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Buddhism

Available topics:
1. Non-Self and The Five Aggregates
2. Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppāda
a)  The Here-and-Now Interpretation
      2nd Edition
b)  The Wheel of Life
      Audio recording of a talk at Wat Suan Mokkh
3. Karma and Merit in (Thai) Buddhism
4. Free Will in Buddhism and Western Philosophy
5. Bhikkhuni Ordination Controversy in Theravāda Buddhism




This page offers articles about selected im­por­tant and somewhat con­tro­ver­sial Buddhist topics. At present five articles and one audio are avail­able for down­loading, others may follow.

An introduction into the basics of Buddhism is avail­able at the Books page of this web­site.

1. Non-Self and The Five Aggregates

The teaching about anattā (egolessness, non-self, no un­chang­ing, permanent, enduring core or essence to any­thing) is one of the pillars of Bud­dhism and is a doctrine which sets Bud­dhism apart from all other re­ligions as those, in one form or another, postulate some­thing perma­nent, a self or a soul.

The Buddha said that the self is not a reality. He did not say that there is nothing at all how­ever, but all there is, is just an ever chang­ing process of nature, consisting of an ever chang­ing body and an ever chang­ing mind. He labelled this process the Five Aggre­gates, no abiding self to be found in it.

The concept of non-self is of utmost importance for the under­standing of other core Bud­dhist principles like De­pend­ent Orig­ina­tion (the 2nd Noble Truth) including re-birth (who or what is re-born if there is no self?) or the doctrine of karma (which non-self receives the result of a karmic action com­mit­ted by a non-self?). A lot of confusion amongst Bud­dhists and people inter­ested in Bud­dhism is caused by misin­ter­preting the doctrine of anattā.
The Five Aggregates The Five Aggregates

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The complete text (11 A4 pages) can be
down­loaded as a pdf-file at:
Non-Self.pdf (338 kB)

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2. The Here-and-Now Interpretation of Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppāda

In the first of the Four Noble Truths the Buddha states that human existence is governed by Dukkha (dis­con­tent­ment, suf­fer­ing); the second Noble Truth dem­on­strates the arising or the cause of Dukkha, sum­ma­rized in a teaching called De­pend­ent Origi­nation or De­pend­ent Arising or De­pend­ent Co- Arising, the Pāli ex­pres­sion is Paticca­sa­muppāda.

Various forms and dif­fer­ing explanations of this teaching are given today, the most fre­quent­ly dis­cussed ones being:
  • The Three-Lives-Theory is an explanation covering three life­times, a past, the present and a future life, that is, it is used to teach rebirth.
  • The Here-and-Now-Theory proclaims that De­pend­ent Origi­nation is concerned with the present life only, with the 'here and now', with the birth and death of the notion of 'self', happening count­less times each day.
Both theories aim to explain how Dukkha arises and how to put an end to it. At first a brief idea about the Three-Lives-Theory is given but the main focus of this paper is the Here-and-Now Interpretation.

According to the late Tan Ajahn Buddhadāsa, a prominent Thai Buddhist monk and proponent of the Here-and-Now- Theory, the arising of suf­fer­ing equals the arising of the notions of 'self', 'I', 'me' and 'mine' in the ignorant human mind. Resulting self­ish­ness does not only lead to personal calamities but to problems in society and to the pollution and exploi­tation of the natural resources of our planet too. The ignorant person thinks it is the same 'self' that is living life from the cradle to the grave; here an attempt is made to show how the mind constructs the concept of a permanent

Graph Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppada

The 12 links of Dependent Origination

'self' out of countless momentary 'selfs' arising with sense-contact.

Wherever possible the early Buddhist texts, the Nikāyas, have been used for reference. The relevant quotes are given either in the text itself or in foot­notes so that readers who do not have the Nikāyas at hand can follow up easily.

Picture of Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppada Dependent Origination - Paticcasamuppāda: Photo of a paint­ing at the Inter­na­tional Dharma Hermitage - Wat Suan Mokkh
The recording of a talk given to the participants of the June 2016 med­i­ta­tion retreat at the Inter­na­tional Dharma Her­mit­age - Wat Suan Mokkh, Thai­land is avail­able as audio (mp3) for down­loading below.

Khun Reinhard explains the theory and practical con­se­quen­ces of the Here-and-Now inter­pretation of De­pend­ent Origi­na­tion by referring to the picture to the left of this text. A higher resolution copy of this picture is pro­vid­ed for down­loading as well. The original paint­ing has a size of approx. 2m x 3m.

While the article above contains more detailed and in depth material regarding the teaching of De­pend­ent Arising, the re­cord­ed audio gives some general information about the Wheel of Life as well.

