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Quest for Enlightenment 9.docx

2 Pages

Religious Studies
Course Code
RELG 1681
Sam Borsman

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Theravada Buddhism  "Way of the Elders"  in southeast Asia (Cambodia, Thailand, etc) and increasingly in the West  claims to be the oldest form of Buddhism and most faithful to the Pali canon of scriptures  ideal Monk is to become an Arhat (worthy one) who realizes nibbana (nirvana) o traditionally, this ideal is seen as very rare for monks, almost impossible for lay people o focus on meditation, such as shamatha (calming) ie. counting breaths to achieve one-pointed concentration and vipassana (insight meditation) ie. labeling thoughts to achieve understanding of impermanence, three marks, etc  many roles of monks in Theravada societies: o educators, meditatiors, scholars, politicians, healers o tension between urban scholar monks and meditating forest monks in many Theravada cultures (ie. wandering forest monks in Thailand- thudong)  monks, the sangha, are a field of merit for lay people o donations and giving (dana) to monks provides spiritual merit for laypeople o in return for dana, monks teach the Dharma to laypeople  female ordination died out in the medieval period, though modern attempts to revive it  Forest Monks and Animals o often, the forest monks develop special relationships with "brother tiger" or "sister elephant" o according to the Buddha's words in the Metta Sutta, one should radiate loving kindness (metta) to all beings  for laity, there is a focus on accumulating spiritual merit (Skt. punya) for worldly benefit or good rebirth (ie. in the heavens)  many practices generate merit: o giving to monks (dana) by laity o temporary ordination of boys into the sangha (a common Theravadan life cycle ritual) gives merit to the parents  is Nirvana an attainable goal? would you even want to attain Nirvana if you could? would you want something else?  for most Buddhists, Nirvana is not necessarily a goal  Nirvana is a goal for an elite group of individuals (usually who write scriptures in the first place)  use of "magic" and merit-making rituals in Theravada to gain definite effects in this world  temporary ordination as a Buddhist monk (can be repeated a number of times) o as early as age seven, boys begin the ritual process by dressing as a prince and "leaving home" on an elephant o the boys have their heads shaved, don the white robes of a novice, and then receive monastic robes from their parents o boys may be ordained for short periods of time, and it is thought that the ritual generates great amounts of spiritual merit, especially for the boys' parents o one of their main duties is to collect food/donations usually from women  Theravada, in
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