Buddhism - Lesson 6
Mahayana Buddhism: New Insights
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.
Mahayana Buddhism: New Insights
The Emergence of the “Great Vehicle”
I. Mahayana Buddhism: New Insights / New Doctrines
B. The Mahasanghikas become a movement
1. Hinayana “Little Vehicle”
2. Mahayana “Great Vehicle”
C. Three Insights of Mahayana Buddhism
1. Insight #1: Buddha taught secret truths
a. Second Turn of the Wheel of Dharma – new sutras
b. Higher Wisdom / higher consciousness
c. Expanded transcendent destinations between ‘now’ & ‘nirvana’
d. Doctrine of expedient means
2. Insight #2: The Buddha was a divine being and a dharmic concept, not just an earthly figure
3. Insight #3: Gautama was not the only Buddha (multiplied Buddhas)
a. arhat path vs. Bodhisattva path
b. monastic path leading to arhathood and nirvana
c. messianic path leading to bodhicittta and nirvana
D. Three fold body of Buddha
1. Apparition Body (historical body)
2. Dharma Body (body of essence)
3. Body of Bliss
Terms to Know from this lecture:
Second turn of the Wheel of Dharma
Bodhicitta – The aspiration to attain Buddhahood for the sake of all living things
Body of bliss
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In Buddhism, actual objects of worship and adoration are ultimately illusory and superseded by true enlightenment.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
Mahayana Buddhism: New Insights
The magazine geek has become a movement. The emergence of the great vehicle, new insights, new developments. This is where things start getting exciting. I know you've already been overcome with excitement, but this is where things really begin to be interesting. This is what makes Buddhism Buddhism. This is what is known today as Buddhism. We will say Buddhism. They're not really referring primarily to the kind of things we've been discussing. At this point, though, that's the foundation in those doctrines and all of their. These developments are really, really important to the way Buddhism lives out. Up to this point, we have seen that the Songhai ideal, the monastic community ideal, is very dominant in Buddhism. As I mentioned, Paul Williams in our textbook on Mahayana, I think Overlay states his case, but his point needs to be heard yet to understand. His point is being made in the context of his knowledge of the whole field. So what he's acknowledging is that there's a long history of discussing Theravada in Mahayana in terms of a big class in late and monastic ideals. And so he's trying to say in the book, it's not that simple, we shouldn't make it that simplistic. And I think that's a fair enough point. But you don't go to the other extreme and not acknowledge that this is essentially a lay descent movement. And I want to prove it to you in their text, maybe four days out, because it's certainly there in the texts itself. So the real question becomes how these three tensions we looked at at the end, these three tensions in the councils actually get played out because this is one of the interesting facts of Christian history. Again, if you can integrate your church history knowledge at this point, be helpful.
If you remember in the fifth century, in our own tradition, our own history, you have the Council of Charleston for 51 A.D., the Council Charleston lays out the Christology. There are a lot of debates in that council that will be similar to debates that we're looking at here, trying to understand our own tradition. That's what these the seven ecumenical councils are all about. Now, what happens is at some point there is closure on that and there's some, you know, a meeting of the minds and some position becomes the orthodox position, which what happened in the case of the Council of Charleston. So you have Orthodox Christology, so which I think is biblical, and I fully affirm it. But what happens historically is not nearly as neat as that, because what happens historically when those kind of events take place, you have a division that takes place. You have an established orthodoxy, and then you have the heterodox group that is expelled. Now, when they become expelled, what do they do? Well, they have to travel. When they travel, they share their beliefs. So what happens is the expelled group becomes the missionaries, ends up. So you have an historian, for example, who take the gospel all the way to China along the Silk Road because they're being expelled and and persecuted across the Roman Empire, the Persian Empire, all the way across the historians. Many of them were guilty by association and then actually didn't have, thankfully, as corrupt theology as people associated with the nestorian heresy. That's not the whole story. I think the point I'm making for our case is that a similar thing happens in Buddhism and that the Buddhist Council will make certain decisions and certain people are expelled for being heretics.
And the clarity, the clergy, the monastic community, they essentially protect their power, they protect their position, and they want to distance the laypeople from too much power control. They go get marginalized, they go out and they begin to share Buddhism. So KING Ashoka, when he is empowering people to take these relics, the lady will volunteer, not the clergy, because they're tied to the monasteries. So what happened inadvertently is that Buddhism gets shared and preached in the non-Orthodox forms. Again, Paul Williams says it could have been orthodox forms if they had gone through the procedure properly. But what does it matter? I mean, today, what does it matter if you call Mahayana a great heresy or a new orthodoxy? The fact is Mahayana is the is 80% of Buddhism. So if that's that's at least normative Buddhism, whether a purist would call it heretical, Buddhism is a matter for people to debate even to this day. That's why I use the word Seminole in the opening lecture on the Four Level Truths and the other 13 teachings, because I think that's the key. We're looking at teaching that can be developed and grow. So what happened was the Ashoka's so-called dharmic conquest gives rise to an empowers the Maha Sanga, which are the great Assembly ites. These are the people that begin to be empowered to take the message of the Dharma out to the other far reaches of the realm. And eventually they go out into China and they go all the way out ultimately to Japan. So you have this traveling Buddhist, largely laypeople, and they began calling themselves the Mahayana, a term we've unfortunately had to use so much just to kind of keep talking about things up to this point. But we're now only officially now using this term.
