Which gods does the Zen Buddhist believe in?

Buddhism - guide to salvation

Just as the Protestant reform movement was born out of a crisis in Catholicism, so Buddhism, the younger of the two Indian world religions, emerged from the old form of Hinduism. When the historical Buddha in 560 BC Was born in today's Nepal, many devout Hindus criticized the "secularization" of their ancient religion.

The Buddha's doctrine of salvation is in its origin pure philosophy. She turns against the caste system in Indian society, knows no priesthood, no divine revelation and no divine heaven. In primitive Buddhism, Buddha is not worshiped as a god, but merely as a teacher. He saw himself as a "guide to salvation".

Like the Hindu, the Buddhist believes in the cycle of rebirth. Buddha had already gone through numerous existences as an animal and as a human before he attained enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi tree. Now he wants to be a role model. Whoever lives like the Buddha will leave the cycle of rebirths and enter nirvana.

Although Buddhism in India was soon superseded by older Hinduism, the teachings of the Buddha began a unique triumph in Asia after the master's death. Buddha himself traveled through northern India preaching and after his death his followers spread the teaching.

This has changed and developed many times over the course of 2500 years. The original doctrine has been preserved most purely in Sri Lanka and Burma. She was too ascetic for the masses. With the second major trend, Mahayana Buddhism, philosophical teaching became a popular belief. Buddha was deified and surrounded by other deities. Missionaries brought the new religion to China and further east. Zen Buddhism in Japan and Tibetan Buddhism, Lamaism, are also variants of Buddhism.

Buddha: A nobleman gives up everything and founds a world religion

Did Buddha actually live?

It can be considered certain that Siddhartha Gautama, the man who became Buddha, grew up as an offspring of the nobility in the Republic of Kapilavastu in what is now Nepal. With some right one can trace his lifetime to the 5th to 4th century BC. To date. He belonged to the Gautama family, which in turn belonged to the Shakya clan. The life as a prince, depicted in some texts and completely shielded from the outside world, which was only suddenly interrupted by encounters with a sick person, an old man, a dead person and an ascetic, is certainly legend and probably reflects the concern of many parents of the upper classes against the fact that their children could evade the path marked out by their status. The further stages of its development, however, are credible.

How did Siddharta become the founder of the religion?

Siddharta became a student of two religious teachers and sought salvation through extreme asceticism. Finally, however, he realized that all extremes do not point the way to salvation, but that a middle way must be found. This was followed by the mystical experience of awakening (bodhi) through meditative contemplation, which Siddhartha made a Buddha, that is, the "awakened" or "redeemed". He becomes one who has attained nirvana, the "extinction" of those passions that are the fuel for new existences. In the following decades, as a traveling teacher in the states of north-east India, he conveyed his knowledge of the entanglement in the cycle of rebirths and the way out of it.

How is Buddha depicted in the legend?

A fixed canon of teachings and legends interwoven with the life of the founder soon developed in Buddhism. Buddha biographies were written quite late, such as the "Buddhacarita" and the "Lalitavistara", both of which date from around the 2nd or 3rd century AD. They and some texts of the Pali canon report that Gautama was the son of the king of Kapilavastu. When he was born, it became clear that he was not an ordinary person. His mother Maya gave birth to him painlessly and numerous gods rushed to pay homage to the child. After his birth, the little prince took seven steps in each direction and announced that he was the savior of the world. As a teenager he put his teachers to shame with his skills. As a very young man he married Princess Yashodhara. She bore him a son named Rahula ("the fetter").

Although Gautama's father tried to save Siddhartha from unsettling experiences, he saw a sick, an old and a dead man on trips. Because the thought frightened him that this would also be his fate, he looked for a way out. On a fourth trip he saw an emaciated religious ascetic, whereupon he left his wife and child to follow the path of asceticism.

What happened when the Buddha was enlightened?

Under the so-called Bodhi or Enlightenment Tree, he concentrated on "seeing things for what they really are." In doing so, he went through four stages of progressive insight and attained enlightenment. This consisted in the knowledge of the suffering of all existence, the origin of the suffering, the possibility of its abolition and in the knowledge of the way to abolish this suffering. These are the "Four Noble Truths". Although the Buddha wanted to keep this knowledge to himself, at the request of the god Brahma he began to share it with people. He did this for over 40 years with a growing number of students, at least some of whom were able to understand them and follow the path he had mapped out.

What other Buddhas are known?

According to the Theravada tradition and the canon handed down on Pali, the historical Gautama Buddha was not the first Buddha. The texts know six previous Buddhas: Vipashyin, Shikhin, Vishvabhu, Kakusandha, Konagamara and Kashyapa. He is not the last either: the Buddha of the future who renews Buddhist teaching will be Maitreya. Because after a certain time the Buddhist doctrine should be forgotten and thus need a new "awakened" person in order to proclaim it.

Did you know that …

Buddha supposedly died of a spoiled meal?

the fig tree in Bodhgaya, under which Buddha is said to have experienced his enlightenment, is now a place of worship? Many so-called Bodhi trees are venerated in popular piety: Believers circle around them and often attach small scraps of fabric to represent wishes for prayer.

the scene under the Bodhi tree, where Siddharta became the Buddha, the enlightened one, is particularly often depicted in Buddhist iconography?

The early teaching: Desire and ignorance as a source of suffering

What ideas did early Buddhism promote?

