EL41 Mindfulness Meditation. What did the Buddha teach?

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1 EL41 Mindfulness Meditation Lecture 2.2: Theravada Buddhism What did the Buddha teach? The Four Noble Truths: Right now.! To live is to suffer From our last lecture, what are the four noble truths of Buddhism?! The cause of suffering is self-centered desire, craving & attachments! The solution is to eliminate desire and attachment, thus becoming awake or Nirvana ( extinction )! The way to Nirvana is through the Eight-Fold Path 1

2 Lecture Overview Evolution, distribution and diffusion Belief system Meditation practices Icons and symbolism Key Learnings:! Key Learning #1:. Evolution, diffusion & distribution: Theravada evolved out of India about 200 years after the death of the Buddha and to Sri Lanka, and parts of S.E. Asia. It more or less died out in India.! Key Learning #2: Beliefs: The original teachings of the Buddha without any additional interpretation.! Key Learning #3:. Meditation: Mindfulness meditation is the foundational practice, combined concentration and the other elements of the 8 fold path.! Key Learning #4: Icons & symbols: No one really knows what the Buddha looked like, but early images were based on what was known at the time about people in general, plus some symbolic hand gestures, called mudras. 2

3 Key Learnings:! Key Learning #1:. Evolution, diffusion & distribution: Theravada evolved out of India about 200 years after the death of the Buddha and to Sri Lanka, and parts of S.E. Asia. It more or less died out in India.! Key Learning #2: Beliefs: The original teachings of the Buddha without any additional interpretation.! Key Learning #3:. Meditation: Mindfulness meditation is the foundational practice, combined concentration and the other elements of the 8 fold path.! Key Learning #4: Icons & symbols: No one really knows what the Buddha looked like, but early images were based on what was known at the time about people in general, plus some symbolic hand gestures, called mudras. The Spread of Buddhism! Within two centuries after the Buddha died, Buddhism began to spread north and east into Asia! To Europe & N. America in the 19 th to 20 th centuries! By 13 th century Buddhism had disappeared from India or absorbed into Hinduism 3

4 7 Schools of Buddhism - Theravada The Way of the Elders (a.k.a.: the small vehicle )! Oldest school of Buddhism! Monasticism is the ideal life for achieving Nirvana! A do-it-yourself approach to enlightenment! Focus on wisdom and meditation! Goal is to become a Buddha! Fairly unified in belief & practice (some cultural differences) 4

5 Theravada Buddhism! Most common in Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, and Burma (Myanmar)! Emphasizes monasticism! Arhat ideal (individual liberation) Introduction to Buddhism 00 - INTRODUCTION 9 Buddhist Temples! Traditionally, the focus of the temple is really as a religious learning place for monastics.! People go to the temple to make merit and sacrifice offerings along with holding annual festivals. Laypeople come to pray to Buddha for health, good fortune or wealth.! The center of village life, serving as a school, orphanage, theatre, meeting hall, crematorium, youth club, playground even sometimes a market, political center or restaurant.! Cultural center for people to meet on special occasions to learn and perform rituals.! Maintaining and passing on art and culture.! Some are also into tourism as a source of revenue. 5

6 THERAVĀDA MONASTICS! Monastics are generally seen as the most serious practitioners, who instruct laypersons while pursuing Nirvana as their goal during this lifetime! Young boys often join at an early age (7) with consent of parents, for varying lengths of time.! Since 13 th century CE, only men have been accepted as Theravāda monastics.! At the time of the Buddha, women could also be ordained as nuns. 11 THERAVĀDA LAITY! Laypersons take Five Precepts : 1. Not to kill 2. Not to steal 3. Not to commit sexual misconduct 4. Not to lie 5. Not to take intoxicants! Laypersons generally seen as deferring nirvāna until future lifetimes, while gaining karmic merit by supporting monastics and accepting their instruction 12 6