Maha, of course, means great means great in many modern languages in Southeast Asia. It certainly means great in the ancient languages. MAHA And Yana is the word for a vehicle Mahayana. You can see in the title of Mahayana, which is called to This day. You can see that this has within it a form of dissent. That's why you can't downplay this dissent idea in Mahayana, because if you say we are the great vehicle, then of course that means that somebody else must be the little vehicle. And so they call the elders the little vehicle Han Ayana. And so to this day, Buddhism is largely divided between Henry and Mahayana. Eventually, we're going to develop the third vehicle, which is the Tibetan Buddhism, Vajrayana. So you have the little vehicle, the great vehicle, the Thunderbolt vehicle, sometimes called universal Buddhism, Messianic Buddhism, apocalyptic Buddhism. There are different terms for these vehicles, but we're now seeing the emergence of multiple vehicles or pathways to achieve Buddhist enlightenment. This comes back to Karl's question at the start of the day today about isn't this discouraging If you have this monastic kind of pressure on somebody to achieve alignment? Well, we have actually all kinds of possibilities now, because now we're going to see another track develop rather than the our Heart Enlightenment Nirvana track, which is kind of what we've been looking at at this point in everything related to the monastic life and vows and all that. You now have a new possibility that's going to be developing to also achieve nirvana, but without going through the right stage, this is going to be a lay kind of development. One of the problems with the way we use language and I think that maybe just well of just a status and then we can not worry about anymore is technically speaking, the way of the elders or the elder tradition is broader than Theravada.
But in the modern world, every school of ancient tradition has died out except for Theravada, and therefore, practically speaking, the terms the elder tradition, the ancient tradition, the Himalayan Theravada are more or less used interchangeably. So for our purposes in this class, we're not going to develop sub schools within the little tradition that eventually get die out because it would be unnecessary for us to do that. So we're going to be more or less using well, we will be using Henry Yana Theravada interchangeably, we'll say Way of the elders, Theravada Hindi, Yana, all that will be used interchangeably. So we're now having two groups. Now we have the little vehicle, the big vehicle, Hindi. Yana Mahayana. The result is a massive growth in Lay Buddhism. People who we're advocating and we'll see the details this later, but what does it mean to be a Buddhist as a layperson? Can a layperson have any hope for enlightenment? And is there any possible help? This is the real key question Is there assistance available? Because maybe there's somebody who has gone to the point of enlightenment, has denied their own moksha, and come back to another lifetime by choice to help other people. Can we get help from these people? So this is what we want to explore. So. The Mahayana doctrines. It's an umbrella of doctrines. I essentially claim three insights that they have, and we have here the three insights of Mahayana Buddhism. Let's just look at these one by one and try not to be too distracted by all of this because important to take each of these in and there stand it and then we'll go to each of the three insights. The first insight is that the Buddha taught secret truths. Now, this is going to be the first sign that the baskets are going to now have open lids.
The lids are coming off of the baskets because now we no longer have a close canon, the tripod tarka, the three baskets of the discipline, the discourses, and the higher teaching that we looked at earlier, because the first thing people would say is, Well, do you tell me that my teaching or our teachings is is contradictory to the type of Taka? It's because you don't have the full teaching of the Buddha. The Buddha taught some things secretly to some of his disciples who were ready for it. Now, this is a classic motif in Hinduism, where teachers would teach people as they were able to receive it. And so what I taught one disciple, it would be to a certain level, and you would teach somebody else something more deeply, more insightful at another level. Many levels of teaching that's very, very classically Eastern. They make this now part of their platform. It is comparable in the sense that they believe that there are sacred teachings, that that parallel is definitely there between Gnosticism and in Buddhism. The idea that certain people have certain knowledge that others do not have and it does not have the biblical idea as as you know, when Paul uses the word mystery, he uses it to mean something that his was once disclosed. It's now been revealed and proclaimed openly everybody in the ecosphere, in the church, but in the eastern religions, it's always things that are often concealed and only known. Even the commentaries, the famous Hindu commentaries are so difficult you can't read them because you had to have people who had commentaries on the commentaries because they would personally they would they would write things very cryptically that only their disciples understand what they were teaching. So this is not at all a surprise, but this is part of what they are saying now.
What does it practically mean? What kind of secret it as well? You first get the idea for the first time here, and this is one of our terms, the back of the sheet about turning the wheel of Dharma a second time. Now that is actually becomes kind of a formal phrase, and I think I've included that here. Yeah. The second turn of the wheel of Dharma number four and back of your A handout, because the idea is that when the Buddha turn the wheel of Dharma one time on the wheel of teaching, it emitted out into the world the 13 core teachings that we've looked at in the last lecture, the affordable truths, the three targets, the five, the three temperaments, the five aggregates, and the one I'm a part of. Well, now they're saying that in addition to that, and that by extension, the first of all, the Dharma actually includes not just the two sermons, but the whole of the compilation of the first council. So all of those teachings that are in the type of taco represents one turn of the wheel of Dharma. What they say is what you don't realize is the Buddha secretly turn the wheel of Dharma a second time for people who are ready for it. And there were certain disciples who received some of this higher elite teaching that was not available to the other people who followed him. This is pretty radical stuff. So this is a whole new range of teachings that are that are being admitted forth. And generally that involves, as you can see here, generally conceptions of a higher wisdom course called prize, not perimeter. It's one of the three ideas looked at this idea of higher wisdom, higher conscious in the text.
