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, September 27, 2012

Master of Buddhism lesson 12

master of Buddhism lesson 12: Zen

1. Why do Zen Buddhists strive to break the language barrier? Have you had an experience where language has gotten
in the way of something intrinsic?

When one is attempting to describe ideas, especially ideas about what experience is, words cannot adequately suffice.
Even art merely approaches what is trying to be expressed. Using words and language to describe an experience always
falls short; it's like attempting to build a magnificent mansion with broken two-by-fours.

2. Why do you think the text compiling koans is called the Gateless gate?

It is crossing a boundary that doesn't really exist. Insight comes out nowhere and allows one to understand what was
previously unknown. Thus one has opened a gate. Yet we have understood all along, we just couldn't see because of all
the foolishness that runs around our heads. So there really was no barrier to our understanding, hence the gateless-ness
of the gate!

3. Why do you think Zen is so appealing to Westerners?

The Western, scientific approach is a good bed for this type of Buddhism. Both the Western mind and Zen like to get down
to the bones, to strip away the non-essential. Westerners want answers NOW and Zen seems to allow for direct insight
(although it takes longer than NOW!)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Buddhism Essay by Rev. Tse

Master of Buddhism

Applicant's name: Kenneth Yee Man TSE
Man's position according to Buddhism, is supreme. Man is his own master, and there is no higher being or power that sits in judgement over his destiny. Buddha once said, "One is one's own refuge, who else could be the refuge?" (Rahula, 1978).
Buddha has admonished his disciples to 'be a refuge to themselves', and never to seek
refuge in or help from anybody else.
Peter Drucker (1999) also claims that every individual should become his own chief executive officer (CEO) because we live in an age of unprecedented opportunity, but with opportunities comes responsibility, or accountability. Indeed, companies today are not managing their employees' careers; knowledge workers must, effectively, be their own CEOs.
Besides, the aim of Buddhist practice is to achieve liberation from suffering and to attain the realization of true reality (Sanskrit term for the nirvana) by escaping the cycle of rebirth (samsara ) and preventing the cultivation of unwholesome karma.
To achieve this, one should purify and train the mind, and act morally. There seems to be some similarities between Buddha and Drucker – both require us the need to cultivate a deep understanding of ourselves – not only what our strengths and weakness are, but also how we learn, how we work with others, what our values are, and where we can make the greatest contribution to the world. Only when we operate from strengths we can achieve true excellencethe ultimate goals of the "Great Learning" as well.
The research questions intended to investigate may be as follows:
Q1 Who Is Buddha?
Q2 Why Buddha CEO?
Q3 How to apply the teachings of Buddha for today's CEOs?
I would like to link up together as Theravada and Self Management (with reference to Peter Drucker, and the Confucian "Great Learning") will include self-evaluation, self control of temper and emotions (especially the "dukkha", or stress management) ; the recognition of personal mission statement (Direction) and achieving the inner peace of mind ("always balancing") as goal.
Zen and the Art of Living, as the concluding mark for self-management and the foundation for the next level via Sharing, Love and Care.  Mahayana and the Managing for Stakeholders Value: the promotion of achieving ultimate goals for Life contained in parts 1&2, including but not limited to:
a)  Managing the relationships with others: family members- attitudes towards parents
(piety); "strategic partner" for life; parenting and leadership;
b) Working partners: peers/ subordinates and/or supervisors as well; teaching/educating (mentoring), life coaching and leadership; Change management;
c)  Managing for Stakeholders Value- not only Profits for shareholders, but also respecting the environment, social accountability, as well as sustainable development.  Emphasis will be placed on the study and promotion of the concepts and practices of "Dāna".
The focus will be the applicability to daily life and to the workplace, with the concluding remarks as: "Every Sentient Being has the potentials to become
Buddha. Every Man is the Master (CEO) of his own life."

Master of Buddhism Lesson 6

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

Perception of what life really is all about is the sole purpose of meditation. In the beginning, it may be to find peace or calm, but as one continues, there comes a realization that these chattering thoughts that rush around in our heads are a distraction from what is really happening. Perhaps there is the realization that thoughts we experience are about things. The real object is not truly perceived because of the filters we apply to life. For example, perhaps a person is viewed as a viscous person. But this is a filter that has been applied. It is an opinion. The so-called viscous person is not being viewed completely. Missing are that person's background history, other relationships, how they perceive the world, etc.

The goal of meditation is to allow a view that removes habitual filters and to see things as they are without the aid of our opinions.

