ROADS AND LESSER ROADS: FORMS OF BUDDHISM
One frequently runs across lists of “the hundred greatest movies of all time” or the “hundred greatest novels of all time.” Whenever I see such a list, I generally will find choices I really agree with. “It’s a Wonderful Life”—yes, certainly a great movie. “The Brothers Karamazov”—yes, certainly a wonderful novel. But there are always items on such lists that don’t appeal to me personally. While I like Hawthorne, I’m not particularly fond of “The Scarlett Letter,” and “Casablanca”—regarded by many is one of the greatest films ever—doesn’t interest me at all.
When it comes to “world religions,” too, there are some religious traditions that fascinate me. I love studying Hinduism. I like the stories of gods and demons: "Fencing. Fighting. Torture. Poison. True love. Hate. Revenge. Giants. Hunters. Bad men. Good men. Beautifulest ladies. Snakes. Spiders. Beasts of all natures and descriptions. Pain. Death. Brave men. Coward men. Strongest men. Chases. Escapes. Lies. Truths. Passion. Miracles" what’s not to like?
some important religions I just don’t find as
interesting. I was really glad Dr.
Blanchard could talk to you about Buddhism: it’s an important religious
that a class in world religions should certainly include, but it’s
caught my imagination, and it’s hard for me to do it justice. I thought Dr. Blanchard did a particularly
fine job: a much better and more sympathetic presentation than I could
Dr. Blanchard's comparison useful comparison of Buddhism and
|Main Teacher: Jesus
||Main Teacher: Buddha
useful, the contrast of Buddhism and Chistianity: Buddhism putting
practice in the center with "mythos" around it, Christianity putting
"mythos" in the center with practice in the next layer.
that Dr. Blanchard summarized the Four Noble Truths somewhat
differently than is typical:
Face it (Dukka happens)
2. Diagnose it (grasping is the problem)
3. Find a cure (let go)
particularly how Dr. Blanchard defined Dukka--not as suffering exactly,
but as that shopping cart wheel that doesn't do what it's supposed to
do. Also, notice the "four seals that Dr. Blanchard mentioned as
key to Dharma, the Buddhist "gospel":
· Buddhism is exotic
· Buddhism isn’t theological/dogmatic
· Buddhism isn’t exclusive: it’s easy to combine with other faiths
· Buddhism offers social connection
· Buddhist diagnosis of the illness of the world and its cure attractive to some, irrelevant to others
· Buddhism lends itself well to the religion business—though, often, in this country as part of a Hindu/Buddhist fusion as seen with figures like Marharishi Mahesh Yogi (Transcendental Meditation) and Guru Maharaj Ji (Divine Light Mission).
The beggar-monk model allowed Buddhism to spread from India to Tibet and China and (eventually) Japan. It tended to fuse easily with native traditions. In India, it’s no wonder that Buddhism gets swallowed up by Hinduism, with Buddha viewed ultimately as another incarnation of Vishnu. And this Buddhist/Hindu synthesis spread elsewhere easily enough. In Thailand, for instance, there’s a fairly recently constructed shrine of a four-faced Brahma that ends up called “The Four-Faced Buddha.” Note how easily Buddha becomes Brahma as well as Vishnu!
While Buddhism spread into China as well and fused with native beliefs there, there was one important Chinese religious philosophy considerably less prone to fusion: Confucianism--our next topic.