Saturday, October 30, 2010

Buddhist Lectures

The Buddhist Lectures

Carlos Aureus

Life of Buddha in Pictures

Part One
November 20, 2010

The gift of Dharma excels all other gifts.  
                                           --Dhammapada, 354
Formerly, as well as now, monks, I make known only suffering and the cessation of suffering.
                                                                                                             --Majjhima-nikaya,  22

How can I be happy? What is the best way to live? Is there a well-verified path to happiness? What about my relationship with other people?  How do we solve the problem of right relationship with others? Why do some people hurt each other? What about the world we live in. Why are so many people unhappy? When I look around me, why do things not seem to be going the way I think they would?  Why do people grow old, get sick, and die? Why are we born only to grow old, get sick, and die? And why is there so much suffering? Is there a way out of suffering?

I.                   Suffering and the cessation of suffering.
A.    The entire teaching of Buddhism is nothing else but the understanding of Dukkha and the understanding of the way out of Dukkha.
B.     Buddhism is nothing else but the application of this one principle.
II.                Why Buddhism? What is Buddhism?
A.    Is it a philosophy, a religion, a science?
B.     Ehi-passika: Come and see, not come and believe.
C.     Why are there many types of Buddhism?
III.             Who was the Buddha?
A.    Siddhartha is known by other names: Gautama, Sakyamuni.
B.     He was of royal lineage, born ca. 490 BCE (ca. 563 BCE according to tradition) in the area near the current border between India and Nepal.
IV.             Several versions of his early life: variations on a basic storyline.
A.    His parents were King Suddhodana and Queen Mahamaya.
B.     Siddhartha was born while his mother was on her way to her parents’ home.
C.     Immediately the newborn took seven steps and confidently declared that he was born for the good of the world.
D.    His father consulted with court astrologers who predicted the child’s future.
E.     Determined that his son should become a monarch, Siddhartha’s father shielded his son from all potentially upsetting sights: the sick, the elderly, the ugly.
1.      He had the best food, the best clothes, and the best entertainment.
2.      He had three splendid palaces: wood, marble, and brick.
3.      He had everything other people spend their lives pursuing: riches, power.
F.      At a young age, Siddhartha married his beautiful cousin Yashodhara, who eventually gave birth to his son Rahula. Everything seemed right with the world. And so it was, for Siddhartha’s first 29 years.
V.                Having it all, however, was still not enough. At age 29, he realized this insight after coming face to face with suffering for the first time. There are several versions of his initial awakening.
A.    He encounters an old person, a sick person, and a corpse en route to the burning ground.
B.     He overhears a strange, high pitched wailing of a funeral procession.
C.     These elements may seem preposterous; could he really have been sheltered from life’s realities and be oblivious to them for 29 years?
1.      It is possible that his realization came when he recognized that he, too, was subject to the realities of life.
2.      It is unlikely that his father had pulled it off for three decades.
3.      At one crucial moment, he finally gets it: “I, too, will die.”
D.    Rather than giving him serenity, the sights bring him profound agitation. It meant dropping the pretense of uniqueness and accepting wholeheartedly one’s common share with everyone else.
E.     He encounters a wandering samana who appears happy in the midst of a suffering world.
F.      Distraught by the suffering and intrigued by the samana, Siddhartha decides to leave his family and to seek answers to his questions.
G.    His illusion is shattered; there is simply no returning to a life that ignored suffering and death.
H.    The sight of dancers now drooling in their sleep.
VI.             Siddhartha travels throughout the areas of the Ganges basin in search of ascetics who could teach him how to end suffering.
A.     Under Alara Kalama, Siddhartha practices meditation, but is not satisfied.
B.     Under Uddaka, he is able to reach the level of neither perception nor non-perception, but this too fails to provide the wisdom he sought.
C.     These practices bring extraordinary experiences, albeit temporary. Siddhartha wants to attain permanent freedom from suffering.
D.    Siddhartha practices extreme self-mortification, depriving himself of food until he concludes that far from ending suffering, this practice only aggravated it.
E.     Surely there has to be some other way to end suffering.

How the Buddha Taught: The Case of Kisa Gotami

Kisa Gotami had an only child, a son, who was everything to her, the sunshine of her life, so to speak. Hardly had the boy grown big enough to run and play, however, when he became ill and suddenly died. Just like that. Died. Naturally, so great was the sorrow of the mother that she could not accept her son’s death. Instead, she took to the streets carrying her dead son in her arms, acting as if he were only asleep. She went knocking on door to door, and at each door would demand: “Give me medicine for my son.” People who saw her said that she was mad. Children made fun of her.
An old man saw her and understood that it was her sorrow that had made her mad. He told her: “Woman, the only one who might give you medicine for your son is the Lord Buddha. Go to the monastery and ask him for medicine for your son.”
With her son on her hip, she went to the monastery in which resided the Buddha, who met her with a gentle smile. Timidly she approached him. “I wish to have medicine for my son, Exalted One,” she said.
            Smiling serenely, the Buddha answered: “It is good that you have come. This is what you must do. You must go to each house in the city, and from each house you must take grains of mustard seed. But not just any house will do. You must take only mustard seed from those families in which no one has ever died.”
            The woman agreed at once and went down to the city. At the first house she knocked, she said: “The Lord Gautama has sent me here. You are to give me tiny grains of mustard seed. This is the medicine I must have for my son.”
            But when they brought her the seeds, she asked: “Tell me, is this a house in which no one has died?”
            “Oh, no, good woman, the dead from this house are many,” came the reply.
            “Then I must go elsewhere. The Exalted One was clear about this. I am to seek out mustard seeds only from those houses which death has not visited.”
            So she went from house to house. But in every house she received the same answer. In the entire city there was no house which death had not touched. Eventually she understood. She brought her son to the outskirts of the city and had him cremated.
            Returning to the monastery, she was greeted by the same softly smiling Buddha. “Good woman,” he said, “did you fetch the grains as I told you?”
            “Most Noble One,” she replied, “there are no houses where death is not known.
All mankind is touched by death. My dear son is dead, but I see now that whoever is born must die. There is no medicine but the acceptance; there is no cure but the understanding.
            Kisa Gotami became one of the Buddha’s faithful disciples and received the highest teachings until she became an adept.

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