The 8th International Conference Buddhism & Australia
Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia Illustrations
|Articles by alphabetic order|
Buddhism by Wim van den Dungen
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This is then followed by the Truth of Cessation ("nirodha"), pointing to the end of suffering through the transformation of the personality to bring peace, joy, compassion and a refined awareness where there was doubt, worry, anxiety and fear, absent in the enlightened mind, energy (voice) and body.
3. Right Speech : telling the truth and speaking in a thoughtful and sensitive way ; 4. Right Action : abstaining from wrongful bodily behaviour (killing, stealing, and extreme sensual pleasures) ; 5. Right Livelihood : not harming others by one's occupation ;
6. Right Effort : control the mind and gaining positive states of mind ; 7. Right Mindfulness : cultivating constant awareness ; 8. Right Meditation : developing deep levels of mental calm by concentrating the mind & integrating the personality.
All existing things coming into being bear three characteristics or "marks" : unsatisfactoriness ("dukkha"), impermanence ("anicca") and absence of self-essence ("anattâ") independent of the universal causal process.
In the same strict nominalist spirit, the Buddha found no eternal creator-God (Brahman), and could therefore not acknowledge the identification of this would-be permanent soul with the Supreme God (cf. âtman = Brahman).
In an absolute sense, nothing substantial, permanent, identical or atomic can be found. Subjectivity is also devoid of persisting psychic entities implying an eternal, unchanging substance (like the "âtman").
or in other words :
They thus change incessantly and are therefore impermanent and unsatisfactory (when used).
This is quite important. Buddhism is not against the Divine (atheism), but against theo-ontology : the positing (labeling) of an objective, eternalized Being or "substantia", an underlying "outer" thingness : permanent, separated, defined, continuous and solid. Its intent is transtheist.
Doing this, would imply the re-entry of ontology of the solid, substantial, essential and self-existing, autarchic world-system, which is not evidenced by sensation, emotion, thought, will, the consciousness of the five senses & the over-arching consciousness.
In the Elder schools of Buddhism (tradition mentions 18 schools, although over 30 different names came down to us), of which the Theravâda is the only one surviving today, "nirvâna" is a place of salvation, the "abode of immortality", a supramundane ("lokotttara"), not spatially localizable, different mode of existence.
Enlightenment takes place in time but is also always already there outside time. These various Hînayâna schools and sects (a term, together with "Mahâyâna", coined during the Council of King Kaniska in the first century CE), introduced different positive views on "nirvâna".
hrough the "dharma" of the Buddha one may empty the mind of constructions (transcend the final duality between "samsâra" & "nirvâna") and arrive at "the Other Shore", the undifferentiated, indiscernible & indestructible "nirvâna". So "nirvâna" is peace, liberation from the afflictions, their causes & effects.
If this goal is relinquished, our passions overwhelm us (cf. the power of the devil "Mâra", who hinders "wholesome roots") and, running in circles of madness, we are lost in the web of deceptive glamour, fettered to appearances and the eighth worldly preoccupations.
As continuous interdependence, i.e. the functional (meta)physics of the vast network of possible determinations (classified as causal, interactive, statistical, formal, teleological, etc.). The so-called "Net of Indra".
THE ULTIMATE GOAL OF SPIRITUALITY :
It is not reliance on faith, but "nirvâna" which brings to Truth. Its characteristic are absence of arising, subsisting, changing, and passing away. With "dharma", Buddhism denotes the "natural law", as well as the ethico-spiritual teachings of the Buddha.
These teachings are thought to be objectively true and in accordance with the deepest nature of things ("dharmadhâtu"), encompassing both the functional, conventional truth and the absolute, ultimate truth. Buddhist "omniscience" involves both
(a) the natural & consensual phenomena and (b) the absolute & universal "moral law" (or determining super-causality, "dharma" and its associated logic of merit), whose requirements were (re)discovered by the Buddha and the Buddhas before and after him.
If the notions of karma and reincarnation (cf. infra) would be eliminated from the basket of teachings (which would run against the teachings of the Buddha), then Buddhism would be identical with an elaborate form of scientific humanism, a mere science of mind (and not an art of living).
Both positive and negative karma cause suffering ! Without the reincarnating spiritual code of the carrier (stored in deep-consciousness), physical death would indeed become the natural terminus and thus, as it is inevitable, available to all without effort. Peace would have lost its spiritual meaning and be reduced to "eternal rest".
Liberation through renunciation or "nirvâna" (the Hînayâna) was deemed necessary but insufficient, for sentient beings continue to suffer after the foe-destroyer or arhat attained liberation (entered "nirvâna") and the available methods do not allow to purify massive negative karma swiftly.
