Buddhism Through Its Scriptures HardvardX Course Notes

Notes about the practices of Buddhists across time and place. Course Buddhism through its scriptures Edx notes


Last Updated: September 21, 2021 by Pepe Sandoval



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Buddhism Through Its Scriptures

Day 1:

Day 1:

  • Buddhism was both in India but spread through Asia
  • Buddhists do not share a single collection of scriptures.
  • Buddhists see the origins of their religious traditions in the life of a prince named Siddhartha Gautama.
    • A prince that left behind his royal status, his family, as well as his palace, to set out to find answers to deep questions about suffering and its causes as well as to find out whether freedom from suffering and death is possible.
  • After years of searching and effort he discovered what he was seeking and this discovery is encapsulated in the epithet, Buddha, the awakened one.
  • He then started to teach the Dharma = Truth (truth with capital T)
  • The diversity of Buddhist thought, over the ages across Asia, represents the efforts of countless men and women to understand and realize this truth and especially to understand and realize what the Buddha taught us about reality and human flourishing.
  • The Buddha not only taught ideas, but also a way of life. teachings that provided guidance to a community on how to live
  • Those who set out to live as the Buddha taught are called the Sangha.
  • Buddhists share a sustained attentiveness to suffering and the stopping of suffering.

Assertions about religions that arises from the recognition of the distinction between devotional expression and the nonsectarian study

  1. Religions are internally diverse as opposed to uniform; Aside from the obvious formal differences within traditions represented by differing sects or expressions there are differences within sects or expressions because religious communities function in different social/political contexts

  2. Religions evolve and change over time as opposed to being ahistorical and static; Religions exist in time and space and are constantly interpreted and reinterpreted by believers

  3. Religious influences are embedded in all dimensions of culture as opposed to the assumption that religions function in discrete, isolated, "private" contexts. Religions are collections of ideas, practices, values, and stories that are all embedded in cultures and not separable from them.

  4. All religions are new religions every morning. For religions do not exist up in the sky somewhere, elaborated, finished, and static; they exist in [human] hearts

  5. Buddhist scriptures are better seen as qualities of personal living rather than as authoritative books

The Three Refuges: The Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha

  • The basic principles of Buddhism: the Buddha, the Dhamma (his teachings), and Sangha (the community of his noble disciples), also known as the Triple Gem or the Triple Refuge
  • The act of going for refuge marks the point where one commits oneself to taking the Buddha's teaching, as the primary guide to one's life.

    • This commits is referred as refuge since in pre-Buddhist India it means submitting to the patron's directives in hopes of receiving protection from danger in return
  • Buddhism is not a theistic religion — the Buddha is not a god

  • One of the Buddha's central teachings is that human life is fraught with dangers (greed, anger, delusion...) and the mind is the source both of the dangers and of release

On the external:

  • The Buddha: Refers to Siddhattha Gotama, the Indian prince who renounced his royal titles and ultimately gained
  • Dhamma: Refers to the path of practice the Buddha taught to this followers
    • The words of his teachings
    • The act of putting those teachings into practice
    • The attainment of Awakening as the result of practice
  • Sangha has two senses:
    • Ideal: refers all people, lay or ordained, who have practiced the Dhamma to the point of gaining at least a glimpse of the Deathless.
    • Conventional: denotes the communities of ordained monks and nuns.

On the internal level

  • the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha are the skillful qualities we develop in our own minds in imitation of our external models.
  • when we develops qualities like wisdom, purity, and compassion or conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment by imitation of the external models they form our refuge on an internal level.
  • Examples:
    • the Buddha was a person of wisdom, purity, and compassion. When we develop wisdom, purity, and compassion in our own minds, they form our refuge on an internal level. he Buddha tasted Awakening by developing conviction, persistence, mindfulness, concentration, and discernment. When we develop these same qualities to the point of attaining Awakening too, that Awakening is our ultimate refuge.

Going for Refuge

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