, Bodhisatvas, buddha-figures, non-historic figures of buddha. It was at that time that travellers came from Japan and were impressed with Zen and took it into Japan where it ultimately flourished. from 960 to 1280 a lot of development of art poetry philosophy and overseas trade. Zen temples were the holiday inns of those times. businessmen would stay in Zen monastaries because they couldn't find any hotels. whever they stayed they came into contact with these curious places with Zen masters instruccting disciples. witnessing all that the businessmen would take it home. sometimes Zen missionaries would travel with these business people to Japan and spread the word there. It was not until 2 great masters appeared in japan and subsequently travelled to China. 2 founders of 2 zen sects in japan. Essai, who lived between 1141-1215 CE, about 74 years, curious that japanaese have the longetivti even then. Dogan, 1200-1253 CE, being an intellectual he was only given a short span of life, or the former was much luckier. that tells us that zen was also a personality oriented discipline.

Essai: Renzai school of Buddhism. visited china to study zen, returned as master of Rinzai School. One of the things he brought form China was tea, fav beverage of Japanese ppl. So he was the personal introducer of tea into japan. you must have heard about the tea ceremony, that began with Zen buddhism discipline. Japanese tea ceremony is about paying attention to everything. The Brittish also pay attention to their tea, which involves heating up the teapot with boild water, heating up the cups, heating up milk, hehe and so on. Japanese tea ceremony is quite elaborate, but whole idea is don't dismiss this mundane thing as drinking tea as trivial or not important, beause doing everything properly teaches you something. teaches you to be in the present, which we are not. teaches u focus. also helps you to pass time in a harmess way. paying attention to the present, saying thanks for life, not taking life for granted. when we pay attention we in a way are saying thanks, thanks tat we are alive. all these messages come through Zen. Anyway, so when he came back from China he encountered some esoteric opposition from buddhist schools in kyoto. consequently had to move to kamakura. but there the military rulers or jap martial arts ppl took him under their wing and they protected him. it was there Essai started Renzai. later on he became so famous, he was inviveted back to kyoto, met tendia and chindan orders, esoteric schools in kyoto. kyoto resembles Tokyo, eastern capital vs. western capital. both cities were at one point capitals of japan.

Dogan: Personified another virtue of Zen, rugged determination. an aristocrat, received excellent education, trained to be a prime minister, but he chose the religious life, and just like the buddha he could not find one good teacher who could teach him in whole of japan. at 15, Essai died, so he probably was not paying attention. he could not find 1 teacher who looked like the Buddha, so he went to China in search of a great teacher. there too he was running around for 2 years, looking... at last he met Ju-Ching who was teaching his monks that Zen means dropping off both body and mind, drop both notions together and that is Zen. and Dogan went away and meditated and practice and came back to Ju-Ching (sounds like Zoo-Ching) and said Body and Mind are dropped, now what? Zoo-Ching said go back and practice dropping of the dropping. that is, go back, and cultivate humility, come to a state where you're not proud of having dropped body and mind. and dogan was much impressed with this teacher, and finally he was able to drop the dropping of the body and the mind. and on return to japan, dogan refused to teach anything but Zen, however he sided with essential unity of scripture and personal teaching, but being an intellectual himself he said well you'll have to have known the scriptures before dropping it. for it to be big enough to over come it you at least need aquaintance with it. He always used to say stay on top of the lotus don't let it get on top of you. while you're doing the scriptures while you're delving into religion and you notice that all the buddhist statues and figures show buddha seated on a big flower of white lotus which is a symbol of purity that all defiles of samsara don't touch him, like the lotus flower growing up in dirty water. dogan refers to that essential symbol of buddhist religion, the lotus flower. dogan was also studying a great deal of hinayana orthodox buddhism, and had conservative bent of mind unlike other Zen people. quoted saying if you want to obtain a certain thing you must first be a certain man, once you are that certain man that thing won't be of concern any more. the kind of person who deserves that thing and comes to that stage sees that they don't need it anymore. so becoming somebody and not running after something is the aim of Zen. Zen is a kind of self-craftsmanship.

koan = a riddle to show inadequacy of Reason/Logic.

satori = sudden enlightenment

[Dogan's Soto School] sitting in meditation = za-zen
for Dogan means practicing every day Za-zen. practicing this empytying out of the mind, consistent with the Buddhist attitude, emptying the mind of all samsaric thoughts. through this gradual life-long changes would occur, don't have false hopes that certainly the master will hit you and you will get sudden enlightenment (satori). Dogan was a no-nonsense guy.. you have to practice, it's a life-long thing. he was not attacking other masters, but he was saying that people who have aspirations to become practitioners, there is no easy way out for them. koans and satoris are no short-cuts. it is a long discipline practice. buddhahood can be realized through selfless action. getting rid of the ends and focusing on the means. Practised until this day by Zen masters in Japan. Buddhahood is not a static thing, it grows on each effort.

Is Zen a religion? Maybe it isn't, no god no rights no hereafter no soul.. not much talk of reincarnation either, one of the features of early buddhism. just like the spirit of buddhism, does not deny nor affirm notion of god. Zen is not to be confused with just meditation (dhyana), although it's name comes from it, meditation is incidental to it. what zen aims at is to discipline the mind itself to make it it's own master, beyond ordinary meditation. it's not doing something through meditation, but bringing mind to a state of sheer innocence. meditation as practiced by other religions is not native activity of the mind. do birds and fish meditate? no. is it not enough for them to fly and swim? just like the bird flies and fish swims, our mind should be brough to that level of innocence where it doesn't aspire to do anything or achive anything, to not be goal-oriented anymore. other schools have aims with meditation, like elimination of stress, but not Za-zen. it is to make us aware of our rationalizm, why we are always thinking in a calculated manner, why always after this or that aim or goal. does the mind have to do only that? namely problem solving. the mind left by itself, wouldn't it make us as original and as innocent as anything in the animal kingdom,. we too are animals. not that man has to do only that, to be reduced to an animal, but once in a while examining that prospect where goallesness aimlessness cravinglessness can also be achieved by us. if we experience it for a few moments, we appreciate y nirvana salvation moksha are the ultimate goals of human life. Zen is neither monotheistic nor polythestic, all the labes are a stumbling block as far as Zen is concerned. feeling is all-in-all. even saying feeling is no longer zen. take things as they are. Zen percieves or feels does not abstract or meditate, if you know what i mean. it is lost in immersion. some critics say that zen is mystical self-intoxication, but there is no mind in the zen to be murdered, no self to be intoxicated. Zen is quite elusive, as you get a glimpse of it, it receeds, yet the search is fascinating. zen is a bottomless abyss. Zen is Buddha's abode. these sort of things are said by the Zen masters. not definitions or descriptions, just hints on what sort of thing it is. Sunyata or emptyness is also not the aim. the vast empytness must be traversed, Zen masters even want to go beyond the notion of sunyata proposed by founder of madyamika Nagarjana.