Buddhism Philosophy & Teachings

Prātimokṣa | Disciplinary Code

The Prātimokṣa (Pāli, pātimokkha), presumably the oldest section of the Vinaya, contains the disciplinary code that regulates the life of the Saṅgha, the Buddhist monastic community. The etymology of the term prātimokṣa is uncertain, but it denotes the highest standard of conduct for Buddhist monastics. The prātimokṣa is recited twice a month, on the full moon and new moon days, at an observance known as...

Māra

Māra, whose name literally means “death” or “maker of death,” is the embodiment of lust, greed, false views, delusion, and illusion. He is a virtually ubiquitous presence in Buddhist texts from the earliest accounts of the Buddha’s Enlightenment on: Māra stands as an active antagonist of the Buddha and his followers, as well as a powerful metaphor. Paradigmatically, Māra attempts to stop the Buddha in...

Mahāsiddhas

The Sanskrit term Mahāsiddha (“great master of spiritual accomplishment” or “great adept”) and the simpler, near synonymous form siddha (adept) refer to an individual who has achieved great success in tantric meditation. Buddhist traditions mainly associate siddhas with the transmission of tantric instructions. They are especially important for the Buddhist schools of Nepal and Tibet, there are 84 Mahāsiddhas, founders of tantric lineages still in...

Pilgrimage | History & Practices

We cannot say with assurance when pilgrimage first became a part of Buddhist tradition. However, the fact that the canonical collections of several early Buddhist schools include a Sūtra in which Gautama Buddha himself exhorts his followers to visit sites associated with his life indicates the centrality that pilgrimage came to have in the early centuries of the Buddhist movement. This passage occurs in the...

Miracles in Buddhism

Paradigmatic miracles occur in accounts of the life of the Buddha, well-known wherever Buddhism is practiced. As a Buddha Śākyamuni was believed to possess the standard set of supernormal powers accruing to those of high spiritual attainments, including - the power to know details of his previous lives, - the ability to see the past lives of others, - the power to read minds, the...

Samye Debate | India or China?!

Among Western scholars, the Samye Debate has generated more speculation than any other single event in Tibetan history: Around 797 C.E., a philosophical debate is said to have taken place at Samye, the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet: The debate was held in order to decide, in effect, which form of Buddhism would be adopted by the Tibetan royal court - that of the Chinese...

Heavens in Buddhism

Buddhist cosmology recognizes a hierarchy of Heavens (svarga) comprising - the 6 Heaven realms of the “world of the senses” (kāma loka) inhabited by their respective gods, - and the various Heavens of the pure form and formless worlds inhabited by the various classes of higher gods known as Brahmās. These Heavens are places where any being can potentially be reborn: Heavenly existence is not...

Hells in Buddhism

Hells play an important part in virtually all Buddhist traditions, past and present: As the lowest of the 6 (or sometimes 5) paths of Rebirth, Hell is one of the most colourful parts of Buddhist Cosmology, mythological reflection, and practice. The Hells are the worst (and therefore the best) example of the fate that greets the unenlightened after Death, just as a pleasurable rebirth in...

Decline of the Dharma

Texts predicting that the Buddhist religion will last only 500 years do not subdivide this figure into smaller periods. With the advent of longer timetables, however, Buddhists began to identify discrete stages or periods within the overall process of decline. A wide range of periodization systems can be found in Indian Buddhist texts. Clearly there was no consensus among Indian Buddhists on the total duration...

Devadatta

Devadatta is the paradigmatically wicked and evil personality in Buddhist tradition and literature. There are various major and minor legends about Devadatta’s actions against the Buddha and the Buddhist community: The 3 most serious acts leading to Devadatta’s fall into hell, are: 1. Causing the First Schism of the Buddhist order, 2. Wounding the Buddha, and 3. Killing a Buddhist nun named Utpalavarṇā.