Week Ten:

  1. Presentation: (Study)
    1. Compassion.
      1. Theravada Buddhism
        1. In Theravāda Buddhism, karuā is one of the four "divine abodes" (brahmavihāra), along with loving kindness (Pāli: mettā), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekkha). In the Pali canon, the Buddha recommends cultivating these four virtuous mental states to both householders and monastics. When one develops these four states, the Buddha counsels radiating them in all directions, as in the following stock canonical phrase regarding karuā:
          1. He keeps pervading the first direction—as well as the second direction, the third, and the fourth—with an awareness imbued with compassion. Thus he keeps pervading above, below, & all around, everywhere & in every respect the all-encompassing cosmos with an awareness imbued with compassion: abundant, expansive, immeasurable, free from hostility, free from ill will.
          2. Such a practice purifies one's mind, avoids evil-induced consequences, leads to happiness in one's present life and, if there is a future karmic rebirth, it will be in a heavenly realm.
      2. The Pali commentaries distinguish between karuā and mettā in the following complementary manner: Karuā is the desire to remove harm and suffering (ahita-dukkha-apanaya-kāmatā) from others; while mettā is the desire to bring about the well-being and happiness (hita-sukha-upanaya-kāmatā) of others.
    2. Mahayana Buddhism
      1. In Mahāyāna Buddhism, karuā is one of the two qualities, along with enlightened wisdom (Sanskrit: prajña), to be cultivated on the bodhisattva path. According to scholar Rupert Gethin, this elevation of karuā to the status of prajña is one of the distinguishing factors between the Theravāda arahant ideal and the Mahāyāna bodhisattva ideal:
      2. For the Mahāyāna ... the path to arhatship appears tainted with a residual selfishness since it lacks the motivation of the great compassion (mahākaruā) of the bodhisattva, and ultimately the only legitimate way of Buddhist practice is the bodhisattva path.
      3. Throughout the Mahāyāna world, Avalokiteśvara (Sanskrit; Chinese: Guan Yin; Japanese: Kannon; Tibetan: Chenrezig) is a bodhisattva who embodies karuā.
      4. In the Intermediate section of the Stages of Meditation by Kamalashila, he writes: Moved by compassion [karunā], Bodhisattvas take the vow to liberate all sentient beings. Then by overcoming their self-centered outlook, they engage eagerly and continuously in the very difficult practices of accumulating merit and insight. Having entered into this practice, they will certainly complete the collection of merit and insight. Accomplishing the accumulation of merit and insight is like having omniscience itself in the palm of your hand. Therefore, since compassion is the only root of omniscience, you should become familiar with this practice from the very beginning."
    3. In Indo-Tibetan Buddhism, one of the foremost authoritative texts on the Bodhisattva path is the Bodhisattvacaryāvatāra by Shantideva. In the eighth section entitled Meditative Concentration, Shantideva describes meditation on Karunā as thus: Strive at first to meditate upon the sameness of yourself and others. In joy and sorrow all are equal; Thus be guardian of all, as of yourself. The hand and other limbs are many and distinct, But all are one--the body to kept and guarded. Likewise, different beings, in their joys and sorrows, are, like me, all one in wanting happiness. This pain of mine does not afflict or cause discomfort to another's body, and yet this pain is hard for me to bear because I cling and take it for my own. And other beings' pain I do not feel, and yet, because I take them for myself, their suffering is mine and therefore hard to bear. And therefore I'll dispel the pain of others, for it is simply pain, just like my own. And others I will aid and benefit, for they are living beings, like my body. Since I and other beings both, in wanting happiness, are equal and alike, what difference is there to distinguish us, that I should strive to have my bliss alone?”
  2. Loving-Kindness. (Metta)
    1. AN 11.16 PTS: A v 342 BJT calls this the Mettanisamsa Sutta; Thai, Burmese, and PTS call it Metta Sutta. Metta (Mettanisamsa) Sutta: Discourse on Advantages of Loving-kindness translated from the Pali by Piyadassi Thera © 2005
    2. Thus have I heard: On one occasion the Blessed One was living near Savatthi at Jetavana at Anathapindika's monastery. Then he addressed the monks saying, "Monks." — "Venerable Sir," said the monks, by way of reply. The Blessed One then spoke as follows:
    3. "Monks, eleven advantages are to be expected from the release (deliverance) of heart by familiarizing oneself with thoughts of loving-kindness (mettā), by the cultivation of loving-kindness, by constantly increasing these thoughts, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression), and also as something to be treasured, by living in conformity with these thoughts, by putting these ideas into practice, and by establishing them. What are the eleven?
    4. 1. "He sleeps in comfort. 2. He awakes in comfort. 3. He sees no evil dreams. 4. He is dear to human beings. 5. He is dear to non-human beings. 6. Devas (gods) protect him. 7. Fire, poison, and sword cannot touch him. 8. His mind can concentrate quickly. 9. His countenance is serene. 10. He dies without being confused in mind. 11. If he fails to attain arahantship (the highest sanctity) here and now, he will be reborn in the brahma-world.
    5. "These eleven advantages, monks, are to be expected from the release of heart by familiarizing oneself with thoughts of loving-kindness, by cultivation of loving-kindness, by constantly increasing these thoughts, by regarding loving-kindness as a vehicle (of expression), and also as something to be treasured, by living in conformity with these thoughts, by putting these ideas into practice and by establishing them." So said the Blessed One. Those monks rejoiced at the words of the Blessed One.
  3. Texts. How they came to be. How to use them. Where to find them. How to study them.
    1. There are said to be more Buddhist texts, commentaries and books than anyone person could read in a single lifetime. These include a few major categories some of them are as follows:
      1. The Pali Canon
      2. The Chinese Canon
      3. Mahayana Texts (Various Names, Subjects and Authors)
      4. Tibetan Texts (Various Names, Subjects and Authors)
      5. Commentaries and Books (Both Historical Authors and Modern)
    2. We will briefly discuss these volumes and general contents. It suffices to say here there are more than 84,000 individual Suttas in the Pali Canon alone. Refer to handouts and Resources for more details.
    3. Where to find them.
      1. Online websites have many of the sutras. (See resources).
      2. Certain Publishers. (Wisdom Publications, Some Monasteries (Usually Free) See resources for more details.
      3. Book stores or special societies. (Barnes and Nobles. Amazon etc. carry certain ones.
      4. Online Resources, See the handout and a brief discussion about them.
      5. Authors. Popular, past and present. (Bodhi, Hahn, Chodron, Watts, Nargarjuna, Shantideva, See Handout and resources (Wikipedia “List of writer on Buddhism”)
  1. How to Study them.
    1. This may be the one section of this course that I will have the most to say. Since you may never learn to read and understand the Pali and or Sanskrit language, you must learn to use translations of Buddhist texts, accept that some texts may never be translated into English in our lifetime and understand that even when you find out that there has been a text translated you may never be able to obtain a copy to read, either because they are out of print or because of the cost for purchasing an out of print book.
    2. You must understand a few basic things about Buddhist texts, a partial list is below.
      1. They are not divinely revealed or inspired by a supreme creator deity.
      2. They have been translated, transmitted and handed down for thousands of years. Therefore (Buddhists accept this idea) it is known that they are not a perfectly maintained copy of the original texts or words of the Buddha. Thus they are neither holy nor considered a holy book as in Abrahamic traditions.
      3. That many times over translators and scholars have used other systems, traditions and religious terms to explain “Buddhist concepts” This can be a problematic if you do not understand the subtle differences.
      4. It is a well-known phenomenon especially for “Westerners” to read “Eastern” texts with an unintended bias known as Protestant bias. It is a bit of a misnomer in that it is not in my opinion a Protestant problem but a Western problem. We will discuss this in the class.
      5. More times than not if the text indicates that the Buddha is speaking he will be primarily addressing Monks. That said you must understand how that applies to lay practice and how that applies to Monastics. In most cases they can be applied equally or you can choose to apply them equally as the case may be. Just be aware of who he may be addressing and consider why.
