Booklet 1: The Unique Characteristics of Buddhism
Every religion has a doctrine and basic philosophy. Buddhism is a religion: it too has a comprehensive doctrine and profound philosophy. Within the Buddhist doctrine and philosophy, there are aspects of the teachings that differ from other religions. These aspects are the unique characteristics of Buddhism.
What are the unique characteristics of Buddhism?
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Booklet 2: The Fundamental Concepts of Humanistic Buddhism
We know that the founder of Buddhism, Sakyamuni Buddha, is the Buddha of our world. He was born into this world; he cultivated his spiritual development, attained enlightenment, and shared with others the deep truths he had realized in this world. The human world was emphasized in everything he did. Why did the Buddha not achieve Buddhahood in one of the other five realms? Why did he not attain enlightenment in one of the other ten dharma worlds? Why did he, instead, attain complete awakening as a human being? Taking this question one step further, why did the Buddha not attain enlightenment in a past or future [kalpa]? Why did he choose our saha world and our present [kalpa]? There can only be one reason: the Buddha wanted the teachings of Buddhism to be relevant to the human world. The Buddhism that the Buddha gave us is humanistic, and Humanistic Buddhism is the integrating of our spiritual practice into all aspects of our daily lives. Humanistic Buddhism has the following six characteristics.
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Booklet 3: The Essence of Buddhism
Essence means truth and also refers to the fundamental Dharma. Sometimes we say the doctrine of the Three Dharma Seals (also known as the Three Characteristics of Existence) is the essence of Buddhism, or that Dependent Origination is the essence of Buddhism. Other times we say that it is emptiness (sunyata) or the Four Noble Truths. What, then, is the essence of Buddhism? Actually, all of these concepts are the fundamental truths of Buddhism.
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Booklet 4: The Great Buddha
Some of you may think that the Buddha is an almighty immortal with all kinds of powers, who can come and go without a trace. If you think this is the Buddha I am going to share with you, you will be disappointed. You may think that the Buddha is full of loving-kindness, and will grant you whatever you ask for in your prayers. This is not the case, either. I believe most people prefer the Buddha that sits cross-legged on the altar–serene, peaceful, quiet, and still. If the Buddha spoke and instructed us now, 「Don』t do this,」 or 「That』s not the case,」 we might not like the Buddha as much. Perhaps because the Buddha is not critical of us, does not reproach us or argue with us, we are drawn to him. We willingly pay respect and prostrate to him.
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Booklet 5: The Buddhist Perspective on Life and Destiny
Of all the issues that we have, we are most concerned with those that relate to us. Of all our concerns, the biggest one relates to our destiny. Each of us has a different opinion on the concept of destiny. Some people, when faced with hardship, complain bitterly about their ill fate. Others believe in destiny and that our circumstances, be they good or bad, are predetermined. Some people accept their difficult situations. Others are content with what they have; they are optimists and live carefree lives. Regardless of whether we find ourselves in a rut or on cloud nine, we should not be passive and simply accept our destiny. We should create our own destiny. When we talk about the Buddhist perspective on life and destiny, there are four areas to discuss.
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Booklet 6: The Wheel of Rebirth
When we talk about rebirth, some people laugh at the idea. They consider such belief passe and obsolete in the technologically advanced 21th Century. Others may think that the question of rebirth belongs strictly in the arena of religion. After all, the issue of what happens after death seems remote from everyday living. The saying, 「If I don』t even know about living, why ask about dying?」 reflects how some people may feel. To them, the question of rebirth is not a pressing concern. Indeed, in the ambience of this grand lecture hall, the subject of rebirth may not seem an appropriate lecture topic. If we were to discuss this question on a battlefield, where we are face to face with death, then we would be more earnest to approach and study this very important and serious question of death and rebirth.
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Booklet 7: When We Die
If I were to tell you that there is much suffering after death, you might be fearful of the pain you have to endure after death. In such a mindset, you would not be able to comprehend the true nature of death. If I were to tell you that life after death is serene and peaceful, you might misunderstand me and think that death is wonderful and is a means of liberation. Therefore, I can only say this: 「Life is not necessarily joyous, and death is not necessarily miserable.」
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Booklet 8: Food for Thought: Ten of Life』s Common Concerns
How to Face Poverty and Wealth? How to Handle Gains and Losses? How to Repent and Eliminate Our Unwholesome Karma? How to Diminish Our Mental Afflictions? How to Handle the Demands of Life? How to Anchor Our Life? How to Let Go of Our Loved Ones? How to Share Wealth? How to Face Aging and Sickness? How to Transcend Birth and Death?
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Booklet 9: Conditionality: The Law of Cause and Effect
When we say cause and effect, some Buddhists believe that it is simply a tool used to prod them into doing good deeds. This is not entirely correct. The Law of Cause and Effect according to the Buddha』s teachings is not so simplistic. Cause gives rise to effect—this is an inherent fact of life. The teachings of cause and effect are profound and operate with unfailing precision, more accurate than even the most advanced computers. Not only can we human beings not change the workings of cause and effect, even the gods cannot alter its path. The workings of cause and effect encompass everything in the universe and are the birthing ground of all conditions—past, present, and future.
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Booklet 10: The Buddhist Perspective on Cause and Condition
Over 2,500 years ago, Sakyamuni Buddha was born into this world for the cause and condition of a major mission. This major mission, this cause and condition, is what we now commonly refer to as the 「Buddha Dharma,」 the Truth realized by the Buddha. The Buddhist teachings differ from scholastic inquiry and knowledge. Usual scholastic inquiry focuses on explanation of appearances; it is an interpretation based on the name and form of phenomena. In contrast, Buddhism emphasizes the penetrative understanding of the nature of phenomena; it is ultimate and complete.
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Booklet 11: A Glimpse of Chan through the Sixtyh Patriarch's Platform Sutra
The Platform Sutra is a collection of Dharma talks given by the Sixth Patriarch of the Chan School of Buddhism. The Sixth Patriarch was the Venerable Huineng, whose life story is both fascinating and legendary. Many of you may have read that the Sixth Patriarch was a woodcutter and an illiterate. Because of his store of merits from previous lives and his quick grasp of the Dharma, he realized enlightenment under the guidance of the Fifth Patriarch and became a great master whose influence can still be felt to this day. I would, however, like to take this opportunity to dispel the notion that the Sixth Patriarch was an illiterate. On the contrary, he was an extremely well read man and had profound insights into many Buddhist sutras. He was very knowledgeable about numerous sutras.
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Booklet 12: The Essence of Chan
Psychology Among the eighty-four thousand teachings of Buddhism, Chan is the most enthusiastically studied and discussed in the world today. Although once confined to the East where it originated, the study of Chan has captured attention and interest in the West. To describe Chan is not an easy task, for Chan is something that can neither be talked about nor expressed in words. The moment language is used to explain Chan; we are no longer dealing with its true spirit. Chan is beyond all words, yet it cannot be left unexpressed.
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