Buddhism - Lesson 1
Emergence of Buddhism (Part 1)
Definition of Buddhism and a description of how it began and its present status as a world religion.
Emergence of Buddhism (Part 1)
The Voice of Dissent
I. The Emergence of Buddhism (part 1)
1. Buddhism as a World Religion
a. Context of the course
b. Statistical overview of 21st century Buddhism
2. Defining Buddhism
A religious and intellectual movement founded in N. India by Śākyamuni Gautama Siddhārtha in the 6th C. B.C.E. which teaches the Dharma - ‘eternal truth about reality’ - and whose followers believe provides complete liberation from all suffering.
B. Historical Emergence of the Buddhist Dissent
1. The Early Life of Siddhārtha Gautama
a. Birth in Lumbini, Nepal
Hinduism background #1: “caste” system
Hinduism background #2: Four Stages of Life
Terms to know from lecture #1:
Śākyamuni Gautama Siddhārtha
Brāhmin / Kshatriya / Vaiśya / Śūdra
Four Important Places of Pilgrimage (the first is in Nepal, the rest are in N. India):
Lumbini (birth site)
Bodhgaya (enlightenment beneath Bodhi tree)
Saranath (turn the wheel of Dharma, first sermon, taught four noble truths, first monastery)
Kushinagar (death, entry into Nirvana, cremation site)
Definition of Buddhism and a description of how it began and its present status as a world religion.
Experiences in Siddhartha Gautama's life, and how they led the teachings that resulted in the formation of Buddhism.
The First Sermon of Buddha
Description of the five aggregates and the foundational doctrine of Buddhism.
Therevada emerged as the preserver of the Way of the Elders. The three jewels of the Therevada are the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha.
The three insights of Mahayana Buddhism are that Buddha taught secret truths, the Buddha was a divine being and a dharmic concept, not just an earthly figure, and Gautama was not the only Buddha.
The Mahayana Sutras include the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, Lotus Sutra, Heart Sutra, Vimalakirti Sutra and the Lankavatara Sutra.
A bodhisattva is an enlightened one who, out of compassion, forgoes nirvana in order to save others.
In Buddhism, actual objects of worship and adoration are ultimately illusory and superseded by true enlightenment. (This lecture begins in the outline, point IX. The Rise of Buddhist Philosophy, point D, #2. The lecture covering IX, points A, B, C and D #1 is not available, but Dr. Tennent is planning to record it.)
Two invocational Mahayana Buddhist Schools are Chinese “Pure Land” Buddhism and Japanese “Pure Land” Buddhism.
Chinese and Japanese Meditative Buddhism includes Zen Buddhism.
Buddhist mudras are hand gestures which have physical and spiritual significance. Family ties in a shame-based culture may often place significant social pressures on a person considering converting from Buddhism to Christianity.
The incarnation means that Jesus is both fully God and fully man and came to earth as God in the flesh.
The doctrines of transmigration and reincarnation are central to Buddhism and provide no assurance for Buddhists of their ultimate spiritual destination.
Buddhism and Christianity have fundamental theological differences.
Guest lecturer, Todd Johnson, Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, founder of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity.
In this course, you will gain an in-depth understanding of Buddhism, including its historical background, key concepts, and major branches. You will explore the life and teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, and learn about the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path. Additionally, you will examine the differences between the major branches of Buddhism, such as Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana, and learn about various Buddhist practices and beliefs, including meditation, karma, rebirth, and the role of the Sangha. Lastly, you will study how Christians can bring hope to Buddhists by sharing the truths of God's character and the salvation of His Son.
Dr. Timothy Tennent
Emergence of Buddhism (Part 1)
So a post couple of years ago that we divide the course into two courses. And last spring we taught the Hinduism course by itself. Several of you were in there and now we are able to teach the Buddhism course by itself. So I'm very, very happy about this and the advantage of this. Of course we have time to explore it properly. It also is helpful for our overall strategy in terms of our own PE program and targeting people to actually work cross-culturally. People that want to work in Southeast Asia could take this course and then also take their own P and one of our partnerships in South East Asia, such as Thailand. And then they can go on on the mission field. So it's part of our long term strategy to develop the right kind of courses to fit with the commitments that we've made overseas for church planting. So this is not at all be purely a theoretical course, but of course that also focuses specifically on not only Buddhism, probably understood by its proponents, but also how we as Christians respond to and interact with Buddhism, both as it's found in its heartland, in Southeast Asia, as well as even right here in the US. But I'm not ready to introduce the course properly yet, so I'll just wait. Let me just begin by having you introduce yourselves. And that way I can see who's here and how it correlates with the role. When I first suggested the course to the dean, he said, What will this course be required for anybody that says, No, I don't teach any required courses except for my almost the church his. What do you think? You can get seven people who are interested in Buddhism. It's amazing.
It's amazing the Lord's hands and entrust this semester to him. That's great. We thank you that you, the God of all the Earth and the Lord. You've called peoples from every tribe, tongue, language and nation to yourself. And we are not going to rest or be silent in your presence until the nations of the world are at the feet of Jesus. And so, Lord, we are mindful of quite a large block of peoples in the world whom have followed after Buddhism. And we're also not unaware of the impact of Buddhism in recent years, right here in our own land, among our own family and friends and people we went to school with, as I've been testified here this morning. So, Lord, we know it's important to understand the context to which we've been called in the Great Commission, and we pray that you would use this time and these hours together fruitfully to expand our minds, our hearts and understanding this world religion. So we trust you for this. And I pray that the tapestry of this religion will be made sufficiently clear to us. And your heart for these peoples would be strong in our hearts. We pray, we ask all this and come into your hands. In Jesus name, Amen. Okay, let me begin by passing out the syllabus and we can begin to help. I have enough syllabi for everybody. If not, we'll. I have to make the auditors give away to the right. This is a selected bibliography in Buddhism, so supplement your own things you may come across. I have kind of weighted bibliography not only to do with Buddhism, obviously, but also to give you some resource about Buddhism in America, because many of you have interested in that.
Okay, everyone have a copy of syllabus and a copy of the bibliography. All right. This purpose, this course is set forth to provide an in-depth survey of the main historical and theological themes of the Buddhist religion. You'll be exposed to primary source materials related to the development of all the major expressions of Buddhism within the Theravada Mahayana and Tibetan traditions. There'll be a particular emphasis on the Chinese, Korean and Japanese experience of Buddhism, current strategies being used to bring the Christian gospel to Buddhists, as well as an examination of Buddhist thought and practice from a Christian perspective will be themes which will be included in the course. I think that fairly summarizes what we're going to do. I have assigned five textbooks for you. Some are smaller than others. The first is this primary source material called the Dummer PADA, which is the collected sayings of the Buddha. It's one of many, many collections of the Buddhist sayings. This is probably one of the most important and tiny little book. You can pick that up. The other books. The second one volume to Barry is also a collection of primary source materials, and it is collections of writings, traditional writings of Buddhism from India, China and Japan, famous scholars. And it brings together a lot of really important text. My own book, Christian Religious Roundtable. Is there particularly the sections on Buddhism are important, but also Hinduism? I think it's important to understand how the two interrelate. One of the challenges of this course is teaching this course, assuming that no one here has had Hinduism, because I don't want to assume, even though obviously some of you have had the Hinduism course, I'm not assuming that anybody has had any course at all and what religions.
