Buddhist teachers: past and present

Kerome

Kerome

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#1
To go alongside the Buddhism basics threads, I thought I would do a little series of posts all in one thread about different Buddhist teachers from the past and the present, to give people some pointers about where to look for teachings and how Buddhism evolved.

Buddhist history is rich and full of interesting characters, and many of them had some very intrigueing insights to offer. You can learn a lot about Buddhism just by reading a few mini biographies of its leading lights. And anyway quite a few of them were hilariously funny and outrageous characters. You will like these guys, I am sure :)
 
Kerome

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Bodhidharma

When: 5th or 6th century AD
Where: Shaolin Monastery, China


Bodhidharma was the first Zen Patriarch, and is credited with having brought Zen Buddhism to China, out of India where it first started around 500 BC. Throughout Buddhist art, Bodhidharma is depicted as an ill-tempered, profusely-bearded, wide-eyed non-Chinese person. He is referred as "The Blue-Eyed Barbarian" in Chan texts. In Japan he is known as Daruma.

Some say he came from south India, others say he was a Persian. There are many stories and legends concerning Bodhidharma. One says that he visited Emperor Wu of Liang, a fervent patron of Buddhism. The encounter is recorded as follows:

Emperor Wu: "How much karmic merit have I earned for ordaining Buddhist monks, building monasteries, having sutras copied, and commissioning Buddha images?"
Bodhidharma: "None. Good deeds done with worldly intent bring good karma, but no merit."
Emperor Wu: "So what is the highest meaning of noble truth?"
Bodhidharma: "There is no noble truth, there is only emptiness."
Emperor Wu: "Then, who is standing before me?"
Bodhidharma: "I know not, Your Majesty."
In those days it was not done to speak to an Emperor like that, but Bodhidharma got away with it. He was ornery, wise and a pretty earthy character. Supposedly after failing to make an impact in south China he travelled to Shaolin Monastery, where he lived in a cave nearby and spent nine years gazing at the cave wall, not speaking the entire time. He then taught for a time at the monastery, and introduced the monks to martial arts because he was so put out by their poor physical condition.

His teaching emphasised meditation and specifically the Lankavatara Sutra. This is very much in keeping with the zen tradition, which is more about meditative breakthrough than learning the words of the Buddha, although of course the sutra's are not neglected.

Quotes from Bodhidharma's teachings:

"The mind is the root from which all things grow - if you can understand the mind, all else is included."

"Many roads lead to the path, but basically there are only two: reason and practice."

"The ignorant mind, with its infinite afflictions, passions and evils, is rooted in the three poisons. Greed, anger, and delusion."

"If you use your mind to study reality, you won't understand either. If you study reality without using your mind, you will understand both."

"Not creating delusions is enlightenment."


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodhidharma
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laṅkāvatāra_Sūtra
 
Per Ardua Ad Astra

Per Ardua Ad Astra

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#3
Thanks for sharing, kerome :)

I quite like the idea of Buddhism, cos it centres on what humanity can achieve for themselves in spirituality and awareness. I was explaining to my niece a couple of weeks ago, that the Buddha was a human being who actually existed as an historical fact.

She was quite impressed and excited by this, cos she herself has no religion, but is interested in ecological issues, is a vegan, and is an all round kind and cool person.

I told her about the Buddhist centre in the city near us, and also about a Buddhist nun who runs a centre and projects in one of the outlaying villages in our district :)
 
Kerome

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Thich Nhat Hanh

When: present day
Where: South France


Thich Nhat Hanh is a Vietnamese Buddhist monk and peace activist, born in 1926. He entered Buddhist monastery at age 16, was ordained at age 23, and at age 30 became the editor of Vietnamese Buddhism, the periodical of the Unified Vietnam Buddhist Association. He has led a long and turbulent life, he was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967, and in 1969 he was the delegate for the Buddhist Peace Delegation at the Paris Peace talks. When the Paris Peace Accords were signed in 1973, Thích Nhất Hạnh was denied permission to return to Vietnam and he went into exile in France.

Thich Nhat Hanh's writings are characterised by a deep insight. His approach has been to combine a variety of traditional Zen teachings with insights from other Mahayana Buddhist traditions, methods from Theravada Buddhism, and ideas from Western psychology to offer a modern light on meditation practice. Hanh's presentation of the prajnaparamita in terms of "interbeing" has doctrinal antecedents in the Huayan school of thought, which "is often said to provide a philosophical foundation" for Zen.

