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REL 206 Midterm Study Notes

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Cary Takagaki

REL 206 Midterm Study Notes Lecture 1 Hinduism o Social and religious environment at the time of the historical Buddha o Dominant religion The Vedas (knowledge, wisdom) - ca. 1500 BCE 600 BCE o The Vedic tradition was a product of the Aryan invasions in 2000 BCE o Early texts of Hinduism that emphasized the ritual worship of many Gods o Contained hymns to the Gods, along with religious materials and teachings used in ritual sacrifices and in daily life Varna (caste system in Hinduism) Brahmans: priests Kshatriyas: warriors Vaishyas: merchants and artisans (providers) Shudras: farmers, workers and servants Untouchables o Brahmans, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas are twice-born groups o You can only get out of a caste through reincarnation o Karmic energy determines what kind of rebirth one will experience after death The Hindu Tradition o Reincarnation o Karma: the effect that intentional actions leave that influence the future of the actor a subtle form of moral energy that results from ones good and evil actions o Atman: a persons soul, permanent self This is what keeps coming back when we reincarnated Central notion in Upanisadic Hinduism Samsara o Wandering on: Cycle of birth, death, and rebirth o World of suffering o Bound to life in the material world Four Ends of Human Life four goals in life in Hinduism o Kama: satisfying the desire for sense of please Considered the lowest goal because this urge is common to both man and animals o Artha: Acquisition of worldly possessions or money, political power, commercial competition Considered superior to kama as it is noticeably mainly to human beings o Dharma: observance of religious duties Since kama and artha are rooted in selfishness, dharma is superior to them All Hindus are expected to choose this goal o Moksa/moksha: liberation from the cycle of rebirth and death Liberation achieved through God-realization All without exception will eventually accomplish this is this life, or after death Those not so involved may need several more incarnations Conscious effort or sincere application can help one to achieve this goal faster Everybody is unconsciously proceeding towards this goal Brahman o Ultimate reality in Hinduism o While the earlier Vedas had emphasized the ritual worship of many gods, the Upanisads presented the more mystical belief in a universal and unitary spiritual reality, called Brahman o True essence, or atman, of all things o It was believed that the personal realization of this divine essence through insight (furthered with meditation), would lead one to spiritual liberation, or moksha o Liberation was understood to be release from karma (Pali: kamma) and rebirth. o To gain liberation, according to the Upanisads, it is not enough to worship the Gods; one has to destroy ones karma and attain spiritual realization of the divine in all things in order to escape the rounds of rebirth o Only by the practice of spiritual discipline can ones true self, the eternal atman, find liberation from rebirth by merging with the divine Brahman th th The Historical Buddha (ca. 5 6 centuries BCE) o Names: Gautama: family name: most excellent cow Sakyamuni: Sage of the Sakya clan; the Sakyas were ancestors of the Buddha. Sakya means one who possesses power Siddhartha: given name: he who has achieved his goal o Born to the warrior-caste, Kshatriyas, in the state of Kosala. o A white elephant appeared in a dream to the Buddhas mother, Maya, the night of his conception. Astrologers interpreted this dream to mean that if Gautama married and remained a householder, he would be a great warrior and perhaps unite all of India (something that had not been accomplished up until that time) However, if he would leave the household state and retreat into the forest like the sramana were doing, he would be a great religious leader. o Despite the pleasures of his life, the Buddha became annoyed, ashamed and disgusted by the human condition. At the age of thirteen, Gautama found himself in a struggle between his home and the homeless religious life. This crisis triggered by the Four Sights. An old man A sick man A corpse An ascetic monk, a forest sramana: striver Strivers for liberation and contentment Often were wandering ascetics who lived in poverty and begged for what they needed Left the material life for to seek spiritual liberation from the ills of the human condition o These Four Sights helped Gautama understand that impermanent pleasures could not provide permanent happiness that the ills of life (old age, illness, death) could not destroy The Great Renunciation: the Buddhas spiritual quest o At age 29, the Buddha left his wife, Yasodhara, and his son, Rahula o Freedom from desires, inner peace, wisdom, Awakening, and Nirvana were the goals of this spiritual quest. o Buddha becomes an ascetic monk, cutting his hair was a symbol of this o Lived on one grain of rice per day on the verge of death (he didnt mind but he didnt come to a resolution) this extreme only led to suffering o The Middle Way: rejected the sensual indulgence he enjoyed as a young man, and on the other hand, rejected the mortification of the flesh that he had practiced as an ascetic (e.g. fasting). Came up with a moderate way of spiritual practice meditation The Enlightenment/ The Awakening of the Buddha (age 35) o Began practicing medi
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