So I have to, as you'll see, even this first lecture today, we're going to have to take some a little points of excursion on the side to explain certain things about Hinduism in order to understand what's going on in Buddhism, because Buddhism, as at its root, is a descent movement and it is essentially a reaction against Hinduism. And so it's hard to understand the reaction against without understanding the kind of the set. And so it's like, understand the Red Sox without understanding the New York Yankees. You've just got to have both of those in mind in order to properly understand the other. Buddhism, by the way, is the most successful, without any doubt, descent movement against Hinduism. There have been many attempts over the years to challenge Hinduism. Basically all have failed. Jainism had some success, but Buddhism represents the most significant success, and Hinduism itself can't be understood today without understanding Buddhism, because Hinduism had dramatically reinvented itself in light of the Buddhist challenge. So even though Buddhism was pushed out of India by a thousand A.D., it was pushed out only by major absorption into the Hindu worldview and a dramatic transformation of Hinduism. If you had a Hinduism class, you're well aware of that. So Buddhism is one of these religions, as we'll see, which not only operates kind of on the observed level, but also it operates quite profoundly in a top level within other religions, which makes it even more challenging in some ways. So it's a very important religion to be aware of. So I discussed some of this in my book. You can you can read those sections, especially the Lotus Sutra by Burton Watson is another well known primary source material. This is one of those important documents in Buddhism, as we'll see later in the course, and you should be able to read that firsthand in this class.
Probably the if you want to say the textbook for the course would probably be Paul Williams book, Mahayana Buddhism, The Doctrinal Foundations. This is not to give any disparaging statements against Terra Vada or Tibetan. We will develop both of these extensively in the course. But Mahayana Buddhism represents the majority of Buddhist thought. Many even include Tibetan Buddhist as a part of Mahayana, though I don't do that. But certainly it's a very important tradition and this represents a really good textbook exposition of the whole thing. I also want to just say Paul. Williams is probably one of most recognized Buddhist scholars in the world. This man has written books for decades on Buddhism, and he has spent his whole life promoting Buddhism and has written extensively in articles and books. And everybody who is in this field has this name as a household word. And so it's quite remarkable. Shock about a year ago that Paul Williams has converted to Christianity. It's really remarkable. And the reason he converted to Christianity, I thought was really remarkable because it was the one aspect of Buddhism that I have said for years, I believe is their Achilles heel. And he actually cited this in his own life as the reason why ultimately he felt like he had to forsake Buddhism. And I think it's remarkable. We'll discuss this later on in the course I to come back. You know, you've got to come back, brothers. Very hard to explain that Achilles heel at this point. But anyway, it's remarkable is really, really a bombshell that Paul Williams has converted to Christianity. Okay. The course requirements are fairly straightforward laid out here. There are actually about 1400 pages of reading. I don't really apologize for this, but I realize it's a lot of pages.
One of the challenges of world religions is you just have to read a lot of pages in order to get a lot of this into your system. It's not easy because in other courses you can assume you've had a lot of other collateral reading in this course. For many of you, you've never read a page in this field. And so it does take a little bit of effort and energy to get into this. And I hope that you all will benefit from the reading a lot. There will be a mid-term examination on October 20th and a final exam after the conclusion of the course, according to the registrar officer's schedule. You will not have any formal research paper in this course, which may be a relief, but you will have two theological reaction papers. This is essentially an apologetic reaction to issues that I have listed the syllabus. This follows essentially the Hinduism course, except for Hinduism. You have three papers. Here you have two, but the papers are a little longer and you'll notice on page seven, eight and nine of the syllabus, I have listed a number of choices. There are 11 choices there where I raise a certain issue or theme and I ask you to read it, reflect on it and respond to it apologetically. It does not mean that you have to necessarily do a lot of research or quote sources, though some of you will do that are mainly interested in your own ability to respond to the issue. And some of you have a lot more in your arsenal than others in terms of your own reflection. You might be able to do this without a lot of research. Others of you may in fact find that you need to do some study to do it.
Right now, if you read through these choices, they may sound a little bit overwhelming, but they will not be overwhelming very long because these are all issues that we'll discuss and talk about in class. And they will from time to time be born out of the things that we're discussing. And therefore you'll be able to have some insight on it. So we'll maybe have time to look at those later. But that's there on page 7 to 9. Back to to the assignments on page to class. Attendance obviously is really important. I want encourage interaction and input from you. It's always helps the class. There are no prerequisite requirements. It doesn't assume that you've had any overview course or knowledge of Buddhism, though many of you may have that. I've given you some places where you can go, if you'd like, just to do a quick overview. You're welcome to do that if you think it may help you. I have the grading, grading scale. All of that is there before you for your information, and then I'll read page three. You have potentially what we would like to cover our each of the lectures all the way through. I just let you know up front that this is subject to change based on the pace of the class, especially when the first time I teach a class, It's not always clear exactly how it will develop and how students will will take the material in. But this is kind of what I would like to do. This is like the blueprint of what we'd like to cover and how it would go across week by week, you'll see on September 29th. Is the first theological reaction paper at the end of this month and then the first November.
Is the second theological reaction paper. So you have some weeks to reflect on this, but you want to be thinking about that in next few weeks and get that written up. I've given some suggested readings along the way to keep you on pace. I haven't actually been to the bookstore to see it. The books are all there, but I'm assuming that they're okay. As Might had a chance to go to the bookstore and look at the textbooks. They're all there. Great. So I'd pick those up and you'd be able to start right away on those. Okay. Any questions about the syllabus or about the basic outline of the course? Okay. Any questions? Comments. Yes, It's not the same as the down part of that you get. That is. That's it. Yeah. That's just the pocket version. Yeah. You know, so you don't have to go on a daily basis, whether it be something that we cover. Just in general topic before we go we deal with. I would like to offer some ideas. We have spoken about the border occupations and what you mean, what we talk about in class. All of these we will touch on at some point in the class. Some of these we will touch on before September 29th. Others will be after. So that's that's an issue that you can only bank on if you want to, unfortunately, have to kind of get into some of the content of the course in order to deal with some of these. And I even have at the end some kind of a wild card. You don't have to actually address one of these particular topics. One of your choices can be on a topic that you choose. That's number 11. So there are some other options there.
