History of Early Buddhism: A Documentary

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Re: History of Early Buddhism: A Documentary

Postby Luke » Wed Jun 24, 2009 5:28 pm

That was pretty interesting, Thornbush! I am fascinated by the fact that some ancient Western civilizations had some contact with Buddhism. I'd like to learn more about these things.

Many Western history books do not mention the fact that some Greeks were Buddhists because it doesn't confirm the image of "Western civilization" which they want to promote (i.e., Western ideas are intelligent and good and Eastern ideas are foolish and barbaric).
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Re: History of Early Buddhism: A Documentary

Postby clw_uk » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:38 pm

Thanks for the links i really enjoyed them, shame about the parts when they were speaking other languages. I just about managed to translate a few french words to know what they one guy was on about but the rest was ...... lol


Not sure about the begining either when he said there are 1 billion buddhists, isnt the number more between 250-500 million?


But apart from that a really good doc. so thanks again :smile:

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Those who are lust-infatuated fall back to the swirling current (of samsara) like a spider on its self-spun web. This too the wise cut off. Without any longing, they abandon all dukkha and renounce the world

Dhammapada - Verse 347
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Re: History of Early Buddhism: A Documentary

Postby clw_uk » Wed Jun 24, 2009 10:39 pm

On another point, is it really true the Buddha forbade any images or idols of him to be made? is there a sutta or sutra that states this?
Those who are lust-infatuated fall back to the swirling current (of samsara) like a spider on its self-spun web. This too the wise cut off. Without any longing, they abandon all dukkha and renounce the world

Dhammapada - Verse 347
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Re: History of Early Buddhism: A Documentary

Postby thornbush » Thu Jun 25, 2009 6:24 am

Buddhist iconography....It's all up to the user. Used with wrong views, one gets wrong results. Used with right views, it is a means to the end, to be dropped once one has crossed over to the other shore. It has been related to me by adherents of other systems, that their concept of making images is a window / glimpse to the Supreme One/Teacher or similar ideas of eternalism and some even believe that their Supreme One/Teacher resides in it. I do not think that as Buddhists, we subscribe to such ideas and are contrary to why we have religious iconography.

As far as I have known, there is no Buddhist 'commandment' barring production of images or religious iconography for purpose of concentration and one way of training the monkey mind to be still with a visual aid. And I have read that in some places where illiteracy is still rampant, the use of images as a teaching tool is one effective method of communicating the message. Even in today's Theravada world, Buddhist iconography is allowed. Sutta sources? Perhaps someone more capable can furnish us with that.

A Theravada commentary on the Buddha Image and its place:
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/auth ... tml#shrine
Nowhere in the Buddhist world are Buddha-images treated as ornaments for a living room. And a Buddha image is always given the highest "seat" in the room, that is, the Buddha-image is displayed in the place of honor. In the shrine-room this will be on the highest part of a shrine. If on a special shelf (often carved and decorated with color and gold), then that shelf is usually high on the wall and has nothing above it. The fact that one places the symbol of one's Teacher in the highest place shows one's high regard for him. For this reason alone it is obvious that Buddha-images should not be placed on mantelpieces and miscellaneous furniture. Also, if the shrine occupies part of the room used for sleeping (this would be contrary to some Buddhist traditions), it should be near the head of the bed, not at its foot. This is because that part of the body which houses most of the organs of sense and is the physical base of much mental activity — that is, the head — the topmost part of a person, should be directed to what one esteems as the highest, in this case, the symbol of the Buddha. But feet, however useful, are easily dirtied and become ill-smelling quickly and should never be pointed at any person who is respected and certainly not at a shrine, whether Buddha-image or stupa.

