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.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Master of Buddhism Week 17

Master of Buddhism Week Seventeen

1. Which of the Buddhist festivals most appeals to your sensibilities? Perhaps you can find a celebration of this
event locally.

Loy Krathong (the Floating Bowls). The ideas of watching one's troubles float away is pleasing. It puts in one in mind
of a Canadian native tradition wherein one ties offerings to a tree branch to mourn the passing of a loved one. A person
can be aware of nature reclaiming the symbol of the person and find comfort and healing in the process.

2. "So let the master settle, and wander." What does this mean to you?

The master being referred to is the bee. It is the master because it spreads life (pollen) while leaving the environment
undisturbed. This is a hint to us that we should do the same; spread life and encourage growth while at the same time
being careful not to disturb or destroy what happiness or existence.

3. If Buddha were alive today, would he preach abstention from eating meat? Why or why not?

I do not believe he would. It still stands that a Buddhist beggar would accept what is placed in the begging bowl. On a
larger scale, one should that which is given to aid spiritual growth.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Master of Buddhism Lesson Sixteen

1.      There are many possible reasons people site as to why Buddha hesitated in allowing Mahapajapati to join the sangha. Can you think what any of them might be?

I would think that because of the times in which the Buddha lived were structurally based around a heavily male dominated society. That is, men were considered more important, smarter, entitled, or even superior to women. I believe its one of those things that people were brought up to believe, and the Buddha may have had concerns about how others would view this. Obviously there could have been any other number of reasons such as, he might be concerned about the lust factor between men and women as well. Unfortunately those stigmas about people still hold true today. However, I do believe that those barriers have been broken significantly in many countries.

2.      Does the Thai sangha benefit by keeping women out? Why or why not?

I think that when you do not include someone who could be a potential benefit to a group then you are missing out - whether it is a woman or man. I understand that people have traditions, rules, and other things that can upset a delicate balance of crossing one path or another – but to me it does not make sense to disallow a person because of their sex when they could benefit a sangha with their wisdom, experiences, and compassion.

3.      What do you think the Buddha would say today if he were here to give advice to monks and nuns?

I would hope the Buddha would say something like he always would. Be mindful, treat each others with respect, and be compassionate to all sentient beings. I would also hope he would let them know that no matter who they are, they have to potential to become enlightened and that each monk and nun are the same, both capable of all the precepts, teachings, and helping others to attain enlightenment.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Buddhism Week Sixteen Women in Buddhism

1. There are many possible reasons people cite as to why Buddha hesitated in allowing Mahapajapati to join the
Sangha. Can you think what any of them might be?

Buddha was a product of his time. He was raised to believe in the inferiority of women and lived in a culture that
actively promoted those ideals. Just because he was an enlightened being, doesn't mean he wasn't politically aware. He
likely considered that there would be resistance should he let women enter the Sangha. Perhaps he knew it would always
be a source of difficulty for the men who couldn't come to grips with it and that fact, not the women, would lead to the
destruction of the Sangha.

2. Does the Thai Sangha benefit by keeping women out? Why or why not?

Nobody ever benefits from elitist stratification.

3. What do you think the Buddha would say today if he were here to give advice to monks and nuns?

I believe that his advice would be the same, but he would now enjoy the fact that he would not have to make distinctions
based on gender.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Master of Buddhism Lesson Fifteen

1.      In your own opinion, could Buddhism exist without any one of the following: monks, nuns, laymen, laywomen?

I would think that there are two different levels to this question. The first being that in order for Buddhism to exist with its rules, precepts, philosophies, and other various teachings – there needs to be some sort of guide along the way to keep it to its true roots. For example, I will use the analogy repair manual. There are people who are very handy, sort of handy, and no so handy when it comes to fixing things. With a book a person can have a anything from a very simple to a very complex system of repair work. And while a book or manual offers a guideline for understanding how something operates, it may be necessary to seek out someone who better understands how to use the book. Or even better, someone who knows better on the subject and has been in certain repair scenarios before. Some things may or may not be covered in the manual as well.