The bodhisattva pledges to help all sentient beings achieve the peace he or she has achieved. Liberation ("nirvâna"), associated with what happened to Buddha Shâkyamuni under the Bodhi tree, preludes final enlightenment ("parinirvâna"), associated with the death of Buddha's physical body.
The reasons for the Mahayanist expansion are unclear. Tradition, as always, tries to uphold the founding myth of original Great Vehicle teachings initiated by Buddha and kept secret among his initiates.
This "strategy" is also found in many religions, especially when the process of canonization has begun (this urge to codify is usually the result of an increased number of adherents and the need to manipulate them to reduce problems).
Each of the schools have their own particular interpretation of these seals, and non-Buddhist tenets are systems which do not assert them (if one of the four is not accepted, the system is non-Buddhist) :
1. Classical period (ca. 500 - 0 CE) : in this existential, basic level, man's situation is studied and ways (or "dharma-doors") are found to liberate conform the example of Buddha Shâkyamuni. Liberation can be attained, but only as a monk, after hard work and mostly after many lifetimes - the Elder Schools of which only the Theravâda survived (cf. On the Hînayâna, 2008) ;
2. Religious period (ca. 0 - 6th century CE) : with the rise of the Mahâyâna in the first century CE, the salvic intention of the Elder Schools is superseded by a wish to liberate all sentient beings, and intent believed to speed up spiritual emancipation. The bodhisattva returns to this world as long as sentient beings suffer.
The latter not only points to liberation (the first, "individual" step), but also to the total realization of Buddhahood (or awakening), for by one's very Clear Light nature one is inseperable from the absolute. Liberation may be attained in a single lifetime.
In the Pure Land school, founded in 402 CE by Hui-yuan, a Chinese monk, the most devotional side of the Great Vehicle emerged. With the rise of Ch'an in China (ca. 6th - 7th CE), the most stringent "yogic" form of the Mahâyâna was achieved, nondependent on sacred texts or intellectual analysis and emphasizing sudden enlightenment "hic et nunc" (cf. Wayfaring, 2009) ;
3. Logical period (5th century CE - 1000 CE) : with the development of the two truths by Nâgârjuna (2th or 3th CE), the founder of the Mâdhyamika school, Buddhism began to slowly integrate the fundamental logical distinction between relative truth of the world of illusion and the absolute truth of that selfsame world.
It represented the "Middle Way" between existence and nonexistence, proving any affirmation about existence as an eternal substance to be inaccurate and making clear how eternal substance excludes causality (and so action & merit).
If previously, all ideas and cogitations were deemed illusion (for based on the dualism of the conceptual, constructive mind and so not appearing as they truly are), and only intuition or higher wisdom ("prâjñâ") was of any avail, now arguments proved why some conceptual thoughts liberate and analytical meditation was refined (cf. On Ultimate Logic, 2009).
The fundamental concept is "shûnyatâ" (cf. Nâgârjuna, Dignâga, Dharmakîrti), translated as "emptiness". "Shunya" also expresses "purna" (full), "lopa" (absence), "akasa" (universe), "bindu" (dot) and "vrtta" (circle).
It always goes hand in hand with "karunâ", compassion for all living beings : the heart of emptiness is compassion and the heart of compassion is emptiness : to work, things need to be process-based, not substance-based ;
4. Esoteric period (middle 8th century - 1419 CE) : between the time of the magical Padmasambhava, a contemporary of the Tibetan king Trisong Detsen (755 - 797 BCE), and the death of the great scholar, reformer and creator of Gelugpa doctrine Tsongkhapa (1357 - 1419 CE), the Vajrayâna or "Diamond Vehicle" flourished, primarily in northeast and northwest India.
Theoretically, it may even happen in an instance ! Bang ! Gap ! Enlightened !
Both psychological methods and highly ritualized practices characterized by a symbology of light rose : the Vajrayâna, or occult, esoteric Buddhism. It remained operational for over a millennium, remained isolated until 1959, gathered its best forces and spread to the West.
The Vajrayâna is however a minority within Buddhism, equated by the Western pop-mind with Buddhism as such. Of the ca. 350 million Buddhists world-wide, Chinese officials state Tibet has more than 46.300 Buddhist monks and nuns, while the number of Tibetans is estimated at ca.6.5 million.
As late as the 16th century, the "God-King" of old (not unlike the Egyptian divine king and the French monarch Louis XIV, "le Roi Soleil"), became the living presence of the Solar Buddha of Compassion (Avalokiteshvara), guiding the world from its lofty spiritual top (cf. the institution of the "Dalai Lama", in principle holding all spiritual and temporal powers).
