One paragraph per each question.
1) It is likely that this week’s material was new and different for you. Take about 20 minutes to simply think about some of the core ontological claims (or, claims having to do with what it means to exist) made by the Buddha. Write a paragraph that describes your state of feeling while thinking about these claims. Do they make you comfortable? Do not distribute without prior permission 8 Uncomfortable? Are they confusing? Do they feel familiar? Note in a few sentences the process of rearticulating these claims in your own words–is it easy?
2) Rephrase, in ONE WORD ONLY, each of the Three Marks as you understand them without using “suffering,” “impermanence,” and “no-self.” Note in a few sentences the process and challenge of capturing complex meaning in a single word and explain why you chose your words used to rephrase.2
The Word of the Buddha
Buddhist Scriptures and Schools
Dharma: texts, practice, and realization
The Buddha is author of no books or treatises. Moreover it is
extremely unlikely that any of his immediate disciples wrote any-
thing of his teachings down. And yet we are told that the Buddha
devoted some forty-five years of his life entirely to teaching
and that by the end of his life he was quite satisfied that he had
succeeded in passing on his teachings carefully and exactly, such
that they would long be of benefit and help to the world.1 This
state of affairs is worth reflecting on, for it reveals something of
the nature of Buddhism.
Buddhism cannot be reduced to a collection of theoretical writ-
ings nor a philosophical system of thought-although both these
form an important part of its tradition. What lies at the heart of
Buddhism, according to its own understanding of the matter, is
dharma. Dharma is not an exclusively Buddhist concept, but
one which is common to Indian philosophical, religious, social,
and political thought in its entirety. According to Indian thought
Dharma is that which is the basis of things, the underlying nature
of things, the way things are; in short, it is the truth about things,
the truth about the world. More than this, Dharma is the way we
should act, for if we are to avoid bringing harm to both ourselves
and others we should strive to act in a way that is true to the way
things are, that accords with the underlying truth ()f things. Ulti-
mately the only true way to act is in conformity with Dharma.
The notion of Dharma in Indian thought thus has both a
descriptive and a prescriptive aspect: it is the way things are and
the way to act. The various schools of Indian religious and philo-
sophical thought and practice all offer slightly different visions
36 The Word of Buddha: Scriptures and Schools
( darsana) of Dharma-different visions of the way things are and
the way to act. Of course, when we examine the teachings of the
various schools, we find that there is often substantial common
ground and much borrowing from each other. Yet the.Buddha’s
vision and understanding of Dharma must be reckoned to have
had a profound influence on Indian culture and, to an extent unpar-
alleled by other visions of Dharma, on cultures beyond India.
The Buddha regarded the Dharma he had found as ‘profound,
hard to see, hard to understand, peaceful, sublime, beyond the
sphere of mere reasoning, subtle, to be experienced by the wise’.
Thus knowledge of Dharma is not something that is acquired
simply by being told the necessary information or by reading
the appropriate texts. Knowledge of Dharma is not a matter of
scholarly and ~ntellectual study. This does mean that such study
may not have a part to play, yet it can never be the whole story.
In fact according to an ancient and authoritative view of the
matter knowledge of Dharma comes about as a result of the
interplay between th