Until about the 2nd century BC. one can assume a relative unity in the main features of Buddhist teaching. Obviously, the Buddha, like his contemporaries, assumed long cyclical times in which beings are ruled by the law of retaliation (karma) and are constantly looking forward to new rebirths. But unlike these, he denied the existence of an enduring self or soul that persists through all rebirths. Rather, Buddhist teaching proclaimed that all manifestations were suffering (dukkha) and the impermanence (anicca) subject. According to the Buddhist view, suffering arises when one looks for something permanent or eternal in things.

Why can't there be a permanent soul?

This follows from the assumption of impermanence: there is only a sequence of moments, whereby the current state leads to the emergence of the next and thus the supposed identity of a thing breaks down into a lot of individual moments. The doctrine of the nonexistence of the soul is called the anatman doctrine. Likewise, there cannot be an eternal God who exists independently of the cosmos he has created. Buddhism knows many gods, especially on the popular level; however, these gods are also subject to impermanence and cannot offer any salvation from this state.

How does suffering arise and how can it be overcome?

The so-called Four Noble Truths, in which the teaching of the Buddha is summarized, provide information about this. The first truth is that of suffering: the whole of existence is suffering, such as birth, illness, death, encounter with unpleasant things or the non-fulfillment of wishes. But even the fulfillment of wishes is only a transitory state and therefore ultimately also painful.

The second truth is about the origin of suffering, the cause of which is the desire for sensual pleasure, becoming and passing away. This desire ties man to the infinite cycle of existences. The tendency to nihilism, to negation, is also one of the desires and also causes a new rebirth.

The third truth is that suffering can only be conquered through the annihilation of desire. The fourth truth shows the eightfold path, which is a middle ground between extreme asceticism and excessive sensory enjoyment and leads to the abolition of suffering and enlightenment. Correct behavior - which excludes killing, stealing or even wrong speech -, the concentration of yoga and meditation as well as wisdom with its knowledge of things play a decisive role.

What does the doctrine of dependent origination say?

According to this teaching (pratitya-samutpada), which is also referred to as the causal nexus, all physical and mental manifestations that lead to the development of individual manifestations are dependent on one another and are mutually dependent. You are in a permanent process of arising and passing away.

This causal chain consists of twelve links, starting with ignorance (avijja) leading to actions (sankhara) leads; this in turn creates consciousness (vijñana) and consequently a new appearance from which name and shape (namarupa) emerge; this leads to the sensual perception of the six foundations of mental processes (satayatana), this to the impression of consciousness (phassa) and consequently to the feeling (vedana); but feeling is the prerequisite for desire (tanha), from which the clinging to life (upadana) results; this leads to new becoming (bhava) and consequently to birth (jati), but then in old age and death (jara-marana) opens.

If in the "Four Noble Truths" desire is sketched out as a basic evil, we find here ignorance as the source of all suffering. Ultimately, however, it is true that desire is only made possible through ignorance of the actual nature of the world according to the Buddhist view.

How is the human appearance composed?

Although there is no self or a soul, there are five interacting groups of existence (skandha), which shape the human appearance and create the impression of identity and permanence for a certain period of time. From around the 2nd century BC. However, there are already major disputes about whether there might not be a personality that continues to exist beyond death. In principle, however, there is agreement that ultimately there is only an accumulation of components that were caused by previous moments and which in turn cause future ones.

What are the five groups of existence called?

The five groups of existence of the human manifestation are divided into 1. Matter (rupa), which is composed of the four elements; 2. the sensations (vedana), which include both the painful and the pleasant and neutral; 3. Perceptions (samjña); 4. the mental powers of form (sankhara), which include psychic processes such as the cognition of objects, from which reason, will, joy or reflection result; 5. pure consciousness (vijñana), which includes six types of knowledge (that of the five senses and that of the mind).

On a more popular religious level, certain ideas developed about the possible forms of existence of living beings, all of which were karmically conditioned. Being attached to the world gears (samsara) consists of the ongoing process of reincarnation. In addition to being a human being, one could (always for a limited time) in one of the countless hells as a hunger ghost (preta), Animal, or be born again as God. Existence as God is considered to be particularly happy, but at the same time prevents us from understanding the suffering of any existence.

What are the "Three Gems" of Buddhism?

In order to break out of the cycle of reincarnations, it is necessary to give up the worldly ties and take refuge in the so-called three jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (the Buddhist teachings) and the Sangha, the community organization of the beggar-seeking (bhikshu) or monks. According to the understanding of early Buddhism, only they alone could attain nirvana. The laity, on the other hand, could earn merit through the support of the order (which consisted of monks and nuns) and hope for a better rebirth - ultimately as a monk.

What do the Buddhist rules of the order say?

The rules of the order (vinaya) were laid down in a large collection of texts. They began by leaving society and being committed to the basic rules of poverty, chastity and peacefulness. After a novice period, one could be ordained as a full monk or nun and undertook to lead a life as a beggar monk from then on. This includes begging for food with an alms bowl, wearing patched clothes and an unsteady wandering life that was only interrupted in the rainy season. Every half a month there was a "confessional meeting" at which the members of the order had to confess misconduct. Serious violations resulted in exclusion from the community. In addition to violating the basic rules, this also included the attempt to split the order, which in earlier times mainly related to the different interpretations of the rules of the order and less to dogmatic questions.

How was Buddhism spread in the early days?

In the first generations after the death of the historical Buddha, the religious communities, organized in small groups, moved through northern India. From time to time there were local meetings where doctrinal issues were discussed. The three great "councils" handed down in the canonical texts are more likely a shift of later states into the past.