The title of "Dalai Lama" was conferred by the Mongol ruler Altan Khan (1507 - 1582), "dalai" being a Mongol word for "ocean". In the West, the Dalai Lama is emphatic about not being such a "God-King", but in the minds of the common Tibetan & the monks & nuns, he still is.
5. Western period (1959 - today) ? : with the present XIVth Dalai Lama, fleeing Tibet for India and seeking help from the West, in particular the CIA and other "powers that be", Tibetan Tantrism was made available to Western readers & practitioners and the "wish-fulfilling jewel" could "shine from the West".
After five decades, this New Buddhism, labeled "Navayâna", or New Vehicle, incorporates the best of both Theravâda, Sutric Mahâyâna, Zen, the Pure Land school, Tantric Vajrayâna, and Bonpo Dzogchen, etc.
Views of "nirvâna" differ among all these schools. The Mâdhyamikas identify it with emptiness ("shûnyatâ"). The Yogâcâra with the cessation of discrimination (the non-distinctness of "samsâra" and "nirvâna") & the (idealist) awareness that only the absolute mind substantially exists, whereas the phenomena are but confusion of mind.
Finally, "Dzogpa Chenpo" (the "Great Perfection") is the direct discovery of the natural, non-conceptual, non-dual, clear state of mind, one with the essence of the base of reality, the absolute inherent existence of emptiness, expressing a manifold of energies or movements, of which the luminous ground of mind is part.
... each with various schools & sects ... and recently Navayâna (or "New Vehicle").
§ 1/+ Specialists discovered two outstanding elements in the teachings of Gautama the Buddha : the absence of Divine revelation & the no-soul. Rarely, almost never, can these be found in other systems and nowhere do they occur combined. Buddhism is therefore very original.
No doctrinal dogma and no provision for a centralized authority are in place. Only the accuracy of a truth verifiable by a nominal, reasonable mind is acceptable. Spiritual truth -in Buddhism fundamentally related with the issue of spiritual freedom- is its own proof.
Individual effort is stressed and self-reliance is the essence of the spiritual practice. The Buddhist is responsible to himself for his actions and does not behave irresponsibly in order to avoid the outcome of his evil thoughts, words & deeds (loss of benefits or merit, "punya").
The four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path, training in discipline & morality, meditation, wisdom & insight are the basic salvic operators as summed up in the Tripitaka and taught by the Elder Schools.
I take refuge in the Teaching. I take refuge in the Brotherhood of Monks" precedes the promise to observe the Five Precepts : not to kill, not to steal, not to commit adultery, not to lie, not to take intoxicants.
These attributes are constantly moving and changing like the waters of a swiftly flowing river (cf. endless wandering or "samsâra"). Physical, psychological and sociological dispositions and acquired attitudes, prejudices, beliefs, norms, expectations, values and the countless memorized experiences of an entire lifetime together constitute this ever-changing sense of "I-ness".
The cravings (psychological traits) active at the time of physical death are able to exist independently of their extinct brain and are transferable to another newly born living being, to eventually become a part of its consciousness.
"Everyone, big and little, strong and weak, works continually -and in general unconsciously- at the formation of new groups whose members, through lack of perspicacity, are not aware of their heterogeneity and, who insensible to the discordances of their voices, or without dwelling on it, shout in chorus "I", I am Me !"
Although there is no substantial soul, physical death is not the end of the story. The mind and the body (like two persons in one boat) travel together, but at the end of this life the latter perishes, while its constituent parts return to the material plane of the world-order.
Nevertheless, the mind (the aggregates of volition, affection, thought & consciousness) is not annihilated by physical death. Existing in a realm of its own, it continues to exist as does its personality. Although essentially impermanent, it nevertheless lasts longer than the body.
The "spiritual code" of each person's mind survives and, driven by karmic forces, seek a new vehicle to incarnate. Eventually, the mind, jumping from life to life catching the carrot, will perish in the fire of liberation.
§ 3/+ The Great Vehicle introduces a variety of Buddhas & bodhisattvas who actively help the layperson to attain liberation (this may even lead to highly developed magic-oriented ritual schools like the Vajrayâna). Like all of us, these bodhisattvas reincarnate (manifest in or assume a physical body on our plane).
Zen Buddhists sternly regard doctrine, intellectual analysis, and ritual practices as of little to no use. Zen likes to be unorthodox, nondependent on Divine revelation, "direct pointing to the human heart", leading to Buddhahood (cf. Nansen Fugan). All these schools have their own texts, local beliefs and dogma's.
