Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Buddhism Overview

Buddhism Overview

1. Buddhism-General Overview
The three main concepts of Buddhism:

1. “Conditioned Arising”: One of the main concepts of Buddhism is conditioned arising, which is a chain that shows how everything in the world is connected. Buddhists believe that all physical things depend on each other, and that if this chain is unraveled, one can reach nirvana because nirvana is the only thing in existence that is independent of everything else.

2. Nothing is permanent: Another main concept of Buddhism is the idea that nothing in the world is permanent. This idea has influenced many other Buddhist doctrines, such as the belief in a universal consciousness, but not a permanent soul that travels through samsara.

3. The Three Jewels: The Three Jewels are an important concept in Buddhism because they lay out the three most important components of Buddhism. They consist of the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. The Buddha is the example that Siddhartha Gautama set for others to reach enlightenment, the Dharma is the guidelines he set for the path to nirvana, and the Sangha is the community of monks and nuns who teach others.


1. One of the most important elements of the Buddha’s life is how he was sheltered from suffering in his youth because this allowed him to think about suffering differently than the average person at the time would. Another important element of his life is when he first saw suffering for the first time (in the forms of old age, sickness, and death) because this experience caused him to abandon his previous life and search for enlightenment. One of the other important events in his life was when he achieved nirvana, because this led him to teach others the path to nirvana.

2. a) The wheel that the Buddha holds in his hand represents the dharma of Buddhism. The wheel has eight spokes, and each spoke represents on the steps of the eightfold path, which leads to nirvana.

b) In the picture, the Buddha sits on a lotus as a throne and is meditating. The lotus represents enlightenment because its roots being in the mud but flowers in the open free space, symbolizing the journey towards enlightenment.

c) There is an aura of Buddha-hood that surrounds him and symbolizes the fact that he has reached nirvana. The aura for each Buddha is different and his aura is composed of six different colors and is said to be 20 feet in diameter.


a) The Buddha can be represented as either a symbol or an image. At first, he discouraged people from depicting him, so people depiced him using symbols such as the wheel, his footprints, the stupa, and the bodhi tree. He can also be visually depicted, which usually involves him sitting down, and each depiction of the Buddha tries to also represent the twelve key events in his life.

b) i. The Buddha has that is put into a topknot, which is what an ascetic would have worn his hair like during that time period.

ii. The Buddha has an urna, which is a small tuft of hair on his forehead. This is one of the thirty two physical marks of a superman.

iii. The Buddha’s posture is typical of the time, and his hands are placed in mudras, and is sitting in meditation.

iv. The Buddha is also sitting in a meditation posture, meaning that the legs are crossed and the soles of his feet are turned upwards and resting on his thighs. There are many different postures that the Buddha can be depicted in, and the meditation posture is very popular.

v. The Buddha is also depicted to be sitting on a meditation throne, which was usually used to symbolize the Buddha’s presence and indicate that a figure was the Buddha in Buddhist art.

4. a) Stupas are burial mounds that were used for important figures in early Buddhism. Some stupas also supposedly contain relics of the Buddha, which were divided up between mutiple stupas after his death. Some of the common symbols on stupas are a dome that sits on a five layered base which represents the five elements of the world and a sun that rests on a crescent moon which symbolizes wisdom and compassion.

b) One of the main features of a stupa is a depiction of certain events from the Buddha’s life such as right before he became a Buddha. There are also two stone lions that guard the entrance to the stupa and depictions of celestial spirits that carry offerings to the Buddha are usually located at the top of the stupa. There is also usually a wheel present like in other Buddhist art, which represents the dharma.

5. One symbol used for devotion in Buddhism is the lotus blossom. Its roots are in the mud, but it blooms in the open pure space, which represents enlightenment and the teachings of Buddha. The Sangha has also come to be represented by the lotus and monks are usually depicted by rising out of a lotus.

6. a) One of the main concepts of Buddhist cosmology is the idea of different realms of existence such as the four realms of mental rebirth, the realms of pure form, and the realm of desire. Buddhist believe that there are six realms or spheres of existence into which one can be reborn such as the realm of the gods, the asuras, the hungry ghosts, the animal realm, and the human realm.

b) Mandalas are representations of ideal worlds that usually pertain to a specific Buddha. They basically represent a smaller version of the cosmos, but also a larger version of the believers energy or spirit and are used for specific rituals within the faith.

c) One of the most important aspects of the wheel of life is craving, because Buddhist believe that this is part of what causes suffering. Another important part of the wheel of life is clinging because it represents the attachment to the physical world that causes suffering. Antoher important aspect is rebirth because it symbolizes the cycle of samsara.

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