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

One misconception is that meditation takes a specific skill or that there are levels of meditation. In Buddhism the point of meditation is to cut through extraneous thoughts and perceive things as they are. The skill that is required is practice. Constant practice. There are no levels; there is only seeing correctly and not seeing correctly. Seeing correctly is when we have dropped viewing the world through our habituated opinions. Seeing incorrectly is when we do not. It is not so much a matter of levels, but more a matter of consistency ... and this comes back to the idea of continued practice.

3. Practice mindfulness. Begin by mindfully eating a piece of fruit (or candy if you like). Try to begin
incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine.

Master of Buddhism Lesson 7

1.      Buddhist believe that death is a teacher. Would you agree?
I would agree that the knowledge of death or acceptance of the inevitability of death is a helpful in giving one a better perspective on his or her own impermanence. Knowing that death is something that happens to everything can allow us to prepare or accept it. For example, we can choose to make the most out of our living time doing good, helping others, or bettering ourselves instead of dwelling on the inescapable impending doom as many people would see death as.

2.      What are the advantages or benefits of meditating on one's own death? Are there disadvantages?
The advantages of meditating on one's own death could be that it would help bring a peaceful calm knowing that death is inevitable. Death is something that will happen, but has not yet happened. However, if we look at death as something that makes life hopeless because it can not be escaped, then we end up loosing our peacefulness regard towards death and live hopeless lives.

3.      Which do you think is the more important question: What happens when I die? or What is happening now?
I think the more important question is what is happening now. This is because death is the great unknown. I don't think death can truly be understood until it happens. Focusing on death too much can lead to disparaging thoughts or straying from the path. What is happening now is the chance to make changes, create good karma, live a mindful life, etc. I believe that when the mind is free – (i.e. not suffering) death is irrelevant. I don't think one should not think about death, just not spend so much time that it consumes.

Master of Buddhism lesson 7

Master of Buddhism Lesson 7


1. Buddhist believe that death is a teacher. Would you agree?

In keeping death at the forefront of contemplative thinking, it becomes a constant reminder to discover - both ourselves and our world. What is our purpose, how can we fulfil that purpose? Why do we procrastinate when time seems to stalk us? Life becomes enriched when death is understood.

2. What are the advantages or benefits of meditating on one's own death? Are there disadvantages?

Meditations on death can give purpose and meaning to one's life. A direction or path may be found for someone who reflects on death. It reminds us that we, and everything else, are in a constant state of flux. Everything is somewhere along the continuum of integration, maturation, declination and extinction. Being aware that everything is interdependent can bring balance to people and allow one to view life in a kinder, gentler fashion.

Of course, if misunderstood, meditation on death may become nihilistic and a person may become despondent.

3. Which do you think is the more important question: What happens when I die? or What is happening now?

Although both questions may lead to greater understanding of what this life is all about, it is more important to contemplate what is happening now. It is well and good that all aspects of life (and death) be understood, but we exist here, now. We are this existence because of the manner that various criteria have come together. This is our reality, what we must deal with. Once dead, we are no longer "us" so such questions will not only not matter anymore, but they will not exist.

Master of Buddhism Lesson 8

Master of Buddhism lesson 8

1. What socially-driven, pre-conditioned ideas might a person have to give up in order to have faith in nirvana?

The western idea of success. Success in North America is usually thought to be a combination of financial and material
accumulation. The idea that things (big houses, cars, etc) and ideas (money, time, importance, etc) can lead to a secure happiness is a mistaken one. It is these two main factors that drive western cultured people to misery and fear - hence, suffering. Nirvana requires that one understands that such things are in fact, just things. How can happiness be founded upon that which can be removed from you?

2. As we have said, the lotus flower is frequently used as a comparison to enlightenment. Can you think of another image that could be compared, metaphorically?

A mountain stream might be a good comparison. Image that the water is rushing downhill very quickly and in its race, it picks up sticks and debris and carries it downstream as well. Because the it is a cold, pure stream, one can see right to the bottom. There sits a stone that too heavy for the water to pick up or to push forward so it sits on the bottom of the stream. The stone watches the stream rush past. The stone is nirvana. The stream is our thoughts.

3. If so, write a small poem about the comparison.

Cold still rock
in the riverbed
as ice water
madly rushes

To what do you rush?

Buddhism Lesson 3. Q and A.