§ 4/- The bulk of authoritative scriptures of the numerous traditional schools covers tens and hundreds of thousands of pages. The Pali Canon (restricted to one school, namely the Theravâda) fills 45 huge volumes in the complete Siamese edition, exclusive of commentaries. The recent Japanese edition of the Chinese scriptures consist of 100 volumes of 1,000 closely printed pages.
Because at present, scholars have no objective criterion to isolate the original teaching of the Buddha (although the Tripitaka is considered as the most trustworthy), discussions on the subject lead to fruitless disputes.
Moreover, tradition holds Buddha stated that the things he revealed are very few in comparison with those which did not reveal. In Buddhism, books written by genuine practitioners are often more interesting than meticulous linguistic and philological knowledge of Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese or Tibetan texts.
§ 5/- In all schools, the role of woman is problematic, and a mysogynist streak is evident. In Theravâda, they are accepted with great reluctance and identified with illusion (cf. the death of Gautama's mother Maya directly after giving birth and the transfeminine birth myths). In Mahâyâna, they are a "lower incarnation" and need a sex-change (the Pure Land of Buddha Amitabha accepts only men).
Although this situation is inconsistent with the principles of Buddhism, it nevertheless remains an important cultural factor part of the spiritual "canons" of the schools. Hence, Buddhist sexual morality, like that of all major religions, remained incomplete and biased.
§ 6/- Although the basic notion of Tantrism involves the primordial wholeness and completeness of being (represented by the union of the male method-deities with their female wisdom-consorts or yab-yum), the deeply entrenched domination of woman by the male elite (using sexual intercourse with woman exclusively to charge their spiritual batteries), gave rise to tantric teachings in which the mother goddess emanated from the masculine god, and the androgyny (male-female forces possessed by a man) remained uncompensated by gynandry (female-male forces possessed by a woman), building in a fundamental disparity within the tantric system (cf. the Trimondi Studies by Mariana and Herbert Röttgen).
Bi-sexual eroticism is then reduced to heterosexual machoism. As a result, and not solely because of feminist critique, some Western practitioners try to develop a Buddhist system for the West, i.e. in harmony with Western science, secular thought and basic human rights.
In January 2007, the author wrote to bhikkhu Tenzin Gyatso, the XIVth Dalai Lama, and respectfully asked him what he thought about the criticism of the Trimondi's. As yet, he did not receive any answer, not even an acknowledgment of reception.
- (b) the public performance of rituals with magical weapons of war, pain, etc. (like cleavers, skull-cups, daggers, axes, hooks, etc.) and (c) the public propagation of dangerous warrior-myths like Shambhala, part of the Kâlachakra Tantra.
It goes without saying, that of the ca.50.000 Tibetan monks & nuns, some are excellent spiritual masters, and teach the "dharma" in the spirit of the Buddha (keeping Tantra secret and for experienced practitioners).
For example, in Vajrayâna, a crucial difference exists between sûtrayâna and Dzogchen, the so-called Great Perfection, preserved in the Nyingma and Bon traditions of Tibet. The historical lineage is said to begin with Garab Dorje around the first century CE, who summarized the 6.4 million verses of Dzogpa Chenpo in "The Three Incisive Precepts" (Tsiksum Nedek) :
Sûtrayâna strictly follows the emptiness-teachings of the Middle Path and so considers both the world (object) and the person (subject) as devoid of inherent existence. So to reach liberation, renunciation, compassion and the so-called "analytical" meditation on emptiness are considered as valid.
This authentication is gradually inferred and the logic of emptiness yields two truths, namely conventional or everyday truth and the absolute truth of the enlightened ones. Some conventional truths accommodate the coming of absolute truth. In Dzogchen, by contrast, the base of all is unbounded wholeness, and although its essence is deemed "empty", it is also of the nature of clarity (light) and energy (spontaneous display from emptiness).
Both runs against the sûtric notion of emptiness. Only a non-gradual, immediate introduction to or a direct discovery of the natural state of mind enlightens. Moreover, in Dzogchen, analytical, inferential logic cannot validate the direct experience of the nature of mind, which lies outside the conceptual mind. These differences show the dogma holding that both object and subject are empty is not accepted by all and thus doubtful.
§ 8/- Although Buddhism is often presented as an ethical philosophy, one should not forget only intention is paramount in Buddhist morality. This means the equation of ethics is mainly a subjective construction, granting less importance to objective goals and values (cf.
Behaviours, 2006). Only this explains why in Tantrayâna the most evil deeds (like human sacrifice or eating excreta) may be accepted if they are deemed to lead to universal liberation, the ultimate intention.