I found that these are helpful because this class is cross-referenced AP, which means this class is also an apologetics class. So in the curriculum, we we have to have some apologetic element. So this is partly to respond to that, where you're actually to write a theological apologetic. So it will take some reflection and you may need to do some additional study for it. So I would say the class will help you some. Your other reflection, even theological reflection from your other classes may be a very big help. Part of my concern is to build bridges between your theological reflection and your systemic theology classes or digital survey classes and this kind of challenge from Buddhism, because one of the things we have to do is think theologically about the challenge of what religions and what is actually happening theologically. And a lot of times we learn our theology kind of in isolated boxes, and we don't really think about how it applies not only to Buddhism, but secular America. So this is helping you to do that with some specific choices that I've laid out, which I think will be helpful. Okay. Any other questions? The coffee is fairly good to start out with a full page of biography there, and you'll find that to be helpful as well. And if you can peruse through that, maybe you can find some help as well. Okay. I have a handout for you to the covers of this lecture. My practice is generally to give you an outline of what's most important. You should have a front end back. If you don't, please let me know. Okay. Just point you in the way my lecture outlines work. This is essentially a skeleton outline of the course. I'm happy to provide this for you electronically as we go through.
If you if you'd like, I can email it to you. My email address I think should be in the syllabus, but if not, it's just my last name. Tennant T and in and at GCT. I'll start Edu if you have a computer helpful to have it on your laptop, that will be fine. The way it works, I have the basic outline of the lecture and then on the back of it you'll see I have terms which you should know from the lecture. Now, this is important because there's no end to terms and various technical and non-technical words that you might be familiar with prior to this class. So I have distilled it into the ones that are most important for you to know. So as the lecture is progressing, all of these terms will be discussed and will be defined. And therefore you should take special note of these because on the exam, on the midterm and the final exam, part of the exam will be for you asking you to identify certain terms. I will not ask you a term which does not appear on the handout. So therefore you have a defined set of terms which you need to know, but some comfort because as you're reading in the accounting terms, it can be a bit overwhelming. So I've already pre-selected the terms which I think are most important for you to know. So they're the terms there. And I've also included on this first handout, just because we're going to do this today, the for important place of pilgrimage. The first is, as you mentioned in your introduction, is in Nepal. And we're going to be talking about the the four places. I mean, there are actually many, many Buddhist pilgrimage places in the world, But these are for the most important, where the Buddha was born, where he receives enlightenment, which actually could be also in Nepal.
These are where you draw the boundary and some discussion about that. But Nepal or North India, Sarnath and Kushi Nagar, these are four really important places in the Buddhist pilgrimage. And therefore you should be aware of these four sites and then these terms. So keep that in mind as we go through. Each of these will begin with putting forth kind of an overview of Buddhism and some of the challenges that bring us to the table to why we do this. While we're studying this, I, I, Carl Bart wisely said that Christians should have the Bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other. And I think it's a really good point that we do need to be much more acquainted with the actual global context in which we live. This is my mind that what makes this theology particularly an exciting field because it intersects not only the discipline of theology and church history, but also the real living context of people and anthropology and social sciences and our religions and so forth. I have a wonderful picture that I thought I'd done on the overhead last night. I must have missed it. But it's a picture of the original design of the Celtic Cross. Now, I'm sure that many of you have seen this. The board has gone for a Celtic cross. What does a Celtic cross look like? But has the ball cross. But it does have an extra feature. Has a circle. It's actually cross superimposed over a circle. And it's a very dramatic sight. What makes this so powerful is that the cross that is there is a cross. I think it's one of the few designs of a cross ever seen that actually shows the cross engaged with and triumphed over, I might add, another religion, because in the Roman Empire you had the convenient situation where you eventually had a state sponsored religion, and so there was actually not a lot of impetus to compel people to win people to Christ because they were more or less compelled by virtue of the state authority.
Once you get out of the Roman Empire, you find that the Christian church is in a very different situation and the Celtic Saints or working outside the Roman Empire, or at least on the fringes of it in some cases, and particularly those up in Scotland are outside the Empire and they are seeking to find a way to challenge pagan peoples to accept Christ. And they encountered religions like Druid and other Wicca and other ancient religions that were a huge challenge to them, and they established strategies to reach them. And when they completed it, they actually had a cross design which showed the cross triumphing over the paganism. So it's the only cross that actually shows the cross over the symbol of another world religion. It'd be like showing the cross superimposed over the Islamic crescent or the cross over the arm signal or whatever. This is a very dramatic kind of statement of the gospel by these early Celtic Christians that the gospel does triumph over the challenges of other religions. So I would really encourage this thinking because I think it's important for us as Christians to think about how does the gospel actually engage with other religions. Okay. Just to give you some feel of what we're talking about and looking at world religions, this is a general chart showing the distribution of world religions. And you can see that this is the part of the pie we're particularly interested in. This is obviously very different from Islam or Hinduism. It's not as large numerically, but it's still a very significant slice of the pie. And generally speaking, if a religion is over, 5% of world population is considered to be a world religion. Therefore, it's important to recognize and respond to each of these contexts.
But also, even though we only have today probably around 6% of the world that call themselves Buddhist, the influence that Buddhism has has distributed and has made on not only Hinduism but also Chinese religion, as I mentioned earlier, and even in some cases the non-religious is quite profound. So there's a lot of influence of Buddhist thought in Buddhist worldview, even despite the fact that we have 6% that actually Buddhist Todd Johnson here at Gordon Conwell estimates there are currently approximately 365 million Buddhists in the world today. These are people who claim to be Buddhist. Buddhism is in the larger subcontinent, Nepal and India, where it was born. India is the cradle of religions. If you look at the map, even though Hinduism and Buddhism, this is the birth of it. Today, Buddhism is mainly found in Southeast Asia. So this is a particular part of the world. We have Bhutan, we have Sri Lanka, you have Japan, you have other places where it's dominant. The light brown represents the places where Buddhism is actually dominant. And we'll say a little bit about Buddhism. Each of those countries is a kind of brief overview today. So this is the part of the world that we primarily are interested in focusing in on. And now we're going to give some special emphasis in this class to what's happened with Buddhism and China and Japan, Korea and other places, because it is deeply influenced those major blocks. But this light brown shows the places where Buddhism is actually dominant. The dominant religion is, of course, part of the 1040 window, the part of places where the people groups with the least opportunity to hear the gospel are seminary, is adopt this as this work in northern Thailand. And so we have a particular interest in the Thai context.
