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Buddhism For Dummies


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Table of Contents

Introduction 1 About This Book 1 Conventions Used in This Book 2 How This Book is Organized 2 Part 1: Embarking on a Journey: The Basics of Buddhism 3 Part 2: A Short History of Buddhism 3 Part 3: Behaving Like a Buddhist 3 Part 4: Exploring the Buddhist Path 3 Part 5: The Part of Tens 4 Part 6: Appendixes 4 Icons Used in This Book 4 Where to Go from Here 5 Part 1: Embarking On a Journey: The Basics of Buddhism 7 Chapter 1: Entering the World of Buddhism: The Basics 9 Figuring Out Whether Buddhism is a Religion 10 Recognizing the Role of the Buddha 12 Understanding the Function of Philosophy in Buddhism 15 Appreciating Buddhist Practices 16 Living an ethical life 17 Examining your life through meditation 18 Practicing devotion 19 Dedicating Your Life to the Benefit of All Beings 19 Chapter 2: Understanding Your Mind: The Creator of All Experience 23 Recognizing How Your Mind Shapes Your Experience 24 Contrasting the Body and Mind 25 Approaching the Mind from Three Different Buddhist Perspectives 26 Recognizing the six major types of consciousness 27 Seeing how certain factors affect mental consciousness 28 Feeling around for your emotions 29 Appreciating the Fundamental Purity of Your Mind 31 Seeing that delusions can be remedied 31 Finding the sun behind the clouds 31 Tracing the Path of Wisdom and Loving Compassion 33 Wisdom: Removing the veils of misconception 33 Loving compassion: Opening your heart to others 34 Part 2: A Short History of Buddhism 37 Chapter 3: Surveying the Life and Teachings of the Historical Buddha 39 Revealing the Buddha's Early Life 40 A miraculous birth 42 An overprotective father 43 The prince marries: Imprisoned in palaces of pleasure 44 Forbidden knowledge revealed: The four visions 45 Beginning the Quest 46 Renouncing the royal life 46 Going to extremes and discovering the middle way 47 Sitting in the Shade of the Bodhi Tree: The Defeat of Mara 50 Benefiting Others: The Buddha's Career in Full Gear 52 Providing spiritual guidance: Turning the wheel of Dharma 52 Founding the community 53 Listening to the Buddha's final message: All things must pass 54 Understanding the Four Noble Truths 55 The truth of suffering 55 The truth of suffering's cause 57 The truth of suffering's cessation 59 The truth of the path 60 Envisioning the Future 63 The advent of Maitreya 63 Degeneration, followed by hope 64 Chapter 4: The Development of Buddhism on the Indian Subcontinent 67 Convening the First Buddhist Council 68 Gathering the council 68 Categorizing the teachings: The three baskets 69 Spreading the Teachings - Peacefully 70 A Fork in the Road: Managing a Developing Split in the Buddhist Community 71 Convening the Second Council 71 Advancing the teachings in different ways 72 Making Buddhism a Religion of the People: The Emperor Ashoka's Influence 73 Transforming his approach 73 Promoting Buddhism beyond India 74 Two Levels of Practice in Early Buddhism 76 Witnessing Shifting Allegiances and New Ideals 77 Turning to the stupas 78 Taking a ride in the Great Vehicle: Mahayana Buddhism 78 Recognizing the Major Mahayana Themes 79 Chronicling the Rise of the Mahayana Teachings 80 White Lotus of the Good Dharma Sutra 80 Exposition of Vimalakirti Sutra 81 Perfection of Wisdom Sutras 81 Descent into Lanka Sutra 82 World-Array Sutra 82 Land of Bliss Sutras 83 Looking at the Decline and Reappearance of Buddhism in India 84 Disappearing act 85 Reappearing in India 86 Moving Mountains: Buddhism in Nepal 86 Delving into Buddhist traditions of Nepal 87 Narrowing in on Newar Buddhism 87 Chapter 5: Watching Developments Continue to the Present Day 89 Tracing the Two Routes of Buddhism 90 Spreading the Way of the Elders Across Southeast Asia Theravada Buddhism takes root in Thailand 92 Vipassana meditation gains popularity in