Perhaps some may object to such matters. One may be able to hear some people growling, "Buddhism has nothing to do with such things!" But this attitude ignores the fact that the Dhamma is relevant to all circumstances, also that fine conduct was praised by the Buddha, not ignored by him. So such things do matter if one is going to have objects of reverence such as Buddha-images. Whenever we think that such matters are not worth troubling over then we are just careless and unmindful. A Buddha-image should be treated respectfully and it is a good way of training oneself to treat the Buddha-image as one would Gotama the Buddha himself. Reverence (apacayana) is a part of the Dhamma which should not be neglected for it helps in the overcoming of conceit. Buddhists of all traditions have shrines with images, paintings, stupas and so on, just because reverence is an essential part of Buddhist training. From practices based on reverence are born humility in oneself and harmonious relationships with others and the Buddha tells us that four qualities increase for those who are respectful and honor those who are senior to them: "Long life and beauty, happiness and strength" (Dhp 109). Who does not want them?

From the Mahayana side no, in fact one can find many Sutras speaking of using religious iconography representing Buddhas and Bodhisattvas in many expedient facets of concentration. I have heard of that before in some Theravada based commentaries that the early Buddhist iconography was restricted to the Dharmacakra (Dharma Wheel) sometimes with a deer beneath, Buddhapada (Buddha's Footprint), the Bodhi Tree, the lotus blossom, the Stupa/Chetiya and so forth.

Humans being humans, we still live in the phenomenal world, so we still need the phenomenal aspect to understand the noumenal one and transcend the former. So, I find it strange and distasteful that some would impose their iconoclastic ideas on others who still need such visual aid, as if their own clinging to what most of the time would be nihilistic version of sunyata/sunnata is not an impediment itself.

See addendum excerpts and links:
http://www.dharmaweb.org/index.php/Dr._ ... _Practices
==Are Buddhists Idol Worshippers? ==
Buddhists are not idol worshippers but ideal worshippers.

Although it is customary amongst Buddhists to keep Buddha images and to pay their respects to the Buddha, Buddhists are not idol worshippers. Idolatry generally means erecting images of unknown gods and goddesses in various shapes and sizes and to pray directly to these images. The prayers are a request to the gods for guidance and protection. The gods and goddesses are asked to bestow health, wealth, property and to provide for various needs; they are asked to forgive transgressions. The 'worshipping' at the Buddha image is quite a different matter. Buddhists revere the image of the Buddha as a gesture to the greatest, wisest, most benevolent, compassionate and holy man who has ever lived in this world. It is a historical fact that this great man actually lived in this world and has done a great service to mankind. The worship of the Buddha really means paying homage, veneration and devotion to Him and what He represents, and not to the stone or metal figure. The image is a visual aid that helps one to recall the Buddha in the mind and to remember His great qualities which inspired millions of people from generation to generation throughout the civilized world. Buddhists use the statue as a symbol and as an object of concentration to gain a peace of mind. When Buddhists look upon the image of the Buddha, they put aside thoughts of strife and think only of peace, serenity, calmness and tranquillity. The statue enables the mind to recall this great man and inspires devotees to follow His example and instructions. In their mind, the devout Buddhists feel the living presence of the Master. This feeling makes their act of worship become vivid and significant. The serenity of the Buddha image influences and inspires them to observe the right path of conduct and thought.

