Master of Buddhism Course

This is a blog for the course comments from the Master of Buddhism course through the Universal Life Church Seminary.
The course can be found at Buddhism Course.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Master of Buddhism - Lesson 5

1. Is the idea of karma uplifting or unsettling? Why?

Knowing about karma and how it works can be nothing but uplifting. It is the idea that one may escape their suffering
is something that gives us hope. Once a person is aware of how karma operates, one can take specific steps to lesson,
even reverse, the impact on past actions. This may take some thought and a lot of work, but it a reason for joy. Even if
one is initially unsettled by the idea that they may be trapped in some negative outcome, one can eventually understand
how to escape the cycle.

2. Do you know anyone who exists in any or each of the symbolic worlds?

We all exist in all of these worlds continuously. These are transitory states that we cycle through. Perhaps we're in a
state of despair (Hell Being) and it takes us many years to receive the impact of past actions (big debt, lost your job,
for example). But maybe we get a good, steady job and begin repaying our debts (Anti God). But let's say that we desire
companionship so badly we become desperate for social company (Hungry Ghost) and we end up regretting a one-night stand
(Animal). This is how these states works; we continually cycle through each one on a roller-coaster ride. The awareness
of the workings of karma can help us to slow and eventually stop the fast-paced ride and stabilize our life.

3. How do the symbolic six worlds differ philosophically from our Western concepts of Heaven and Hell?

The six worlds theory is a much more practical concept to work with. It recognizes that all of us are up and down, and
that most often we are dependent on life circumstance to dictate our state. The Western idea is a more totalitarian
concept of punishment and reward. For many it can be a frightening idea that one will be struck down and denied an
eternal reward at the end of one's life. The Western concept, although it allows one to correct your past, doesn't allow
for slip-ups or mistakes. Whereas the Six Worlds theory takes into account that we're all human and will make mistakes
from time to time.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Master of Buddhism Lesson 5

1. Is the idea of karma uplifting or unsettling? Why?

I would think that karma could be both uplifting and unsettling depending on ones perspective or way of thinking. Since the idea that all of our actions can result in either a bad or a good outcome; not only in our own lives but the lives of every thing including: people, trees, animals, insects, and a myriad of other things – bad choices will result in bad karma and good choices will result in good karma. In other words, everything is interconnected on some macro or micro level. All of what are to be, what comes our way, and so on will be the direct end result of karma or cause and effect. So to say it could be uplifting is because it gives one hope that enough karma will bring suffering closer to an end and draw in more happiness in oneself and the the things which surround us. As far as being unsettling, I think many people find that no matter what they do, their path can not change because of karma. That is, the motions of cause and effect can not be changed once they are set in motion. They feel they are doomed to the wheels they have set in motion. When in fact karma is all about change. And until they can realize that, the uneasy feeling of not being in control of their own lives will always be there.

2. Do you know anyone who exists in any or each of the symbolic worlds?

I would say that everyone falls into the symbolical worlds. I see them as a description of what happens when we fall into the trappings of of each of them. I think the symbolic worlds show us that to know they exist is to know they can be changed or transformed. I know people who crave things, people who are miserable because they can't be on top forever, or even the mean person who is always stuck in a "rut."

3. How do the symbolic six worlds differ philosophically from our Western concepts of Heaven and Hell?

I believe in the Buddhist concept of the six worlds, we have a chance to change or escape from any of these personal cells we have put ourselves in. With Buddhism there is always a chance to end suffering and reach nirvana. Whereas the Western concepts of Heaven and Hell are quite black and white for the most part. Obviously it differs from religion to religion but the underlying concept seems to be the same. That is, you do good and abide by "God's laws" and you will go to heaven. You do bad and turn away from god's laws and it's off the fiery pit. Unless you can repent and such before the end. If not - no return. I suppose on some level here the idea of redemption can be applied to both, however, with Buddhism you are really being redeeming to yourself and those around you and not to a god. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Master of Buddhism - Lesson Four

Lesson 4 -- Buddhist Council


1. Why do you think Buddhism resonated so deeply with so many kings and rulers?

Buddhism presents a clear guide to ethical / moral behaviour. Leaders might be drawn to such ideas because of their
desire to rule fairly. History is replete with the horrors and degradations that people have forced upon each other. A
ruler who is concerned about these terrible acts might look for a way to correct such behaviour. Buddhism answers that
call. It concerns itself with inner peace which then extends to environmental factors. What ruler would not want peace
in their kingdom?