The spread of Buddhism began during the reign of King Ashoka in the 3rd century BC. Strongly promoted. He adopted certain ethical aspects of Buddhism, such as compassion for all beings, as the philosophy of his rule. Although his personal attitude towards Buddhism was uncertain, he was regarded by the Buddhists as the model of the righteous ruler. His political and religious beliefs have been handed down in his famous rock and column edicts. This also shows that he sent so-called Dharma officials to the west and south (as far as Sri Lanka), who also achieved missionary success there.

When did Buddhism split up?

With the growth of the Buddhist religious orders, there were tensions and disputes over teaching content. Around the 2nd century BC Two main groups developed. On the one hand there were those schools that are designated by the common generic term Sthaviravada ("School of the Elderly"). The Theravada school that still exists today refers to this tradition. The "school of the ancients" claims to preserve the original teachings of the Buddha.

What new elements went into teaching?

In contrast to the majority, the Mahasamghika saw the Buddha as a supernatural being (lokottara) and granted him a pre-existence. They also adopted ideas of popular religion and gave the laity a greater role. The so-called Great Vehicle, Mahayana, probably developed from them, but it was not a single school, but a trend that set completely new accents. In particular, the emphasis of his followers was no longer on following the selfish path of self-redemption as a monk, but on working for the liberation of all beings.

How is the Buddha's teaching transmitted?

Not in the original, because even in early Buddhism, several generations of students had further developed the tradition and teaching established by the Buddha and in some cases added completely new elements. Since the canonical texts of the early Buddhist schools have already taken on a tremendously large volume, the attempt to reconstruct the original teachings of the Buddha is a futile undertaking. The canon of the Theravada school is most completely preserved. Despite the partially contradicting material of the traditional masses of texts, certain basic constants of the teachings of early Buddhism can be worked out.

Did you know that …

with more than 350 million followers, Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the world after Christianity, Islam and Hinduism?

Buddhism is also gaining more and more followers in Germany? Since the founding of the first Buddhist association in 1903, the number of Buddhist communities has risen to several hundred after a tough start. There are said to be several hundred thousand practicing Buddhists.

What is nirvana?

It is a state of perfection: “Truly, monks, this is peace, this is the sublime, namely the coming to rest of all karma formation, detachment from all substrates of existence, drying up of desire, annulment, extinction , the nirvana. Driven by greed, you monks, enraged by hatred, beguiled and overwhelmed by delusion, tied up in the spirit, one ponders one's own harm, one ponders damage to others, one ponders mutual harm, one experiences spiritual torment and misery. But once greed, hatred and delusion have disappeared, one does not contemplate harm to oneself, harm to others, or harm to both sides, and there is no spiritual torment and misery. In this way, nirvana is not tied to any time, already recognizable during lifetime, inviting, attractive and understandable to the wise ”(Anguttara-Nikaya III, 32).

The Spread of Buddhism: Early Splits

Who Promoted the Spread of the Faith?

The legend reports that after the death of the Buddha, his ashes were distributed to eight princes, who erected monuments (stupa) over them in their respective capitals. Of course, it is uncertain whether Buddhism was really promoted by potentates in the most ancient times to the extent that this story would lead us to believe. Its state support can only be proven under Emperor Ashoka, whose empire around the middle of the 3rd century BC. BC covered almost the entire Indian subcontinent and extended into what is now Afghanistan. Ashoka's pillar and rock edicts show that he used all means to consolidate his power. But when a rebellion in Kalinga, today's Orissa, had to be brutally suppressed, he changed his mind. He felt remorse and from then on tried to avoid the use of force. He was particularly fond of Buddhism; he sent missionaries to Sri Lanka and is considered a Buddhist saint himself.

What is the Tripitaka?

The Buddha's speeches were recited at three convents at which disputes regarding the doctrinal content and rules of the order were tried to be resolved, and scriptures were compiled into a binding canon. Tripitaka, literally "comprising three baskets", is the name of the canon because the texts were collected in baskets separately according to Vinaya (religious law), Sutra (discourses) and Abhidharma (scholasticism). There were repeated divisions in the monastic community, in which different versions of the canon were in use. For the canon of the Theravadins, an editing in the 1st century BC is required. Demonstrable.

How did the religious divisions come about?

Most schools emerged in the second and third centuries after the Buddha's death. However, the tradition does not agree on the course of the religious divisions. Obviously, questions of monastic life in the first place led to divisions in the community, so that in the individual parts of the country different religious law (vinaya) was valid. In addition to the religious law of the Theravadins in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia, the following sets of rules are still important today: that of the north Indian Mulasarvastivadins, which was adopted from Tibetan Buddhism, and the vinaya of the Dharmaguptakas, which had spread particularly in China.

What views were held about the world?

For the formation of the directions, the question of the nature of the world was particularly important. The Sarvastivadins and their split-off, the Mulasarvastivadins, get their name ("followers of the doctrine that everything exists") from the fact that they all (sarva) Givens, which already past and the future, as existent (asti) considered. This contradicted the view of the Sthaviravadins ("followers of the teachings of the ancients"), who believed that they had preserved the teachings of the Buddha unadulterated; the Theravadins of today refer to them. For others, the authoritative literature ended with the sutras, hence they were known as Sautrantikas ("who hold the sutras to be the end").

What is that me

Another problem related to the doctrine of "not-self" (anatmata). While the other schools maintained that the mere karmic "flow of existence" (the interplay of the individual existence factors) only led to the illusion of an individual "I", the Pudgalavadins ("followers of the doctrine of the person") taught that the "personality" (pudgala) of every human really exist. Although this schooling has long since disappeared, its teaching was considered so problematic that Buddhist thinkers repeatedly grappled with it.

