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Lecture 1 - Rise of Engaged Buddhism - September 19.docx

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New College
Henry Shiu

September 19, 2012. Lecture 1 – The Rise of Engaged Buddhism/Social Environment  Applying ancient teachings of the Buddha to modern/contemporary context Social and Religious Conditions During the Days of the Buddha  5 century?  People were mostly religious  Many need to fulfill their religious roles at different stages of life  The “orthodox” religion was the Vedic tradition, which affirms the caste system o Veda/tradition of the Vedas began orally o Vedic priests were most respected and venerated for their knowledge/words of wisdom  Easy to become corrupted/influence public badly if their religious text comes from the mouths of men o Caste system organized by “purity” (less the farther down you get)  Caste system is hereditary/you are born into your class  Priests, Kings and Warriors, Merchants, Servants/Slaves  Can’t leave your class; once born into it you are stuck for life  Idea is that the class in which you are born is dependent on how good/bad you were in your previous life  During the time of the Buddha, he and other intellectuals of the time questioned the caste system and realized it offered no reward of spiritual journey and fulfillment, no liberation, so they abandoned it  There were 62 other philosophical/religious schools, such as Ajivaka and Jainism  Buddhism during the life of the Buddha wasn’t super popular, consisted of a 1000 person community (about)  After his death Buddhism gained more popularity over the years  Unified India didn’t exist until the time of Asoka  Often under threat of being invaded by other countries The Sangha of the Buddha  Admits members from all social castes o How the Buddha denounced the caste system  Admits women into the sangha o First time in Vedic religion that women were allowed to participate actively o Previously, a woman was considered to be dependent on men for her entire life and should be worshipping her husband rather than learning sacred teachings of the Veda and worshipping its Gods o Women were considered un-wise and of low intellect o Buddha made it clear that women are no less spiritual than men; women could attain liberation and enlightenment just like the Buddha  Everyone treated equally  Fourfold sangha o Monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen were all allowed to join  The Buddha himself wasn’
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