Everything that arises also passes away, so strive for what has not arisen



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Everything that arises also passes away, so strive for what has not arisen.”

--Lasts words of Buddha



hil B37: World Religions

Professor: McNellis


An Introduction to Buddhism
First of three Jewels: The Buddha
Any faithful initiate into the religion of Buddhism must make a vow to take refuge in the 3 Jewels: 1) The Buddha, 2) The Dharma (teachings), and 3) the Sangha (Order of disciples)

    • In following the 3 Jewels, each dedicate to follow the path of the Buddha towards Enlightenment.

First of Three Jewels: The Buddha

“You must strive for yourselves. The Tathagatas are only your guides. Meditative persons who follow their path will overcome the bonds of Mara [death]”

Dammapada, no. 276

Buddha (means ‘the Enlightened One’)



  • Historical Buddha: Born c. 563 B.C.E., died c. 483 B.C.E; age 31, became enlightened (became a non-returner, never to be reborn again); Next 45/49 years went around teaching that all worldly things (humans and consciousness as such) are passing phenomena caught up in a process of arising and passing away. His religious disciples will continue the religious order of Buddhism, known as sangha

Other names of the Buddha:
      • Siddhartha Gautama/Gotama, b. 563/0 B.C.E.


      • Shakyamuni (sage of the Shakya clan): Chinese use this term a lot

      • Tathagata, a title of the Buddha meaning “one who has thus gone”

Related names that indicate some attainment of enlightenment, but not a Buddha:

      • Arhats (‘listeners)

      • bodhisattvas (‘buddha-to-be’)

      • tulku and lama (In Tibet)

Three main vehicles of Buddhism, with the third growing out one of the former vehicles:

  1. Theravada (‘Hinayana’) vehicle, or the lower vehicle (or ‘school of the elders’) (arhats only enlightened ones)

  2. Mahayana vehicle, or the Great vehicle (all can be enlightened)

  3. Vajrayana vehicle, grew out of the Mahayana tradition (Found in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Mongolia)


Who is the historical Buddha?

The Story of Gautama Buddha (from the Jataka Tales): The Three Epochs of the historical Buddha



  1. The Distant Epoch (Previous 500 lives of the Gautama)

    • As ascetic Sumedha, Gautama took the Bodhisattva Vow (“bodhi”=‘enlightenment’;“sattva”=‘being’)

  2. The Intermediate Epoch (birth on this earth as Siddhartha Gautama)

Account of bodhisattva’s descent from Tusita heaven & birth as Siddhartha Gautama up to actual Enlightenment

--A new Buddha comes only well after the dharma or teaching of the previous Buddha has been lost.


    • Buddha’s Virgin and Immaculate Birth: Mother Queen Maya in pleasant grove and white elephant


    • Four Passing Sights and the Great Renunciation: Gautama, age 29, sneaks out from royal palace with horse Kanthaka and goes for a chariot ride. Sees 4 signs: a sick man; an old (suffering) man; a dead man; A monk, whose calmness suggests a way to eliminate suffering

      1. He renounces the worldly life of riches, leaves his family to lead a life of an ascetic and wandering student of yoga (images depict him as emaciated from 6 years of fasting)

  1. The Recent Epoch

An account of the Buddha’s temptations by Mara and his daughters (pp. 105), his decision to preach, and various other events from his early days of teaching.

Theravada and Mahayana Conceptions of the Buddha


Mahayana made three changes to the Theravadin conception of the Historical Buddha:

  1. Multiple Buddhas in the world

  2. A Buddha is eternal, beyond the historical existence of Shakyamuni

  3. 3 Bodies of Buddhas (the Trikayas)


On Buddha Bodies (3 Kayas or the Trikayas)

Theravada tradition: multiple Buddhas understood in a linear fashion of successive, historical Buddhas

  • Nirmakaya – historical body of Buddha (human form)
  • This is the only body of the Buddha.


Mahayana tradition, of which Vajrayana is a subpart: multiplicity of Buddhas understood as having three distinct bodies:

Nirmakaya – same as Theravada

Sambhogakaya – (new conception) the “bliss body”, a form body, a manifestation, but not an earthly

manifestation – The pure lands inhabited by bodhisattvas.



Dharmakaya – Abstract and no bodily form; Dharma & Buddha are seen as eternal elements of cosmos

Vajrayana (Tibetan) Buddhism:

  • Variation of the nirmakaya = “tulku”, a Tibetan historical line of bodhisattvas (beyond karma but chose to be reborn in an earthly-form – aka celestial bodhisattvas.)

    • The Dalai Lama (“Ocean of Widsom) is a tulku, who is an incarnation of celestial bodhisattva, Avalokitesvara, or bodhisattva of compassion, and who is the Tibetan’s protector.

    • Current Dalai Lama is the 14th reincarnation of the same 13 other Dalai Lamas of Tibet (the

first being born in 1351 AD), who are all, in turn, considered to be manifestations of

Avalokiteshvara
, or Chenrig, Bodhisattva of Compassion, holder of the White Lotus.

            • Avalokiteshvara (chenrig) is supposed to be the seventy-fourth (74th) manifestation within the

lineage tracing back to the Brahmin boy, Siddhartha. Because Avalokiteshvara is a celestial bodhisattva, he can be experienced in the form of the current Dalai Lama in his Nirmakaya form, or in his spiritual form-body through meditation in the Sambhogakaya.

  • There are also “lamas,” who are Tibetan teachers and are of a lower status than tulkus.




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