What legacy did the Buddha leave behind after his death?

"The teaching and discipline in which I have instructed you and which I have given you shall be your master after my passing."

Gautama Buddha on his death bed (based on the Mahaparinibbanasutta)

Did you know that …

the set of rules of north Indian Buddhism (the Mulasarvastivadins) is largely preserved in Sanskrit and in Tibetan and Chinese translations?

were the monks free to agree to deviating doctrinal interpretations?

Sangha - the monastic community: turning away from the world

Who started the Buddhist monastic tradition?

Buddha himself, because after his enlightenment the master roamed 45 years - until his death - with the first monks (bhikkhu) the middle Ganges and preached the new doctrine to all who would hear it. Buddha and his followers made a living from alms given to them by lay believers. Originally, the monks should always live in the open air without a permanent residence. However, the annual rainy season forced the establishment of the first monasteries and the time there was used for collection and training of the spirit from then on.

Even after the death of Gautama Buddha, the monks made it their task to spread the word of the Buddha in large parts of Asia. The religious order has guaranteed the continuity of teaching for 2500 years. During the Buddha's lifetime, thousands of people decided to turn their backs on the world and obey the rules of the order.

What was the life of a monk like?

The three most important basic characteristics of monasticism were already in the early days poverty, celibacy and peacefulness. The order members had to vow dispossessing. Only robes, alms bowl, needle, prayer beads, razor and a water filter were allowed in order not to accidentally swallow the smallest living beings. Food should only be obtained through "begging". In the morning the monks went from house to house in silence. It was not the monks who had to thank, but the donors, as they were given the opportunity to do good and to earn merit. The violation of the law of chastity led to the exclusion from the order. One did not reject sexuality in general, but according to Buddhist teaching it represents a danger because it can lead to dependencies and entanglements. The principle of ahimsa (Not killing or not injuring) a. It is against animal sacrifices and the consumption of meat, but also against the waging of wars and the use of force of any kind.

What other rules must be followed?

Not only monks but also lay believers have to adhere to regulations. There are five main duties for them: They should not kill, do not accept anything that is not given to them voluntarily, do not lead an immoral way of life, do not lie and do not consume intoxicating substances. In addition, it applies to monks that they should not eat any food after noon. They should forego amusements such as dance and music, jewelry, fragrances, a comfortable night's lodging and the possession of money. These bans were later supplemented by an extensive catalog of rules of conduct. The spiritual demands of the orders in the early days of Buddhism were probably high, because they mostly found members of the upper Hindu castes. Access restrictions were issued after many sick and poor people wanted to secure their livelihood by joining the order.

How is monastic life shaped?

Little has changed in the daily routine: Monks do not do manual work, but start the day with the begging. The time in the monastery is used for study, discussions about the doctrine of salvation, recitation and meditation. Because they align their lives completely according to the Dharma and are not bound by economic and family constraints, the chances of a monk to achieve salvation are considered to be incomparably better compared to those of a lay person. A man could enter the monastery from around the age of 15. After five years, the novice could be fully ordained without having to take a lifelong vow. A return to worldly life was possible at any time.

How did the women's monasteries come about?

Buddha's stepmother and aunt Mahaprajapati asked to found a nunnery after her husband's death. Only after much pressure did the Buddha agree, but decreed that every nun (bhikkhuni) is also subordinate to the youngest and least monk. Possibly the enlightened one denied the women spiritual maturity and only considered them capable of redemption after their rebirth as a man. Perhaps, however, he just shied away from violating the conventions of Brahmanism, which gave women a subordinate position.

What is the Buddhist monastic vow?

The formula for entering a Buddhist monastery consists of three short sentences: »I take refuge in the enlightened one (Buddha), I take refuge in the doctrine of salvation (dharma), I take refuge in the religious community (sangha).«

Did you know that …

the number of order members is also falling sharply in the Buddhist countries of Asia? On the other hand, more and more Buddhist religious orders are emerging in the West.

Buddha suspected that ordaining nuns would shorten the life of the doctrine to 500 years? In the meantime, however, the structure of the order and the teaching have existed for almost 2500 years.

Mahayana Buddhism: On the Path to Enlightenment

Why did a new form of Buddhism begin to emerge?

The decisive impetus for new developments in Buddhism lay in a changed motivation for monastic life. So far, the monk wanted to be a saint (arhat) achieve salvation, the innovators now strive for Buddhahood itself: the old path of salvation is imperfect, since it only brings liberation to the individual; but if one treads the more difficult path to Buddhahood instead, one puts oneself on the back burner and can thus lead one's fellow human beings to salvation. Around the turn of the ages, that form of Buddhism began to develop which calls itself the "great vehicle (for salvation)", Mahayana; the old schools are only a temporary "small vehicle", Hinayana.

What is the teaching of Mahayana?

By exercising moral perfections (paramita) the innovators want to approach Buddhahood as bodhisattvas (aspirants to enlightenment). The highest perfection is the wisdom that the Prajñaparamita sutras (discourses on the perfection of wisdom) are about. According to these sutras, wisdom is the insight that everything is empty (shunya) be: All givens are without their own permanent nature, rather they depend entirely on other, equally empty givens. The monk Nagarjuna wrote this teaching in his "Philosophy of the Middle Way" in the 2nd century AD (madhyamaka) systematized.

What is the role of consciousness?