On the second level I think the idea of Buddhism in any sense for personal enlightenment or the addition of empathy towards others can exist without monks, nuns, laymen, and laywomen. What I mean by this is that even if Buddhism didn't exist, I think people would still try to better themselves and others. They would set their own guidelines and limits and may even write a manual along the way.

2.       What are the advantages of going on a pilgrimage?

The advantages of going on a pilgrimage are to distance oneself from their current state and to reflect along the way. They might also go to a place where someone such as, the Buddha resided to feel more of a connection and find inspiration in themselves. I suppose in a sense a pilgrimage is about feeling a connection mostly but not entirely. Never having been on one myself, I would also imagine it might be a much more heightened experience for the closeness one could feel to the Buddha.

3.      Are monks and nuns as reliant on laypeople today as they were in ancient India? Are  laypeople of today as reliant on monks and nuns?

I would say that there is always going to be a symbiotic relationship between the two sides. However, I think that the reliance between the two has become less – more so in the sense of needing the basics to survive (i.e. food and shelter). This is mostly due in large part to the growth of industrialization, transportation, and technologies. We have more: planes, bridges, roads, cars, boats, computers, factories, houses, shelters, and the list of excess goes on - than ever conceived of during ancient times. On the teaching aspect alone, I would even say to some extent due to media access such as, the internet, even the teachings can be acquired without the need of an physical person. That being said however, I suppose if one was to boil this down to salt or the cause and effect concept then yes, without the teachings originally put in motion then the internet or other places of information would not be available. So yes, there is still a need but not as much as it used be.

Master of Buddhism Lesson Fourteen

1.      What are some advantages of taking precepts?

Taking on the precepts is advantageous in that it helps keep the practicing Buddhist on track throughout his or her path to enlightenment. I think it also helps to know what these precepts involve before taking on the path. I believe initially it also gives the potential monk/nun a choice of either yes: this is what I want to do or no: this is not for me.

2.      Under any circumstance, should any of the ten precepts be taken lightly?

I don't think the any of the precepts should be taken lightly except under environmental or life threatening situations For example, do not take food after noon. I can't imagine that food is always going to be available at every time before noon. A Buddhist should not starve because of this. I think this is also a situation of social acceptance. Whereas, some communities might accept the idea of begging while others might night.

3.      "(The homeless brother) must preach to everyone, he must wake up sleeping people." What do you think this means

I believe what this means is that the homeless brother has a task of showing people that there is a better way of life and through that way one can be enlightened or awake. Many people are blind to their social, material, and unmindful way of life. They go through life "asleep" or unaware of the suffering they are causing themselves and the world around them. The homeless brother, being on the Buddhist path is also on a mission to help his/her fellow sentient beings.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Master of Buddhism Week Fourteen - Monastic Buddhism

1. What are some advantages of taking precepts?

Living in accordance with the precepts, one would live a life of safety and wisdom. Wise choices about daily life would
be made which would lead to better circumstances. If one chooses not to rob a bank, for example, then one doesn't need
to worry about being chased and caught by the police and subsequently doing time in prison. Better choices, better

It would also allow one to gain a reputation for honesty and integrity. Trustworthiness is a by-product of living the
precepts. People would feel safe and comfortable such a person who lives the precepts.

Finally, one would shed much of the causes for anguish that interfere with life. Life would become less complicated and

2. Under any circumstance, should any of the ten precepts be taken lightly?

A silly question really. Should one take the precepts lightly, one is not following the path of Buddhism. This is how
corruption and greed sneak into life. Buddhism is about removing delusions, if you are not vigorously seeking to remove
those delusions, why would a person bother to practice?

