An Introduction toBuddhism 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.
“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:
--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
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)
Enlightenment: Siddhartha attained Enlightenment under the Bodhi tree
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:
A Buddha is eternal, beyond the historical existence of Shakyamuni
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.
CurrentDalai 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.