Introducing Buddhism Essay Questions Chapter 1 1. How does Buddhism understand the nature of the cosmos with reference to a) time and b) space? 2. What are the "Six Realms of Rebirth" and how are they described in Buddhist teachings? 3. Explain the main features of karma as understood in Buddhism. Chapter 2 1. What are our main sources of information about the Buddha's life? 2. To what extent did the Buddha put his own teachings into practice in the course of his life? 3. Explain the term "hagiography" and discuss how far it can be applied to the traditional sources for the Buddha's life. Chapter 3 1. Explain Buddhist teachings about suffering and its arising, 2. Explain Buddhist teachings about the end of suffering and the path that leads to it. 3. What did Buddha mean when he taught that there is "no self" (anātman)? Chapter 4 1. Compare the role of Buddhist monastic life in early Buddhism and in modern, urban, technological society. 2. Can Buddhist behavioral codes remain relevant in the modern world? If not, why? If so, how? 3. What common features would you imagine Buddhist monks and nuns from Sri Lanka to share with their Chinese counterparts? In what ways would their lives be different? Chapter 5 1. To what extent did the early councils succeed in their aims? 2. What is the significance of the stūpa in Buddhism? 3. Does Tantra represent the high point or the low point of Indian Buddhism? Chapter 6 1. Explain Mahāyāna "Buddhology" in the light of earlier notions about the nature of Buddhahood. 2. Carefully explain the stages of the bodhisattva path and explain how the stages employ the various perfections. 3. How does the Yogācāra theory of consciousness compare to other Buddhist theories of "mind?" Chapter 7 1. Compare and contrast the meditational systems of early Buddhism, Mahāyāna, and Tantric (or Vajrayāna) Buddhism. 2. Explain how the system developed by Buddhaghosa works in taking the practitioner from the unenlightened to the enlightened state. 3. Discuss the role of the meditation teacher in the various Buddhist traditions? Can someone productively and effectively learn meditation on their own? Chapter 8 1. What would you say are the main features of Buddhism in Southeast Asia? What variations, and what common themes can be identified? 2. What is meant by the "Great Tradition" and the "Little Tradition?" Which is the most important? Give an example of a belief or practice associated with the "Little Tradition." 3. Of the four countries discussed in this chapter, is there one that seems to you to be the "odd man out?" Which is it, and why? Chapter 9 1. Why were Pure Land and Ch'an Buddhism able to survive the anti-Buddhist persecution of 845 C.E. better than the other Chinese Buddhist schools? 2. Which are the strongest and most successful Buddhist schools in Japan, and how have they achieved that status? 3. How has Korean Buddhism changed in the modern world? Chapter 10 1. Discuss the sectarian traditions in Tibetan Buddhism in terms of their histories, doctrines, practices, and lineages. 2. When the Communist Chinese took over Tibet, many Tibetan refugees fled to a life of exile in other countries. Given the character of Tibetan Buddhism, how would you expect these refugees to adjust to life in other countries? 3. Choose any three famous figures in Tibetan Buddhist history and explain why their role is critical to the development of Tibetan Buddhism. Chapter 11 1. How can we determine whether Buddhism has been transplanted into rather than onto western soil? 2. Compare and contrast the various Buddhist practices employed in Western Buddhist communities. Which ones are most likely to succeed, and why? 3. To what extent does Buddhism's success in the West depend on the development of a broadly based ecumenical movement? Chapter 12 1. Do you think socially engaged Buddhism is sufficiently distinctive to be recognized as a new "vehicle" (yāna)? 2. To what extent do groups like the Buddhist Peace Fellowship represent a new kind of Western sangha? 3. What do you think engaged Buddhism has anything to contribute to contemporary social and political issues such as human rights and ecology? Chapter 13 1. What is the place of ethics in Buddhism, and what are the most important Buddhist virtues and moral values? 2. In what way are the ethics of a bodhisattva thought to be superior by Mahāyāna Buddhists? 3. How should Buddhists respond to terrorist atrocities like 9/11? Chapter 14 1. Trace the development of Buddhist Studies as an academic discipline from its earliest beginnings to the current time. 2. Compare and contrast European and American contributions to the study of Buddhism. 3. How will the recent and future advances in information exchange technology change the discipline of Buddhist Studies?
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