Nhất Hạnh has published more than 100 books, including more than 40 in English. He is active in the peace movement, promoting nonviolent solutions to conflict and he also refrains from animal product consumption as a means of nonviolence towards non-human animals.


Quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh:

People have a hard time letting go of their suffering. Out of a fear of the unknown, they prefer suffering that is familiar.

We have to walk in a way that we only print peace and serenity on the Earth. Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.

Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.

My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

In true dialogue, both sides are willing to change.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thích_Nhất_Hạnh
 
Kerome

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Milarepa

When: 1052-1135 AD
Where: Tibet


Milarepa was one of Tibet's most famous yogis and poets, a colourful figure of legend. He was born in Tibet to a prosperous family, but when his father died, his aunt and uncle took all of the family's wealth. At his mother's urging, he became a black magician, and later took his revenge on the aunt and uncle by summoning a giant hailstorm which killed 35 people.

Knowing that his revenge was wrong, Milarepa set out to find a lama and was led to Marpa the Translator. Marpa proved a hard taskmaster. Before Marpa would teach Milarepa he had him build and then demolish three towers in turn. When Milarepa was finally shown the teachings, he withdrew for 12 years before attaining enlightenment. He is famous for dwelling in a cave - called Milarepa's Cave - and eating only nettles, making his skin go green.

Later in life he said about his younger years, in conversation with Rechungpa: "In my youth I committed black deeds. In maturity I practised innocence. Now, released from both good and evil, I have destroyed the root of karmic action and shall have no reason for action in the future. To say more than this would only cause weeping and laughter." As part of his legacy he left several books of songs and other writings.

Quotes from Milarepa:

To maintain pure discipline, is to do away with pretense and concealment.

The ultimate practice is not to consider distractions and drowsiness as faults. Doing so to stave them off is like kindling a lamp in bright daylight.

All the wealth you’ve acquired from beginningless time until now has failed to fulfill all your desires. Cultivate therefore this wish-granting gem of moderation, O fortunate ones.

To attain buddhahood we must scatter this life’s aims and objects to the wind.

In brief, without being mindful of death, whatever Dharma practices you take up will be merely superficial.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Milarepa
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/60songs.pdf
 
Kerome

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Pema Chödrön

When: present day
Where: America, Canada


Pema Chödrön is an American Buddhist teacher in the Tibetan tradition, a student of Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche. She is an ordained nun (or Bikshuni) and head of the Gampo Abbey in Nova Scotia, Canada. Born in 1936 she studied English literature, and she married at age 21 and had two children but was divorced in her mid-twenties. She remarried and then divorced a second time eight years later. She turned to Buddhism in the 1970's and was director of the Boulder Shambala Center in Colorado, US in the 1980's.

Chödrön teaches the traditional "Yarne" retreat at Gampo Abbey each winter and the Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life in Berkeley each summer. A central theme of her teaching is the principle of "shenpa", or "attachment", which she interprets as the moment one is hooked into a cycle of habitual negative or self-destructive thoughts and actions. According to Chödrön, this occurs when something in the present stimulates a reaction to a past experience.

She has published a number of books and is active in The Comittee of Western Bikshuni's.


Quotes from Pema Chödrön:

No one ever tells us to stop running away from fear...the advice we usually get is to sweeten it up, smooth it over, take a pill, or distract ourselves, but by all means make it go away.

When we scratch the wound and give in to our addictions we do not give the wound time to heal.

It isn't the things that happen to us in our lives that cause us to suffer, it's how we relate to the things that happen to us that causes us to suffer.

A thoroughly good relationship with ourselves results in being still, which doesn't mean we don't run and jump and dance about. It means there's no compulsiveness. We don't overwork, overeat, oversmoke, overseduce. In short, we begin to stop causing harm.

We can spend our whole lives escaping from the monsters in our minds.