You'll see a lot of things about a disciple who is talking to the Buddha and he's hearing the some exposition of the 13 teachings, some aspect of the type of taka. But then in the midst of that, even though he's in the midst of a disciples, they're all in a group here learning. And so the Buddha is expounding on the teachings that are all consistent with the first turn of the will of Dharma. And suddenly this disciple claims that he was given this I this prize parameter i i of higher. Wisdom and everybody else was hearing X, but he was able to almost have a out-of-body experience so he could look down and see himself learning this. But he's also another level learning y. And so you end up with this very gnostic kind of conception of a kind of higher teaching that is given. And you'll find in the texts a lot of this expression about where the and this was a different translation of the years, but with the passing of how to meet the eye, with the eye of higher consciousness, with the eye of enlightenment, I saw this. That is what we're talking about. The next thing that happens in the sacred truths is this idea of expanded, transcendent destinations between now and Nirvana. What they're doing is actually going back to our original chart on a chart of the will of Samsara, because you remember in the original Buddhist vision, supposedly you have this wheel of Samsara that contains the 12 interlinking things that arise. Yet the mode part of this becomes the Buddhist vision of samsara, of the world, of the phenomenal world. And then we mentioned, at least in passing, that there were these different chambers in the Wheel of Samsara.
Well, these in this conception, these are very general kind of chambers, okay? There's this realm of ghost, there's this realm of titans is this realm of human beings. There's a realm of animals and all this. Okay, what does that mean? That's a very general kind of thing is under Mahayana that this becomes greatly developed and all of these chambers get mapped and discussed. And now there's all kinds of insight into all kinds of figures, real living people that are in these chambers that you can know and pray to and go to when you die and all the rest. We'll look at examples of this. But essentially you have a massively expanded conception of this kind of, you know, I use here transcendence, but this is transcendence at that lower level. So let me try to explain this. And when you die, you have, we'll say, 100 lifetimes before you go to Nirvana. What happens when you die in these lifetimes? Well, you haven't reached Nirvana. So rather than just saying, well, you die and then you going to come back, you die and you come back. You die and come back. And someday, hopefully you'll be in a nirvana that's too nondescript. They say when you die because of you. What you've done in this life, because you've reached this stage, when you die, you go to this heavenly realm and there you will fellowship where this particular enlightened being there, you will meet with so-and-so. That's the pure land, that's the happy land, that's the whatever, and that's where you're going to have fellowship. And it's essentially discussed in the same way that we talk about heaven. Oh, this is how blessed people are going to be eating together. And it's a wonderful time.
And people, Oh, I can't wait till I die and join this particular bodhisattvas. They call this these figures. But see, this is all within the realm of samsara. We're not talking about ultimately transcendent, but is transcendent from where we are now. This is somewhere in some heavenly realm that you can't see, but this is there and you're going to be fellowship in an engagement. So now this is expanded and this is mapped out and this gives you it fills you in on all kinds of opportunities between the now where you are now, whatever your migrations may be, you're transmigration where your point of your maturity may be between now and nirvana. That's a long stretch for people. So here you have all kinds of possibilities. And so people talk about dying and going to heaven, but they're not what heaven as we don't have in Atlantis, this intermediate chamber of the will of samsara. Yes, it's up to you. So you go you go to this day and you would die in this heaven and then come out of that. How do you get out of the immediate right that you're there for? It is not really dying in heaven, but there is a period after experiencing that bliss, you're going to come back because you still have some sort of self or self-consciousness. And so, yeah, you're reborn out of the pure land or out of this chamber into the earthly existence again, because you have karma. And if you're free from karma, you wouldn't be reborn. You'd be out of the whole thing of collapse. So anybody that's in this realm is in one of two conditions. Either you have karma and you cannot escape yet so will some sort, which is most people situation or you have escaped the but you've chosen to stay there to help other people which will develop more like the whole concept of staying back to help.
But. Those are the only two categories. Okay. So the main insight here is that there are secret truths being taught by the Buddha, and people have supposedly kind of a divine eye into seeing things that everybody else was not able to see. The second, even more evolutionary insight of Mahayana is that the Buddha was a divine being and a dharmic concept, not just an earthly figure. So we start seeing not only an expansion of the teaching, but an expansion of the Buddha himself. So if you remember the three jewels of Terra Varda are the Buddha, the Dharma, the Sunnah, what we're basically seeing is an expansion of all three of these. The Buddha gets expanded and developed theologically, and so you'll see as it was, eventually there's many Buddhas and the Buddha himself is understood differently. And then the Dharma expands with the type of Taka opened up into new teachings. The baskets are open and then you have the expansion of the sangha. So it's not just the elite monastic community, but there's now this global community, lay community of Buddhist everywhere. So essentially the basic Mahayana insights involve an expansion of things that were present in Buddhism. The three jewels, the 13 teachings, but are being brought out and filled out and expanded into the so called great vehicle, Mahayana. It's what's called the big vehicle. The other is the little vehicle. So you have the term Buddha here is going under a transformation. Buddha is not just an earthly figure who came and taught. So you start seeing a disconnect between Siddartha, Gautama and the term Buddha. Now, that is heresy for caravans, because the turbans, as we saw them, for to separate the Buddha from Siddartha, Gautama is as shocking, as revolting as Christians separating Jesus of Nazareth from the Christ.
