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Category:Working Within the Buddhist Tradition

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A Shingon Buddhist altar in Japan, decorated in the Vajrayana style
A Shingon Buddhist altar in Japan, decorated in the Vajrayana style

Buddhism is a religious and philosophical tradition encompassing a variety of beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha, which means "the awakened one." Gautama Buddha (480 - 400 BCE) is the founder of the religion of Buddhism. He lived and taught in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent and shared his insights to help sentient beings end ignorance (avidyā), thus escaping what is seen as a cycle of suffering and rebirth.

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Buddhist Denominations or Yanas

Yuantnong Buddhist Temple in China
Yuantnong Buddhist Temple in China

The major denominations of Buddhism are called Yanas or Vehicles.

Theravada Buddhism

Theraveda means "The School of the Elders." As a form of Buddhism, it has a widespread following in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia. Theravadin's own oral and written tradition maintain that the school formed during the Third Buddhist council, circa 250 BCE, under the patronage of the famous Emperor Ashoka. These teachings are known as the Vibhajjavāda. Ashoka's son Mahinda and his daughter Sanghamitta, according to tradition, are the founders of Buddhism in Sri Lanka, (307–267 BCE) a tradition which historians suggest helps legitimizes Theravāda's claim of being the oldest school of dhamma. The first records of Buddha images come from the reign of King Vasabha (65–109 CE), and after the 3rd century CE the historical record shows a growth of the worship of Buddha images as well as Bodhisattvas. The Sri Lankan Buddhist Sangha initially preserved the Buddhist scriptures known as the Tipitaka, or Three Baskets, orally, as had been done traditionally. During the first century BCE, “when they saw the disastrous state of living beings” they began writing down the scriptures. The school has been using the name Theravāda in written form since at least the 4th century, about one thousand years after the Buddha's death. Ajahn Sao Kantasīlo and his student, Mun Bhuridatta, led the TheravadanThai Forest Tradition revival during the early 1900s. Notable practitioners include Ajahn Thate, Ajahn Maha Bua and Ajahn Chah. The Thai Forest Tradition became popular and was spread globally by Ajahn Mun's students including Ajahn Thate, Ajahn Maha Bua and Ajahn Chah and several Western disciples, such as Luang Por Ajahn Sumedho.

It is believed in Theravada there are Four Stages to Bhodhi (Enlightenment):

  • Stream-Enterer

The first stage is that of Sotāpanna (Stream-Enterer), where you are guaranteed enlightenment after no more than seven rebirths. The Sotapanna will not be reborn in any of the unhappy states or rebirths (an animal, a preta, or in hell). He can only be reborn as a human being, or in one of the heavens. He has attained an intuitive grasp of Buddhist doctrine of“right view”), has complete confidence in the Three Jewels of Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and has good moral behavior.

  • Once Returner

The second stage is that of the Sakadāgāmī , meaning “one who once only comes.” The once-returner will return to the human world only one more time, and will attain Nirvana in that life.

  • Never-returner

The third stage is that of the Anāgāmī, “one who does not come.” The non-returner does not rebith into human existence, or any lower world, after death. Instead, he is reborn in one of the worlds of the Rūpadhātu, or “Pure Abodes,” where he will attain Nibbana. Some Anāgāmī are reborn a second time in a higher world of the Pure Abodes, but never descend into a lower state. An Anāgāmī has freed himself from the five lower fetters that bind the mind to the cycle of rebirth. An Anāgāmī is partially enlightened, and well on the way to perfect Enlightenment.

  • Arahant

The fourth stage is that of Arahant, a fully enlightened human being who has abandoned all fetters, and who, upon decease, will not be reborn in any world. This is known as Parinibbāna, the final release. Any trace of a separate self falls away. As Buddha said, all that needed to be done has been done. There’s nothing further to realize. The path is complete, and no further rebirths are necessary.