the West 94 Driving the Great Vehicle to China and Beyond 97 Watching Mahayana Buddhism evolve in China 98 Examining Flower Ornament and Tiantai: The great unifying systems 101 Chronicling Pure Land and other devotional schools 102 Zen: Taking root in the Far East - and the West 108 From Tibet to the West: Charting the movement of the Diamond Vehicle 114 Part 3: Behaving Like a Buddhist 125 Chapter 6: Turning to Buddhism 127 Proceeding at Your Own Pace 127 Taking responsibility for your own life 128 Determining your level of involvement 129 Getting Acquainted with the Teachings of Buddhism 130 Reading books on Buddhist teachings 131 Choosing a tradition 131 Receiving meditation instruction 132 Developing a meditation practice 133 Finding a teacher 133 Formally Becoming a Buddhist 135 Focusing on the importance of renunciation 135 Taking refuge in the Three Jewels 136 Receiving the precepts 137 Exploring further stages of practice 139 Entering the Monastic Way 140 Renouncing the world 140 Ordaining as a monk or nun 141 Dedicating your life to Buddhist practice 142 Chapter 7: Meditation: A Central Practice of Buddhism 145 Dispelling Some Meditation Myths 146 Defining Meditation 147 Exploring the Benefits of Meditation 149 Examining how neuroscientists see it 149 Recognizing the condition you're in 150 Cultivating equanimity 152 Turning an old phrase upside down: Don't do something - just sit there 153 Appreciating your life 156 Understanding the Threefold Nature of Buddhist Meditation 157 Developing mindful awareness 158 Deepening concentration 160 Developing penetrating insight 161 Developing the Three Wisdoms As the Foundation for Insight 162 Cultivating wisdom from listening to the teachings 163 Cultivating wisdom from reflecting on what you heard 164 Cultivating wisdom from meditating on what you understand 164 Chapter 8: A Day in the Life of a Buddhist Practitioner 167 Surveying the Role of Monasteries in Buddhism 168 Renouncing Worldly Attachments: A Day in the Life of a Western Buddhist Monk 169 Following a day in the life 170 Punctuating the calendar with special events 171 Growing a Lotus in the Mud: A Day in the Life of a Zen Practitioner 175 Following a day in the life 176 Attending silent retreats 179 Gathering for special events 181 Devoting Yourself to the Three Jewels: A Day in the Life of a Vajrayana Practitioner 181 Trusting the Mind of Amida: A Day in the Life of a Pure Land Buddhist 185 Chapter 9: Walking in the Buddha's Footsteps 187 Visiting the Primary Places of Pilgrimage 187 Lumbini: A visit to the Buddha's birthplace 189 Bodh Gaya: Place of enlightenment 190 Sarnath: The first teaching 193 Kushinagar: The Buddha's death 195 Seeing Other Important Pilgrimage Sites 195 Rajgir 195 Shravasti197 Sankashya 197 Nalanda 198 Going on Pilgrimage Today 198 Part 4: Exploring the Buddhist Path 201 Chapter 10: What is Enlightenment, Anyway? 203 Considering the Many Faces of Spiritual Realization 204 Reviewing the Theravada Tradition's Take on Nirvana 206 Defining nirvana 206 Revealing the four stages on the path to nirvana 207 Getting a Handle on Two Traditions of Wisdom 208 Realizing the Mind's Essential Purity in the Vajrayana Tradition 209 Taking the direct approach to realization 210 Understanding the complete enlightenment of a Buddha 211 Standing Nirvana on Its Head with Zen 211 Tuning in to the direct transmission from master to disciple 212 The ten ox-herding pictures 214 Finding the Common Threads in Buddhist Enlightenment 221 Chapter 11: A Matter of Life and Death 223 Taking Death Personally 224 Recognizing Your Life As a Rare and Precious Opportunity 226 Facing Reality: The Nine-Part Death Meditation 227 Understanding that your death is definite 228 Realizing that the time of your death is uncertain 230 Using death awareness as your spiritual ally 230 Reaping the Result of the Death Meditation 231 Dealing with the Death of a Loved One 232 Surveying