Before understanding Buddha as one of the three jewels, it is first necessary to discuss the term “Three Jewels,” or “three treasures.” The jewel is something that is very precious. It is the Buddhists belief that the three fundamental teachings of Buddhism are very precious like jewels and for being Buddhist, the person has to take refuge of the three jewels. 'For lay follower and monastic alike, the three 'jewels' remain powerful objects for the ritual and devotional expression of their faith. ‘(“The Foundation of Buddhism” in Gethin, p.168) Taking refuge means taking shelter of the three jewels. 'Going for refuge implies the adopting of one of two broad approaches to Buddhist practice: The way of lay followers (Upasaka) and the way of ordained monk (bhiksu/bhikkku) or nun (bhiksuni/bhikkuni).'(“The Foundation of Buddhism” in Gethin, p.167) It gives you mental peace and tranquillity. The fundamental teaching related to these combined three jewels is that you should be under the shelter of Buddha’s teaching. There are three major models at the heart of Buddhism. Buddha is the first jewel, Dharma is the second jewel and Sangha is the third jewel. The three jewels combined together and they are signified by three different colours. Buddha the first jewel has yellow colour, Dharma has blue colour and Sangha has red colour. Combined together there is the following mantra:
I go to Buddha for refuge
I go to Dharma (Dhamma) for refuge
I go to Sangha for refuge.
The first and foremost jewel among these three is Buddha. Buddha is not the name of a person, but it is the name of the phase, which the devotees experience after their spiritual awakening. ‘Buddha was not a celestial being. He was simple human. But not too simple, for he was a prince. He went by the name Siddhartha Gautama and he enjoyed a privileged life.’ (“What Makes You Not a Buddhist,” In Khyentse, p.7) Thus Prince Siddhartha was a normal human being, but when he was enlightened, he became Buddha. Buddha is the spiritual teacher for his disciples. He showed them right path towards spiritual enlightenment.
In early Buddhism, Buddha was depicted in a two ways, Buddha as a common human being with all types of human weaknesses such as physical illness, physical and mental fatigue, etc. whereas the second type of Buddha was not a normal human being, but he was portrayed as a superhuman or Godlike qualities. 'Scholars are generally agreed that the earliest stage in the development of speculation about the bodies (kaya) of Buddha ascribed two bodies to Buddha, a rupakaya and a dharmakaya.' (“The Legend of King Ashoka: A Study and Translation of the Asokavadana,” in Strong, 105)In the first type, Buddha is in the role of a teacher, who guides and mentors his disciples towards enlightenment and spiritual wakening. In the second type, Buddha is a God and an object of worship for the Buddhists. He is regarded as an omnipotent and omnipresent figure and the saviour of the world. These two types now cannot be separated from each other it is because they have intermingled in each other. Though it is hard to accept the miracles of Buddha, and suppose Him as a Godlike figure, some of the scholars still believe that the miracles are possible even if we think it from empirical perspectives. ‘All the miracles performed by Gautama according to the sutras are within the six modes of higher knowledge which, according to early Buddhism, can be attained through meditation.’ (The Concept of The Buddha: Its Evolution from early Buddhism to the Trikāya Theory,” in Xing, 7)
The human form of Buddha is portrayed through the life of King Siddhartha and the difficulties he had to face in his life. Like all human beings, Buddha was the part of nature of law and he had to go through all stages of human life such as fatigue, illness, ageing and death. It was described in Sutras. He encountered several problems in his mission. He had to face strong opposition from some people. Some people also left Sangha due to the dispute with the Buddha. He was also blamed and insulted many times by the people. Sometimes despite his charismatic personality, he could not convince the people and convert them into Buddhism. Some people till the end remained sceptical about His claim of spiritual enlightenment. However there are many stories of his miracles which gave The Buddha a status of super human or the God. Even the rational scholars also agree the possibility of the miracle of The Buddha. It is possible because of the divine strength and power the Buddha has possessed through rigorous meditation and penance. While interpreting the two forms of Buddha, Khyentse states, ‘Buddha [Siddhartha] was just a man and this man became Buddha.’ He also focuses on Buddha’s view that we should not venerate a person but rather the wisdom that the person teaches. (What Makes You Not a Buddhist,” In Khyentse, p.2)
The both forms of Buddha, Rupakaya and Dharmakaya imply the physical and spiritual existence of Buddha. It thus propagates two body theory. In both of these forms, Buddha has always been the source of inspiration and the Guru to show Hid disciples the right path towards Nirvana which is only possible after the absence of desire, hatred and delusion. The enlightenment is possible only through the Noble Enlightenment Path.