The Christ and to Nazareth are the same figures. You cannot separate the Christ of faith from the Jesus of history. That same tension in Christian theology between the Jesus of history and the Christ of faith occurs in Buddhism. You have the Buddha of history and the Buddhism of faith. And so they essentially began to allow this gap to develop and grow again. Is this seminal teaching, this developed as part of the original vision? Is this a heresy? Is something that people to this day will debate based on what where you stand in the Buddhist camp? But no doubt this has become normative in Buddhism. Normative Buddhism represents this kind of idea. So now you have, as I mentioned before, the Zen saying, if you meet the Buddha on the road, you should kill him. Because the idea is that that historical Buddha is not nearly as important as the dharma that he embodies. So the term Buddha now becomes kind of an extension of a dharmic concept. He's just the embodiment of a teaching, and the teaching transcends his body, which is discarded, which is a very Buddhist idea anyway. So again, it's consistent with the Buddhist vision in some respects, because the Buddha got old and died. There's no problem with the Buddha dying in the Buddhist worldview. So you have kind of this greater Buddha idea. So that becomes an insight which is important and will be exported a lot in Buddhist history. And that leads to the third insight. Which is very dramatic, and that is point blank. Was not the only Buddha. So the idea of the tathagata, the, you know, the supremely enlightened one, everything rooted into the teaching of this particular Buddha is now thrown out, or at least not thrown out, but added to by saying that the Buddha is actually multiplied.
And there are if you know, if the Buddha came to Earth once, what can he come? Many times? Why do we limiting it to one time? This would be like saying what many liberals say in the Christian camp, saying, Well, because God came to Earth once in Jesus of Nazareth, why couldn't he come other times? And maybe Muhammad, maybe this person, that person is an incarnation of the Buddha. And so once you do that, you begin to have competing teachings because you have different figures. If you said Confucius and and Muhammad and Buddha and Jesus are all kind of manifestations of God on earth, if you accept that basic principle, then you have to allow for this tremendous new diversity of teaching that's self-contradictory. And they explain by saying, well, that's because different people with different illnesses need different kinds of, you know, medicine. And so the medicine of Islam is different in medicine of Buddhism, but ultimately, it'll all save you. That's a kind of a general analogy, but that's the kind of thing happens within Buddhism, is that you have now the possibility of a lot more new teachings because you now have more than one Buddha. And then once you have more than one Buddha, that obviously takes away the emphasis and the importance of the first council, because the first council was to canonize what the Buddha taught. But that whole thing presupposes that that makes the Buddha's teachings somehow significant in and of itself. But if you have multiple teachers, then you have potentially other canons. Now, I know when I walk into the monastery in Dehradun, and this is true in many monasteries in the Buddhist world, they'll have their scriptures wrapped up in little cloths, in little boxes or just in cloth.
And the key in these cases, in the Tibetan religion from Buddhism, they have thousands of scriptures. You think reading the Bible is a daunting task? That is nothing. They will have thousands of books that big, that represent their teachings, their primary source teachings now, not just commentaries on their primary documents. So this becomes quite unwieldy. So what happens is people will specialize in certain documents. We'll look at some of those today if we have time. And that becomes the, you know, their texts that they focus on. So you're seeing a potential development that is quite dramatic. Before I mention any more of this, let me just pause and just see if we're on the same you know, if we're making or tracking here. Do you understand the dramatic nature of this development and the significance of the Mahayana development? Heresy critique? How are you going to put it this that's emerging? This is a very at least we can see potentially. Now, we haven't got into the details of at least we can see potentially this has huge implications for Buddhist practice in the world, and we'll see that. Indeed it does. But questions or comments completely off topic that there's no devotional element like the programs carrying the torch, the hair or even in the temples. When you see Buddha, it's. No, there's definitely a devotional element. Yeah, definitely. I mean, it doesn't get fully explored until Mahayana really develops it. So we're not we haven't really exposed it yet. But if you, you know, again, that goes into these various tensions within Buddhism, but there is a strong development of devotional ism, which is why I remember in Hinduism, the whole book, the movement develops as well as a third branch of Hinduism that says as a reply to Buddhism, because they saw this in Buddhism.
So this is something that's definitely strong in Buddhism, the whole devotional idea, devoting yourself to a particular transcendent figure about what happens, essentially just to track the three vehicles in your mind you have in the little vehicle, you've got a distant Buddha back in time somewhere. That's the Buddha. He's somewhere back there that lived in for 68 B.C. In Mahayana, you have these Buddhas, we'll call them bodhisattvas, enlightened beings that are in this transcendent realm of samsara. They're there to help you, assist you, guide you, whatever. So you have in one vehicle a Buddha back in time, one person. Then you've got these Buddhas that are in some transcendent realm in Mahayana and then in Vajrayana. On Tibetan Buddhism, you have the Buddhas that are right with you. In the case, like the Dalai Lama, he is not somebody in some transient realm. He's right here. He walks with us. He lives with us, he teaches us. He is here now. And so the Buddha becomes more and more close to the follower from some distant figure to the somebody you can pray to and go to and you die to. Then to someone you can actually see and touch and worship and whatever right here in this life in Tibetan. So that you can see even now, though, that's getting ahead of ourselves, that the vehicles of Buddhism have very different ideas about what the Buddha is and how to interact with the Buddha and where the Buddha is somewhere in history, somewhere you can pray to or someone that you can actually see and is incarnate with us now. So that affects the devotional side because people are devoted to these beings in these transcendent realms and will worship them and follow them.