It acts as a reality-building force, so to speak. While the Hinayana teachings had only limited validity for the advocates of voidness, in the Sandhinirmocana Sutra, a basic text of the Mahayana, the doctrine of voidness is also only provisional. After that there is actually an ultimate reality that is formed by consciousness. In the 4th century Asanga brought this thought into a system, the doctrine of "mind alone" (cittamatra): Everything is based on consciousness activities, which in a "basic consciousness" (alayavijñana) root without subject-object distinction; this can be achieved through meditation, which is why this direction is also called Yogacara (yoga practice).

What does the three-body doctrine mean?

It describes the transcendent character of the Buddha. According to the Saddharmapundarika Sutra (discourse on the lotus of good teaching), the Buddha did not really die, but actually transcendent (outside the world), so that he continues to work for the salvation of beings even after his death. This view is particularly expressed in the three-body doctrine of the developed Mahayana: A Buddha is in the "body of change" (nirmanakaya) physically present, in the »pleasure body« (sambhogakaya) he belongs to a supernatural, subtle level, while his ultimate, absolute reality is the "truth body" (dharmakaya) represents. The historical Shakyamuni is the one specially produced for the foundation of the Hinayana nirmanakaya of a transcendent Buddha.

Where are the transcendent Buddhas located?

The transcendent Buddhas reside in seemingly paradise-like lands, in which the worshiper of the Buddha in question can be reborn; there he will then hear his teachings and thus reach salvation more quickly. This religiosity particularly shapes the cult of the Buddha Amitabha, which experienced its extreme development in Japanese Buddhism.

What is the function of the bodhisattvas?

The various powerful Bodhisattvas, who also belong to the transcendent realm, can be called upon as helpers in all need because of the vows they have taken, which obliges them to stand by all those in distress. To this day, the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara is worshiped everywhere. In Tibet, for example, he is the national patron saint as Chenrezi and the Dalai Lamas are considered to be his incarnations; in the Far East, on the other hand, its feminine appearance (Chinese kuanyin, Japanese kannon) very popular. Various formulas are used to invoke such helpers (dharani) as taught in many Mahayana sutras. The believers recite them in their life's needs and in Nepal today a collection called Pañcaraksha ("fivefold protection") is in use everywhere.

How did tantric Buddhism come about?

With the Dharani cult and related ritual-meditative techniques, the tantric phase of Buddhism began in the 3rd century. Initially the defense against earthly problems and hardships was in the foreground, from the 7th century onwards this direction is also understood as a path to salvation and is now often called Vajrayana ("diamond vehicle"); Their initiation-bound practice of self-identification with transcendent, often fearful deities is supposed to lead the believer to Buddhahood more quickly than the lengthy path shown in the sutras.

Where did Mahayana Buddhism gain a foothold?

Especially outside of India. The Mahayana did not develop its own organization in the early days; Around the middle of the first millennium, innovators and conservatives lived together peacefully everywhere in Indian monasteries. Outside of India, however, entire communities of monks committed themselves to the new teachings. Today the Mahayana predominates in Tibet and East Asia; in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka, on the other hand, the "adherents of the doctrine of the ancients", the Theravadins, have prevailed.

Did you know that …

the Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara (Sanskrit: the Lord who hears the cry of the world) is often represented with a thousand arms? These represent the ability to act compassionately in an incredible abundance.

the consumption of meat is rejected in many Mahayana schools? This is justified by the fact that it causes horror in living beings.

Tibet: The most colorful variety of Buddhism

What is the manifestation of Buddhism in Tibet?

Tibet is the classic land of Vajrayana or "diamond vehicle" - a later stage of Buddhism. In it we find a synthesis of different elements of Buddhist teaching, as they existed side by side - partly in the same monastery - until the expulsion of Buddhism in India in the 12th century. In Vajrayana the monastic rules of Hinayana merged with the healing paths of Mahayana and the magical practices of Tantra. Because of the central importance of tantric, esoteric teachings for shortening the path of salvation, one speaks of "tantric Buddhism". This variant is the most colorful variety of Buddhism because of its multitude of teachings and ceremonies and its sprawling iconography.

How did the first attempt at proselytizing go?

The "early spread" ended around 850; the Nyingmapa, the "schools of the ancients", which are still to a small extent organized as a monastery, refer to them.King Trisong Detsen laid the foundations for the mission in an effort to assert himself against the nobility adhering to the old Bon faith and the Chinese and Central Asian missionaries. He brought the Indian tantric Padmasambhava into the country, who overcame the persistent resistance of the Tibetans by banning demons and integrated the pre-Buddhist, sometimes terrifying deities and spirits into Buddhism as "protectors of doctrine". Buddhism with Indian characteristics based on the Bodhisattva path became the state religion in 775 with the establishment of the first Samye monastery. The Chinese Chan, with its doctrine of the spontaneous awareness of Buddha-nature, could not prevail in Tibet. Around the year 850, after the murder of King Langdarma, who was hostile to the Buddhists, the empire fell apart. The ostracized belief lived on in Eastern Tibet.

How did Tibet finally become Buddhist?

Around the year 1050, on the initiative of converted West Tibetan rulers, the second mission got going: the East Indian monk scholar Atisha was invited to Tibet. During the 11th century two of the main orders of Tibet, the Kagyupa and the Sakyapa, came into being. After 300 years of intensive Sanskrit translation work, the Tibetan canon of sacred texts, Kangyur, was constituted. It was printed in Beijing in 1410. During this time, the special position of religious masters, the so-called lamas, developed in Tibetan Buddhism. The term "Lamaism" coined in the West is based on it. These masters transferred the various teaching and ritual traditions to their students.

