This preview shows page 1. Sign up to view the full content.
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...
View Full Document
This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13