So we're going to be talking about some of this and trying to focus on this as we go through it. What I want to do is kind of highlight a few areas as we go through and say a little bit about Buddhist strongholds and kind of what we're looking at numerically. Bhutan, which is here on the map at this location here, Bhutan is considered a Buddhist kingdom and represents about 70% Buddhist today. So Bhutan is an official, you might say, state sponsored Buddhism, and we have a huge influence there. Buddhism was born and birthed in Nepal. But certainly Nepal is important, even though it is. The percent of Buddhism is quite small compared to the presence of Hinduism there. It's important because its birth place is there and there's a particular form of Buddhism there which we'll look at. If you move down to Sri Lanka, which is at the bottom of this, I think I have a slide showing actually. Here's a slide of Bhutan as well. You can see major Tibetan Buddhist subgroups of Bhutan. And if you go to Sri Lanka now, Sri Lanka is a really interesting place because Sri Lanka also has state sponsored Buddhism, but of a completely different type than in Bhutan. So Sri Lanka is the home of what we call Theravada Buddhism. And this is the most historic branch of Buddhism. And these are all things that we'll look at later on in the course. So don't panic. If the word Theravada doesn't mean anything, it just means the way of the elders. But if you can look at Sri Lanka, you actually can get some insight into why we have some difficulties politically in Sri Lanka, because as you can see on this left hand picture of Sri Lanka, you have the presence of Buddhism in Sri Lanka and you can see the heartland of of Sri Lanka is clearly Buddhist.
As you go north, you can see that it drops off dramatically, dramatically. So you do not have strong Buddhist influence in the southern or the northern part of Saraqeb because this is where the Tamils are. These are Indian descent. Sri Lanka's divide between the Tamils and the Sinhalese. So as you go north, you have more Tamils. And so it's much stronger Hinduism in the north. And then over here on the eastern side, you have fairly good number of Muslims. So Sri Lanka is really a powder keg politically, and this is why there've been civil war in Sri Lanka for many, many years. But there's no question that the heartland of Sri Lanka is Buddhist and a particular form of Buddhism, which is considered to be, from their point of view, the most ancient form of Buddhism. But again, the heartland of Buddhism is in Southeast Asia in this light brown portion. And what I want to do is focus a little bit on the nations of Southeast Asia and kind of briefly go through and give you some ideas as to the percentages of Buddhism there. Yes, you can spell that. One is the term Theravada. Yes, it's a t h, e r a v, a d a Theravada, t h e r a veda. Okay. If you look at Southeast Asia with other questions, are you just stretching? Yes. Quick question about Sri Lanka. Is the term simile is the same as Balinese or is that of different parameters? I don't know. I don't know. I hear I've heard I first heard the Sinhalese term, so I don't know. Yeah, that is Ceylon. Ceylon? Yes, I see. I'm sorry. Yes, Ceylon is the more modern term for Sri Lanka. And they went back to the term Sri Lanka.
The terms are different and that are two different terminologies because the line actually represents the entire region. It's not just the north. Okay. Yeah. Yes, Matthew. Yeah, it's actually it was called Lama Mystic Buddhism. So it's it's basically a form of Tibetan Buddhism. So it's but there's also and it's also influenced by a number of. Whereas all Tibetan Buddhist will see a lot of tribalistic influence in it. So in this class we're actually going to deal with Theravada, which is the ancient Mahayana, which is the more modern Buddhism, and there will be that completely a separate branch of Buddhism because it's been so influenced by folk religion that it's become transformed into totally different. Okay, look at the percentages here on the map. If you look at Thailand, 92% Buddhist. Again, this is when we say Buddhism here. We're talking in very broad terms, in terms of a lot of mixture with other religions, folk practices. But we're talking about just broadly speaking, a very high percentage of Buddhism. Myanmar, 83% is of course under I'm Judson arrived. You have a number of Christians in various troubled parts of Myanmar but still 83% of people claim a Buddhist Cambodia, 83%. Laos, 61%. Vietnam 54%. Singapore 43%. Now, those are difficult percentages just because, again, David Barrett is providing these statistics based on what people call themselves without necessarily referencing whether or not they conform to a particular type of Buddhism. Buddhism is a very broad blanket term and taking some time to kind of unpack what is at the heart of the Buddhist vision and what way the groups conform or not conform to that vision. But certainly we have a number of high percentages of people who identify with Buddhism and are claiming that it's integral to their own self-understanding.
If you go into China, even though China again, is influenced today by secularism, atheism, other forms of such as Daoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, especially pure land, Buddhism is a form of Mahayana is very, very dominant and influence in China. Many Chinese identify Buddhism, especially at times of death and various ritualistic experiences. You have same thing with Japan. You have a number of Buddhist influence. In Japan, currently about 60% of Japanese at some time in their life will perform some Buddhist ritual, even though maybe less than 20% actually practiced Buddhism regularly. It's typical of this region, Mongolia, you have about 25%, South Korea, 28%, clearly Buddhist. And then as you move into the Western world, you have growing numbers of influence of Buddhism. In the Western world, the numbers percentages are still very small, but the influence of Buddhism is growing in the West. In fact, one of the well-known prophecies of the Buddha was that at the end of time, Buddhism would travel and flourish in the West. So many Buddhist peoples believe that this is a fulfillment of one of the Buddha's prophecies, and that what we're experiencing today in the West is the beginning of a huge new development of Buddhism in the West. And there's certainly a lot of impact. It's not just Hollywood anymore. It's gone into the wider culture and therefore it's something that requires our time to think about this and address Buddhism in America. So we'll be doing that as well. Perhaps the best thing to do at this point is to try to define Buddhism and try to understand the best way I have on the handout, a kind of a working definition to get us started. And then we'll briefly go through the life of Buddha and some of the basic point about his life.
We're tentatively defining Buddhism and we're going to be making some challenge and exception to some parts of this. But essentially Buddhism can broadly be defined as a religious and intellectual movement found in North India by the community. Gautama character in the sixth century B.C., which teaches the Dharma and I have here eternal truth about reality and his followers believe provides complete liberation from all suffering. Now, that's a very broad definition. We're going to be coming back to this from time to time. The word dharma is extremely important in Buddhist teaching. It'll take us a lot of time to develop the concept of Dharma. It does not mean at all what it means in Hinduism. And so if you've had the Hinduism class, you have to kind of delete that file, at least temporarily, because in this case, the word dharma kind of has a life of its own and how it develops. So we're talking about a movement that started roughly sixth century B.C. It has a historical founder, unlike Hinduism, and he is advocating a particular path to follow, which they believe will provide liberation from suffering. So it sounds very eastern in many ways, certainly has that a flavor to it. And we can sort of see how this develops as Buddhism moves further and further eastward out of Nepal and eventually as it comes to India, then back out eastward again, you'll find that Buddhism changes character quite a bit. The statues of the Buddha go through radical transformation. If you compare a statue of the Buddha in a place like India with a place like China and Japan, the Buddha gets larger and larger, He eats more and more. And so eventually he has this huge stomach, as opposed to the Indian Buddhas, which are extremely emaciated figures.