Yes, In fact, there is the fact that there are so many scriptures, so many texts and so much secret knowledge. Does that foster sort of an overwhelming feeling that there's some sort of secret key out there that I haven't haven't gotten yet because it's just such masses of material to go through? Definitely. I mean, you definitely find even major Buddhist scholars who spent their lifetime studying like Honan, for example, who at one point expressed his basically that point he said, you know, I really can't. No human being can ever discover, read all these texts. And therefore he actually says, I'm doomed to hell because of this. And therefore all I know to do is to say, okay, I'm going to choose this particular path. I'm going to try and hope that it works out. I mean, it's really, really sad because this is a major Buddhist scholar who basically says that in his case he's fallen this particular thing called the number two and the purely in Buddhism that he's just going to throw in his life. But he says very plainly in the text, I can't possibly read all of these texts, therefore I just have to go with go with what I know, go what I've been taught, because it is a bit overwhelming. Yes. To your life. Inside the room to that of the divine being your evidence of miracles. And I think it did, because if you remember in the first lecture we talked about what happened to the Buddha during his time on the body tree. And one of things we talked about was that he went through these diagnose these stages and then experienced the six super analogies. Okay. That whole discussion involves observing in the Buddha things that we would identify as being superhuman.
You're walking on water, passing through solid space, all of that. So because of that, it became, you know, a natural step to attribute him, therefore to deity. The other thing that happened was syncretism, because Mahayana begins to encounter religions that that worshiped various gods. And so it wasn't hard to imagine that the Buddha must be some kind of incarnation of a God of some kind. So as it gets away from Hinduism and becomes more less threatened by Hinduism, then these things can be brought into Buddhism. So these are all developments largely based on their the stories are told in things they encounter. Other thoughts or comments. Yes, Carl would seem that Theravada Buddhism would be less susceptible to syncretism, but I know that this doesn't bear out reality. Well, today it seems that way. It would seem that way. The problem is that there's two kinds of syncretism. There's one, there's heresy within a religion, and there's changes occur because of the context you're in. And I think in the case of Thailand, for example, with the kind of, you know, Bastar the context of tribal religions has influenced, you know, Tora Bora. And there's actually been a there's a lady at Oxford a few years ago who did a Ph.D. study on Theravada Buddhism. And what she basically was trying to determine was how much syncretism is present in Theravada, even in places like Sri Lanka. And what she found was that Theravada has a lot more diversity than they claim. And there's a lot of these we haven't discussed it yet, but what they call tantrums, tantric practices, magical practices that are being done by parents that are largely because of influence from these tribal religions that they've been exposed to. So like in all religious discussion, you have the ideal and then you have the practice of it.
And we have to always keep that in mind when you get on the field. Yes. Insurgent attacks in. The Apprentice that. Definitely. Yeah, that's true. That's true. My master's thesis, Princeton was actually on this same question, except with Islam. And I was looking at four different groups in that jury and how they practiced Islam. And I found that within Islam in Nigeria, you have a wide range of actual practice of Islam variously affected by traditional African practices. This is a phenomena that you'll find in the, you know, the way people live out their faith. I it's true in America, you look at the influence of secularism, secularization and and our modern modernization of the church, it's quite profound. So how do you reinstitute biblical Christianity? Most of that? It's not easy to always separate. So Buddhism becomes more gentle, more accepting, less harsh and critical as it leaves the subcontinent and leaves its long standing harsh conflict with the Brahmins away from the Tatas or the elders. The position of the our heart can more easily be challenged. Now you have the emergence, and this is probably the greatest example of the my own inside of this figure, these transcendent figures that they believe is clearly a category that many possible indigenous religions put their God into. So, for example, if you come to a, you're spreading Buddhism. If you're just in a monastery in Varanasi, it's easy just to kind of take to teaching and going about your business. But when you're out as a missionary and you're spreading the gospel and so you meet a tribal people who say, We worship so-and-so, and what are you talking about? Oh, well, that God that you worship is just one of the enlightened beings in our pantheon.
You know, it's just part of the this is the great, you know, absorbing nature of Eastern religions. And so a lot of these bodhisattvas, as they call them, these enlightened beings, are probably picked up and slightly baptized in the Buddhist thought, but become essentially adapted into the Buddhist constellation of thought. So the emergence of what's called a bodhisattvas is really, really important. Now let's look at this word carefully, because this is a word that you should which should roll off your lips, body sight for body sight for bodhisattva. You should just every time you see somebody say, pray for a body saatva pray they'll come to Jesus because you need that. This term is really, really important. In Mahayana, it's probably the most widely used words in Mahayana, the word body we already know from the body tree. This is a word for enlightenment, the word sort. If you had Hinduism, you know, that term already sort is the term for being. So this would be an enlightened being. This tawa is the suffix, which means, you know, one who is. So you have a one who is an enlightened one being who is enlightened. So this is enlightened being this should not say the body sought for bath, but the Buddhist path is the handout also does that. I hope not. It doesn't say, does it? Okay. Okay, good. So there is no, to my knowledge, any body sort for baths. So you see, there is now two tracks that are developing in this whole development. You have the monastic path leading to our hot hood. That's the term for the monastic life and nirvana, the messianic path leading to. But cheetah will culminate in Nirvana. Now, oftentimes you'll find Henry, Yana and Mahayana or Theravada Mahayana referred to as monastic Buddhism and messianic Buddhism.
