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REL 206: Final Exam Study Notes

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Cary Takagaki

REL 206: Final Exam Study Notes Lecture 6: Tantric Buddhism; Buddhism in Tibet Tantric Buddhism Tantric Buddhism is referred to as Vajrayna (the Diamond or Thunderbolt Vehicle)/ aka, Mantrayna (because of the importance attributed to Tantric mantras); although a separate vehicle, it falls into the category of Mahayana. Tantra is named after texts called tantras esoteric teachings and practices. Esoteric: secret ritual manuals, only for those that are initiated, not open to everybody Exoteric means knowledge that is available to anyone, public This early Tantric tradition in India emphasized the power of ritual, meditative visualization, and esoteric practices to unite males and female energies in a way that is spiritually liberating. This Hindu Tantric practice felt that if they could harness things like sexual energy, they could use it for religious practices. Believed other unconventional energies such as fear could also be harnessed for religious practice. Prior to the 6 century C.E., this had become a popular form of Hinduism in India; focused on rituals. Hindu Tantra included physical postures of the body and hands called mudras, the use of magical phrases called mantras, breathing exercises, and the cultivation of sensual bliss through ritual practices. Mandala: Diagram or picture, often circular, used in meditative practice; Tantric diagram used for visualization of a Buddhas qualities and realm. Cosmic maps of the universe to help you focus your mind when youre meditating. Nagarjuna schools are very philosophical schools, hard for us to understand Buddhism started to become to academic, too abstract lay Buddhist community began to look for inspiration elsewhere Tantric practices appealed to them because they involved physical things (vocalization, physical postures) and they were easier for peasants to relate too rather than the philosophical ideas (e.g. emptiness) As lay Buddhists were introduced to Hindu Tantric practices they absorbed some of their practices and adapted them into a new Buddhist spirituality in order to keep Buddhism relevant to ordinary people In this Tantric Buddhist spirituality, the esoteric practices (sadhana) were used not only to acquire supernatural aid for everyday needs, but also to aid in the pursuit of awakening. Buddhist monastics following the earlier non-Mahayana traditions rejected any ritualized precept-breaking as unskillful, not conductive to the Path of Purification. o These Tantric practices involved things like sexual practice, or meditating in cemeteries, and such practices are usually not considered sacred. o Many conservative Buddhist believed that Tantric practices should not be employed in Buddhism o However, the Mahayana monastics were more open to the possibility of Tantra functioning as a form of skillful means o By the tenth century, some Mahayana scholars at Buddhist universities had accepted certain forms of tantra into their curriculum, but with important disqualifications, namely, the ritual practices that break precepts such as sexual acts, were to be done only in the imagination. Moved away from conventions, used techniques that implemented fear to generate energy, such as fearful depictions of bodhisattvas. Nagarjuna said you cannot talk about anything because everything is empty, if you are talking about it you are clinging to the idea. Thus if sacred stuff is empty and profane stuff is empty, theyre both the same. This is how they justified the use of sexual practice - by claiming it was empty. Yogacara School argues that this world that we live in doesnt really exist, weve made it up in our consciousness. The Tantric school says if this is true, that means weve made the temple up in our minds, but then also made up in our minds sexual practice. Since our minds have created sexual practice, there is no reason why we cannot make it something sacred. Used these two schools to justify the introduction of Tantric practices. Has to be esoteric because every ritual has an effect and if you dont know how to use them it could have a negative effect/unforeseen consequence This is the kind of Buddhism that developed in Tibet Buddhism in Tibet Originally, Tibet did not accept Buddhism because Tibet already had its indigenous religions, The Tibetans practiced a shamanistic and animistic religion with elaborate sacrificial rituals, a court priesthood, magicians, and worship of local/regional/national deities. Uninterested in Buddhism, the Tibetan armies destroyed the Buddhist monastic institutions they encountered while carrying out their military incursions. Eventually, King Song Tsan Gampol changed this Tibetan resistance to Buddhism o In two of his political marriages, one to the daughter of the King of Nepal and one to the daughter of the emperor of China, two of his wives were Buddhist and softened his attitude towards the religion Around the 7 century, Tibet starts to accept Buddhism Tantric Buddhism was a little bit familiar to the Tibetans because of all the rituals that were also associated with Shamanism, this is the reason they accepted Tantric Buddhism as opposed to other forms of Buddhism Tibetans did not have a written language, Buddhist texts were written in Sanskrit o Tibetans start adapting Sanskrit to produce their own written language o Thus, the introduction of Buddhism also meant the acceptance of technology o Was not only for spiritual reasons that they accepted Buddhism, but also for political reasons (kings marriages), and lastly for technology Rituals o Sexual practice was used simply as a metaphor o Prayer Wheels/mani wheels: Inside this wheel is a sutra, when you spin this wheel; you get all the merit that you would if you actually read the sutra. o Circumbulation: walking in a clockwise direction around the monastery Bardo Thodol (The Tibetan Book of the Dead) o Antarabhava [Sanskrit], chung yu [Chinese], chuin/chuu [Japaneses] o Bardo: the 49 day period between death and next reincarnation o During those 49 days, they could help someone get a better rebirth o All schools of Buddhism believe in the Baro Thodol, but only the Tibetan Buddhist use the Tibetan Book of the Dead o Manual that is recited while a person is dying or after a person is dead o Only performed for lay people because monks already know what to do o They position the deceased/dying on their right side, the same posture of the Buddha when he died o Dying people are sensitive to sound so they can hear the teachings that will help them achieve a better rebirth Dalai Lama o Dalai: ocean, lama: wisdom (Tibetan for Guru) o His wisdom is as deep as the ocean o This dates back to the 16 century when Altan Khan, one of the moguls, gave Sonam Gyatso the title of Dalai Lama o Gendun Druba is the 1 Dalia Lama o For Tibetans, Avalokiteshvara is not a bodhisattva, but a Buddha o The Dalai Lamas are believed to be to be the emanation-bodies of this Buddha, who is said, leads the Tibetan people both spiritually and politically o Someone as spiritually advanced as the Dalai lama can choose what area that they will be reborn in o Even when his physical body dies, consciousness continues o Before he died he predicts his next life, gives various tests to the reincarnated child. Lecture 7: Buddhism in China Decline of Buddhism in India King Asoka ruled in India in the 3 century BCE. o Said to have converted to Buddhism and under his reign, Buddhism flourished in India and continued even outside of India (Northwest) o After a bloody battle, he came to truly appreciate the Buddhist religion o Used Buddhism to unify his country and for the better welfare of the people o Monasteries evolved into universities, became cultural centers Fa-hsien o Chinese monk who went to India in the forth century looking for texts o Chinese pilgrimage to India o When he comes back he reports about how Buddhism is flourishing in India th In the 6 century, Northwest India was invaded by Nomads (White Huns) o They attacked the monasteries so there was a set back for Buddhism for a while, however, Buddhism flourishes again after these invasions Hsan-tsang/Xuanzang o Another Chinese monk that goes to India o Spends 13 years in various parts of India between 627-43 o Finds a lot of monasteries in decline at that time, 1000 monasteries in ruins and destroyed stupas Hinduism is flourishing In 712 Muslim Turks invaded the Northwest and Western part of India o Raided a lot of the monasteries and universities set back for Buddhism As Buddhism became more philosophical (with schools such as the Nagarjuna and Yogacara School), Buddhist community began to look for inspiration
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