Myth: Sacred Book of Buddhism

The sacred book used in Buddhism is known simply as Canon. It contains over 100 pages. The Canon is divided into Tripitaka (Three Baskets) that carries Buddhist scriptural traditional; the Vinaya the contains rules that guides both monks and nuns; Sutras (sermons of Buddha); and finally the Abhidharma which represents philosophical Buddhism works. Oxford University published a 50-volume series of Sacred Books of the East, among them those of Buddhism. Buddhism has a well defined set of texts among them the Tibetan canon, Chinese canon, and Pali Canon.

Source: Hardy, Grant. Sacred Texts of the World. Chantilly, Virginia: The Great Courses, 2014.

Ritual: Two major holidays

Buddhists celebrate several holidays in course of a year. They vary according to traditions or linage, and the dates may alter; below are the important Buddhism holidays celebrated:

  • Jukai refers to the formal way of entering Buddhism or following Buddha’s way. This ceremony comprises of a repentance ceremony, chants, and acceptance of the three refuges (Sangha, Dharma, and Buddha).One must undergo three general resolutions (do good, avoid evil, and liberate the sentiment being) and then the ten cardinal percepts. Jukai should be taken by practitioners as many times as possible.
  • Wesak also known as Vesak is another significant Buddhist ceremony. The festival is celebrated on full moon of the month of Vesakha, mostly in May or early June when this full moon occurs. Wesak marks the commemoration of the birth of Buddha, his enlightenment when he was 35 years of age, and his death at the age of 80 (Turpie 9). Buddhists believe that these significant events in the life of Buddha occurred at full moon, justifying their selection of the festival dates based on the movement of the moon.

Source: Turpie, David. Wesak and the Re-creation of Buddhist Tradition. MA Thesis. McGill University, 2001.

Religious Specialist: Leaders

There are four categories of Buddhist religious leaders:

  • Abbot means the father. He is the head of a monastery. For Buddhist nunneries, the nun in such position is called abbess.
  • The other specialist leader is the monk (Bhiksu). He is responsible for dissemination of Buddha teachings. A person in this position also offers guidance to the people when they have problems.
  • Nuns also known as bhiksunialso offer religious teaching to followers and help people when they have personal problems.
  • Priests are responsible for leading worship, performing ritual and ceremonies at Buddhist temples. The majority are male, though female prists also exist.

Source: Thanissaro, Phra Nicholas. “Beyond Precepts in Conceptualizing Buddhist Leadership.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 25 (2018): 119-146.

Spirits and God in Buddhism

The practice of worshipping spirits and local deities among Buddhist began in India where the spirits were included in Buddhist pantheon to protect dharma. The first one is the naga(dragon or serpent); it is a symbol of fertility and water. YakṢa and yakṣinī(ogres of forest) are evil spirits that represent uncultivated plains subjugated by Buddha in Sri Lanka. The Asura are anti-gods that defied warriors in Japan and Myanmar. Garudaare mythicalbirds that that were turned into flying vehicles. It is worth noting that, even some of the worst spirits were turned into foci of devotion and instead became guardians of local monasteries and images.

Source: Pyysiäinen, Ilkka. “Buddhism, Religion, and the Concept of” God”.” Numen 50.2 (2003): 147-171.

Sacred Stuff and Places in Buddhism

The footprint of Buddha is believed to be an imprint of the spiritual leader’s appendage. The footprint can occur naturally in rocks and artificially as in the case of replicas found in other temples. The footprint is a testament to Buddha’s physical existence on Earth. The footprint is special because it is the only monuments representing Buddha in the world in addition to being actual depression in earth. These footprints bear distinct marks like Dharmachakra sole’s center and other engravings such as 32 and 132 underneath the sole.

Source: Win, Su Latt. “The Significance of the Buddha Footprint in the Bagan Metropolis.”  Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme, 2017.

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