      6. Early Buddhism relied like all Indian and most cultures of the time on recitation and mnemonics. This means there are a lot of repetitions. You will have to get used to two things about them. The first is they are there and if the translation your using wrote them out you will have to decide if you want to read every last word or not. First let me remind you of item one! They are not some holy revealed text, they are the known teachings of the Buddha, they deserve respect but you’re not going to a Buddhist hell for skipping the repeated lines. Secondly if you do skip over them at least skim the contents because often they have only a portion which are repeated and then contain a subtle difference or addition. Lastly If the translation you are using spells out the main text in the first paragraph and then uses a short hand notation for repetition that will save you the problem of read every repeated word but will also mean that things like lists of important ideas or concepts will be harder to remember and I have even found the concept gets lost in the reading since after a few paragraphs of (See list in paragraph 10 above) notes you forgot what was in the list to begin with.
      7. Many people find the Buddha’s methods of teaching using similes and parables difficult. You may want to read a few minutes a day and consider if there was any useful information for you in what you just read. The suttas are not written in any order nor are they really fashioned to be a series from beginning to end. They simply listed them out, then categorized them into volumes of suttas (Nikayas) They have them numbered, they have them by topic, they have them as the long ones and the middle length ones, the shorter ones and so on.
      8. Non-Pali canon texts are similar as well. Some are in volumes (Chinese canon) some were actually scholarly dissertations by Buddhist Professors like Nagarjuna. Many are written hundreds of years after the death of the Buddha, but report to be the actual words of the Buddha. This is not primarily an issue for Buddhists nor was it uncommon for the time they were written. It was often the case that authors wrote texts attributed to others because the contents were based on that source. There are some academic discussions on this topic, but for our purposes the commonly accepted Sutras are considered teachings from or within the Buddha’s doctrine.
      9. My first effort was just to read over as many suttas as I could. I purchased hardbound copies of Bhikkhu Bodhi’s editions of the first four books of the Pali Canon Nikayas. Then just read though each of them for 15-30 minutes or so. This took me about 4 years. Now what I am doing a little at a time is re-reading a sutta and then examining it, considering it and contemplating the purpose of this teaching. Taking just one topic from sutta, and considering what that means, how it was presented, how I might re-state the idea, etc. I don’t do this every day, but I might re-consider the same idea for a few days at a time. At some point I hope to expand my library and read though other Nikayas of the Pali and or Chinese cannon and Mahayana texts.
    3. Refer to the resources for a list of Authors.
      1. Thich Nat Hahn: Vietnamese Buddhist Monk, Martin Luther King Jr. France, Zen etc.
      2. Bhikkhu Bodhi: American Sri Lankan Theravadan Monk, Scholar Editor, translator.
      3. H.H. Dali Lama Tibetan Lama and Political Leader, Author and Noble Prize Laureate.
      4. Pema Chodron
      5. Jack Kornfield Thai Trained former Monk (Theravada), Disrobed and runs Insight Meditation Society, Author, speaker.
      6. Nagarjuna (150 CE to 250 CE)
      7. Shantideva
  2. Group Discussion Question and answer session. Questions: (students are encouraged to ask any questions especially related to the class topic at this time). Some topics for discussion are also listed below.
    1. Questions?

Weekly Schedule

Sunday

8.00 am - 9.00 am: Public Services in English: Such as chanting, Meditation,  Dharma discussing

10:30 am – 12.30 pm: Public Services in Vietnamese: Such as chanting, Dharma discussing (with English translator), offering to the deceased ones 

Tuesday

English Dharma Class, open discussion.
@ Dharma Hall, Virginia Beach
1st, 2nd and 3rd  and 5thTuesdays, 7pm-8.30pm.

English Dharma Class, open discussion.
@ Pitts Center, Southern Shores, NC
4th Tuesday, 6.30pm - 8.30pm 

Wednesday

5:45 - 6:45 pm: One Hour Meditation. Public is welcome. English language introduction. Silent, seated meditation in the Dharma Hall.

7:00 pm – 8:30 pm: Public service in English: Chanting, meditating, Dharma discussing in English

Thursday

8:00 pm – 9:00 pm: Chanting 21 time Great Compassion Mantra (Vietnamese)

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