You can see his ribs. So there's a lot of theological weight behind this, actually, because the development of Buddhism is tied into part of what how the Buddha is understood and reinterpreted by the eastern cultures. So what we're going to do is try to explore Buddhism as it began. And Theravada is the kind of the heart of the whole thing, the original way of the elders. But one of the things you'll find in is true Christianity as well is that many times the people on the margins actually have a greater influence than the people in the core. So what eventually happens is that many of the ideas that are being rejected become the missionaries and they go out spreading. They're from Buddhism. So Buddhism goes through dramatic, dramatic changes. The founder of Buddhism, which I have here as Siddhartha Gautama, is known today as the Buddha. So this is the term that we'll use. And you've heard already from many times the board Buddha. I just mean someone who's awakened to the truth of the Dharma. Now, whether there is only one Buddha in the history of the world or there are many Buddhas is a matter which will be discussed a lot by Buddhist. Some believe that there is only one Buddha, and others believe that there have been many Buddhas. Buddha shares one distinctive element in Christianity and that Buddhism is believed to be a missionary religion that's very, very different from Hinduism, which is not regarded that way. Marks Müller, a well-known scholar, once said that there are only three truly missionary religions in the world Christianity, Islam and Buddhism. People are very well acquainted with the kind of missionary thrust of Islam and less acquainted with the missionary aspect of Buddhism is definitely, definitely there.
They believe they have a teaching which is transcultural. They believe it should be spread to the ends of the earth. And so that's something that we all come to over and over again. How Buddhism is focused a lot on the central city of the human problem. We will see this. Is critical to the Buddhist self-understanding. They believe that they have discovered the central problem of the human race, why humans suffer. They believe they have an insight into this. We will take plenty of time as the course develops to explain what this insight is. Virtually all of Buddhism. Oh, I would not. Virtually all of Buddhism is, in fact, born out of this basic insight. This is one of the things that will tie the various strands of Buddhism together. But they say it's like a doctor who does diagnose diagnosis, that you have a particular ailment. They know what the ailment is, but different people will need different medicines to be cured from this ailment. This is the kind of metaphor they often use. So that's why they'll say this group here teaches X. This group teaches why this group teaches Z. The teachings of Buddhism can be very, very different in different parts of the world. But they're all trying and they all believe that they are providing different medicines to provide a cure for a common ailment. So rather than comparing the teachings, you have to always see how these teachings work together toward this central problem that the Buddhist developed and identify. That's important. They're basically trying to say the human race is sick and they have an overall assessment of the problem, which I would call the Buddhist vision. They have their vision of what they see as the central problem, and then you have quite a bit of diversity as to how you get to this problem.
We will give example my book of one time, and Buddha was asked about this and why there are so different teachings. And so he was apparently sitting down in a forest with a lot of leaves had fallen. And so he picks up a handful of leaves and he says, What is greater the leaves in my hand or the leaves in the forest? And of course, they say, Well, the leaves in your hand are the leaves in the forest are greater. So that's right. He says, What I have taught you is upset about the leaves in my hand. But there are many, many other teachings that I wasn't able to give to you. So other groups claim that they have other, you know, handfuls of leaves, as it were, that he taught them. And so the result is you do have a sometimes bewildering array of teachings, but I trust you. They all have coherence. In a sense, they do all fit into a common vision. And we will try to explore this in the main traditions as we develop it. But keep that in mind. The realization of enlightenment in Buddhism has focused traditionally on certain spiritualities that often interplay and involve some varying emphasis on three major values You'll find throughout the course will have three kind of emphases that various teachings will bring out. And all of these have to be seen as kind of in tension with each other. The role of morality, the role of meditation in the role of knowledge or wisdom. So you have an interplay of the role of morality, the role of meditation, the role of wisdom or knowledge. And different groups will emphasize these. One of these three or a combination of these three in various ways, that tension is there, and that sometimes explains some of the diversity, but it is all united in an overall vision.
One other caveat before we look at Buddha's life is that this definition of Buddhism is meant to define just that Buddhism. It is not meant to define any other religious forces that have impacted Buddhism. This is especially true as you get to Tibet, because once you get into Tibetan Buddhism, you have to actually understand the religion of Bonn. For example, the prior religions, when Buddhism got there to see how urbanism ism has affected Buddhism. So there's other underplays that are constantly present all throughout Southeast Asia, in Japan, in China, and even in America. Christianity has influenced how Buddhism is practiced in the West. This is part of the challenge of Buddhism because it is a very powerful have being able to adapt itself to various contexts. So we'll see how various influences have played on the Buddhist vision. It is probably less so in Theravada, more so in Tibetan. So you can kind of see a continuum there. As I mentioned. Also in passing, you may find people often. From tongue, how we refer to the two main branches of Buddhism, Theravada Mahayana way of the elders, the great vehicle. But we will just explore it in this class as three main branches, as many of the scholars do. And I'm very much convinced that this is the best way to explain Buddhism. So we will develop it along those three than what we call the Theravada the Mahayana in the visor on the Thunderbolt vehicle. So we'll be doing that as the course develops. But all of that is by way of just basic overview to give you kind of what we'll be doing and kind of be ready for the particularities in the midst of quite a large vision. Are any comments or questions about the overview there? Yes, Michael, they've done something that is totally insane, that was blind.
And the call and the definition that says you. What I mean by that is the movement. Even though he himself was born in Nepal, he actually, what they call turn the wheel of Dharma, began to issue his teachings in North India. And so even though the Buddha was born in Nepal, his teaching was born in North India. So North India really is the birthplace of Buddhism, not Nepal. Did you have a question? But there is another. Yes, The hiney, Yana, is another term for Theravada. The henna Yana is a pejorative term. So therefore we will only use it. We will use it by way of explanation later. But the word Theravada is really the best term for this ancient version. That's what they call themselves. Henna Jani is a pejorative description by the Mahayana because the word Yana is the common term. Yana means vehicle. Maha means great. Like Mahatma Gandhi, great soul. Maha is a very famous prefix, and in the East, henna means little little vehicle, big vehicle. So what they're saying pejoratively is if you follow the henna or the Theravada, it's a little vehicle. Only a few people that, you know, become monks, blah, blah, blah can make it to enlightenment. If you follow our way. It's a big vehicle and will bring many to enlightenment. So it's a little bit of a pejorative thing. So henna Yana terracotta are interchangeable, but let's get ahead of ourselves. We will explore all that as we develop it. Don't panic if this makes no sense to this point. Yes, it's a terrible idea to have the visor on Yana with all that we'll discuss later. Don't worry about it. I may even have. Let's see if I have that on the. Yeah. I just had the murder of the Thunderbolt vehicle on page four.
I called. If you look on page four, and this is way down to October six, we get to this. But I have the three vehicles there, the universal slash monastic the second, the messianic slash lay third, the apocalyptic slash thunderbolt. Those are what we call the three vehicles of Buddhism. And we're unfortunately already spilling these terms out. But that would represent the Terra Varda, which is universal monastic Mahayana, the messianic or lay and the wise on of the a, j, r, a y a and a vajra, which means thunderbolt vehicle or the a j r a vajra and then yana y a in a. But all of this we'll get you'll become experts on all these terms in due time. No problem. You don't need to know that at this point. Okay. All of those terms are simply filling out because we're already anticipating some of the diversity within the Buddhist vision. So I kind of alluded to that. But let's actually go back and go back to Nepal. And this is one of the famous pilgrimage spots on the back of the handout that you need be aware of. This is the birthplace of Siddartha Gautama, not the birthplace of Buddhism, but the birthplace of the Buddha. Buddhism arose at a time when India and the larger subcontinent, including Nepal, Bhutan. What? Pakistan was very ripe for his message. The sixth century B.C. was a time of great religious and social change. There were new monarchies being established and there were military and political forces which were headed up by very ambitious kings who wanted to challenge the the actual traditional system of Indian caste. And this is where we actually do need to take a little bit of a caveat. And I need me to find if I can possibly find out I have to break down and carry this over here because we can't make appropriate progress on the board.