Downloads

The above article (37 A4 pages) as a pdf-file:
Dependent Origination - article (851 kB)

The audio (1:06:24) as a mp3-file:
Dependent Origination - audio (34.8 MB)

The picture (768px x 1097px) as a jpg-file:
Dependent Origination - picture (222 kB)

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3. Karma and Merit in (Thai) Buddhism

The topic is Karma and Merit in (Thai) Bud­dhism and thus we will define at first the meanings of the terms karma and merit before we in­ves­ti­gate in which ways they con­trib­ute to the unique form of Thai-Bud­dhism, but much of the ex­pla­na­tion is valid for other Bud­dhist coun­tries as well.

Karma is intentional action of body, speech and mind based on volition and will bring about a result (vipāka). Karma is not fate or destiny. Ac­cord­ing to the early Bud­dhist texts the result can ripen in this life or in a future life or even in sub­se­quent lives. This is the gen­er­ally accepted under­standing of the Law of Karma, the worldly level, on which the teach­ing re­gard­ing karma and merit is usu­ally of­fered and this seems to be the level most people prefer.

Complementary to the basic mundane inter­pre­ta­tion of karma and merit is the supra­mun­dane or spir­i­tual level of the doctrine which clarifies that the teach­ings on anattā (non-self) and karma do not nec­es­sari­ly con­tra­dict each other. The worldly ex­pla­na­tion helps people to behave prop­erly in this word while devel­op­ing their mind to a higher level; the tran­scen­den­tal teach­ing follows the Noble Eight­fold Path to the end of all suffering.

Monks on alms-round Food offerings to monks on alms-round

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The complete text (20 A4 pages) can be
down­loaded as a pdf-file at:
Karma and Merit.pdf (393 kB)

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4. Free Will in Buddhism and Western Philosophy

From the beginning of western phi­loso­phy the pos­si­bili­ty of a human free will has been con­ten­tiously debated. Today the lit­era­ture re­gard­ing the free will problem and offered so­lu­tions are vast and conflicting.

In early Bud­dhism the pos­si­bili­ty of a free will has not been discussed. Neither in the Nikāyas, the early Bud­dhist texts of Thera­vāda-Bud­dhism, nor in the scrip­tures of Mahā­yāna Bud­dhism the free will problem is mentioned. It was only when people from the West started to get inter­ested in Bud­dhism that the pos­si­bili­ty of a free will had become a topic.

Relevant Buddhist teachings are the ones about non-self (anattā), the prin­ci­ple of causality (idappa­ccayatā) rep­re­sent­ed by the law of De­pend­ent Orig­ina­tion (paticca­sa­muppāda) and the law of Karma and its results. Not acci­den­tal­ly an intro­duction into these teachings is avail­able in the three arti­cles given above.

The present text is meant to provide an easily under­stand­able intro­duc­tion into the problem. At first a few def­i­ni­tions from a western point of view are given, followed by in­tro­duc­ing some basics regarding the free will ques­tion from a western and Bud­dhist per­spec­tive. The dis­cussion of the Bud­dhist view­point is based mainly on the Thera­vāda-Bud­dhist scrip­tures. The inter­ested reader will find additional material in the quoted lit­era­ture.

A man behind bars No freedom of action but freedom of will?

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The complete text (15 A4 pages) can be
down­loaded as a pdf-file at:
Freedom of will.pdf (341 kB)

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5. Bhikkhuni Ordination Controversy in Theravāda Buddhism

The Pāli-word for a male monk is Bhikkhu. The female equiv­a­lent of a Bhikkhu is a Bhik­khuni. In Thera­vāda Bud­dhism it is widely but not unani­mously accepted that Bhik­khunis (nuns) need to be ordained in a dual ceremony by both the male Sangha and the female Sangha (com­mu­nity of monks and nuns). It is believed that ap­proxi­mate­ly 1,000 years ago the Bhik­khuni lineage died out and there were no more nuns left to ordain new Bhik­khunis and since then until recently Thera­vāda Bhik­khunis did not exist. At the end of the 20th century more and more women voiced interest to revive the Bhik­khuni Sangha and to receive full ordi­na­tion in Thera­vāda Bud­dhism again.

In a grand ordi­na­tion ceremony in 1998 Bhik­khuni ordi­na­tion in the Thera­vāda tradition was re-estab­lished. While this was acknowledged by the Bhikkhu Sangha in Sri Lanka the monks in other Thera­vāda Bud­dhist countries still do not accept Bhik­khuni or­di­na­tion.

After a short look at the his­tori­cal back­ground of Bhik­khuni ordi­na­tion in Bud­dhism, some arguments for and against a revival of female or­di­na­tion in Thera­vāda Bud­dhism will be pre­sent­ed and, as I'm living in Thai­land, we will spe­cifi­cally look at the situation in this country. ⊕



"In such cases, if there are [...] no senior dis­ci­ples among the nuns, ... no middle-ranking or junior nuns, ... no white-robed lay fol­low­ers, male or female, celibate or other­wise [...], then the holy life is not perfected."

Pāsādika Sutta, Digha Nikāya 29.12

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The complete text (12 A4 pages) can be
down­loaded as a pdf-file at:
Bhikkhuni ordination.pdf (388 kB)

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