This is one of the ways the many, many ways these are distinguished. Now, the reason it's called Messianic is because just the word messiah that there is this body bodhisattvas, for some enlightened being in the transcendent realm is going to help you. So we'll say you were on the eightfold path. Okay, now here's Nirvana. You are trying to go through the eightfold path through dozens and dozens, dozens of lifetime, hundreds of lifetimes. So here you are, you progressing and you're now at this point right here, you'll say you're at, you know, level three of the eightfold path. And every level has all these fetters and different barriers and challenges. And so you're going through various lifetimes to penetrate through this part of the eightfold path on your way to Nirvana. Now, the Buddha has said there is a path which leads to the cessation of suffering. So the Buddha is saying anybody can get on this path. And if you follow it, you eventually get nirvana. So that's the vote of the good news of Buddhism that there is a path. I've seen it. I know it's there. You know, it's like a great Gurkha or something. You know, I've traveled that path. I know the way you know, you follow me. The problem is, in order to get there, you may go through thousands a lifetime. That's very discouraging. The average person can't get their head around that. The average person who's not a monk, they know they're out of the loop. They can't even get on to this path. And so there's always problems. So what if you have a bodhisattvas in a transcendent realm that is looking down on you and can help you and can transport you from here to here just by saying their name.
That is very powerful. If I can, just by reciting the name of a body and trusting in him for my salvation, put my faith in vote. His cipher, I will be saved. You now have all kinds of new possibilities because you have this whole savior conception. Now you can see that tremendous challenge and possibilities of Christian theology, because here you have a situation where bodies are told you cannot save yourself very easily through foreign aid for path because it's so many thousands of lifetimes. It's almost a sense of, okay, the law is there. It's like it is conceivable that someone who perfectly obey the law could could achieve righteousness. But it's impossible. I can't do it. I have no power within me, None posse none. Because I'm not able not to sin. I'm stuck in this situation. So here you have a savior who who's brought into the situation, and now they're saying if you put your faith in the savior, the Savior will deliver you and we'll help you along the eightfold path. And that's a conception is totally absent from Hinduism. I mean, these pre Buddhist Hinduism, it's there today in Hinduism only because of Buddhism. So this is a totally new idea, because Buddhism introduces the idea of vicarious ness. That's something that's totally absent from Hinduism. In Hinduism, your karma is your karma. I tell the story my other book on India, how this guy, you know, is is a drunken, slothful man who drinks himself to oblivion every night. And he every Friday he gets paid and he gambles his money away and he has destitute wife and children. And these Indian writers, 19th century, were pointing out that that person or that woman and child children who are suffering are not suffering because of that man's drunkenness and gambling their money away.
They are suffering because of their karma. He's suffering because of his karma. You cannot affect anybody else because of your karma. In Hinduism, it's impossible. It's totally your karma. You. It's not just as he often say. You reap what you sow. That's like the typical definition of karma. No, it's more than that. It's you alone. Reap what you alone. So that's a different because that means there's no vicarious this. You cannot help someone out. You can't hurt someone else ever done their own path. So Buddhism starts out that way. But with Mahayana you have this massive breakthrough where now you have a messianic infusion, where now ethics is involved. Here's somebody who goes through thousands of lifetimes, they finally get to the point of nirvana. They are going to step off the wheel of samsara, go into nothingness, go into emptiness, Juniata, Whatever. But. Right. And they step off. They say, No, I'm not going to do that. I'm going to deny my moksha. I'm going to delay, okay? I'm going to step back on the wheel of samsara. Now, the minute you have that theology, you introduce ethics into Eastern religions. There is no ethics in Hinduism. And so suddenly you have the conception of I'm going to deny myself this blissful experience of nirvana. I'm going to be willing to accept more suffering by staying on the will of Samsara. I want to come back and help and assist you get enlightenment. That's a very important theological development because that creates a new possibility. So instead of becoming a monk in our heart, instead all you need is what's called body cheetah. Again, the word body means enlightenment. And this word cheetah is the word for mind. You need to have an enlightened mind.
That is to say, you need to have the aspiration inside yourself to be a Buddha and to attain Buddha had in order to help other people. Then you can go into nirvana. This is a huge development because now a. Transcendent, being a body sought for rather than some monk who's teaching you certain kinds of techniques will lead you onward to enlightenment. You can now call on countless beings to assist you. That's what's called a messianic path. There's now a whole realm of saviors prepared to save you and to help you eventually. You can even have your own realm in heaven where you go to help and protect and to save people and so forth. Yes, I really can't get paid for that. That's the thing that these people it's like in Catholic Catholicism, it's works of super irrigation. In Hinduism, you can only pay for your karma. End of story. That's why if someone suffered on the streets of India, there's no reason why I should help that person. Because they're getting what they deserve. There's no problem of evil in Hinduism because a suffering child with leukemia is not all that poor child. Innocent child has leukemia. That child suffering because they did something the previous lifetime, they deserve it. So it cuts off the whole ethical tether. But in this concept, you don't have that because now the bodhisattvas says I have gained extra merit that I don't need. I have more merit than I had karma. And by coming back, I gain even more merit to help you out of compassion. Therefore, I'm going to transfer my merit to you. Well, this is obviously a very Christian idea, and therefore I'm going to essentially pay off your debts for you. He paid a debt he did not owe.