Okay. This is where we have to have a little knowledge about the Hindu social structure to understand how the Buddha represents a challenge to the US. So notice on the handout here, I have Hinduism back on number one, number two and so forth. I want to actually give you a little insight about Hinduism from time to time. These are like filling in a little bit of gaps for people who may not have had Hinduism. Hinduism has, as part of its own vision, its own documents called the Rig Veda, a certain vision as to a social stratification system that is much greater than the class system that we experience in the West or other parts of the world. This is called the caste system. And the caste system is different in the sense that it is something that has divine sanction. In other words, you are created to fulfill a certain role. This would be what they would call dharma. You're created fulfill a certain responsible action in the world. And they created a hierarchy of all living things from top to bottom. For our purposes, the most important part of this system is the human caste system, which represents for stratas in the caste system. At the highest level are the priest. Then the warriors. Then the merchants. And then the servants are slaves. Now the priest are known as Brahmin. The Brahmins are the highest caste in India. They have all the privileges. They have all the power. That is essentially not changed even till this day. Even though only about 6% of people are Brahmans. They maintain they control the whole system. So this is the people. Is the people to this day who have the political dominance in the Indian subcontinent. It's a priestly class.
It's very important to recognize the Warriors as a st caste, which are called sutra. Shot three represents the military or the power or military power of the whole system. So they hold a second rung of power. The third caste are known as Vishay. They're the merchants who, you know, like farmers, storekeepers, whatever. And then the servants or slaves are people known as they should are. Okay, Then you have another category that people who have been out casted, they maintain this system by. If you violate the responsibilities of your caste, if you are for example if you were to they Brahmin were to marry a shoe drop which happened in Indian history or be caught having intercourse with a shoe dry woman, you know, clandestinely or whatever. Both of these would be cast out of the caste system. So we get the word outcast from now if you're outcast, this is a group which today we refer to as Dalit. The term. It's been in the news a lot the last several years. You may be familiar with the word Dalit just means oppressed or crushed in Sanskrit, and it's now in Hindi as well. So the way the whole system in India was set up and this is the still the basic vision of Hinduism is that the Brahmans, the priest, have the insight into truth. No one else can even suggest or challenge the basic power of the priest. Under any circumstance. I mean, just to give you one example. When William Carey arrived in India many, many years after this, I mean, 19th century or late 18th century, 1793, when he arrived there, he had the horrifying experience of seeing a young man who was a shoe drop, being drug in the marketplace and being held down while they poured molten lead into his ears, which of course, immediately deafened him for life.
He inquired, Why would they do this to this young man? And they finally found out this man only had one crime He had overheard, just overheard a Brahmin reciting their sacred scriptures. And for the sin of just hearing the Word of God, he was deafened for life as a punishment. So you can hardly imagine the strictness of these lines of separation. Very, very strict. So this is what is under challenge in the sixth century B.C.. QUESTION Just is this, though, ethnically divided or is it just kind of you find out that you're a priest or a warrior? How did they decide, you know, this is ethnically divided? So you have actually they have associations with certain families are called Dotty is a term for India. A Jati represents an ethnic group. And so even though there for caste, there are hundreds of jats, thousands of jockeys in India and people are born into a particular jati and that jati is a social particular caste. So the minute you hear someone whose last name, their family name in India, then you know immediately what caste they're from. That's the way it works in India. So it is a family thing. And you cannot if you're born into this, it doesn't matter if you become fabulously wealthy, you can't get out of it. It's not like it's a socioeconomic thing and there's like any movement within it. There's no movement within this. It is something you're born into and it's propagated through birth. And you cannot to intermarry, which will, of course, violate the whole system. If you were to intermarry, which would break up this family solidarity, then you would be casted, which is the worst thing possible. And so that's how they maintain the social rigidity of the caste system is by having very strict rules.
And there's actually famous books called The Laws of Manu, which you can buy anywhere in India, and they're certainly well known among the people. The Laws of Manu is a ancient collection of the regulations about what kind of contact you can have with whom and what are the consequences. So if, for example, a shoe dry steals from a Brahmin, that should be borne back as some very low form of life. So they keep their the social structure set by having very harsh penalties for anybody who violates the social system. So for Buddha to challenge this system is extremely significant because essentially Buddhism represents a person who is not a Brahmin claiming to have spiritual insight. That's why we had to have this illusion, because Buddha is a sutra. He is a high caste. Okay, we'll give him that. He is a high caste person. But because high cast of presents, these three, these are called the forward looking caste. These are called the backward looking caste. These four looking caste are all viewed as high caste. You still cannot intermarry within the US, but they can at least eat together. They can have. They can associate together socially, but they cannot intermarry. This group cannot. Even these people are called untouchables or unseeable. You cannot even see them if you're an upper caste. So what is separate? They have to have separate villages, separate wells, everything. So it is still significant, though, that a Qatari who is not allowed to have spiritual insight is making this basic. Buddhist vision. Challenge to the system. And that's what's going on in this time period in India. The monarchies and the political forces are saying, why should we be ruled by the priest? And so you you're having you're seeing the rise of political power in India.
And as long as the political power is on the rise, this puts pressure on the priestly class because they are trying to be on top. So this is essentially an attempt to challenge the status of the priest. And the Buddha represents this basic challenge, in essence. Another big thing that was happening during this time period when he was born is that there is a shift from the early Vedic material to the later upon a shard material. Again, this is another distinct within Hinduism, but Hinduism has its most basic text are known as the Vedas. And in this you have the rig Veda, the sum of Veda, the Ijaw, Veda and the Atharva. These are four basic Vedic text. In this rig, Veda is the most ancient of Hindu text. You don't need to know this, but just to give you a little bit of insight, what's happened in the time period. This is a text which contains 1028 hymns to various deities that were worshiped in ancient times. It's this particular book, The Rig Veda, which lays out the caste system. Basically, it says that when Brahma created the world, he created people from different parts of his body. And it's a mythology of divine dismemberment where God essentially takes on this form of a gigantic man, and then he dismembers himself in different parts of his body because different parts of the human race or the whole creation. So, for example, the from his head come the Brahmans and also the cows. The cows are sacred in Nepal as well as India. So the cows were created from his head. The Brahmans are kept from his head. The warrior is from his arms. They're the strength. They the fighters, the merchants, the vice chair from his stomach and his thighs and the soothers from his feet.
