For most people following the eightfold noble path

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Unformatted text preview: suffering is caused by human desires and acquisitiveness; (3) something can be done to end suffering; and (4) the end of suffering and achievement of enlightenment or buddhahood lies in following a prescribed program known as the Eightfold Noble Path (right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration). For most people, following the Eightfold Noble Path probably would not be easy. The doctrine of karma, or cause and effect, held that acts in previous existences were likely to have enmeshed one tightly in the web of desire and suffering and to have predestined one to at least several more cycles of death and rebirth. These fundamental teachings of Buddhism, which the contemporary West has found appealing as a psychology, were greatly augmented some five centuries after Gautama’s death with the advent of Mahayana, the Buddhism of the “Greater Vehicle.” The believers in Mahayana depre- The Introduction of Buddhism 21 catingly called the earlier form of Buddhism Hinayana, or the “Lesser Vehicle,” since it was essentially a body of doctrine designed to instruct individuals in how to achieve release from the cycle of life and death.2 This, the Mahayanists asserted, implied that buddhahood was really open only to those with a special capacity to follow correctly the Eightfold Noble Path. They claimed—and indeed produced ancient scriptures to “prove”—that just before his death Gautama had revealed the ultimate truth that all living things have the potentiality for buddhahood. The Mahayanists, moreover, came increasingly to regard Gautama as a transcendent, rather than simply a mortal, being and gave reverence to a new figure, the bodhisattva or “buddha-to-be,” who has met all the requirements for buddhahood but in his great compassion has postponed his entry into that state in order to assist others in their quest for release from the cycle of life and death. In contrast to Hinayana, which could be considered “selfish” because it urged people to devote the...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.

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