I owed a debt I could not pay. That concept is definitely there now. You know, we have to develop this further to the point where they say one of the problems I have with this whole idea is that ultimately the bodhisattvas realize this is too much to take, then just ignore this. But where we're held, beheaded is the body. Suppose actually realize that even they themselves cannot be saved until everyone is saved. And so ultimately we're all linked together in this salvific process. And so at the end of the day, everyone realizes that you've got to have my merit even for me to be saved. But that's another that confuses you. Forget about it. But there's a lot more to be said on this point. But that is certainly there. The idea of paying debts and helping someone else. Their karma is critical for Mahayana. If the Bodhisattvas are in every one of them in a different realm. What do they come? I come all the way back to earth as human beings and help. Or do they kind of come to an intermediate state and you pray to understand how that works? You mean in Mahayana? You know, in Mahayana, the Bodhisattvas are in the transcendent realm. So they are coming back to the wheel of samsara, which you realize is heaven, and heaven is part of the will of samsara. Right. So even though they're dwelling in heaven. That's what I'm saying. By stepping back a little samsara so they are not dwelling in your immediate presence that you can see and touch the way you are in Tibetan Buddhism. But you do have monks who are clever followers of this particular bodhisattva that will teach you how to have a relationship with his body, how to pray to him or her, whatever they are.
But you're right, they are bodhisattvas that they claim had earthly origin that people did study under, like they'll say, Auslander, this certain monk who is now a Buddhist cipher. So you could conceivably say that I at one time studied under this person who became a body sight in the present realm. And that sense, you could say that, but that's only looking back after he dies. And suppose he goes into this realm. Information regarding. Kind of like Avatar of, well, Buddhism, like Hinduism, accepts the idea of avatars. And so these it is true, these transcendent bodhisattvas at times can manifest themselves on Earth in various ways, but they matter themselves, not as the body sought for, but as something in disguise. And it could at times be a teacher. But sometimes, for example, it could be a dog. I mean, one of the most famous stories is they're trying to find ways to bring out people's compassion. And so in India, as you might know, if you're ever in India, you'll know that there's like thousands of little mangy dogs that run around everywhere. The knight nobody owns are just everywhere. And they have this classic kind of like, you know, curled tail. You can see their bones sticking through their fur. I'm sure you saw tons of these in Bihar, Right. And parts of India, even India. Anyway, they're everywhere. And so they're they're kind of going through the garbage and all this. And so people who see those dogs, they always carry disease and they're flea ridden and they're just covered in filth in us. So we see one the only kind of you have one is throw a stick at it. All right. So this body, Saatva incarnates himself as one of those dogs.
So this person had been for years and years and years trying to get in touch with this. You have a transcendent encounter with this bodhisattva through prayer, meditation, all this stuff. This is all part of the descent about meditation versus action in the world. See, So this story tells this guy's walking along and he sees one of these dogs, but rather than hating the dog, he has compassion. I guess the whole Buddhist thing have compassion on every sentient being. So he has compassion and so he picks the dog up and he pats the dog and he, you know, cleaned it up and did whatever feeds it or whatever. And when he does that, this dog comes transcendent and to this bodhisattva. And he realizes that actually he was you know, that was what he was looking for all these years. And the idea behind it was that if you show compassion to every sentient being, then you are ultimately worshiping God or worshiping these disciples also develops the idea, which if we have time, we'll look at that inside of every person is the womb or embryo of the Buddha kind of in seed form, and therefore everyone has a potential Buddha inside them. So in that sense is not out there, but it's inside here. That idea also develops in Buddhism. So there are ways that you can encounter this, you know, realize this in yourself and all that is part of the Buddhist worldview so they can become incarnate. But basically, with some exceptions, the main way to encounter these bodhisattvas is in transcendent realms. The main way the incarnations are exceptions or interruptions into their usual state or the best way to look at it. Well, my people. Well, the Mahayana is because it's a non monastic emphasis.
They don't want to be called our arts because that's a monastic term and you get involved in some place they thought is what lama and not another priest. Right. The lamas is. That's a whole nother discussion, which we'll have later. We should wait on that. And I do want to I do want to keep Tibetans himself to separate, because if you start bringing Tibetan Buddhism into this, it will make this story much more complicated. So it's much better to develop it as a third separate vehicle. So we'll do that. Okay. Other questions? Yes. Quickly, There is this idea of I don't know if you want to use the word atonement, but this precariousness of areas. Yes. Yes. But in Privada, it's still a huge district. You know, your karma is your karma. You paid for it. Yes. Yes. If there's anything in terms of that, it's a compromise of the terrible vision. So the terrible vision is straight out works righteousness. The my heaven vision is salvation through faith. So occasionally you hear people say, I hear this all the time, and may I'm sensitive to him, he will say, Christianity's the only religion that has salvation through faith. But this is not true. What is true is that Christianity is propounded from the beginning as salvation through faith, Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, all three do not have that as their root. That is true, but all three Islam, Buddhism and Hinduism develop major traditions that include that very concept, which to me testifies to the gospel again because it shows that people realize they cannot save themselves. They cannot save themselves. They feel a sense of futility. There is a witness of God in the hour of our own human sinfulness. And therefore people long for someone to save them.
