RELIGST 2K03 Lecture Notes - Lecture 1: Madhyamaka, Abhidharma, Samhita

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Lecture 3: Lifestory of the Buddha
Siddartha Gautama- his name- “Siddartha” means one who has reached his goal- almost a
prophecy in his name- he also knew he was on his last lifetime before nirvana
“Bodhisattva”- a person destined for enlightenment- one who can become a Buddha but
has postponed it to help others (e.g. Dalai Lama)
Sukyamuni- the sage (muni) of the Sakya clan
2 main streams of Buddhism: 1) Mainstream; 2) Mahayana
Bodhisattva with a capital b refers to the Prince or the Buddha- there can be only one in
mainstream; bodhisattva with lower case b means there are several, in Mahayana stream
2 types of inscriptions in Indian Buddhism: 1) Narrative (tells a story); 2) Tells us the
name of the donor (person who sponsored the carving- expensive, so most donors were
monks/ kings- historians more interested in this)- the fact that monks are inscribed as
donors on pieces of art is problematic because scripts tell us that monks were supposed to
renounce/give away their wealth, so how could they have money to be donors?- shows us
that monks “renouncing” their wealth completely didn’t always happen as we assume
Also important to look @ who the monks were talking to when we read texts- they had
different bodies of text for writing to laypeople and kings, and different texts for “in-
house” (confidential texts between themselves, which were very different in content and
vision)
12 Acts of the Buddha’s Life
1) The Boddhisattva was waiting in Tusita heaven (in India more than one heaven)
2) Boddhisattva descends from Tusita and...
3) Enters the side of “Maya” (means “illusion”, was Buddha’s mother, the queen)
-Maya dreams of a 6-tusked elephant, which penetrates her
-Maya gives birth to the side- because Buddha wasn’t born normally, it is said that he
retained memories from his past lives
-Important image could be on the quiz- either of Maya with an elephant which would
indicate step 4, or- women are often shown holding onto tree branches, sign of fertility-
Buddha’s mother is said to have given birth holding onto a tree
4) Seven steps proclaiming superiority
-He takes 7 steps to the north and proclaims he is chief in the world and that it’s his last
birth
-Sage (Asita) notes the 32 marks of the Great Man (mahapurusa laksana)- with these
qualities, he will either become “cakravartin” (turner of the wheel emperor), or Buddha
-In lifestory of the Buddha text, there’s a tension: between kingship (cakravartin) and
buddhahood (his dad wanted him to be king); and between secularism and spirituality
5) Bodhisattva trained in the worldly arts
-Bodhisattva was pampered in the palace- he was disgusted by his life in the palace,
realizes impurity and impermanence of the body
6) Disenchantment
-4 transformative sights (he walks out 4 gates of the palace and sees): someone who’s
old, someone who’s sick, a corpse, and a monk)
-With this he realizes he’ll get old, sick, and that he’ll eventually die- he sees the monk
who is calm
-He had been brought up in luxury and whenever he went out, his father would have
homeless people moved away to protect his son from seeing those things
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7) Mahapravrajya- The Great Departure
-Leaves home to become a monk- his father doesn’t like this and tries to prevent it
-So he has help from the Gods, who carry his horse over the gate- after he leaves, the
horse comes back (there might be an image of this on the test)
8) Austerities/Asceticism
-Bodhisattva decides he’s going to renounce his worldly belongings, live @ the foot of a
tree in all kinds of weather, eating only fruits that fall on the ground- asceticism is
extreme (like holding yoga poses/ standing on 1 foot for 12 years, starvation e.t.c.)- he
became so skinny and gaunt
-He then realizes a middleway- abandons austerities, partakes milk rice from someone
-Returns to meditate under the Bodhi Tree
-Fends off attacks from Mara (bringer of death, the Bad One) (a god who doesn’t want
him to attain enlightenment)
-He touches the earth and calls on the Earth Goddess (‘earth touching gesture’ also called
‘bhumi-sparsa-mudra’) (might be a picture of his finger touching the ground) as witness
to the fact that he fends off 1) the physical attack; 2) seduction from Mara’s daughters
9) Mara’s defeat
10) Attains enlightenment- unconditioned, deathless, nirvana
Nirvana- the ‘blowing out’ of the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion; the ultimate goal of
Buddhist practice; the unconditioned
11) Turning the wheel of Dharma (cakra-pravartana)
-Brahmam the ‘mighty lord’ requests that he teach
-Deer Park, Sarnath- he teaches here
-After this, we are told there were 6 arhats (awakened Buddhist saint) in the world, who
had cultivated to the path of cessation of suffering (realized unconditioned)
12) Parinirvana- attainment of complete liberation and departing- important picture- depicts
Buddha “taking a nap”, he is actually departing, depicts parinirvana scene
Fruits of the Ascetic Life- Sammanaphala
Jains- all things are alive, one must eliminate previous karma and not create any
more- Mahavira is one of the founders of the Jain tradition
Ajivakas- reject karma- they accept rebirth, “fatalism”, impersonal destiny
(niyati), self-starvation, purana kassapa, makkhali gosala, pakhuda kaccayana
Sceptics or “eel-wriggerls”- Sanjaya Belatthiputta- cannot tie them down to one
position, they refuse to give a straight answer
Oral transmission of text- texts are said to have been written down in 1st C- before
this, they were transmitted by word of mouth- “Thus I have heard” is a reference to oral
transmission
1st texts from Pali tradition are 16th C- only ones before this are 9 BCE (and there
are only 4 pages)- manuscripts are very late, after Buddha passed away
Buddhist schools stemmed out of: orthoproxy (orthodox practice, not doctrine)
and orthodoxy (orthodox doctrine)
Buddhism Textbook
Introduction
Buddhism stretches over 2500 years
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