When we protect ourselves so we won't feel pain, that protection becomes like armor, like armor that imprisons the softness of of the heart.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pema_Chödrön
https://www.goodreads.com/work/quot...s-fall-apart-heart-advice-for-difficult-times
 
Kerome

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Nagarjuna

When: 150-250 AD
Where: India


By all accounts Nagarjuna came from South India, and was born to a Brahmin Hindu family before converting to Buddhism, during the period when Buddhism still flourished in India. He is widely considered one of the most important Buddhist philosophers after Gautama Buddha. Along with his disciple Āryadeva, he is considered to be the founder of the Madhyamaka school of Mahāyāna Buddhism. Nāgārjuna is credited with developing the philosophy of the Prajñāpāramitā sutra's. He was also an Ayurvedic physician and helped in the development of the Indian alchemy, Rasāyana.

Nāgārjuna's major thematic focus is the concept of śūnyatā, or "emptiness," which brings together other key Buddhist doctrines, particularly anātman "not-self" and pratītyasamutpāda "dependent origination", to refute the metaphysics of some of his contemporaries. Some see him as a champion of the middle-way and a reviver of the original philosophical ideals of the Buddha.

In his book The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way he states:

Just as it is known
That an image of one's face is seen
Depending on a mirror
But does not really exist as a face,
So the conception of "I" exists
Dependent on mind and body,
But like the image of a face
The "I" does not at all exist as its own reality.
Nāgārjuna was also instrumental in the development of the two truths doctrine, which claims that there are two levels of truth in Buddhist teaching, the ultimate truth (paramārtha satya) and the conventional or superficial truth (saṃvṛtisatya). The ultimate truth to Nagarjuna is the truth that everything is empty of essence, this includes emptiness itself ('the emptiness of emptiness').

Relatively little survives that is definitively from him, other than his famous book, but he is said to have contributed to a number of other texts.

Quotes from Nagarjuna:

All philosophies are mental fabrications. There has never been a single doctrine by which one could enter the true essence of things.

Although you may spend your life killing, you will not exhaust all your foes. But if you quell your own anger, your real enemy will be slain.

The pacification of all cognitive grasping and the pacification of conceptual proliferation are peace.

A person is not earth, not water, Not fire, not wind, not space, Not consciousness, and not all of them. What person is there other than these?

Even three times a day to offer Three hundred cooking pots of food Does not match a portion of the merit Acquired in one instant of love.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nagarjuna
 
Kerome

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#9
It might be useful for future readers to be able to cross-link this thread with some of the Buddhism basics threads that I have put up:

http://www.mentalhealthforum.net/forum/thread138442.html
http://www.mentalhealthforum.net/forum/thread138497.html
http://www.mentalhealthforum.net/forum/thread138667.html

Buddhism is a large and old tradition, and a serious study of it takes years, so these are just scratching the surface, but with these threads and the concepts that are referenced here in the biographies of these teachers you can get quite a long way.
 
Poopy Doll

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#10
Tibetan Buddhism

I was a terrible student of Buddhism. I couldn't remember all the different teachings; five of these, and two of those, and ten of these. But I knew these great Tibetan teachers. Their website does not allow a link. Google Khenpo Palden Rimpoche and click on Our Teachers if you'd like to check them out. :)
 
Kerome

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#11
It has been said that Buddhism is a religion of lists, and if I look at my Buddhism basics course that is definitely true, there are a lot of categories and lists of things. But that's just a way of grouping things that are similar, and for any religion that makes a serious study of the mind I think that may be a required approach :)
 
Kerome

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Ajahn Chah

When: 1918-1992 AD
Where: Thailand


Ajahn Chah, also known as Chah Subhaddo was an influential teacher of the Buddhadhamma and a founder of two major monasteries in the Thai Forest Tradition. Respected and loved in his own country as a man of great wisdom, he was also instrumental in establishing Theravada Buddhism in the West. Beginning in 1979, the Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah has spread throughout Europe, the United States and the British Commonwealth.

Ajahn Chah was born to a family of subsistence farmers in northeastern Thailand, and became a novice at age 9. He left the monastery to help his family, but returned at age 21 to seek ordination as a monk or bhikku. He chose to leave the settled monastic life seven years later to become a wandering ascetic. For the next seven years Ajahn Chah spent his time in forests, caves and cremation grounds. He wandered through the countryside in quest of quiet and secluded places for developing meditation. He lived in tiger and cobra infested jungles, using reflections on death to penetrate to the true meaning of life.