Attitudes toward Death in Buddhist Traditions 232 Theravada: Getting off the wheel of existence 233 Vajrayana: Turning death itself into the path 235 Zen: Dying the "great death" before you die 236 Chapter 12: Minding the Concept of Karma 239 Appreciating the Law of Karmic Cause and Effect 239 Experiencing Karmic Consequences 240 Following the Buddha's Ethical Guidance 241 Exploring the Buddhist Precepts 242 Arranging the precepts behind three doors 243 Taking a deeper look at the ten nonvirtuous actions 244 Dealing with Transgressions 251 Atoning for mistakes 251 Purifying negative karma 252 Chapter 13: Breaking Free of the Cycle of Dissatisfaction 255 Feeling Like Life's a Big Rat Race 256 Spinning the Wheel of Life: The Meaning of Wandering in Samsara 257 Identifying the root delusions 260 Surveying the six realms of existence 263 Understanding the 12 links 266 Cutting through Suffering: The Three Trainings 271 Chapter 14: Fulfilling Your Highest Potential 275 Ordering a Round of Happiness for Everyone and Everything 276 Dedicating Your Heart to Others 277 Keeping it all in the family 278 Figuring out what all beings desire 279 Nurturing the Four Divine Abodes 281 Extending loving-kindness 281 Developing compassion 281 Nurturing sympathetic joy 283 Establishing equanimity 283 Cultivating the Six Perfections of a Bodhisattva 285 Practicing open-hearted generosity 286 Following the self-discipline of ethical behavior 287 Developing patience 288 Practicing with enthusiastic effort 290 Sharpening your concentration 291 Cultivating the ultimate perfection: Insightful wisdom 293 Chapter 15: Life Stories of Four Buddhist Masters 295 Dipa Ma (1911-1989) 296 Spending her early years as a wife and mother 296 Overcoming physical ailments through meditation 297 Sharing her story with others 298 Ajahn Chah (1918-1992) 299 Finding his way in the forest of life 300 Blazing the monastic trail 300 Thich Nhat Hanh (Born 1926) 301 Working for peace in times of war 302 Forging new beginnings from classic ideals 303 The Dalai Lama (Born 1935) 304 Understanding the legacy of reincarnation 305 Reviewing the early life of the present Dalai Lama 306 Dealing with the Chinese 308 Finding freedom in exile 309 Appreciating his interest in science 310 Embracing the role of Buddhist ambassador to the world 310 Part 5: The Part of Tens 313 Chapter 16: Ten Common Misconceptions about Buddhism 315 Buddhism is Only for Asians 316 To Buddhists, the Buddha is God 317 Buddhists are Idol Worshippers 317 Because Buddhists Think Life is Suffering, They Look Forward to Dying 318 Buddhists Think That Everything is an Illusion 318 Buddhists Don't Believe in Anything 319 Only Buddhists Can Practice Buddhism 320 Buddhists are Interested Only in Contemplating Their Navels 320 Buddhists Never Get Angry 321 "It's Just Your Karma; There's Nothing You Can Do about It" 322 Buddhists Don't Know How to Count 322 Chapter 17: Ten Ways Buddhism Can Help You Deal with Life's Problems 323 Affirming the Basic Principles 324 Applying the Basic Principles 324 Turning the page on your great expectations 325 Accepting change gracefully 325 Breaking up the concrete 326 Pretending to Be a Buddha 327 Watching your car rust 328 Seeing that what's yours isn't really yours 328 Feeling sorry for a thief 329 Tendering your resignation to pain 330 Turning off the projector 331 Dealing with uninvited houseguests 332 Part 6: Appendixes 335 Appendix A: Explaining Buddhist Terms 337 Appendix B: Additional Buddhist Resources to Check Out 343 Index 353

About the Author

Jonathan Landaw is the former English Translation Editor, Translation Bureau of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Stephan Bodian has studied and practices several schools of Buddhism. Gudrun Buhnemann, Professor, teaches the Sanskrit Language and its literature, along with courses on the religions of South Asia.

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