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

Clearly, the fact that the Dharma was not written down by the Buddha himself is problematic and likely to lead to disputes  as to the authenticity of  some of  the content. This is by no means confined to Buddhism but has probably, to a greater or lesser extent, plagued most religious and philosophical movements throughout history.  The teachings of Jesus were collected and disseminated by others after his death and for nearly three hundred years,  there were heated discussions as to what writings did or did not form part of his message, a process only alleviated after the conversion of Constantine and the deployment of imperial power to create a monolithic church which had sufficient power to cow most dissident movements with relative ease.  In the process, many  contemporary 'scriptures' such as the Infancy gospels, the gospel of Thomas, gospel of Mary, various non-canonical acts of the apostles,and many more  failed the 'cut' and were rejected and suppressed in the interest of a particular institutional agenda.  In Islam, many of the problems over time and today are attributed to the existence of many thousands of hadith or alleged sayings of the Prophet (which were recorded some 250 years after his death by non-Arabs).Although the Koran repeatedly states that the Koran is sufficient in itself and that there is no need for supplementary legal authority in Islam,  most traditional Muslim clergy assert that one cannot be a true believer without the hadith.  This then is a portal for the importation of precepts which are not contained in the Koran or vastly exaggerate moderate in junctions.  

One would suggest that Buddhism has suffered less in this respect partly because so much emphasis is placed upon the individual and his or her reaction rather than upon adherence to a creed, partly because the Buddha denied himself any divine status and played down the role of teachers, and partly because Buddhism has always seemed to be more of a way of life than a form of worship.  Where divisions exist, they tend to co-exist peaceably and not result in violent schism as history has witnessed so often elsewhere.

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

It is arguable that the main change you need to make has already been made by virtue of the decision to go for refuge which indicates a dissatisfaction with one's present path and the desire to open oneself to the new.  Much would depend too, on the level of refuge upon which one is embarking;  the provisional refuge requires an openness and clearing of the mind as a preliminary to embracing the new, whilst the effective and real refuges represent more advanced stages which presuppose a familiarity with  both the practice and the underlying philosophy of dharma.  The word 'refuge' may also give an erroneous impression rather suggesting an asylum or escape from the world, perhaps akin to a retreat in Christian terms, whereas it can be seen more as a new outlook which has a transformative effect upon one's life and relationship with others.

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

In the essence, the three levels, or the potentiality to develop them, are found within the individual but they need to be identified and brought to the fore.  This involves inner readjustment but will also require assistance by way of example, spiritual advice or 'pairing' and practice.  The final commitment has to come from within the supplicant but on the way outside influences are helpful.  The relationship is perhaps the same as that sketched out by the Buddha himself in the way he counseled and encouraged those who came to him in order to follow his example and follow his way.

Master of Buddhism Lesson 8

1.      What socially-driven, per-conditioned ideas might a person have to give up in order to have faith in nirvana?
In order to have faith in nirvana, a person may have to let go of the socially-driven concept of putting themselves in a place of importance. That is, people put too much emphasis on competition or achievement. Or, more definitively, a place of status. One huge reason may be the fear people have of what may come if they don't hold on to that status. A person might think if they go and seek out nirvana and don't attain or find it, they might end up back where they started. It is this fear of failure or nothing to show for accomplishment which is so engraved in the social makeup of societies that can really hold a person back from being free.

2.      As we have said, the lotus flower is frequently used as a comparison to enlightenment. Can you think of another image that could be compared, metaphorically?
I think a ripple in the water from a rain drop could be used as comparison. We see the the rain drop on to a puddle representing the beginning journey as it hits the surface, the waves or disturbance on the water is hard and strong. As the ripples spread out, they become calm and eventually still.

3.      If so, write a small poem about the comparison.
A drop so small
A ripple so strong
The journey begins

Spreading like a storm
Until it finds a calm
Until it finds an end
The journey from within

Master of Buddhism Lesson 9

1.      What are the three main divisions of the Pali Cannon?
The three main divisions (also known as the "Three Baskets" or "Tipitaka")of the Pali Cannon are: Vinaya Pitaka, Sutta Pitaka, and Adhimmada Pitaka. They are all different lessons, guidelines, or rules for the Theravada Buddhist in the Pali language.
2.      How many pages are in the Pali Cannon?
The Pali Cannon consits of some 20000 pages. Which makes this quite exceptional form someone to actually put these wrings into practice considering the length and understanding they require.
3.      In your opinion, does it matter whether the Buddha actually spoke the words making up the text of "Original Buddhism?" How accurate is accurate? 
I think that to some extent I would want someone's claims of accuracy to have some foothold in truth. However, having said that, I do not believe that it ultimately matters because it is up to the individual to take from any lesson or teaching and then discover the meaning for oneself by meditation of mindful thoughts on what they are presented with. The practicing Buddhist or person wishing to better his or herself is constantly changing or transforming. The Buddha himself spent many long years trying to figure out what worked best for him and finally he reached enlightenment. 