And so they develop these ideas. In the case of Islam, you have the the development within the Sufi tradition where these Sufi saints can can transfer merit to you. In the case of Hinduism, you have the same thing develop as this is reaction to this world. You devote yourself to a particular Hindu god and you trust Krishna in Krishna will liberate you from your sins. And in Buddhism, the developed of Mahayana. So this this is a development that becomes very central to all major world religions. So the three jewels of Theravada have been exploded into the three insights of Mahayana. So each of the three insights are expansions of the teaching or person of Buddha and the or the Dharma. So you have the the Buddha, the Dharma, the song that have now been expanded. That's the general kind of foundation of Jana, just as you have the three jewels as the foundation of Theravada. You have the three insights of Mahayana, and later you'll see the three fires of Vajrayana on the three jewels, the three insights, the three fires. And so Theravada lays out the three basic, you know, gems of the Buddhist thought and these three, quote, jewels. Mahayana takes them, expands them in all this insight. Vajrayana fires them up with all kinds of tantra them and all kinds of mystical practices. And it's going to be really, really wild. But you have this development within Buddhism. But we're taking it step by step. Now, what we have to do now, I think to best develop Mahayana, is to explore in more detail this concept of Buddha, really the Buddha and the Dharma all kind of building together here. But we need to see what does Mahayana do with the Buddha, and how does this tie into the so-called secret teachings? Because on one hand they are saying, okay, we're not denying there was an historical Buddha that lived and taught and died, but we're saying that we have a greater insight into the Buddha who taught and lived and died.
And so by doing that, they have to develop doctrinally a exposition of the Buddha. So this is known as the three fold body of Buddha. I'm not sure if I have this one the term, but it's called the trachea. I'm not sure if that's in your chart or not. It doesn't. If it's not, you don't need to know it. But it is important that these are three bodies. This is a very important doctrine of Mahayana Buddhism. So it's like the bodhisattva concept. It's it's critical to understanding how Mahayana operates. The. Of the threefold body of Buddha, the trachea. What they have done is they have like everything else, they're expanding on Theravada. So what they do is they say that the Theravada only understand one of the bodies of Buddha, what they call the apparition body. And I've put in parentheses to make it very clear that when they say apparition body, they mean the historical body. Apparition Bryce may mean different things, but what they mean by that, because Buddhism does not accept any reality, that no person walking around can be talked about in the kind of ways that we would. And so they use the term apparition, but they're talking about the historical body. So they accept the idea. This is actually called the word for apparition is the near minor, the No. Minor Kaiya. They call it the apparition body. And what that means is this is the Buddha that was born in Nepal, that taught the Dharma in Kashi in Varanasi, and who turned the wheel of Dharma several times. That is the historical Buddha who lived and died and taught the doctrine. Now, they don't believe that this is a one time reality, but a reality that can be repeated.
But they are acknowledging the apparition by the historical body of the Buddha or Buddhas that may from time to time historically appear. So you have an expansion even within this, because they don't really believe in just an historical body, but historical bodies. But the concept of a living teacher who teaches is there. The second body of Buddha is known as the Dharma body, sometimes called the body of Essence. And this is difficult. We're going to have to take time later to fully explore this when we develop some of the Buddhist philosophy. But essentially, this is the idea that the whole universe is undergirded by the Dharma. The teaching of the Buddha undergirds everything, and therefore this Dharma body serves as a very care of my words here, a functional ontology. In other words, you cannot actually run a system of thought without at some point rooting it in something. So the Dharma becomes kind of a philosophical replacement of God. It becomes like the way everything finds its source and its destination. You have a in a sense, a functional creation and a functional eschatology because the Dharma brings everything together. So again, these two schools of thought, Anamika and Yogyakarta are going to debate a lot about this. And I engage in this whole debate in my book and I explain kind of positions there. We're not yet at that point, but this is a kind of a functional reality in Buddhism. It's hard probably described, but a functional reality that operates in a way that gives some reality to the existence of the break. Someone asked me, you know, well, if you pinch a Buddhist, do they feel pain? You know the answer. Of course they do, because they accept the reality of the world.
As long as you use the word reality there with a little RR, it has a functional reality. It has an experiential reality. It has a reality that all the five senses which are part put it into a part to bring to us. So these things have arisen. This is when this arises, this arise, when this ceases, that ceases. That's the whole doctrine. Therefore, they don't deny that things are have arisen and therefore we do have experiences, we have our five senses, we have all the five aggregates that are accepting all that mind, consciousness, reflection, discrimination, body. So because you have the aggregates, you're going to have real senses, you're going to feel pain. If you fall in love with somebody and they break it off with you, you're going to feel that pain. If you have a death in your family, you're going to if you have a, you know, get a good great on an exam, you can feel that elation. That's all part of the phenomenal existence. They don't believe that has any ultimate reality, but they do believe it has functional reality. And so in this sense, this body kind of holds that up. The third body is the one that we've been talking about a little bit already in this upper chambers of samsara. This this is called the body of bliss. This is the heavenly Buddha. This is the chambers where one can experience the joy in presence of other bodhisattvas who have realized their Buddha nature. So the doctrine of bodhisattvas cites every Buddhist able to realize your. Proper Buddha be in your nature as an enlightened one, and therefore this becomes in itself one of the great bodies of Buddha. So in a way, all the bodhisattvas dwell within either the Buddha or within the Dharma.
Do you know who you are talking to? But they are basically, as the body of blessed, becomes kind of a heavenly experience of the Buddha that is encountered in various ways to the bodhisattvas or the enlightened beings. So this is a pretty dramatic development of the body for ideal in of the Buddhist ideal of the Buddha. So you have an expansion. So when they refer to the beauty of the Buddha, the body of the Buddha can mean any of these three things. And they had different words for this, because if they refer to the historical body, they use one word, they refer to the body of essence, they use one word if you're having to experience another word. But it's all called the Buddha. So this is kind of the Mahayana development. Okay. We are at the end of our time, so we will stop there and come back to develop further the texts that undergird the Mahayana teaching the Mahayana Sutras. Next time.