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Study Group Questions
A) What are the sacred writings of this faith? When were they written, if known? By whom? Under what circumstances?
The Pali Canon consists of three divisions, the Tipitaka (or Tripitaka in Sanskrit) which literally means the \'three baskets\'. Each of these baskets has different concerns. First, there is the Vinaya Pitaka, the Book of Discipline, which includes the rules of monastic discipline given by the Buddha during his lifetime. The second division is the Sutta Pitaka, a collection of the Buddha\'s discourses. This has particular significance as it contains the essential teachings of the Buddha, accounts of his own enlightenment experience, and instructions on morality and meditation. The third division is the Abhidhamma Pitaka or Higher Teachings which offers an intricate analysis of the nature of mental and physical existence.
The Pali Canon is believed to have been passed down orally from generation to generation until the first century B.C. when it was finally written down on palm leaves.
Other writings include the Lotus Sutra, written between 100 and 200 B.C.
The Heart Sutra, first century B.C., and the Diamond Sutra, date unknown.
No information describing the circumstances during the writings was found.
B) Does this religion accept part, or all, of the Bible as sacred?
Buddhism does not accept any portion of the Bible to be sacred. In fact, the teachings of the Bible contradict the fundamental teachings of Buddhism. Buddhism rejects the concept of God that Christians believe in and is not based on a fundamental religious system. In Buddhism there are no moral absolutes. It offers many different paths for diverse people with various needs and capacities. The basic teachings of Buddhism are based on the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, not on the scriptures contained in the Bible. Because of its flexibility, Buddhism has no commandments, only moral guidelines. They reject the “rigidities” that are associated with Christianity. Freedom is the promise of Buddhist practice. Although Buddhists do not deny the existence of God, they teach that the worship of God or Gods obstruct one’s quest for personal nirvana. They believe in no God as an eternal deity. Gautama, the founder of Buddhism, did not claim to be divine, but did claim that he was the one to point to the way of nirvana, an ultimate state in the afterlife. He stated that he was the one to point to the way of nirvana, but said that it was up to each individual to find his own way there. This statement in itself speaks of the amount of flexibility in their religion. Through research, it appears that Buddhism is a “shoot from the hip” or “make it up as you go” type of religion.
C) Is history as important to this religion’s sacred book(s) as it is to Christianity?
There are many special or holy days held throughout the year by the Buddhist community. Many of these days celebrate the birthdays of Bodhisattvas in the Mahayana tradition or other significant dates in the Buddhist calendar. The most significant celebration happens every May on the night of the full moon, when Buddhist all over the world celebrate the birth, enlightenment and death of the Buddha over 2,500 years ago. It has become to be known as Buddha Day. Based on this knowledge, it is safe to assume that history and tradition play an important role in Buddhism.
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