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What Is Buddhism?

By Frank Simons

In its 2,500-year history, from the time of the Buddha to the present day, Buddhism has grown from a tiny religious community in northern India into a movement that now spans the globe. It has shaped the development of civilization in China, Tibet, Korea, and Japan and today has become a major part of the multi-religious world of Europe and North America. These lectures will explore the Buddhist tradition as the unfolding of a story. It is the story of the Buddha himself and the story of generations of people who have used the model of the Buddha’s life to shape not only their own lives but the societies in which they live.

Film Meditation
Thu, Dec 3, 5:30pm
Meditation Center
Callejón Blanco 4
Free, donations accepted
415 111 0644

Buddhism originated in northern India around 500 BC. The tradition got its name from a man who was known by his followers as the Buddha, or the “Awakened One.” He was born into a princely family in a region of northern India that is now in southern Nepal. He often is depicted sitting very serenely, the very picture of calm and contemplation. This is the image that has drawn people to the Buddha for many centuries, and it is the one that conveys most explicitly the experience of his awakening.

When we study the teaching of the Buddha, we will see that the diversity of the Buddhist tradition is no surprise. The Buddha said that everything is impermanent. The evolution of the Buddhist tradition itself exemplifies this truth. People think that Buddhism should be called a philosophy of life rather than a religion because it is so different from all that we know as religion in the Western world it. Either way, Buddhism challenges us to think in new ways about the nature of the world and the possibility of a satisfying and productive human life.

Some questions to ponder: When you attempt to understand a new religious tradition, what is most important to learn? Would you focus on its doctrines, the way it tells stories, its art, its rituals, or its institutions? If you were trying to explain your own religious tradition to someone who knew nothing about it, what would be the most important thing for them to learn?

Professor Malcolm David Eckel, Professor of Religion and Director of the Core Curriculum at Boston University, who holds graduate degrees from Oxford and Harvard, presents the course of 24 lectures. An expert on Buddhism, comparative religion, and Asian faiths, Eckel has written insightful books on Buddhist philosophy, including Buddhism: Origins, Beliefs, Practices, Holy Texts, Sacred Places. The Meditation Center presents the 24-part Great Courses series Buddhism, Part 1, What Is Buddhism? at 5:30pm on Thursday, December 3, at the Center, Callejón Blanco 4. There will be an opportunity for discussion following the video. Presentations of the Center are offered without charge. Donations are gratefully accepted.


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