2. What elements were necessary for the spread of Buddhism?

The most important element for the spread of Buddhism is a feeling of lack. Perhaps it's questioning what life is or if
there is more to life than "just this", or a searching for one's true self. Without a motivation to go searching for the
truth, Buddhism would not spread - why would it? Perhaps this a reason why the western world did not accept Buddhism at
first - things were going well. Jobs could be found, space seemed unlimited, and the future may have appeared very
promising. After WW2 when prosperity seemed to peak, so began the questions.

3. What, if anything, could rulers of today's world learn from the dharma?

Just as in the past, world leaders could find a guide to bring peace to people. They might learn from the dharma to be
less concerned with material things such as finances, and be more concerned about people's welfare. It is without doubt
that the enormous amount of money available to countries today could easily feed, clothe, house, and educate every
person in the world. The missing ingredient is the will to do so.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Master of Buddhism Lesson 4

1.      Why do you think Buddhism resonated so deeply with so many kings and rulers?

I think Buddhism offered many of the ruling powers a chance to find meaning once the reality of their conquests and monetary wealth became stagnant. That is, their power could only bring them so much happiness. Suffering is universal in that everyone suffers. Even Kings for whatever reason might find that the attainment of wealth, power, and killing could only offer just so much before leaving them with an empty void. Or perhaps it was the realization, in a similar manner to Siddhartha (i.e. being shielded or ignorant to the happenings of suffering around them) as to methods and results from which these conquests came from. What I mean by this is, that they might have been aware of there means but not the actual sight of the ends that came from them.

2.      What elements were necessary for the spread of Buddhism?

The elements needed where a common goal which every person could relate to which was the end of suffering and common, if not slightly varied set of guidelines to reach that goal. There were also the need of a way to transmit this whether it was verbal or written in a way which all people could understand. Most specifically being able to interpret into different languages.

3.      What, if anything, could rulers of today's world learn from the dharma?

I think the rulers of today could learn that even with their power, wealth, and control there is still a better way to not have to dominate, instill fear, or whatever means they use to control a people. For example: through compassion and kindness they could instill that same process into the people they are under them. They could put their people on the same level. They could understand that everyone suffers from all walks of life and what the give they will receive. What better way to rule than with kindness.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Master of Buddhism: lesson 6 (assignment)

1.      What do you think is the ultimate goal of meditation? Is it enlightenment, or something more personal?

I think meditation serves various purposes ranging from religious/spiritual (as is the case with the quest for enlightenment) to purely practical (stress reduction, etc.). Thus, the ultimate goal of meditation depends on the individual meditator.

2.      What are some of the misconceptions westerners might have about meditation?

In the West, meditation is sometimes wrongly associated strictly with certain religions -- e.g. that one must be a Buddhist to meditate. Another common misconception is that meditation can only be done sitting in a certain posture -- while maybe even chanting mantras.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Master of Buddhism - Lesson Three

Lesson 3 -- The Three Jewels

1. Could the fact that the Dharma wasn't written by the Buddha himself be problematic? If so, in what ways?

This question cannot really be answered. Since it is unknown what the actual words of Buddha were, how are we to know if
they have been altered? Let's imagine that the words are original and unaltered. Hundreds of thousands of people over
the centuries have used those words and lessons to alter and better their lives and the lives of other people. This is
the purpose of Buddhism. Now imagine that the Dharma has been altered. Has the impact on people's lives now become void?
Of course not! It is still the same outcome as before and will continue to be so. Like all major views of life,
alteration - even slightly - is part and parcel of the history. So long as people continue to recognize and scrutinize
the Dharma, it will continue to serve its purpose.

2. Imagine you are preparing to go for refuge. What necessary changes would you need to make in your life

There would have to be frequent monitoring of thought and behaviour. Often our modern consumerist habits do not fit well
with Buddhist refuge ideals. Taking refuge would necessarily mean being concerned with the impact of what one does and
says upon other people. Constant awareness of the ramifications of your actions would have to become paramount. This is
a huge undertaking for anybody. Changing one's habituated patterns is very difficult indeed.

3. When going for refuge, are you relying on forces outside of yourself for peace of mind, or are the Three
Jewels ultimately found inside yourself?

Peace of mind only comes from one place - internally. Peace is a perception that must be cultivated and practiced. It
means accepting life as it comes to you and not judging what is happening. The Three Jewels are something that has been
formulated, a concept, and is therefore within ourselves. All of the effort comes from each individual and only each
individual will see the result of their effort. Even the motivation to take refuge is a personal decision. These ideas
are all a result of how people wish to live - it's an inside job!