Master of Buddhism Course Lesson Nine

Master of Buddhism Lesson Nine


1. What are the three main divisions of the Pali Cannon?

Vinaya Pitaka (Upali's commentary at the first Buddhist council dealing with the rules and regulations of monastic life), the Sutta Pitaka (Ananda's memories of Buddha's talks and parables - Ananda was one of the principal disciples of Buddha), and the Adhimmada Pitaka (an account of a talk on the metaphysical doctrines of Buddhism given to Sariputra from the Buddha).

2. How many pages are in the Pali Cannon?

Approximately 20 000 pages. Not all of the Canon has been translated into English.

3. In your opinion, does it matter whether the Buddha actually spoke the words making up the text of "Original Buddhism?" How accurate is accurate?

What is most important are the ideas expressed in the Pali Canon. The concepts expressed are what has become our understanding of Buddhism. It is pointless to argue of who actually spoke the words as long as one can find truth in them.

Master of Buddhism Lesson Eleven

1.      What are some of the unique traits of Mahayana Buddhism?
Mahayana Buddhists believe that everyone is capable of becoming a Buddha, not just the members of their school or other Buddhist schools. That is, any lay person has the potential to reach enlightenment. The Mahayana Buddhist adheres to life of compassion for all things, they seek to help others in their end of suffering. Mahayana Buddhism also follows more of a learn from the Buddhas actions and how he lived his life and not solely rely on strict doctrine to attain enlightenment.

2.      What is necessary in order to attain bodhicitta?
I think that a strong sense of compassion towards others who have not yet or are currently trying to end their suffering, to help them attain a cessation and become enlightened. Even if the practicing Buddhist does find and ends, he or she will keep trying no matter how long it takes. When the Buddhist does these things out of the kindness of their minds, bodhiccitta will eventually follow.

3.      Why do you think Mahayana Buddhism appeals to such large numbers of people?
Mahayana Buddhism appeals to large numbers of people because of its "universal" inclusion and approachability. Mahayana Buddhism is made available for everyone and teaches compassion and the inter-connectivity of all living things. In other words, we are all the same and we can all attain enlightenment no matter who you are or what you have done in the past.

Lesson 11 master of Buddhism

Lesson 11 -- Mahayana Buddhism

1. What are some of the unique traits of Mahayana Buddhism?

Mahayana Buddhism likes to apply its concepts globally rather than individually as the Theravada school does. For
example, one of the parables in the Lotus Sutra describes a group of travellers who are tired while on a long journey.
Their guide takes them to a wonderful hostel where they can rest for the night. The next morning the hostel has
disappeared and the travellers realize that they must finish their journey without delay. We understand from the parable
that the hostel was the state of enlightenment and that the end goal of the journey is not enlightenment - that is only
a stop along the way. The real goal is to encourage all creatures to seek the end of suffering. This is called the way
of the bodhisattva.

Mahayana is also not so concerned about trying to be a Buddha as that is often unattainable for people. People will set
standards so high for themselves, that the standards cannot be met - hence the idea that only monks can become
enlightened per the Theravada school. It is concerned more with becoming a bodhisattva, to be in service to others,
because everybody can succeed in this even in only a small way.

2. What is necessary in order to attain bodhicitta?

The Mind of Awakening is achieved through the desire to become a bodhisattva. This necessarily entails thoughts of
compassion for people, animals, the world. So a great concern for others is paramount. There must also be the
understanding that all people are different and find themselves in different situations. If we are to be of service to
others, we must have the mind of patience and understanding. When people are in mental pain, they often cannot see past
their own self and that makes it very difficult to help sometimes. The ability to see things from the point of view of
other people is another skill that one should possess because once a person is seen in a different perspective, it
changes one's own ideas about others. This is the beginning of compassion.

3. Why do you think Mahayana Buddhism appeals to such large numbers of people?

Mahayana is designed with ordinary people in mind. It is not about setting up borders between insiders (monks and nuns)
and outsiders (everybody else). Ordinary, everyday people can access the teachings and apply it to their lives right
now. Mahayana also holds out the idea that one may become enlightened in this lifetime, not several lifetimes from now.
One doesn't need to be cloistered away from the world - Mahayana practice IS the world.