An understanding Buddhist never asks favours from the image nor does he request forgiveness for evil deeds committed. An understanding Buddhist tries to control his mind, to follow the Buddha's advice, to get rid of worldly miseries and to find his salvation. Those who criticize Buddhists for practising idol worship are really misinterpreting what Buddhists do. If people can keep the photographs of their parents and grandparents to cherish in their memory, if people can keep the photographs of kings, queens, prime ministers, great heroes, philosophers, and poets, there is certainly no reason why Buddhists cannot keep their beloved Master's picture or image to remember and respect Him. What harm is there if people recite some verses praising the great qualities of their Master? If people can lay wreaths on the graves of beloved ones to express their gratitude, what harm is there is Buddhists too offer some flowers, joss-sticks, incense, etc., to their beloved Teacher who devoted His life to help suffering humanity? People make statues of certain conquering heroes who were in fact murderers and who were responsible for the death of millions of innocent people. For the sake of power, these conquerors committed murder with hatred, cruelty and greed. They invaded poor countries and created untold suffering by taking away lands and properties of others, and causing much destruction. Many of these conquerors are regarded as national heroes; memorial services are conducted for them and flowers are offered on their graves and tombs. What is wrong then, if Buddhists pay their respects to their world honored Teacher who sacrificed His worldly pleasures for the sake of Enlightenment to show others the Path of Salvation? Images are the language of the subconscious. Therefore, the image of the Enlightened One is often created within one's mind as the embodiment of perfection, the image will deeply penetrate into the subconscious mind and (if it is sufficiently strong enough)can act as an automatic brake against impulses. The recollection of the Buddha produces joy, invigorate the mind and elevates man from states of restlessness, tension and frustration. Thus the worship of the Buddha is not a prayer in its usual sense but a meditation. Therefore, it is not idol worship, but 'ideal' worship. Thus Buddhists can find fresh strength to build a shrine of their lives. They cleanse their hearts until they feel worthy to bear the image in their innermost shrine. Buddhists pay respects to the great person who is represented by the image. They try to gain inspiration from His Noble personality and emulate Him. Buddhists do not see the Buddha image as a dead idol of wood or metal or clay. The image represents something vibrant to those who understand and are purified in thought, word and deed. The Buddha images are nothing more than symbolic representations of His great qualities. It is not unnatural that the deep respect for the Buddha should be expressed in some of the finest and most beautiful forms of art and sculpture the world has ever known. It is difficult to understand why some people look down on those who pay respect to images which represent holy religious teachers.

The calm and serene image of the Buddha has been a common concept of ideal beauty. The Buddha's image is the most precious, common asset of Asian cultures. Without the image of the Buddha, where can we find a serene, radiant and spiritually emancipated personality? But the image of the Buddha is appreciated not only by Asian or Buddhists. Anatole France in his autobiography writes, 'On the first of May, 1890, chance led me to visit the Museum in Paris. There standing in the silence and simplicity of the gods of Asia, my eyes fell on the statue of the Buddha who beckoned to suffering humanity to develop understanding and compassion. If ever a god walked on this earth, I felt here was He. I felt like kneeling down to Him and praying to Him as to a God. Once a general left an image of the Buddha as a legacy to Winston Churchill. The general said, 'if ever your mind gets perturbed and perplexed, I want you to see this image and be comforted.' What is it that makes the message of the Buddha so attractive to people who have cultivated their intellect? Perhaps the answer can be seen in the serenity of the image of the Buddha. Not only in color and line did men express their faith in the Buddha and the graciousness of His Teaching. Human hands wrought in metal and stone to produce the Buddha image that is one of the greatest creations of the human genius. Witness the famous image in the Abhayagiri Vihara in Sri Lanka, or the Buddha image of Sarnath or the celebrated images of Borobudur. The eyes are full of compassion and the hands express fearlessness, or goodwill and blessings, or they unravel some thread of thought or call the earth to witness His great search for Truth. Wherever the Dhamma went, the image of the great Teacher went with it, not only as an object of worship but also as an object of meditation and reverence. 'I known nothing,' says Keyserling,' more grand in this world than the figure of the Buddha. It is an absolutely perfect embodiment of spirituality in the visible domain'

A life so beautiful, a heart so pure and kind, a mind so deep and enlightened, a personality so inspiring and selfless -- such a perfect life, such a compassionate heart, such a calm mind, such a serene personality is really worthy of respect, worthy of honour and worthy of offering. The Buddha is the highest perfection of mankind. The Buddha image is the symbol, not of a person, but of Buddhahood -- that to which all men can attain though few do. For Buddhahood is not for one but for many: 'The Buddhas of the past ages, the Buddhas that are yet to come, the Buddha of the present age; humbly I each day adore.' However, it is not compulsory for every Buddhist to have a Buddha image to practise Buddhism. Those who can control their mind and the senses, can certainly do so without an image as an object. If Buddhists truly wish to behold the Buddha in all the majestic splendor and beauty of His ideal presence, they must translate His Teachings into practice in their daily lives. It is in the practice of His Teachings that they can come closer to Him and feel the wonderful radiance of His undying wisdom and compassion. Simply respecting the images without following His Sublime Teachings is not the way to find salvation. We must also endeavor to understand the spirit of the Buddha. His Teaching is the only way to save this troubled world. In spite of the tremendous advantages of science and technology, people in the world today are filled with fear, anxiety and despair. The answer to our troubled world is found in the Teaching of the Buddha.