7 Quick check: How much can you recall so far? Which of the following is NOT a major Theravada country? a) Thailand b) Sri Lanka c) Cambodia d) Japan! What is the central goal of a Theravada monk? a) To help lay-people with problems, have weddings & funerals b) Attain personal liberation/nirvana c) Help all beings attain liberation/nirvana d) Give sermons on Sunday Key Learnings:! Key Learning #1:. Evolution, diffusion & distribution: Theravada evolved out of India about 200 years after the death of the Buddha and to Sri Lanka, and parts of S.E. Asia. It more or less died out in India.! Key Learning #2: Beliefs: The original teachings of the Buddha without any additional interpretation.! Key Learning #3:. Meditation: Mindfulness meditation is the foundational practice, combined concentration and the other elements of the 8 fold path.! Key Learning #4: Icons & symbols: No one really knows what the Buddha looked like, but early images were based on what was known at the time about people in general, plus some symbolic hand gestures, called mudras. 7

8 The Three Jewels of Buddhism Buddha the teacher Dharma the teachings Sangha the community What did the Buddha teach? The Four Noble Truths:! To live is to suffer (unsatisfactory)! The cause of suffering is self-centered desire, craving & attachments! The solution is to eliminate desire and attachment, thus becoming awake or Nirvana! The way to Nirvana is through the Eight-Fold Path 8

9 The 8-fold path to liberation Vipassana Samatha THERAVĀD SOTERIOLOGY (religious doctrines)! Impermanence, suffering (unsatisfactoryness), and non-self key concepts.! Emphasis on individual, rational progress toward nirvāna throughout multiple rebirths:! The concept of rebirth and no-self/soul is doctrinally challenging to explain for Buddhists.! For laypersons, arhat = object of veneration! For monastics, arhat = model for imitation 18 9

10 Problems & challenges for Theravada Buddhism! Few can make the commitment to become a monastic for life.! Meditation not practiced in all temples!! Monks dependent on villagers for support, tends to exclude laypeople from practice, except in: Gaining merit from supporting monks helps in the next lifetime. Lay practice tends to be devotional by praying to Buddha statues for merit or luck. Younger people losing interest in religion.! Buddhist doctrine has always been complex and difficult to explain to the average person.! Celibacy requirement & exclusion of women discourages participation.! A model that doesn t work in N. America or Europe very well. Theravada in the West! Mostly a lay-person led practice in the west.! A number of retreat centers that usually have a few full time monks living there men & women. They offer retreats of varying length.! Also, many more informal groups who meet on a regular basis to practice mindfulness together. May or may not have a monk or formal teacher. less emphasis on achieving Nirvana and more on psychological well-being & happiness. 10

11 Quick check: How much can you recall so far? Which of the following is NOT a Theravada practice of monks? a) Practicing meditation b) Casting out demons for villagers c) Following the 8-fold path d) Begging for alms from villagers! Which of the following is NOT a practice of Lay Buddhists? a) Pray to Buddha for luck or merit b) Give food to monks c) Go to services on Sunday d) Following the 5 precepts Key Learnings:! Key Learning #1:. Evolution, diffusion & distribution: Theravada evolved out of India about 200 years after the death of the Buddha and to Sri Lanka, and parts of S.E. Asia. It more or less died out in India.! Key Learning #2: Beliefs: The original teachings of the Buddha without any additional interpretation.! Key Learning #3:. Meditation: Mindfulness meditation is the foundational practice, combined concentration and the other elements of the 8 fold path.! Key Learning #4: Icons & symbols: No one really knows what the Buddha looked like, but early images were based on what was known at the time about people in general, plus some symbolic hand gestures, called mudras. 11

