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Buddhism in India

#21Hustle KongPosted 3/24/2013 6:23:45 PM
Vado_UN posted...
Hustle Kong posted...
It came in its current forms directly from Jesus.


Uh, what? Buddhism predates Christianity 500 years.


Please see posts #12, 14, and 18.
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#22KNessJMPosted 3/24/2013 10:25:05 PM
As Hustle mentioned, just because I'm a Buddhist doesn't mean I'm an expert on how it's practiced around the world. I'm trying to educate myself on this subject because it interests me, and because it helps my personal practice to have a lot of different perspectives, but it's certainly a work in progress. I still have a lot to learn.

I can give you a few examples though. Indian Buddhism is probably the practice most closely tied to the original traditions, since that's the area in which it originated and in which the Buddha lived and taught. Over times it has blended with and been influenced by Hinduism, particularly regarding some of the deities that are mentioned in certain sutras and teachings, and in the focus on the importance of rebirth.

In China, the teachings of the Taoists and of Confucius had a lot of influence on how Buddhism was understood, taught, and practiced. In Japan, Shinto and other folk traditions were major influences, but Buddhism in Japan has a lot in common with Buddhism from China, since the teachings likely arrived in Japan via China. Zen Buddhism (or Chan Buddhism as it's known in China) has largely originated from these two countries. Ancestor reverence took on more importance in Buddhist thought and practice in Japan and China, as it's a major part of their culture and their spiritual/philosophical practices.

Pure Land Buddhism is very popular in East Asia, but not as much elsewhere. Interestingly enough, this branch of Buddhism has the most in common with the monotheistic Abrahamic religions. In Pure Land Buddhism, the practitioner is taught to practice "Buddha Remembrance", which generally amounts to visualizing Amitabha Buddha and chanting his name during meditation. If this is faithfully done, then upon death, one will be reborn (arising from inside a giant lotus flower) in the afterlife paradise of the Pure Land. It's pretty significantly different from most other forms of Buddhism in this way, since it offers a sort of salvation from a deity-like being.

Tibetan Buddhism is kind of like the Catholicism of Buddhism, in my view. It's heavily steeped in long-standing traditions that are painstakingly passed down from generation to generation, and the whole structure has a sort of authoritarian vibe to it, with the Dalai Lama and other Lamas being seen as having reached enlightenment, or at least something close to it. It's also taught that each Dalai Lama is the reincarnated form of the previous Dalai Lama, so in essence it's just one guy living life after life. TIbetan Buddhism is somewhat infamous for the Tibetan Book of The Dead, which is often imagined by outsiders to be some sort of mystical spell-book, but in actuality is just a lot of instructions for funerary rituals, and contemplations about death and rebirth.

Zen Buddhism focuses much more on abstract concepts, and of all Buddhist traditions borrows the most heavily from Taoism. Qualia is very important, as is the concept of training ones intuitive side, and maintaining a mindful focus on the present reality as it is. Rebirth and karma are considered much less important in Zen, sort of a "I'll deal with that when I get there" kind of attitude. The here and now is much more important, because that's all we ever have.

Theravadan Buddhism focuses on the Pali Canon of Buddhist teachings, and tends to take a bit more of an academic approach to things. Studying sutras and memorizing passages are common practices, along with practicing the prescribed morality and engaging in sitting meditation practice.
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#23KNessJMPosted 3/24/2013 10:31:24 PM
In recent decades, as Buddhism has started to be more widely practiced in the West (The Americas and Europe in particular), Western culture has begun to exert its own influence. There's much debate as to whether Western Buddhism yet deserves its own separate classification yet, but in practice there are significantly different trends emerging.

In the United States, Buddhism has a tendency to get mixed in with New Age thought and practices, despite originally having no connection to them. This is just another example of the existing teachings blending in with the existing cultural consciousness. Many of the supernatural or scientifically unproven aspects of Buddhist teaching tend to be de-emphasized, similar to traditional Zen practice (which seems to me, at least, to be one of the reasons that Zen Buddhism is much more popular in the West than other forms). Some people dissect the teachings into "Religious" and "Philosophical" categories and only practice one or the other.

So yeah, there's a sort of overview of some highlights of differences between various schools. Someone more experienced and educated than me could certainly do a better job of explaining each school of thought, and I didn't even touch on a number of traditions that I have little understanding of, such as Thai Forest, Vajrayana, etc.

If you're still interested in learning more, I'd recommend checking out Wikipedia. Their pages on the various schools of Buddhism are well written and quite informative. There's also a number of books out there on the subject, some written in a scholarly manner, and others in a more casual, accessible-to-the-layman manner.
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Quote of the Week: "There is an inner logic and we're taught to stay far from it. It's simple and elegant but it's cruel and antithetic."