And in the Mahayana Brahmajala Sutra, where the code of Bodhisattvas is sourced from, there is a secondary precept with regards to clerics and images:
http://www.ymba.org/bns/bnsframe.htm
31. Rescuing Clerics Along with Sacred Objects
After my passing, in the evil periods that will follow, there will be externalists, evil persons, thieves and robbers who steal and sell statues and paintings of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and [those to whom respect is due such as] their parents. They may even peddle copies of sutras and moral codes, or sell monks, nuns or those who follow the Bodhisattva Path or have developed the Bodhi Mind to serve as retainers or servants to officials and others.

A disciple of the Buddha, upon witnessing such pitiful events, must develop a mind of compassion and find ways to rescue and protect all persons and valuables, raising funds wherever he can for this purpose. If a Bodhisattva does not act in this manner, he commits a secondary offense.

The Sutra on the Production of Buddha Images
ART AND CULTURE: BUDDHA IMAGES
King Kanishka and Buddhism
The Path of the Buddha
Buddhist Art Of Gandhara
Buddhist Art
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Re: History of Early Buddhism: A Documentary

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:11 pm

clw_uk wrote:Not sure about the begining either when he said there are 1 billion buddhists, isnt the number more between 250-500 million?


There are about one billion Buddhists if you count all of the nominal Buddhists and some of the syncretic Buddhists who combine the Dharma with other beliefs, such as the Chinese who combine Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism.

Demographics is one of my hobbies. See:

http://thedhamma.com/buddhists_in_the_world.htm

and Wikipedia now puts a range showing from around 500 million to 1.5 billion.
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Re: History of Early Buddhism: A Documentary

Postby David N. Snyder » Thu Jun 25, 2009 9:15 pm

clw_uk wrote:On another point, is it really true the Buddha forbade any images or idols of him to be made? is there a sutta or sutra that states this?


I have heard that before too, but not sure where it is from. I don't recall reading it in the Suttas.

I think there is a Sutta somewhere where the Buddha discourages a monk who is so enamored with the Buddha and his appearance and Insight that he practically worships the Buddha.

I think it is more of a legend, unless it comes from that Sutta and the commentary on the Buddha's appearance.

The first Buddhists used the image of a footprint and also the Dharma Wheel and then graduated to the Buddha image.
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Re: History of Early Buddhism: A Documentary

Postby sraddha » Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:50 pm

TheDhamma wrote:
clw_uk wrote:Not sure about the begining either when he said there are 1 billion buddhists, isnt the number more between 250-500 million?


There are about one billion Buddhists if you count all of the nominal Buddhists and some of the syncretic Buddhists who combine the Dharma with other beliefs, such as the Chinese who combine Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism.

Demographics is one of my hobbies. See:

http://thedhamma.com/buddhists_in_the_world.htm

and Wikipedia now puts a range showing from around 500 million to 1.5 billion.


How true...unfortuneatly, though these nominal Buddhists aren't recognized/represented in most surveys.
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Re: History of Early Buddhism: A Documentary

Postby sraddha » Thu Jun 25, 2009 11:55 pm

Actually, some interpret the commandment against idolatry as the commandment against making mental images.

In Buddhism, "Samyak Drishti" or right view is against all such mental/body/speech formations.

In that sense, a practicing Buddhist who gains samadhi or concentration, is never an idolator, it's others who violate that commandment, since they don't tame their minds properly.
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