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Buddhism, Language and Ritual

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Laura Frude

on 16 March 2016

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Transcript of Buddhism, Language and Ritual

My name is Laura Frude
PhD student
Topics of interest are Theravāda Buddhism, ritual practice and magic
Undergraduate degree in Theology and Religious Studies
Masters (MPhil.) explored themes of immortality in Buddhism.
Buddhism, Language and Ritual

Buddhism: An Overview
The Buddha
The Four Noble Truths
The Monastic Order
Types of Buddhist Practice
Origins of Buddhism
The origins of Buddhism lie in ancient India
Aryan migration into India 2nd millennium BCE
Religious teachings of the
Caste System consists of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras
Growing ascetic practices
The Buddha
Buddha can be dated back to approx. 400-500 BCE
Buddha only refers to the post-enlightenment state.
Prior to enlightenment known as

Other names include
Śākyamuni, Tathāgata,
Encounter with Buddha Dīpamkara and Bodhisattva Vow
Māyā's dream and conception
Birth and pronouncement
Predictions of greatness
Adulthood, marriage and parenthood
Leaving home and the 4 sights
Ascetic practice
Bodhi tree meditation and distractions from Māra
The Four Noble Truths
Suffering (
all that is unenlightened is marked by this. Perhaps a more useful translation is ‘dis-ease’.
Origin (
the origin of dukkha lies in craving (

Cessation (
the cessation of dukkha, will come through the cessation of ignorant thought and action. In other words, the only cure for dukkha is
Way (
the path to enlightenment is outlined in in the eightfold path.

Unenlightened beings are caught in perpetual cycle of life, death and rebirth.
It is NOT a place, but rather a form of existence.
Samsāric existence is conditioned by three marks:
1)impermanence (
anitya/ anicca
2)not-Self (
anātman/ anattā
3)dis-ease (
Can be translated as action
In Brahmanical society it was initially understood in terms of ritual behaviour
Ideas concerning
evolved and all actions were understood to cause an effect.
In Buddhist thought
has a causative nature.
does not always have immediate results, but can take many lifetimes to have an effect.
Dependent Origination
Buddhism offers a system of causation known as Dependent Origination (
pratītyasamutpadā/ paticcasmuppāda
This system of thought maintains that everything has been caused into existence. Nothing has been created
ex nihilo
This is useful in understanding how there can be rebirth without a belief in a soul. A new being is caused into existence so that remaining karmic results may take place.
In relation to rebirth, the Buddha taught a twelvefold formula for Dependent Origination in the
Mahānidāna Sutta
“conditioned by ignorance are formations, conditioned by formations is consciousness, conditioned by consciousness is mind-and-body, conditioned by mind-and-body are the six senses, conditioned by the six-senses is sense contact, conditioned by sense contact is feeling, conditioned by feeling is craving , conditioned by craving is attachment, conditioned by attachment is becoming, conditioned by becoming is birth, conditioned by birth is old age and death”

Samyutta Nikāya ii. 20

is attained through seeing the world as it really is (
). One must have a complete understanding of the nature of Dependent Origination,
, and
is often described using negatives. This is to show that it is not conditioned, there is no death, no rebirth, no
The Buddha had attained enlightenment during his lifetime, he did not die nor did he vanish.
Upon death a person who has nirvānic existence is understood to enter a state known as
Monastic Order
Importance of lineage in ancient India
The Buddha had his own disciples who went on to teach the
to their pupils. This lead to the creation of a monastic community which is known as the
The Buddha ordained monks (
) and nuns (
) during his lifetime.
The creation of the
The Sangha appears to be a single entity until several years after the Buddha’s death when there was a disagreement between
split into two. The two sects were known as the
(elders) and the
(those of the great community).
Types of Buddhist Practice
The split in the
saw the creation of different schools of thought within Buddhism.
Two main forms of Buddhism Mainstream Buddhism and Mahāyāna Buddhism.
Mainstream Buddhist schools include: Sarvāstivāda, Sautrāntika, Theravāda, Pudgalavāda, and Mahāsāmghika.
In modern Buddhism the only surviving mainstream school is Theravāda Buddhism.
Mahāyāna schools include: Zen/Chan, Pure Land, Shingon, Tendai, Nichiren, and Tibetan Buddhism.
Can you give an example of an epitaph for the Buddha?
What is the Second Noble Truth?
What does tanhā mean?
Is samsāra a place?
What does anātman mean?
What word means 'action'?
How many steps are there in Dependent Origination?
What is Nirvāna after death also known as?
Language and Buddhism
Can exert control over something by having a complete knowledge of it.
Example of this found through the use of saccakiriyā
The spoken truth can be used to influence and change situations.
This is not the only way in which language can be used: paritta and mantras are also used by Buddhists.
Paritta can be translated as protection
Possible pre-Buddhist roots.
Popularity in Theravāda countries
It is used for a variety of situations
Relation to other acts and practices
Language and Religion
What are the functions of language?
Is all language the same?
Do all words have power?
Is context important?
What is the function of language in religion?
Tambiah divides language into two different forms: Sacred and Profane
Examples found in Catholicism and Hinduism
Words or syllables that possess in innate power
Found in many Indian traditions
Similarities with paritta
Initiations and restrictions
Can language ever be exclusively sacred or profane?
Can words do more than just communicate?
Are paritta and mantra rituals or can they be classified as something else?
Do they have another purpose?
Using Sources
Take some time to think about early life of the Buddha. Work in small groups to discuss and write down any questions that you have about it. Also note down any teachings or points you think it might be making.

Once this is done we will discuss as a group.
1. Right view
2. Right intention
3. Right speech
4. Right action
5. Right livelihood
6. Right effort
7. Right mindfulness
8. Right concentration

The Eightfold Path
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