So you have, again, the divine sanction that these were created from different parts of God's body, as it were. And all of this is laid out and explained in the 10th chapter of the Rig Veda, the 10th the 90th section. So this part of the Rig Veda, is essential to establishing the whole structure of this. So during the sixth century B.C., there is a emphasis away from the Vedas to another group of documents known as The Apprentice Shards, which is a very philosophical discussion of the meaning of life and so forth. And so the Buddhist vision comes out of a little bit of a philosophical reflection. If you have a bent toward philosophy, you will love it. If you do not like philosophy, you may find it come across is a bit esoteric. Some of the things that the Buddha talks about and reflects on, but don't worry, we will make it all plain as much as possible so it won't be too difficult for you. But nevertheless, this is some of the things that are happening that you have two main reasons why the Buddhist descent is made possible. Just to summarize the reason for all this, number one, you have the challenge of the priest caste. So now you have a priest on a weaker position. They have been for centuries. And secondly, you have a de-emphasis on the text that talked about the caste system. So both of these historical realities made the climate ripe for dissent. And the Buddha represents this major challenge against Hinduism. And we'll take time to kind of explain what it is that he was dissenting against more specifically later on. But this is just kind of giving you kind of the broad historical frame of reference.
Yes, he said he could. Like childhood care system or just software project. It's no good because I agree some of the previous books they talked about. They only talk about the suffering. Right. This is actually a Buddhist revisionist history. The Buddhist do not want to be fair. You can't hardly blame them. No religion wants to be portrayed as reaction against something else. They want to be portrayed as a vision within their own right. So Buddhism does not like the fact that they are seen, understood as some kind of subset reaction against Hinduism and Hinduism is they had to be careful because they're also afraid that if they do that, what'll happen is what happened next with Hinduism. Hinduism. So well, Buddhism is just one more example of the Hindu vision. And so Hinduism is tried to find ways to absorb Buddhism into it. In fact, one of the examples of this is when you look at the different incarnations of the God Vishnu in Hinduism. One of the incarnations of Vishnu is the Buddha. And so what they say is that there are certain people who are not worthy of true insight into reality. So Vishnu sent the Buddha to deceive people. So you can imagine how you would feel. Someone said, Well, you know, you're just a revelation that is out to deceive people who weren't really ready for the true thing. So Buddhism has tried to distance itself from being seen as a reaction. The other reason is that Buddhism has really flourished. In most of the writings you're talking about come from the Mahayana tradition, which is they long gone out of India. So then once you leave India, even though there's tons of caste in Southeast Asia too, but it doesn't have the dominance it has in India.
And because of that, it becomes less and less a focus. But this is actually really critical to its original birth, though. You're right. It comes from that later. You elaborate just a little bit more on why there was a Christian past. Yes, I will. Prior to this time, the what became the became the Hindus invading Aryans, which you know about consuming because they were cast on the move. And we believe it's mainly because of major climactic changes taking place in north India. So because of this migration, constant moving south, moving south, moving south and south India, there was a lot of period of torment. So what happened eventually when they finally got to the bottom of the subcontinent, there's no place else to go. So they began to consolidate their power in the north. So gradually this represented the rise of kingdoms. They had great power. So these kingdoms began to say, Listen, hey, we're strong, they've been built militaries, and they going to have a lot more stability. And once they had more stability, they could build their power base and then challenge the Brahmins. So it's essentially a long process of India finally settling down into various kingdoms. And even in the 19th century, the British were there. The kingdoms in India were very, very strong and they were unable to really challenge in the northern part of the country. So this is not a just an ancient thing. This is it goes way back in Indian history. Other thoughts. Comments. Yes, men do a good job. People have a lot of doctors in one basket. The cast was spread out. Well, essentially, occupation is one of the major features of caste, and so certain occupations are destiny by certain castes. So because of that, there are traditional occupations, including all the ones you mentioned, which belong to certain caste today in modern, modern India.
This is under attack. And so what they now have is a central we call affirmative action, which says that university has to a lot certain seats for Dalits or low caste intruders and Dalits, even the house of their parliament, their Lok Sabha, their lower house of Parliament, upper house of Parliament must reserved certain seats for Dalits. So you now have Dalits that are going to med school, for example, A few. So because of that, it's not as pure as it once was, but it's always been very, very strictly held into more recent times. Okay. The life of Buddha and his birth in Nepal. By the way, the word Buddha means enlightened one is given. This name is given to a man named Siddartha Gautama. You see his name here on the overhead. We don't actually have a lot of hard evidence regarding his early life. It comes from three major books. The first was written 500 years after his birth. These are books that you do not need to be aware of. But one called the Maha Vasu is a well-known fact. It's the earliest story of the Buddha's life. There's others that describe his early life, and many are filled with all kinds of hagiography. So I'm going to try to give you kind of the basic story of his life that is accepted by virtually all the traditions. There are a number of traditions, for example, that go into statements such as they say, well, the Buddhist mother had a ten month pregnancy when he was born. He was already able to speak. They would say he immediately went into the lotus position. I mean, on and on and on, the kind of things that are said. So you have to kind of wipe all that away and look at the main description of his life.
We do believe that he was born in this spot in Lumbini, Nepal. And you have here some of the archeological digs from this. And at this site, they found a very famous monument known as the Ashokan Pillar, which you can see a part of it here, which gives reference to the fact that the Buddha was born in this spot. There is, to be fair, I can tell you that in India and in this part of the world, there are a lot of disputed beliefs and there is a very strong movement in India that claims that the Buddha was born in Orissa, which is a state of eastern India, and they have all they're doing put a lot of money into promoting this idea, but it is not accessed by scholars. And this particular site is believed to be the authentic site of the Buddha's birth, probably born somewhere between 578 and 447 B.C. We will accept the date here. I think the most dominant date is the year 563 B.C.. You'll see on the hand out there on the definition the name of Buddha. I take your money, Gautama Siddartha. And I'm going to just briefly kind of unpack the meaning of the word, because in India or in in the whole subcontinent, Nepal and in other parts of this region, your name is very, very important. And what your name means is very, very important. So in this case, the word soccer money is a term which means one who possesses power. Sukkar is a power. So literally it is the sage who possesses power. The word Gautama is a funny word, which means most excellent Kal, Which may be. I mean, it'd be an insult if someone called you an excellent cow in our society.