The last of the four main orders, the Gelugpa or yellow hats, and the large state monasteries Drepung, Sera and Ganden in the vicinity of Lhasa, go back to the reformer of the monastic and monastic discipline Tsongkhapa (1357-1419).

Why are worldly and spiritual powers fused together?

This tradition is rooted in the Mongol period of the 13th century: The abbot of the leading Sakyapa at that time received secular power from Kublai Khan and then became the highest spiritual authority in the course of the mission among the Mongols. In the 16th century the secular and spiritual leaders, the "Dalai Lamas", emerged from the Gelugpa tradition: The 3rd head of the order received the title "Teacher whose wisdom is as great as the ocean" (Dalai Lama) from Mongol prince Altan Khan awarded. This title then passed on to his successors. The 5th Dalai Lama established the supremacy of the Order of the Yellow Hats over Tibet and the form of government that was valid until the Chinese invasion in 1959. A visible sign of their power was the expansion of the Potala, their residence in Lhasa.

What are the special features of Lamaism?

A special development is the idea, which has existed since the 12th century, of the series of rebirths of outstanding personalities from individual courses. When a great master has died, oracles indicate where to look for his rebirth. Tibetan Buddhism also emphasizes the tantric doctrine of polarity from the union of the male and female principle to the primordial state of "non-duality", the absolute, represented as the sexual union of male and female deities. In tantric meditation, the meditator unites and identifies with the so-called transcendent Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and protective deities. Colorful and hand-painted representations on scrolls, the so-called tankas, help with these visualizations.

Did you know that …

the Potala Palace in Tibetan Lhasa, which largely dates from the 17th century, was also the seat of the current 14th Dalai Lama, who is now in exile, until the Chinese invasion of 1959?

The Dalai Lama: the spiritual and secular head of Tibet

Where is the current Dalai Lama from?

He comes from a very simple background. On July 6, 1935, the farmer's son Lhamo Dhondup was born in a small village in Amdo Province. He was only two years old when, on the basis of prophecies, a delegation of high Tibetan priests (lamas) came to see him in his parents' home. Soon he embodied the 14th rebirth of the Dalai Lama for these men. Among other things, the boy spoke the elegant capital dialect, not the rural dialect of his village. And - he recognized things that had once belonged to him as a former God-King. He was given the monk name Tenzin Gyatso and ascended the lion throne at the age of four.

Anyone who got to know him goes away a little bit different, at least that's how it seems. It is the dignity of this man that radiates confidence, and his spiritual and spiritual clarity and strength that cast a spell over you. The Dalai Lama studied at the three monastic universities of the once free Tibet and has, among other things, a doctorate in Buddhist philosophy. Lived tolerance is one of his principles as well as deep humanity.

How did Tibet come under Chinese rule?

Tibet, the highest country on earth, has long suffered conflicts with its neighbors. Even in the first half of the 20th century there were constant disputes. In 1949 the communists took power in China, and a year later they invaded Tibet. The Dalai Lama, who was just 15 years old, was given control of his country, but the Chinese attackers could not be withstood. After the capitulation, foreign and military policy passed into Chinese hands, and the Dalai Lama was only granted limited domestic political powers.

Why did the Dalai Lama have to flee Tibet?

In 1956 there was violent unrest among the Tibetans, which two years later spread to guerrilla fights and revolts against the foreign oppressors. Soon Lhasa, the capital of the highest country on earth, will be all about violence. The Chinese regime is now looking for a violent "solution" and is brutally suppressing the rebellion. A total of 1.2 million Tibetans have now died and over 6000 monasteries and temples have been destroyed. The Dalai Lama flees to India via the Himalayas and propagates non-violent resistance against the Chinese occupation of Tibet.

What is the message of the Dalai Lama?

He emphasizes, also with regard to the Tibet conflict, how important inner peace is for overcoming a problem, since only this state of mind enables calm and sensible action. This is clearly expressed in his speech, which he gave on December 10, 1989 in Oslo, when he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to find a non-violent solution to the Tibetan problem. Among other things, he said: “Because we all share this small planet earth with one another, we must learn to live in harmony and peace with one another and with nature. It's not just a dream, it's a necessity. We are interdependent in so many ways that we can no longer live in isolated communities and ignore what happens outside of that community. "

What political solution does the exiled politician propose for Tibet?

The Dalai Lama is a respected international statesman of peace, a warning also for the security of the "small planet earth". For the creation of a democratic Tibet he propagates a five-point plan without detachment from China. According to this plan, the country is to be declared a peace zone and calls for a halt to the aggressive Chinese settlement policy and the implementation of human rights. For example, the production of nuclear weapons on Tibetan territory must also be ended. The Dalai Lama is in Indian exile in the mountain nest McLeodganj, a district of Dharamsala. He was able to set up a democratic government in exile for the 130,000 or so Tibetans who live with him there.

What is a Dalai Lama?

The name Dalai Lama, the God-King of the Tibetans, means "teacher whose wisdom is as great as the ocean". A Dalai Lama is considered to be the incarnation of the patron god of Tibet, Chenresi, the Buddha of Mercy. Chenresi, it is said, has given up his own salvation and is being reborn to help people on their way to ultimate perfection. Again and again his soul returns to the body of a male newborn after his death.

Did you know that …

As a result of the settlement policy of the Chinese rulers in Tibet, more and more Chinese are drawn to the occupied area? The identity of the Tibetans living there is to be erased. According to estimates by the Tibetan government in exile, there are now more Chinese than Tibetans living in the cities.

the geography of Tibet is extreme? The Central Asian highlands extend to an average altitude of 4500 meters and are bordered all around by high mountains such as the Himalayas in the south. The vegetation of the "roof of the world" is steppe to desert-like, some regions are uninhabitable due to the extreme climate.