12 The many paths of meditation Buddhist Path Spiritual Insight into existence, life, suffering, etc (Nirvana) Spiritual Awakening (contemplation of mindfulness experience) Wellness, happiness, overcoming anxiety, etc. Mindfulness of the body, feelings, thoughts, emotions Mindfulness of the body & breath, feelings, thoughts, emotions Ability to be happy with who you are Ability to stay calm, stress reduction. Yogic Path of concentration Samadhi bliss, Oneness Buddhist Path of spiritual insight Vipassana Secular path of wellness Happy, stress free, etc. Concentration - Samadhi (candle, breathing, object, chanting) Ability to focus on tasks, quiet mind Mindfulness: part of the 8-fold path to liberation Vipassana Samatha 12

13 The Theravada tradition has two forms of meditation. Samatha! This is the earliest form of meditation, and is not unique to Buddhism.! It's used to make the mind calmer and take the person to higher jhanic states. (Jhanic are 'states of consciousness ).! The effects of Samatha meditation are temporary, but a Samatha is necessary stepping stone skill toward Vipassana practice. Vipassana (mindfulness)! This form of meditation is used to achieve insight into the true nature of things.! This is very difficult to get because human beings are used to seeing things distorted by their preconceptions, opinions, and past experiences.! The aim is a complete change of the way we perceive and understand the universe, and unlike the temporary changes brought about by Samatha, the aim of Vipassana is permanent change. Satipatthana Sutra The Discourse on the Establishing of Mindfulness (Vipassana)! A how to meditation manual.! Based on being mindful of 4 states: The body & breath The feelings Thoughts & emotions All other states of consciousness.! Practice the 4 foundations of mindfulness full time for 7 days, 7 weeks, or 7 years and you will achieve nirvana! 13

14 Key Learnings:! Key Learning #1:. Evolution, diffusion & distribution: Theravada evolved out of India about 200 years after the death of the Buddha and to Sri Lanka, and parts of S.E. Asia. It more or less died out in India.! Key Learning #2: Beliefs: The original teachings of the Buddha without any additional interpretation.! Key Learning #3:. Meditation: Mindfulness meditation is the foundational practice, combined concentration and the other elements of the 8 fold path.! Key Learning #4: Icons & symbols: No one really knows what the Buddha looked like, but early images were based on what was known at the time about people in general, plus some symbolic hand gestures, called mudras. Theravada Buddhist Iconography Statue of "the Buddha calling the earth to witness," one of the most common depictions. The Buddha's hands are in the bhūmisparśa mudrā (Earth-touching position) Statue of "the Buddha meditating." The Buddha's hands are in the dhyāna mudrā position (Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Phrabāng, Laos) 14

15 Theravada Buddhist Iconography Statue of the Buddha with his hand upraised in the abhāya mudrā (fearlessness) position. He is draped with monastic robes, with the right shoulder bare. (Phutthamonthon, Thailand) Reclining Buddha (Wat Xieng Thong, Luang Phrabāng, Laos) entering final Nirvana (death) Theravada Symbols Wheel of the Dharma 8 fold path Bodhi Tree in Bodhgaya, India The lotus, symbolic of the individual's journey up through the "mud" of existence to bloom, with the aid of the dharma, into pure enlightenment. The stupa, the reliquary in which the Buddha's physical remains are contained a powerful symbol of both his physical death and continued presence in the world. Deer Park at Sārnāth, and also the protective qualities of the dharma. 15

16 Key Learnings:! Key Learning #1:. Evolution, diffusion & distribution: Theravada evolved out of India about 200 years after the death of the Buddha and to Sri Lanka, and parts of S.E. Asia. It more or less died out in India.! Key Learning #2: Beliefs: The original teachings of the Buddha without any additional interpretation.! Key Learning #3:. Meditation: Mindfulness meditation is the foundational practice, combined concentration and the other elements of the 8 fold path.! Key Learning #4: Icons & symbols: No one really knows what the Buddha looked like, but early images were based on what was known at the time about people in general, plus some symbolic hand gestures, called mudras. Part 2: Hand s on practice - Sounds Meditation 16

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