Category Archives: REL 340-02

MW 1610-1750
Oelman 303

REL 340-02

  • antarabhava
    • intermediate between life/death
    • bardo state
  • maitreya
  • avalokiteshvara
    • Dalai Lama personifies for Tib.B.
  • tulku: reincarnated lama
  • reincarnation of K. rimpoche

REL 340

No class memorial day

*** Exam next Wed, study guide ***

10 cent. Tibetan Buddhism imported monks from India: Atis’a

  • Abhidharma Pitaka
    • Vinaya: monastic rules
  • Mahayana ideas
    • bodhicitta (wisdom/enlightenment + awakening)
    • S’antideva
    • gradual progression toward enlightenment
  • Tantra
    • “eureka” monents
    • aka Vajrayana B’sm (vajra: diamond, thunderbolt)
    • more experiential than intellectual
    • nirvana=samsara
    • taboos
    • seek out desires & aversions in order to overcome them
    • access always restricted, now not done at all (something from the past)

pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet: Bon (elaborate form of shamanism, fit well with tantra)

17th century, 5th Dalai Lama, monasteries eventually accrue more political power over centuries

  1. mind: visualization, mandalas, deity yoga
  2. speech: short phrases/mantras for recitation
  3. body: manipulation of rosary/objects

male figure in sexual images: upaya, female = prajna

Image: Mahakala (time)

Manjushri: wisdom, teaching – widely worshipped bodhisattva in Tibet


REL 340-02


Nagarjuna, 2 truths

Tibetan Buddhism

  • enters Tibet 7th CE
    • 7th, 8th: initially suppressed
    • elites used it as “civilizing” influence
    • no written language in Tibet before Buddhist advent
    • pastoralist society, then monasteries built, town centers evolve
    • very dependent on elites
  • entered China 1st CE
    • anti-Buddhist (ethnocentric)
    • anti-Confucian (family)
  • Trisong Detsen
    • Father (Songsten Gampo) unified Tibet
    • 8th CE brings famous Indian monk S’antaraksita
  • Atis’a 10th CE

REL 340-02

upaya: expedient means

3 vehicles

  1. shravaka (one who hears; see arhat)
  2. pratyekabuddha (independent enlightenment)
  3. bodhisattva (strive over lifetimes to become one)

Mulamadhyamakakarika: Nagarjuna 2d cent.CE

  • key text of Mahayana
  • root/middle path/verses
  • Madhyamaka: middle way Buddhism
  • s’unyata: emptiness


  • tetralemma
    • A Nirvana exists
    • B Nirvana doesn’t exist
    • AB Nirvana is both
    • AB Nirvana is neither

commentary traditions

  1. prasangika (reductio ad absurdum)
  2. svatantrika (independent)

wrong conceptions of emptiness

  • essential
  • static
  • same as nothingness

2 truths

  • laukika: worldly convention
  • paramathika: ultimate truth

REL 340-02

Begin Mahayana section

“Great Vehicle”

  • polemical literature: Theravada becomes Hinayana (“Lesser Vehicle”) ~7th cent CE
  • some M. texts date to ~1st cent CE
  • difficult to date origin
  • bodhisattva becomes more important
  • emptiness of all dharmas (s’unyata)
    • more mystical than in T.
  • worship/reverence of Buddha
  • Perfection of Wisdom sutras, oldest M. text


  • a being working across multi-lives to perfect attributes on the path to Nirvana
  • as opposed to arhat (monk/nun)
    • seen as selfish
    • nihilistic
  • eventually have magic attributes
  • “good karma” = merit
  • transfer of merit

Emptiness (s’unyata)

  • things lack sva-bhava (own-essence)
  • abhidharma schools of thought on nature of rebirth
    • enumerate factors of reality
    • elaboration on 5 skhandhas
  • consciousness & meditation