Buddhism in Japan: Searching for Enlightenment and Salvation

What is Zen Buddhism?

In the 6th century AD Buddhism came to Japan and developed its special form there with its roots reaching back to India and China, for example in the form of Zen and Amida Buddhism. The Zen practice lived in the monasteries according to the strict rules of renunciation aims at a state that Zen Buddhists call "understanding" in the sense of an experience of enlightenment. This moment of realization requires self-discipline and great inner concentration.

How did the new belief develop in Japan?

Buddhism came to China after the turn of the century. The Indian monk Bodhidharma, 28th Indian patriarch of Buddhism, brought the meditation school (dhyana) to China. The Chan school emerged from her through contact with Daoism. Buddhism was conveyed to Japan via Korea and introduced at the end of the 6th century.

Derived from the Chinese term chan, meditation, Bodhidharma's teaching of immersion developed into Japanese Zen Buddhism centuries later. The schools of Soto and Rinzai, which were dominated by the two teachers Dogen and Eisai around 1200 and 1300 respectively, soon became very popular. The warrior class, the samurai, were particularly interested in the new teachings and their ethos of discipline. The forces that grew from this had a strong influence on Japanese art, culture and landscape design and are expressed, for example, in the tea ceremony and in the Zen gardens.

What is the goal of zen?

For Zen Buddhists it is satori (roughly understanding, knowledge) the big goal. Zen practice is aimed at helping the seeker to free himself from concepts such as space and time and any form of intellectual activity and evaluation. The precise observation of what is going on in us should be practiced. With strict meditation exercises, instructions and discussions with their Zen master, the students should achieve a state in which the ego can become completely empty. This "egotism" is at the center of Zen. According to the teaching of the Soto school, the transition into this state requires intensive, persistent concentration on this one moment and long practice. After the Rinzai school, this longed-for and decisive moment is not consciously brought about, but rather brought about by a spontaneous experience. A sudden external impulse, such as a noise, triggers the satori.

How do the monks meditate?

Meditation is practiced in a sitting position. This attitude is one of the central methods of preparing for satori and will zazen, called unintentional sitting. It is important not to move and be carried away in the constant flow of thoughts, but to free and purify the mind from its many prejudices and projections, to let it become empty so that its actual Buddha nature can be realized. If the meditator is overwhelmed by tiredness and falls asleep, the master, who walks along the ranks of his disciples, hits him hard on the shoulder with a stick in order to awaken and strengthen him for meditation.

Who Worships Amida?

A completely different practice prevails in Amida Buddhism. This religious school also came to Japan via China. The monk Honen and his disciple Shinran emphasized the importance of worshiping the transcendent Buddha Amida (Amitabha in India). He resides in an otherworldly paradise, the so-called Pure Land, which gave this direction its name. To be born again there is the goal of the believers in order to get out of the cycle of rebirth from there, under more favorable conditions and with the help of Buddha Amida. The continual invocation of Amida (namu amida butsu) should make that possible. Shinran even taught that a single recitation of the Amida name was sufficient for salvation. The attempt to attain the Pure Land through good deeds and merits, on the other hand, is as good as hopeless. The Jodo-shin-shu school ("True School of the Pure Land") founded by him was therefore widespread mainly among lay people.

In what stages did Buddhism spread in Japan?

500–550: The Chan meditation school is established in China

End of the 6th century: Buddhism came to Japan via China and Korea

1133–1212: Honen, Buddhist monk and founder of the Japanese Pure Land School

around 1200: Foundation of the two Zen schools Rinzai and Soto in Japan

1173–1262: Shinran, student of Hone and founder of the Jodo-shin-shu school

Did you know that …

it in Zen Buddhism in addition to the classic sitting meditation (zazen) also forms of meditation while walking (kinhin) gives?

the teachings of Zen were passed on with the help of so-called koans, seemingly pointless anecdotes?

the Japanese Rinzai School required learning the Chinese language?

Amida Buddhism is still the largest Buddhist denomination in Japan today?

The Buddhist Renewal: An International Movement

How did the Buddhist renewal movement come about?

Most Asian countries were under European colonial rule in the 19th century. Associated with this was a strong missionary activity by Christian churches. This constellation also gave rise to a provocation that encouraged Buddhist thinkers to review their own religious orientation by either turning more to the primordial Buddhist sources or by adapting to modern times.

What should change?

The following goals determined the movement: ecumenical rapprochement and cooperation between Buddhists from different schools and countries, strengthening of social and charitable commitment, renewal of the Buddhist educational system, worldwide expansion of Buddhism, greater inclusion of male and female lay people, political independence of Buddhist countries and finally one more emphasis on the almost forgotten practice of meditation as the basis for all the other goals.

Where was the nucleus of renewal?

In Sri Lanka, which had been under British rule since 1815 and was then still called Ceylon, there were a number of disputations between Christian missionaries and Buddhist monks in the 19th century. The theosophists Colonel Henry Steele Olcott and Helena Petrowna Blavatsky played an important role, as did the Sinhalese David Hewavitarane, who was inspired by them and who became famous as Anagarika Dharmapala. He created the Mahabodhi Society in 1891 with the aim of reactivating the Buddha sanctuary in Bodhgaya, India. He also took part in the World Parliament of Religions in Chicago in 1893.

What has changed in the Asian countries?

