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The Spirit of the Buddha

The Spirit of the Buddha

Copyright Date: 2010
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Spirit of the Buddha
    Book Description:

    In this slim, enlightening volume, internationally recognized Buddhist teacher Martine Batchelor presents the basic tenets and teachings of the Buddha through a selection of essential texts from the Pali canon, the earliest Buddhist scriptures. Viewed by scholars as the actual substance of the historical teachings (and possibly even the words) of the Buddha, these texts are essential to an understanding of the Buddhist faith, and Batchelor illuminates them with her lucid analysis and interpretations. Both accessible to nonpractitioners and helpful to scholars,The Spirit of the Buddhatouches upon key themes, including dharma, compassion, meditation, and peace, among others, creating a panoramic view of one of the world's most widely practiced faiths that is deeply rooted in its most vital texts.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-17500-4
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. 1-9)

    In 1975, when I was twenty-two years old, I became a Zen nun in a Buddhist temple in South Korea. Since 1972 I had been living and working in London, where I became interested in Buddhism. I went to Tibetan Buddhist ceremonies, I read Zen books, and thought of doing Buddhist meditation. For this reason I decided to travel to Asia to find a meditative path.

    I went to Nepal and India, where I did not have much opportunity to experience Buddhist teachings and practices because, as a first time traveller, I had secured the wrong visa and had to...

    (pp. 10-28)

    The Buddha rarely talked about himself and his life prior to his awakening. In this passage, condensed by the translator, he presents himself. Gotama is the name of his clan and as a youth he was called Siddhatta Gotama. The legend about the Buddha’s life is that he was the prince of a kingdom. This legend was constituted over time and finalized in theBuddhacaritawritten by Ashvagosha in the second century CE. Scholars now believe that the Buddha was born and died in the fifth century BCE, which would make him a contemporary of Socrates. He was born in...

    (pp. 29-45)

    The word dhamma (in Pali; dharma in Sanskrit) was already found in the brahmanical tradition, where it meant the law of the universe and also the duty of each person. The Buddha used this term to refer to his teachings, but also sometimes to the way things work, or simply to denote things or phenomena in general. The Buddha taught for forty-five years and he was aware that for his teachings to spread and to survive accurately, they needed to be memorized and recited by a group, so groups of monks were set up to recite and memorize certain discourses....

    (pp. 46-64)

    At the beginning the way to become a monk was a simple procedure. As presented in the above quotation, a man shaved his head and beard, wore some yellow cloth and, kneeling with the palms together, just had to recite the triple refuge in the presence of the Buddha or an older monk. Shaving the hair and beard was a sign of renunciation but also a way to recognize each other as a group and for lay people to recognize the Buddhist monastics. In Thailand at the turn of the twentieth century when thieves impersonated monks to receive free food,...

    (pp. 65-80)

    The five hindrances are sensual desires, ill-will, torpor, restlessness and sceptical doubt. The Buddha compared the effects of sensual desires to colours swirling in a bowl of water. The water being tainted by the colours, one would not be able to see one’s face clearly on the surface of the water. In the same way, when we are submerged by sensual desires, our whole body and mind is suffused by attraction and lust, and it is hard to see clearly. The analogy for ill-will is that of the water in the bowl: when it is heated over a fire, bubbles...

    (pp. 81-93)

    In this poem the Buddha described the different types of happiness one can experience on the Buddhist path. To live on one’s own is happiness if one is contented after having studied the Dhamma and understood it. If one understands change, suffering and conditionality, and through meditation develops peace, one will feel confident and alive, and quite happy on one’s own.

    If someone cares for people and animals, has patience and understanding towards them, it will be easy to feel friendly towards whatever and whoever is alive. One will be able to relate in a positive manner and this will...

    (pp. 94-106)

    ‘Action’, in this instance, is the translation of the word karma. In the popular imagination karma seems to be equated with destiny or fate. But karma just means action, in Buddhist terms to act out of an intention conditioned by external and internal conditions, which in turn will have a certain result and will leave a certain imprint. In the Buddha’s time this was seen within the concept of rebirth. Thus one was said to be reborn in accordance with one’s actions, the intentions that motivated them, the way they were accomplished, and the result that ensued. Professor H. W....

    (pp. 107-114)

    This passage shows us that the Buddha’s concerns extended widely. He was not only focused on the well-being of his community and his followers but was also interested in how governing could be carried out in a harmless and peaceful way. He was not thinking in terms of doing so himself but of how a king or a group of people such as the Sakyans could govern in a better way. Most of his contact had been with the governing method of King Bimbisara in the Magadha kingdom, of King Pasenadi of the Kosala kingdom, and the republic of the...

    (pp. 115-122)

    Gotami, the aunt of the Buddha and the first nun he ordained, had gone to the Buddha requesting a pithy teaching that would help her when she was meditating in solitude in the forest. The Buddha’s advice was to pay attention to the practical and transformative effects of her practice. Here we can see that the Buddha encouraged his followers to be self-reliant and that he believed that they could know for themselves if they were on the right track or not.

    He told Gotami that the only thing she needed to do was to look at the effects on...

    (pp. 123-148)

    TheMilindapanhapresents the conversations between a Buddhist monk Nagasena and King Milinda (Greek: Menander), who reigned in the second century BCE over an Indo-Greek kingdom in Northwest India. The text itself is supposed to have been compiled in the first century CE and might have been added to over time. The early Chinese translation of it has been found to be shorter than later Pali versions. Some scholars think that it might have been first written in Greek and then translated into Sanskrit, and later on into Chinese and Pali. This text is revered in the Theravada tradition of...

    (pp. 149-164)

    Ajahn Chah (1918–1992) was a great Thai master of the twentieth century. He became a monk at the age of twenty-one. Upon entering the monkhood he studied Buddhist doctrines and the Pali language. After his father’s death, he felt the need to put into practice what he had learnt and went to practise meditation with one of the great meditation teachers of his time, Ajahn Mun. Thereafter he followed the austere path of the Forest Tradition. After wandering and meditating in the countryside and the jungle for seven years, he established a temple called Wat Bah Pong.

    In 1966...

    (pp. 165-176)
    (pp. 177-180)