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RELG 1641 (19)
Lecture

Quest for Enlightenment 14.docx

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Department
Religious Studies
Course Code
RELG 1641
Professor
Fiona Black

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Mahayana Buddhism  the prajna-paramita sutras- all is empty! everything is an illusion, including the idea of Nirvana  bodhisattvas- spiritual beings in the universe who can ease one's suffering, have made a vow to not achieve Nirvana until all beings have achieved Nirvana  Mahayana Buddhist philosophy- are Nirvana and samsara really that different? (similar to concepts of non-duality in Hinduism- all is Brahman)  broad movement comprising many schools of Buddhism, now dominant in East Asia o ie Chan/Zen, Pure Land, Tientai  critique of earlier Buddhism (especially Arhat goal) as small, petty, selfish- how could you just escape samsara and leave everyone else behind o Hinayana ("small vehicle"- Theravada) vs. Mahayana ("great vehicle")  Theravada response: part of Nirvana is compassion  radical revision of early Buddhist goals, practices, beliefs, for example: o emptiness (shunyata)... everything lacks independent or inherent existence, including Nirvana (everything is a mental construct)... there is no difference between samsara (now) and Nirvana o bodhisattva... beings of great compassion who remain in samsara to help all beings o three bodies of a Buddha (trikaya)... "Histirical" Buddha merely an illusion, infinite Buddhas in universe with some in Pure Lands... Buddhas exist in infinite numbers of universes  Pure Lands: lands free from suffering... if Nirvana is not a goal for you, one can devote to a Buddha of a Pure Land and achieve rebirth in a Pure Land  begins in northern India 1st c. Common Era o centred around a new collection of sutras called the "Perfection of Wisdom" literature, or Prajna-paramita sutras  sutras unable to be found because they were being hidden in the bottom of lakes by dragon kings, only some monks could access them  begins as monastic movement, with Mahayana  "Even Nirvana, I say is like a magical illusion, is like a dream. How much more so everything else!"  "There is... no ignorance and no end to ignorance. No old age and death and no end to old age and death. No suffering, no cause of suffering, no cessation, no path, no wisdom, and no gain. No gain, and this the bodhisattva lives Prajna-paramita." -Heart Sutra  challenges central Buddhist ideals... noble eightfold path, four noble truths  Nirvana is a concept, but once you realize this, you will reach Nirvana  Bodhisattvas o in Mahayana Buddhism, the idea develops that there are numerous (infinite) "bodhisattvas" throughout the universe  these beings do not selfishly cling to their own enlightenment, but vow to take many forms in order to help all beings be free of suffering  they remain active in samsara, guiding beings to Nirvana  popular bodhisattvas include Avalokiteshvara (symbolizing compassion, helps beings suffering, particularly in hell realm) and Manjushri (symbolizing wisdom)  Avalokiteshvara (C. Guanyin; J. Kannon)  popularly known as the "bodhisattva of compassion" who vows to free all beings from suffering  in early Indian depictions, he is shown as a male  feminized in China, portrayed with a thousand arms- each hand has an eye- suprememly able to perceive the suffering of the world, and can act on it  Manjushri  in Japan, pictures sitting on a throne, also very popular as a tattoo, especially among the Japanese mafia (yakuza)- both esthetic (threatening to enemies) and protection elements  two main branches of philosophy: o Madhyamaka- the "middle way" school emphasizes the empty nature of all things, including nirvana  founded by Nagarjuna, c. 2nd century CE  emptiness (shunyata) is the middle way between eternalism and annihilationism (of persons and things); things and persons are "empty" of independent existence  things and persons lack an underlying substance or "own nature" (svabhava)  because everything acts independent nature and depends on something else, all concepts are relative: long vs. short, black vs. white  Nagarjuna applied this to standard Buddhist concepts, saying that nirvana depends on samsar
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