In Thailand, which was not subject to colonial rule, the cosmopolitan King Mongkut (reigned 1851–1868) supported the reform school of Dhammayuttika. This movement aimed at a stricter discipline and a closer connection between religion and state. In Burma, today's Myanmar, teachers such as U Ba Khin, U Narada and Mahasi Sayadaw started new approaches to meditation.

In China lay leaders like Yang Wen-hui and T'ai-hsü distinguished themselves by founding new associations with the aim of international cooperation between Buddhist laypeople. Popular Won Buddhism, practiced predominantly by women, emerged in nearby South Korea, combining Buddhist clergy with Confucian family ethics and Christian organization.

It was similar in Japan, where a leading Buddhology (the scientific research of Buddhism) was established to this day, and new, Buddhist-inspired religions overtook the reform approaches of the old schools.

How did the Buddhist religion internationalize?

As early as 1891 there was an international Buddhist conference in Japan, followed by similar conferences in China and Japan in the 1920s. The foundation of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) in Ceylon in 1950 by the Sinhalese G. P. Malalasekera, which has since held Buddhist world conferences at different locations every two years, is significant.

Between 1952 and 1956, the 6th Great Council in the tradition of Theravada took place in Rangoon, in which Mahayana Buddhists also took part. In 1956, on the occasion of the 2500-year return (according to traditional dating) of the Buddha's entry into nirvana, the international celebration of "Buddha Jayanti" was celebrated.

How did the renewal movement develop?

1873: Panadura disputation

1875: Olcott, Blavatsky, Judge and others found the Theosophical Society

1880: Foundation of the Buddhist Theosophical Society

1881: "Buddhist Catechism" Olcotts

1891: Foundation of the Mahabodhi Society

1918: Founding of the All-Ceylon Buddhist Congress by Dharmapala

1925: East Asian Buddhist Conference in Kyoto (Japan)

1929: Establishment of the Chinese Buddhist Association

1950: Foundation of the World Fellowship of Buddhists

1952–1956: 6th Great Buddhist Council in Rangoon (Burma)

India and the West: Return and International Diffusion

How did Buddhism regain ground in India?

More than seven centuries after its end in India, Buddhism returned through Dr. Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956) returned to his homeland. Only small Buddhist enclaves in Bengal and the Himalayas had survived there, but on October 14, 1956, a wave of mass conversions began. Ambedkar recited the threefold taking refuge in Buddha, doctrine, and fellowship. He called on the 400,000 present to become Buddhists and to renounce the Hindu gods.

Why did so many Hindus convert?

The new Buddhists came almost exclusively from the Mahar caste, a lower caste of the "untouchables" to which Ambedkar also belonged. He denounced the injustices that he and millions of others have endured in the Hindu caste system. In turning away from Hinduism and converting to a non-Hindu religion, he saw the only chance of being able to lead a dignified existence. However, the Buddhist conversion movement did not achieve any successes beyond the Mahar caste. The Ambedkar Buddhists of West India, who make up around 90 percent of the more than ten million Indian Buddhists, are integrated into the Indian social structure as a quasi new, socially hardly better-off caste. However, the conversion to Buddhism, which many experienced as “liberation” and “new birth”, brought the individual for the first time self-confidence in their own strength and dignity.

How did religion get to the West?

Buddhist content and forms of practice came to the West through immigration and conversion. The first Buddhists in North America and Australia were Chinese and Japanese migrants who had left their homeland to find gold and work. In 1853 the first Chinese Buddhist temples were built in San Francisco's Chinatown, and in 1856 in Melbourne, Australia. The ban on further immigration greatly reduced the once high proportion of Buddhists. Only changes in immigration laws in the 1960s allowed South and East Asian migrants to immigrate to Canada, the United States, and Australia. Many of the immigrants are Buddhists and, like a century earlier, they built Buddhist places of worship and temples, depending on the local tradition.

What led to the increased immigration of Buddhists to Europe?

The end of the Vietnam War (1975) and the ensuing wave of refugees brought more than half a million Vietnamese, about half of them Buddhists, to western countries. The largest refugee groups in Europe live in France with around 350,000 and in Germany with around 110,000 Vietnamese. The Asian Buddhists have so far been little present in the public eye. This is in contrast to their numerical strength, which in Europe, Australia or the US is roughly twice the number of Westerners who convert to Buddhism.

How popular is Buddhism today?

By 1850, translations and philosophical treatises had brought Buddhist teaching content to artistic and academic circles. The first "professing Buddhists" appeared in public in the 1880s. Buddhist organizations first emerged in Leipzig (1903) and London (1907). But there was a broader interest in Buddhist ideas and forms of meditation only from the late 1960s. "Orientals", artists and students in India, Burma and Japan got to know Buddhism as a spiritual force that involves the whole body in meditation. The new students and their teachers from Asia founded numerous centers and monasteries. Zen and Tibetan Buddhism are particularly in demand. Buddhism in the West, be it in North and South America, in South Africa, Australia or Europe, is extremely diverse and varied.

Did you know that …

as a result of mass conversions from October 1956, the number of Buddhists in India grew from 2,500 to over 4.2 million within six months?

the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer (1788–1860) was already fascinated by the teachings of the Buddha?

How did Buddhism spread to the west?

1853: first Buddhist temple in San Francisco (USA)

1856: first Buddhist temple in Melbourne (Australia)

1903: first Buddhist society in Germany

October 14, 1956: Beginning of the conversion movement in India

from the 1960s: increased immigration of Asian Buddhists in North America and Australia

from the early 1970s: rapid rise of Buddhism all over the western world