Perfection of Wisdom Sutra

  • prajna=wisdom, paramita=perfection
  • 6 perfections
    1. giving
    2. morality
    3. patience
    4. vigor
    5. meditation
    6. wisdom
  • stages of enlightenment (bhumis “realms”)
  • beginnings of belief in supernatural powers
    1. joyous (giving)
    2. purity (morality)
    3. luminosity (patience)
    4. radiance (vigor)
    5. difficult to conquer (meditation)
    6. face-to-face [with truth] (wisdom)
    7. going far (upaya, skill in means)
    8. immovable (bilocation, multilocation)
    9. good insight (dr. doolittle + omnilinguialism)
    10. dharma cloud (rays of wisdom from prior Buddhas settle on head)

REL 340-02

hand gestures: mudras

S. Asian cave monasteries

  • oldest date to time of Ashoka
  • vihara: monastery
  • chaityas: meditation hall, prayer room

Jewels of Doctrine: 13th century (later Sri Lankan Ther. Sinhala commentary)

REL 340-02


Midterm 1 week from today:

  • Terminology identification 5/7 (1 paragraph)
  • Select 1 of 2 essays

Mauryan Empire

Kalinga = modern Orissa

2 types of edicts

pillars too tall to read, local edicts were at ground level for easy viewing

Ashoka’s dhamma not the same as Buddha’s dharma

dhamma-yatra: dhamma officers

original Buddhist art aniconic: symbolic, not iconic (non-figurative)

many artistic & architectural concepts later borrowed by Hinduism

stupas: domes with relics of the Buddha, date to roughly Ashoka’s time

Mahayana, bodhisattva

REL 340-02

Mahapajapati (B’s foster mother)

  • bhikunis
  • bhiksunis

Rahula (B’s son)

Theravada, ideal practitioner: arahant/arhat: worthy ones, aspiring ones (applies to monks/nuns only)

Therigatha: songs of the elder women (3d cent BCE), oldest female religious texts in world

REL 340-02


  • Bhikkhu: male monk
  • Bhiksu: nun

canon formation, age of Ashoka

  • authoritative scriptures
  • foundational
  • teachings of founding figure
  • often secondhand narratives
  • 3 council meetings: Pali canon
    • In Pali language
    • often begins “Thus have I heard…”
    • first: 3 mos. after Buddha’s death
    • 500 monks
    • first two “baskets” of three: tri-pittaka
      • sutra-pittaka
        • sermons of the Buddha
        • some miscellany
      • vinaya pittaka
        • monastic rules
      • abhidharma-pittaka
        • likely came later

Vinaya Pittaka

  • 3 refuges
    • Buddha
    • Dharma
    • Sangha

REL 340-02

pratitya samutpada: “Dependent Origination,” Buddha’s cosmology/epistemology/view of the universe

  1. no “essences”
    • sva-bhava: “own being”
    • s’unya: “empty”
  2. impermanence
  3. coherence & continuity
    • things are not random
  4. intellectual basis for Middle Path

rebirth discussion, personal opinion: probably a sales pitch, “if you give up all of that Hindu stuff and follow this path that this righteous ksatriya has laid out, you will escape the (Brahminical)wheel of rebirth. if not, or if you’ve not completely given it up, you will never escape.”

dharmas: components of reality

karma in early Buddhism

  • literally means “action”
  • always linked to rebirth
  • volitional/willed action
  • motivated by selfishness/attachment/desire
  • parinirvana “extinction without remainder”
  • born with 5 skandhas: “name & form” which lead to:
    • belief in self
      • desires & aversions
        • karma
          • rebirth

late Buddhism = Mahayana “Great Vehicle: ~2nd century CE criticized parinirvana

early Buddhism = Theravada “View of the Elders”

Eightfold Path

  • Wisdom (prajna)
    1. right view
    2. right thought
  • Ethics (S’ila)
    1. right speech
    2. right action
    3. right livelihood
  • Mental Culture (Bhavana)
    1. right effort
    2. right mindfulness
    3. right concentration

Sri Lanka: predominantly Theravada