He was an important figure in the Thai Forest Tradition, a group of monks who caused a revival in Buddhism in Thailand early in the 20th century. They held to the strict rule of the Buddha's teaching, forsaking the laxity that had crept into many monasteries.


More than one million people, including the Thai royal family, attended Ajahn Chah's funeral in January 1993, held a year after his death due to the "hundreds of thousands of people expected to attend". He left behind a legacy of dhamma talks, students, and monasteries.

Quotes from Ajahn Chah:

Do everything with a mind that lets go. Don’t accept praise or gain or anything else. If you let go a little you a will have a little peace; if you let go a lot you will have a lot of peace; if you let go completely you will have complete peace.

Looking for peace is like looking for a turtle with a mustache: You won't be able to find it. But when your heart is ready, peace will come looking for you.

Mindfulness is life. Whenever we don’t have mindfulness, when we are heedless, it’s as if we are dead.

When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness. And when we stop clinging, we can begin to be happy.

Let your mind be like a tightly woven net to catch emotions and feelings that come, and investigate them before you react.

Proper effort is not the effort to make something particular happen. It is the effort to be aware and awake each moment.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ajahn_Chah
 
Kerome

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Padmasambhava

When: 8th century AD
Where: India, Tibet


Padmasambhava was an Indian Buddhist master who brought Buddhism to Tibet. As a historical figure, nothing is known of him apart from helping the construction of the first Buddhist monastery in Tibet at Samye, at the behest of Trisong Detsen, and shortly thereafter leaving Tibet due to court intrigues. A number of legends have grown around Padmasambhava's life and deeds, and he is widely venerated as a 'second Buddha' across Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Himalayan states of India.

According to legend, Padmasambhava was incarnated as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the kingdom of Oddiyana, so a kind of creation out of nothing. He supposedly taught tantric practices to a princess, who became his consort, and had a second main consort who hid his teachings around Tibet so they could be found later. They then had a rare spiritual realisation called the "phowa rainbow body" and supposedly are still alive in it today.

At the start of his journey to Tibet, King Trisong Detsen ordered the translation of all Buddhist Dharma Texts into Tibetan. Padmasambhava, Shantarakṣita, 108 translators, and 25 of Padmasambhava's nearest disciples worked for many years in a gigantic translation-project. The translations from this period formed the base for the large scriptural transmission of Dharma teachings into Tibet. Padmasambhava supervised mainly the translation of Tantra; Shantarakshita concentrated on the Sutra-teachings.

Padmasambhava is regarded as the founder of the Nyingma tradition. The Nyingma tradition is the oldest of the four major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. The Nyingma tradition, meaning "ancient", actually comprises several distinct lineages that all trace their origins to Padmasambhava. He is also attributed as one of the main authors of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.

Quotes attributed to Padmasambhava:

Fortunate ones, mingle your mind with the Dharma and the happiness of Buddhahood will manifest within you.

When you keep company with an eminent master, his qualities will automatically influence you.

You may pursue worldly fame and gain, but unless you follow the teachings of the Buddha, such activity will only be the cause for throwing you back into further samsara. So adhere to the teachings of the Buddha!

When you recognize the nature of mind, fabrication and effort are naturally freed.

As soon as one’s mind is known to be of the Wisdom of the Voidness, concepts like good and evil karma cease to exist. Seek, therefore, thine own Wisdom within thee. It is the Vast Deep.

Without thinking that death will come,
I am absorbed in plans for the future.
After having done the many and futile activities of this life
I will leave utterly empty-handed
What a blunder;
as I will certainly need an understanding of the excellent Dharma (proper conduct).
So why not practice now?


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Padmasambhava
 
Poopy Doll

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#15
I always say that the story of his "birth" is even better than the myth of virgin birth because the Tibetans have dispensed with not only the womb but the entire woman. There is no respect for the female element in these myths.
 
Kerome

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#16
I always say that the story of his "birth" is even better than the myth of virgin birth because the Tibetans have dispensed with not only the womb but the entire woman.
Funny. Yes, I'm sure there is an element of religious one-upmanship going on.

But as far as female elements go, there is the story of Guanyin (also spelled Kwan Yin), who was supposed to be the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara reborn as a woman to bring forth the principle of compassion. I did think about making a full post for her, but the historical evidence is even more scant than for Padmasambhava. Nevertheless she is held in very high esteem in China especially, many revere her.

