The Buddhaland: a heaven with a difference
Feb02

The Buddhaland: a heaven with a difference

Manchester Buddhist Centre newsletter Feb-Mar 2013 THE BUDDHALAND – A HEAVEN WITH A DIFFERENCE … By Mahabodhi                 The Lord Buddha, thus surrounded and venerated by these multitudes of many hundreds of thousands of living beings, sat upon a majestic lion-throne and began to teach the Dharma. … the Lord Buddha shone, radiated, and glittered as he sat upon his magnificent lion- throne. Thereupon, the Licchavi bodhisattva Ratnakara, with five hundred Licchavi youths, each holding a precious parasol made of seven different kinds of jewels, came forth from the city of Vaisali and presented himself at the grove of Amrapali. Each approached the Buddha, bowed at his feet, circumambulated him clockwise seven times, laid down his precious parasol in offering, and withdrew to one side. As soon as all these precious parasols had been laid down, suddenly, by the miraculous power of the Lord, they were transformed into a single precious canopy so great that it formed a covering for this entire billion-world galaxy. The surface of the entire billion-world galaxy was reflected in the interior of the great precious canopy, where the total content of this galaxy could be seen: limitless mansions of suns, moons, and stellar bodies; the realms of the devas, nagas, yakshas (mythical beasts) … all the great oceans, rivers, bays, torrents, streams, brooks, and springs; finally, all the villages, suburbs, cities, capitals, provinces, and wildernesses. All this could be clearly seen by everyone. And the voices of all the Buddhas of the ten directions could be heard proclaiming their teachings of the Dharma in all the worlds, the sounds reverberating in the space beneath the great precious canopy. At this vision of the magnificent miracle affected by the supernatural power of the Lord Buddha, the entire host was ecstatic, enraptured, astonished, delighted, satisfied, and filled with awe and pleasure. They all bowed down to the Tathágata, withdrew to one side with palms pressed together, and gazed upon him with fixed attention. The young Licchavi Ratnakara knelt with his right knee on the ground raised his hands; palms pressed together in salute of the Buddha, and praised him with the following hymn: (The Holy Teaching of Vimalakirti: A Mahayana Scripture, Trans. Robert A F Thurman, 2006)     Building the Buddha Land is the title of a lecture in a series by Sangharakshita on the Mahayana Buddhist scripture called the Vimalakirti Nirdesa. A Buddhaland is the sphere of influence of a Buddha, and in the Mahayana conception of things there are many world systems and, correspondingly, many Buddhas overseeing them. Dayamala in her talk introduced this vivid text...

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The doctrine of ‘non-self’ and the Buddha’s teachers
Feb01

The doctrine of ‘non-self’ and the Buddha’s teachers

Article published in February 2013 edition of Shabda, the journal of the Triratna Buddhist Order.   There has always been a rather confusing fact in the traditional story of the Buddha, which is that he learned the eight dhyanas from Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputra but then, upon remembering the rose apple tree experience, he spoke as if he was discovering the first dhyana for the first time. How could this be the case? In a recent book by the Sanskrit scholar Alexander Wynne called The Origin of Buddhist Meditation we get a possible answer to this conundrum, an answer which ties in nicely with the Buddhist doctrine of ‘non-self.’ Wynne proposes that Gautama did not in fact learn the first four dhyanas – the rupa dhyanas – from Alara Kalama and Uddaka Ramaputra but instead he learned from them a form of Vedic meditation – which he calls Brahminical yoga – akin to the formless or arupa dhyanas. One reason he gives is that the arupa dhyanas seem to be cosmological in origin, whereas the rupa dhyanas seem to be more personal and experiential in nature. He thinks then that the arupa dhyanas are Brahminical in origin but that the rupa dhyanas are Buddhist in origin. That Gautama evolved for himself the rupa dhyanas as a natural process arising out of his understanding of the rose apple tree experience. To explain how Brahminical yoga works is as follows. At the root of the Vedic religion is the belief in atman, the fixed self or soul that does not change and Brahman, the equivalent ever-present essence in the universe. Wynne explains that Vedic cosmology puts forward the belief was that in the beginning there was just a pure unchanging being or sat. Sat then ‘thought’ to itself: “may I be many; may I grow forth,” and so from sat there then arose fire; and after fire, in the same way; from fire, water; and, in the same way, from water, earth and so on. According to Wynne the aim of Brahminical meditation is to ‘reverse the flow’ of Vedic cosmology in order to realize one’s pure being. One does this by identifying oneself in meditation with the earth element and then dissolving that element, by then identifying oneself with the water element and then dissolving that element, and so on, until one experiences oneself as pure unchanging being – atman – within a pure unchanging cosmos or Brahman: or, as a pure soul in union with God. This would explain why Gautama rejected what he learned from his early teachers. What they taught was based on a wrong view – the Brahminical view – and it...

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