But in that society, with Calvin Oration, it is not considered to be a problem at all. And Siddartha is means one who has achieved his goal. It is believed that his father was a very powerful king. So, again, you have the emphasis on this Qatari group that his father is a part of. They are warriors, according to tradition. He grew up in a family of great ease and luxury. His family name is one that may make you think they're Brahmans, but they're actually high, high Jati Qataris. So actually, even within this caste, they are at the very, very top of that caste grouping set up as early teen growth. A Gautama marries his cousin and they move to a beautiful palace, and they lived there a life of ease and luxury. You have a number of depictions and carvings of the Buddha's birth. This is a picture of the Buddha here with a halo around his neck, just like you see in Christian art about Christ. A lot of very hagiography about the birth of Buddha, the Buddha's mother, and the situation in which he was born. There are a number of murals. Just the monastery next to the seminary where I teach has some beautiful murals that give you the story of Buddha's life. This one on the left is his birth, and this is his act of leaving home. And this living home is really an important part of the whole Buddhist vision, because, according to their tradition, Gautama lived a life of tremendous luxury and ease, and he was carefully secluded from any outside knowledge. The reason that this was done, according to legend, is that when his mother conceived him, his mother's name is Maya, and when she conceived him, she had a dream that a white elephant with a holding a lotus flower.
Again, you saw it later on one of these early text that we'll look at in our class. Is this the Lotus Sutra? This discourse about the lotus? The lotus flower is extremely important symbolically in all of Buddhism. They use it for meditation. They believe it represents many of the great truths of the universe. So it's even tied into his birth story that this white elephant elephant also is the exalted animal in the East enters into her body with this lotus flower. It's again, this is all kind of part of the birth tradition. But she woke up and she told the wise men in this palace about this dream, that she had a dream about this white elephant when the lotus entered into her womb. She was discovered to be pregnant. And so they counseled her that this dream meant that this person from her womb could be one of two things, and which represented by the elephant and by the lotus flower, Either her child will be a great warrior, which would follow the family tradition, as it were. He would be a great king like his father and be a ruler, or he would leave the house, forsake everything and become a great religious leader. Now, it's unheard of for a sign my Qatari a family to become a religious leader. So this would have been considered a disaster, really, for someone to forsake the power of being a ruler, especially in a day when the rise of rulers was on the up that they would actually leave their family home. So she was very concerned not to allow this to happen. So she decided to keep him in the household and never let him leave. So he was kept in this secluded atmosphere.
This is what he will say. Why was it? But it was a 20 something years old before he ever saw any sickness or disease or whatever. Well, it's because of this commitment which leads us actually to another discourse about Hinduism we need to have. And then we will take a bit of a break. One other thing. In addition to the caste system you need to know about, and Hinduism is another facet of Hinduism which is really critical to the time period has to do with the concept of stages of life, the four stages of life. In classic Hinduism, they portrayed the idea that. People in an ideal state should pass through four stages. Now, this is something that the Brahmans have propagated to this day in India. They believe that the ideal life should go through four stages. Stage one is the student stage. This is the stage where you are someone who learns in studies under someone else is the stage that of course, we're all familiar with as students. Stage two is the household stage. This is the stage where you have children and you get married. This happens at stage two. And to this day, even in the Christian community, it's unthinkable that you get married while you're still in school. You complete all your schooling and then your family arranges the wedding. It's very, very unusual for someone to get married while they're still going through their schooling where it's not that unusual. You know, we have you know, many of you are married. It's normal part of our society, but not so in the east. And this is in part because of the strong idea of these various distinct stages you go through. So you complete your schooling stage, you become a householder, and then toward the end of your life, what we would call more a retirement period, you become a forest dweller.
A forest dweller is someone who begins to separate from their family life and begin to go out into the forest for meditation and increasing focus on spiritual things. So men would relocate into forest areas and live in communities, sometimes almost like little miniature monastic communities where they would meditate and talk about things beyond this life. And then eventually, stage four is the where you renounce the world, a world renowned sir. This is the term Sanderson. In India, a son, Yasin, is somebody who has renounced everything. They have no possessions. They renounce everything and they become totally focused on spiritual truths. So this, of course, puts the priest at the highest level of this because they are world renowned singers. They don't own anything. They've given everything up and all this stuff at this stage in their life. And so this again, reinforces the power of this thing. So what happened was the at the time of Buddha, there was a belief that this was a wrong development, that someone should actually be a student, become a householder, have a brief time of meditation in the forest, and then at that point they would be given the authority to properly rule and reign a country or a region. So it goes student householder forest dweller and maybe world ruler rather than world renowned, sir. This is again, the tension, the priest and the and the warriors. So that challenge is there. But see, his mother is part of this all the tradition? Well, what mentality actually continue to win out? And so she was convinced that if I got my ever God exposed to this whole tradition, since he had this prophecy, that he might become a world renowned sword or religious teacher, that's the only thing that anybody in the East could possibly imagine, a religious teacher, someone who renounces the world.
So therefore, to keep him from going through this one, she wanted to hold him in to this stage, so she didn't allow him to go outside of his palaces. And that all kinds of stories about how he had, you know, 25, 30, 40, 50, 60 palaces that he could go to and all his needs are met and people waving bronze, keep them cool. Everything was every need met, blah, blah, blah, blah. All those traditions fit into these stories that he was supposed to be static in the household or stage and go from that into ruling rather than into any kind of separation from the world, which is, of course, what actually happens with the Buddha. Yes. So you can't you don't want to broaden and you got to become the head of your life. Only certain people can actually make it that far. How it works? No, you're born a Brahman. You're born a Brahman. But in order to propagate the Brahman race, they had to find a way to allow Brahmans to marry and to have families. So in order to do that, they had to allow for a procedure through which a Brahman family could go up, you know, and eventually go through this. Now, somebody this would be like your typical Brahman who has a job in a software factory in Delhi or somebody he is going to and family, but he's going to get married someday and have a family. And he has his job and he has a nice car and blah, blah, blah. But at some point at the end of his life, he is going to, in a more brief period, go through his retirement, this forest to hour period. And then before he dies, he will give everything to his children and he will put on the saffron row.
He'll make a pilgrimage to Varanasi in India, and he'll hopefully die there and be cremated there. Now, that's a different from certain Brahmins who maybe at age 20 say, I'm not going to get married. I'm going to go directly to this stage here and spend a whole life propagating, you know, Vedic teaching, whatever, and they may never get married. So that group is there. But this is a kind of an idealized thing for anybody who's a Brahman and you are born a Brahman, you don't ever become one. Of course you do. So if you're Sugiura, you could not make it through all those things. No, she does not, because she does. Once they get to this point here. Sisters are not allowed to be a part of any of these communities. They are. And so the Shuja can only hope that he or she be born back in a higher caste in another lifetime. That goes into a lot more with Hinduism than we want to develop here. But that's certainly there. Yes, that is the same for men and women and no. Yeah, same for men. Women? Yeah. Though ultimately, in the Hindu worldview, the only way you can be truly enlightened is to become a Brahman male. So ultimately you need be reborn as a male. But the basic process is there for for men and women to a certain point. Okay. Other thoughts or questions about about this? Yes. Well, what I was being informed would be that we were also leaving. Which is that it? It would it would in this case, it would because the Qatari has held on to their power. Only the Brahmans would pass it to their children. And so because of this, it was considered to be a big forsaking of his wealth and everything.
In fact, it's called, as we'll see later on in the lectures, the first great renunciation where he renounces his life.