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guanyin
 
Poopy Doll

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#17
guan yin.jpg

Guan Yin is a favorite of mine because it is said that when she ascended to "heaven" she heard the cries of the suffering humanity and instead of choosing "heaven" she came back to earth to help humanity. I saw a Guan Yin statue in a oriental garden years ago. It was a garden that was divided half Asian, half European in styles. The European half had a Virgin Mary statue.
 
Kerome

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Sengcan

When: 600 AD
Where: China


Sengcan was the Third Patriarch of Chinese Zen, or Chan. Little is known about his birth, though his death is recorded as 606 AD in The Transmission of the Lamp. He was the successor of the second patriarch Dazu Huike, and is best known for writing the famous poem Hsin Hsin Ming, or Inscription on Faith in Mind.

It is said that Sengcan was over forty years old when he first met Huike in 536 and that he stayed with his teacher for six years. It was Huike who gave him the name Sengcan (“Gem Monk”). Their first encounter went like this:

Sengcan: I am riddled with sickness. Please absolve me of my sin.
Huike: Bring your sin here and I will absolve you.
Sengcan (after a long pause): When I look for my sin, I cannot find it.
Huike: I have absolved you. You should live by the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha.
After he received transmission, Huike passed to him the Robe of Bodhidharma and his dharma, generally accepted to be the Lankavatara Sutra. Sengcan lived in hiding on Wangong Mountain in Yixian and then on Sikong Mountain in southwestern Anhui. Thereafter, for ten years he wandered with no fixed abode.

Sengcan, like Bodhidharma and Huike before him, was said to have focussed his teachings on the Lankavatara Sutra, which taught the elimination of all dualities and the forgetting of words and thoughts, emphasising instead the contemplation of wisdom.

He met Daoxin, a novice monk of just fourteen who was to become the Fourth Patriarch, in 592. Daoxin attended Sengcan for nine years and received Dharma transmission when he was still in his early twenties. Subsequently, Sengcan spent two years at Mount Luofu (Lo-fu shan, northeast of Kung-tung (Canton)) before returning to Wangong Mountain. He died sitting under a tree before a Dharma assembly in 606.

Quotes from Sengcan:

The Perfect Way is only difficult for those who pick and choose;
Do not like, do not dislike; all will then be clear.
Make a hairbreadth difference, and heaven and earth are set apart.

If you want the truth [of nonduality] to stand clear before you, never be for or against.
The struggle between "for" and "against" is the mind's worst disease.
When the Way is not understood, the mind chatters endlessly to no avail.

The Perfect Way is vastness without holiness.
Like infinite space it contains all and lacks nothing.
Because you pick and choose, cling and reject, you can't see its Suchness.

Neither be entangled in the world, nor in inner feelings of emptiness.
Be serene in the oneness of things,
And dualism vanishes of its own accord.

Craving the passivity of Oneness you are filled with activity.
As long as you tarry in dualism,
You will never know Oneness.

If you don't trust in the Heart, you fall into assertion or denial.
In this world of Suchness there is neither self nor other-than-self.
To be in accord with the Way, let go of all self-centered striving.


https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sengcan
Hsin Hsin Ming
 
Poopy Doll

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#19
"To be in accord with the Way, let go of all self-centered striving."

I have a touch of PTSD from being tortured with drugs by doctors. That being said, there is definitely ego striving to control what is given to me by doctors because I have more information than they do and my decisions at this point are better than their best educated guesses.

"Neither be entangled in the world, - -" But I am entangled in this psychiatry system and I am entangled in the medical system which has not taken care of my pain properly and I have to fight the insurance to get something done now. How am I possibly going to do this in a DETACHED manner ?? I most certainly do want things to work out. I am very self centered about it.
 
Kerome

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#20
If you let go of needing an outcome to be one thing or another, then you will find peace. But peace does not mean inaction or freedom from choices - if you determine one outcome to be skillful and beneficial, and then act in accordance, then all is well - either that outcome will happen or it will not, but by not needing you have peace either way. I think that is what is meant by the above.

You do seem to be quite self centred and attached about some things :) Which is ok.