Siddhartha Guatama c. 563-403 bce

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  • A Brief Overview

Siddhartha Guatama

  • c. 563-403 BCE

  • Kshatriya caste

  • Shakya Tribe

  • NE India (today Nepal)

  • Mother dies shortly after he was born

  • Ruler or sadhu???

Four Sights

  • An Old Person

  • A Sick Person

Great Going Forth

  • Seeks out teachers

  • Becomes ascetic to the point of death

  • Discovers the Middle Way

The Buddha

  • Sanskrit word “to wake up”

  • Awakened One

  • Taught from 35 to his death at 80

Four Noble Truths

  • Dukkha. All life is suffering

    • Anichcha – change or impermanence
    • Anatta – no self, no soul
    • 3 marks
  • Samudaya. Suffering Comes from Desire

    • tanha
  • Nirodha

    • nirvana

Panca Sila and Dasa Sila

  • Panca Sila or 5 precepts

    • Abstain from harming living beings – ahimsa
    • Abstain from taking things not freely given
    • Abstain from sexual misconduct
    • Abstain from false speech
    • Abstain from intoxicating drinks and drugs

Teachings Grow

  • 45 yrs work

  • 480 BCE Ragir

  • 380 BCE Vesali

  • Oral Tradition for some four centuries

Theravada Buddhism

  • School of the Elders

    • Vada= way
    • Thera = elders
  • Hinayana

    • Yanas = raft
    • Lesser Raft or Vehicle
  • More Common in South (Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar)


  • Sri Lanka home base

  • Sangha emphasized

  • Arhat or “worthy”

Pali Canon

  • Theravada monks in the 1st century BCE

  • Tipitaka (Ti=three; pitaka=baskets)

  • Three Divisions

Sutta Pitaka

  • “Thread”

  • Collections of the Buddha’s sayings in sermons or dialogues

    • Digha Nikaya
    • Majjhima Nikaya
    • Samyutta Nikaya
    • Anguttara Nikaya
    • Khuddaka Nikaya
  • Dhammapada and Jataka Tales

Facts and Figures

  • 185 million Mahayana Buddhists (56%)

  • 124 million Theravada Buddhists (38%)

  • 20 million Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhists (6%)

Two Other Divisions

  • Vinaya Pitaka

    • Book of Discipline for bhikkhus (monks) and bhikkhunis (nuns)
    • Contains 227 rules for how they should live in sangha
    • Also stories of the origins of these rules

Mahayana Buddhism

  • Spread NW from India to Nepal, China, Tibet, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan

  • Big Raft; accommodates more people, traditions, needs

  • Many schools and Traditions within it

Some Common Mahayana Themes

  • Bodhisattva or “Enlightenment Being”

    • Karuna or compassion a goal
    • People strive to achieve enlightenment
    • Heavenly bodhisattvas help
  • Avalokitesvara or Kuan-yin popular

Three Bodies of Buddha

  • Dharmakaya

    • Law or form body; body of reality
    • Cosmic Buddha nature
    • Universal consciousness that absolute reality
  • Nirmakaya

    • Transformation body
    • Buddha “principle” incarnates
    • Human form of Siddhartha here


  • Emptiness or Zero-ness

  • Nagarjuna – 2nd or 3rd century Indian philosopher

  • Samsara, nirvana – all things are empty of inherent existence

  • All teachings of the Buddha are also empty


  • Tipitaka

    • Sanskrit Version
  • Open-Ended and On-Going Insights. Including:

  • Prajnaparamita Sutra

    • Sutras on the Perfection of Wisdom

Some Famous Mahayana Schools

  • Zen

    • North China, then Japan
  • Tendai

    • China
  • Pure Land or Jodo

    • Japan
  • Nichiren

    • Japan


  • Ch’an in Chinese from Indian dhyana or meditation

  • Bodhidharma

    • Indian monk to China c. 470 CE
    • Nine years of silent meditation facing a wall
    • More intuitive approach

Key Ideas

  • Regular seated meditation or Zazen

  • Kensho or sudden burst of enlightenment

  • Satori or enlightenment is the goal

Flag, Wind

  • Two monks were watching a flag flapping in the wind. One said to the other, “the flag is moving.” The other replied, the wind is moving.” Huineng overheard this. He said, “not the flag, not the wind, mind is moving.”

Gutei’s Finger

  • Whenever anyone asked him about Zen, the great master Gutei would quietly raise one finger into the air. A boy in the village began to imitate this behavior. Whenever he heard people talking about Gutei's teachings, he would interrupt the discussion and raise his finger. Gutei heard about the boy's mischief. When he saw him in the street, he seized him and cut off his finger. The boy cried and began to run off, but Gutei called out to him. When the boy turned to look, Gutei raised his finger into the air. At that moment the boy became enlightened.

Vajrayana Buddhism

  • Diamond Vehicle

  • Branch of Mahayana, but also a kind of “third” vehicle

  • “Hidden” teachings

  • Tibet key. Also Nepal, Bhutan, Mongolia, and other places

A Little History and Teaching

  • 7th century CE Songstan (Song-tsen-gam-po), king of Tibet, sent out learners

  • Buddhism mixed with indigenous religion and tantric practice to form this stream

  • Lamas are revered teachers

  • Thang-kas and mandalas used to assist in focus for meditation

  • Use energy of body to focus the mind

Dalai Lama

  • “Ocean of Wisdom”

    • Yeshin Norbu, “Wish-Fulfilling Gem”
    • Kundun, “The Presence”
  • Tenzin Gaytso, 14th Dalai Lama; born 1937

  • Manifestation of Bodhisattva of Compassion

  • Recognized at age 2

Some Key Details

  • Became leader of Tibet at 16 in 1950

  • Earned doctorate in Buddhist Studies at 24

  • Forced into exile by Chinese military occupation in 1959

  • Won Noble Peace Prize in 1989


  • Kanjur

    • Core
    • From the Tipitaka

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