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Religious Studies
RELG 252
Lara Braitstein

Notes - Hinduism and Buddhism Trial 1 – September 6 th Invention of Buddhism – a class of scholars called orientalists. As a word, it doesn’t really make any sense, until the 19 century, the word didn’t exist. People today would not have used the term Buddhist. The word is a combination of the word -buddha (the awakened), and –ism (a Sanskrit word that was created to describe a vast range of practices, cultures, ideas, texts that before the wish the to turn it into a unitary mass). Taking a look at Buddhism, it doesn’t exist in the way that we like things to exist. When we find a term like Buddhism, as we think it refers to one thing we can understand, one thing we can study, but the problem is that it is a huge vast variety of texts and studies. Thus, there are many Buddhism’s. When we give it a unitary name, we are looking for , it tends to structure what we are going to perceive. Our expectations create the object that we think we are studying. We think we are looking that’s external, that exists from it own side, we think we are approaching Buddhism. Our perception comes from our perception of religion. It’s a lifetime of work to construct a meaning of life around it. In order to study it, we need to remind our self that we are creating it through our expectations. We all tend to have ideas, internationally, we can pack 20k people into seats when the Dalai Lama comes to MTL. What’s grabbing us to go see him? Buddhism has big celebrities, as it makes people feel good albeit not knowing anything. The stereotypes are (broadly) positive. Hinduism (devil-worshipping), struggle against this thought. Buddhism is a very positive perception, to a degree that people are shocked when people do something bad who are Buddhists, harmful when something happens, 2500 years of every culture in asia, there is no one thing that is Buddhism. We easily lump into set categories, our ideas of religion, our ideas of how the object of study should exist. Given that, Buddhism itself doesn’t present itself easily, we can though present it the way we perceive it. Traditions that come from what feels like a far away part of the world, we are aware of our own gaze and our own prejudice and ideas. We all share a common cultural setting, here at McGill, a hypercecular religion. We have all been trained to think in specific ways, to read, to understand knowledge by participating in this culture, and its important to keep in mind when studying Buddhism. The history of learning is that a practice of history, but while studying Buddhism, we are also studying the study of Buddhism. What we look for or believe in, is truth. We as a group, like to think that there is a truth about things, we tend to think that by doing enough, we are going to uncover the truth behind x,y,z in Buddhism. The great gift is that its really difficult to find anything that looks like a unitary truth. There are actually multiple truths about Buddhism, by imagining a tradition 2500 years ago coming out from a specific region in Asia (south eastern Nepal, Varanassi, Ghaya) that’s where it all comes from. It all spreads up into places like Korea, China, Japan, Tibet, Mongolia, and each of these cultures don’t describe just one thing. Because of all its been translated to, into all its been, things may be true about all these things, are not always true across the boarder. Keep our minds open the deeper we go into the study of Buddhism. We also have to remember that we may be confronted by practices or elements or philosophy that will be very challenging, how we concluded things about the world, and how it differs, so lashing out will be useless. Judgment is useless, and ask yourself why your having this reaction. The emotional reaction is for you to sort out yourself. Buddhism, by the time the British started studying (or invented in the 19thceentursy). The advantage was that there was not a recognized Buddhist community when they were there. They had all kinds of ideas about Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Sikhism, and they confronted communities that could speak back. But Buddhism they had not
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