Mahayana Buddhism

Mahayana means "The Great Vehicle." Its greatest sphere of influence is in Central Asia and East Asia. Mahayana Buddhism includes the traditions or schools of

  • Pure Land Buddhism ("Amidhism" or "Amitabha Buddhism")
  • Zen or Chan Buddhism ("Meditative State Buddhism")
  • Nichiren-kei sho shūha Buddhism ("Nichiren Buddhism," named after its founder, Nichiren)
  • Tiantai or Tendai Buddhism ("Lotus Sutra Buddhism")
  • Shinnyo-en Buddhism ("Borderless Garden of Truth Buddhism")
  • Shingon Buddhism ("True Words Buddhism" or "Orthodox Esoteric Buddhism")
  • Donmi Buddhism ("Chinese Esoteric Buddhism" or "Eastern Secret Buddhism")
  • Vajrayana Buddhism ("Diamond Vehicle Buddhism," also known as "Tibetan Buddhism," "Tantric Buddhism," or "Secret Esoteric Buddhism").

Mahayana Buddhists usually take some form of the Bodhisattva Vow. One Bodhisattva Vow goes as follows:

Beings are numberless, I vow to save them. Desires are inexhaustible, I vow to end them. Dharma gates are boundless, I vow to enter them. Buddha's way is unsurpassable, I vow to become it.

Vajrayana Buddhism

In some classification systems, the last three schools named in the Mahayana list --

  • Vajrayana Buddhism, which is practiced mainly in Tibet and Mongolia
  • Shingon Buddhism of Japan
  • Donmi Buddhism of China

-- are recognized as a third major branch or Yana of Buddhism, alongside Theraveda and Mahayana. This branch is generally referred to as Vajrayana Buddhism and developed in Central, North, and East Asia. Others classify all of these denominations under the generic name "Tibetan Buddhism," as a part of Mahayana Buddhism.

Buddha

For more information, see Buddha

Buddha or The Awakened One, is the central figure of emulation and veneration in the practice known as The Dharma or Buddhism. The word "Buddha" is a title meaning "the awakened one," and is not the name of any particular historical or spiritual being. It describes the immense insight into the world and its functions that the Buddha is said to have attained. (Read more ...)

The Bodhisattvas

For more information, see Bodhisattvas (Buddhist Saints)

Bodhisattvas are revered figures within the Buddhist tradition and are sometimes referred to as Buddhist saints. Generally speaking, the term bodhisattva can refer to any person who is on the path towards enlightenment, but modern definitions of who this includes vary somewhat among the different denominations of Buddhism. (Read more ...).

Buddhism as a Global Religion

While Buddhism remains most popular within Asia, representatives of most, if not all, of the many Buddhist denominations are now found throughout the world.

Estimates of Buddhists worldwide vary significantly depending on the way Buddhist adherence is defined. Lower estimates are between 350 million and 500 million adherents of some form of Buddhism, worldwide.

Buddhism and Hoodoo

A California rootworker's altar, where Hotei the Laughing Buddha and trunk-up elephants preside, and lights are set for clients who play at the casinos
A California rootworker's altar, where Hotei the Laughing Buddha and trunk-up elephants preside, and lights are set for clients who play at the casinos

Buddhism forms a minor current in hoodoo folk magic which originated mostly on the West Coast, in New York City, and in Chicago.

The greatest overlap between Buddhism and conjure, a form of magic primarily practiced by Protestant Christians, is centered in California. This is the result of the late 19th and early 20th century cultural intermingling of African Americans with Cantonese Chinese immigrants who were adherents of Taoist-influenced Cantonese Buddhism and indigenous Chinese religious traditions.

In New York City, from the early the 1930s to the early early 1940s, the Oracle Products Company marketed many goods to hoodoo shops that bore Chinese Taoist and Buddhist images. These goods became part of hoodoo iconography and usage, and included items such as Chinese Wash, Hotei the Lucky or Laughing Buddha, and Ling Nuts, the latter known colloquially in the USA as Bat Nuts or Devil Pods.

Additionally, after the 1933 Chicago World's Fair, which featured the Lama Temple, housing an exhibit of Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhist statuary and religious furnishings, a Jewish family pharmacy in Chicago created a nationally distributed conjure goods brand known as the Lama Temple products line, which featured imagery from Vajrayana Buddhism. Chicago was also a 20th century mercantile hub from which Asian-owned companies distributed Chinese, Japanese, and Indian forms of incense, which had a great vogue beginning in the 1920s,. These products were sold all across the United states via occult shops, mail order catalogues, and advertising in Afrcian-American-owned periodicals.

National distribution of products such as these, while not part of a true cultural integration of Buddhism into African American society, nevertheless brought a great many hoodoo practitioners into contact with Buddhist concepts and imagery.

See Also

Religion

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