All meetings are from 1 to 3 pm in the Library at Beacon and everyone is welcome.
For October, 2017
This month we will meet on Tuesdays, October 10th and 24th, from 1-3 pm, in the library.
In our Great Courses lecture series, Sacred Texts of the World, we’ll continue with our study of Buddhist texts. We’ll begin with Theravada (“Teachings of the Elders”), which is the oldest surviving form of Buddhism. They believed that that the Buddha was a man who gained enlightenment and then passed into nirvana, and that only monks and nuns would be able to achieve enlightenment. We’ll learn about such texts as Samyutta Nikaya (“Connected Discourses”), the Therigatha (“Verses of the Elder Nuns”), the Dhammapada (“Verses of the Buddha’s Teachings”) and the Discourse to the Kalamas. Then we’ll look at Mahayana (“the Greater Vehicle”). This form of Buddhism believes that Buddha was a god and they put a great deal of emphasis on bodhisattvas. They also teach that all believers are capable of enlightenment. We’ll learn about the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, especially the Lotus Sutra and also the Diamond and Heart Sutras.
At our second meeting, we’ll begin with the three Pure Land Sutras: the Larger Pure Land Sutra (or Sutra of the Immeasurable Life), the Smaller Pure Land Sutra (or Amida Sutra), and the Sutra of Meditation on Amida. These originated in India and China around 200 C.E., but gained their greatest popularity in Japan around the 11th and 12th centuries. Then we’ll learn about Zen Buddhism which was dominate in China in the 12th century, but really came into its own in Japan in the late 12th and 13th centuries. Zen traditions emphasized experiential understanding through the meditation and downplayed scripture study, discursive thought and philosophical analysis. Zern also stressed the importance of the master-disciple relationship. Finally, we’ll learn about Tibetan Vajrayana, which means the “Thunderbolt” or “Diamond Vehicle”. Vajrayana began in India in the 6th or 7th centuries, when Tantric techniques were added to Mahayana philosophy. Tantrism refers to physical or mental actions that facilitate or accelerate the journey to enlightenment. Vajrayana spread to Tibet where it is mostly found today, but there is also an important offshoot in Japan known as Shingon (“True Word”). Among other texts, we’ll learn about the Tibetan Book of the Dead found in northern India in 1919 by Walter Evans-Wentz, the theosophist, who later translated and published it.
Come join us in learning so much more about all these forms of Buddhism. For more information, contact Glory Bowen, 973-335-5590.