3. "(The homeless brother) must preach to everyone, he must wake up sleeping people." What do you think this

If taken literally, this is no more than an exhortation to evangelize on behalf of Buddhism. However, if taken in the
spirit of Buddhist teachings, it means that one ought not to withhold teachings from those who wish to know - don't not
teach somebody because you dislike them, for example. And of course, waking up the sleeping person is to bring them to
enlightenment, wake them from the sleep of delusion. It is as if one is asleep because they do not see the truth of the
world, only a hazy dream of it.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Master of Buddhism Lesson Thirteen

1.      What do you think it is about Vajrayana that makes it appeal to so many Westerners?

I think that Vajrayana appeals to so many westerners due the idea that this school of Buddhism offers not only the idea that all sentient beings are capable of becoming enlightened, but offers a concentrated set of rules and guidelines (e.g. Tantras) to achieve enlightenment. These teachings offer a quicker path to becoming enlightened which is also a plus for many seeking the path. Of course these ideas may or may not have have spread so much if not for the movement of Tibetan monks to the west when China invaded Tibet, opening up this school for so many new people who were ready for some new ways of though.

2.      Which of the three paths—Theravada, Mahayana, or Vajrayana, appeals most to you? Why?

Of the three paths, Mahayana appeals to me the most. This is because of its availability or approach-ability  Though I would have to say that whiting Mahayana, I do lean more towards the Zen school. Zen Buddhism has always been the most appealing due to its sense of life lessons and koans which have been very eye opening in seeing things as they really are.

3.      Are there practices in Vajrayana which could be beneficial to all sentient beings? If so, which ones?

Definitely. The idea of the interconnection of energy and using the body to promote well being such as, deity yoga and other tantric practices which help free a mind of suffering and fill it full of enlightenment are beneficial. Not only do they give a more tangible approach to Buddhist practices giving the practitioner a physical and mental uplifting, but can provide one with a new and better understanding of the surrounding environment and due to this interconnection. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Lesson 13 -- Vajrayan Buddhism

Buddhism Week Thirteen

1. What do you think it is about Vajrayana that makes it appeal to so many Westerners?

Western people, like all people, have a leaning toward ceremony and rites in order to establish meaning in their lives.
Rituals are important because it binds culture with daily life - gives it meaning and importance. Vajrayana has many
rites and rituals that appeal to people; there are colourful clothes, exotic sounds and smells, and the air of mystic
knowledge. It is Buddhism mixed with shamanism - a very potent mixture! The appeal of Eastern wisdom coupled with
mystic rites is irresistible to many people.

2. Which of the three paths—Theravada, Mahayana, or Vajrayana, appeals most to you? Why?

Personally, Mahayana is the most appealing branch of the three. Not being one for supernatural explanations, I shy away
from Vajrayana. However, being very interested in symbolism, Mahayana strikes a cord with my sensibilities. I am
particularly enamoured with such sutras as the Lotus Sutra which is filled with rich images of symbolism and meaning.

3. Are there practices in Vajrayana which could be beneficial to all sentient beings? If so, which ones?

Many aspects of this practice may be beneficial to all beings; Yogic practices and tantric practices are obvious
choices. Yogic practice may allow one to understand them self as a buddha, fully complete and fully formed. This may
have a huge impact on one's esteem and perception of the world. Tantric practices, such as mantras, allow people to
become more grounded and connected with rituals that impact on daily activities. It may allow a person to believe that
their practice is strong.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Master of Buddhism Lesson Twelve

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?

I believe Zen Buddhists strive to break the language barrier because words do not always do justice to the actual meaning of something. There are many things that need to be experienced, achieved, or even meditated on in order to come to some sort of personal explanation of what it is we are presented with. For example, what words can truly describe enlightenment or the experience of love? When words are used to explain things such as, love and enlightenment, we put restrictions on them by giving them definition or absolutes.

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

I think it is called the Gateless gate because it represents a point of entry without bounds to the mind or way of thought. It's not an actually gate but is still a starting point. Again keeping to the idea of language barriers, the term Gateless gate I think fits perfectly.

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

Much the same as any Buddhist practice, Zen Buddhism offers the idea of enlightenment or being freed from suffering or burdens. Zen Buddhism might seem to appeal more than other schools of Buddhism however, because of the appearance of a mystical or some some other element due to its self reflective and often extensive utilization of the mind to find answers in koans or everyday happenings. People are always grasping for a new way or fix to their problems. Usually if something seems more than it is, it becomes appealing.