Buddhism is the most widespread religion in Asia. China, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Taiwan are the major countries, where Buddhism is largely practiced. Buddhist thoughts and practices are dominant in the lifestyle of most of the Asian Buddhist people. In the thoughts and practices of Buddhism, we can find diversity. So we cannot describe Buddhism as any one thing. There is cultural, social, political diversity. The Buddhism is not just like same in one country as it is in some another country. On the other hand, it has been amalgamated in the culture and Buddhism in every Buddhist country is defined by the cultural context of the respective country. Cook describes the pattern of localism, commoditization in Buddhist approach. While discussing about the trends she says, ‘Trends have included a critique of Buddhism by reformist thinkers, fundamentalist movements and commercialization of Buddhist Practice, decentralization of religion, increasing numbers of split-cults, and social and environmental reform movements based upon Buddhist ethics.’ (“Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life,” in Cook, 3)
The decentralization or the split-cult as described by Cook is found in two major schools of Buddhism, which are prevalent in all Asian Buddhist countries. Buddhism first split into the main two schools. The major two schools of Buddhist practice are found in Buddhist countries of Asia. The first school is called Theravada and another school is Mahayana. These schools are based on the image of Buddha either as a person (Historical Buddha) or as a Lokottara Buddha. Theravada is practiced in Sri Lanka, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand and Laos. It is also known as “Southern Buddhism.” In Thailand the Theravada Buddhism is known as Lankavamsa. Theravada Buddhism in Thailand is influenced by the Sri Lankan Buddhism. There are two types of Theravada Nikayas in Thailand, one is Maha Nikaya and the other is Dhammayut Nikay. The Maha Nikaya has its origin in Lankan establishment Mahayana is the Dominant School in most of the Asian Buddhist countries such as China, Tibet, Korea, Japan, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
The two schools follow different ways while practicing Buddhism. The rituals are different. As long as Theravada is concerned, it is attached to the ancient doctrine and influenced by the Pre-Buddhism and Indian Brahmin terms like Karma, Sangha etc. The references were taken from Vedas and Upanishad. Mahayana is more adaptive, probably that is why this cult is more popular and widespread than Theravada. Mahayana was adopted by the people from different countries with Geographical distances. Their cultural aspects were widely adopted by Mahayana. The mutual influences of two or more cultures are found in Mahayana. In China, for example Buddhism is influenced by Confusianism and Taoism.
In Theravada Buddhism, only the historical Gautama (Sakyamuni) and past Buddhas are accepted where as in Mahayana Buddhism the along with Sakyamuni, the other contemporary Buddhas such as Amitabha and Medicine Buddha are also accepted. Mahayana refers to a giant vehicle specially designed to carry all beings that are enlightened and awakened. The Buddhists from both of these schools have to accept some truths to be a real Buddhists irrespective of the cult. These truths are called Seals. Theravada cult teaches three seals whereas Mahayana cult propagates four seals. They are as follows:
As said by Khyentse, ‘They [the truths] are secular truths based on wisdom, and wisdom is the primary concern of a Buddhist.’ Though there are ritual and textual similarities found in both of these cults of Buddhism, there is localized manifestation in practicing them.
Buddhism is a religious belief which emerged in the country which was influenced by Hinduism. Emerged from Indian soil, Buddhism could not root in India but it spread out of India. It settled there and manifested itself in the cultural and social context of the countries it reached. The localized manifestation of Buddhism around the world is the phenomena occurred due to the political, social, and cultural aspects of the countries. Wherever Buddhism reached, it adapted the local culture and the needs of the local people and became localized. Sometimes due to certain political, social and cultural circumstances, Buddhism had to use certain skills and strategies to face the waves of other religions. For example, the Humanistic Buddhism was originated in twelfth century. In it, some Chinese Buddhists reshaped Buddhism to protect it from the aggressive promotion of Christianity by some missionaries. Irrespective of the cultural, social and geographical differences, Buddhism became the identity of every Buddhist nation. While giving the example of the practice of Buddhism in Thailand, Joana Cook describes, 'almsgiving and ordination are 'key socialization mechanisms for the introduction of abstract Buddhist values into the everyday life of ordinary Thais.' (“Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life,” in Cook, 2)
The contemporary religious and political situation in China resulted into the spread of Tibetan Buddhism. To adapt and thus to sustain in the waves of Western Scientific approach, Buddhism conveys the scientific significance of Buddhist thoughts. In China also Tibetan Lamas contributed a lot in adaptation of scientific language for spreading Buddhism. “The adoption of modern scientific language by Tibetan Lamas, on the other hand is an integral part of their efforts to rescue Tibetan Buddhism from the Chinese communist stigmatization of religion as superstition.” (“Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life,” in Cook, 186) The Tibetan Buddhism became popular in China because of “Dharma Crisis” and “Spiritual Crisis” that was the culmination of materialism. Dalai Lama proved that Buddhism is a science and not just a shallow teaching that has no scientific base. It has been proved by the meditation centres. The people attracted towards the Buddhist way of meditation because it was promoted as the scientific, empirical and intellectual response to the Western Scientific theory (“Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life,” Cook, 3) The idea of renunciation and detachment is at the root of Buddhism irrespective of cultural, Geographical and social diversity. The practice of meditation is common in Buddhism all over. This is a common view that meditation is the way to overcome all the human miseries.
Vipassana is a type of meditation, which is primarily practiced in South and South East Asia. It has also been the popular form of mediation in Western countries. It is the oldest meditation technique of Buddhism. At the time of performing Vipassana meditation there is no certain body posture is required, not a specific position is taken. The person can sit, stand, walk or lie down. It is to avoid the pains caused by sitting static in on position for a long time. The person does not need to give pains to his body so he/she can sit as long as it is comfortable. The eyes should be closed. This type of meditation is prevalent in Theravada school of Buddhism.
The second well known form of meditation is Zen Buddhist Meditation. It is also known as Zezen. It is the most popular form of meditation among the school of Mahayana Buddhism. It has followed the technique of meditation that originated in India several thousand years ago. This technique reached to Japan and China in 1191 A.D. Harmony of body is the important thing in Zen technique of meditation. Unlike Vipassana, in Zen meditation, a great importance is given to the body posture. During meditation the person sits on a cushion in either full-lotus or half-lotus position.
The cultural difference is found in Buddhist gender roles. The practice of Buddhism is done among the people irrespective of the gender. In Taiwan the Buddhist nuns play a crucial role in defining Buddhism. The status of women in Buddhism is elevated in Taiwan. 'Taiwan is free and open space for Buddhist nuns' development, in stark contrast with China, where the nuns are utterly dependent on the patrilineal political hierarchy.” (“Taiwan's Buddhist Nuns,” in DeVido, p. 7) Large number of women participated in the sect called the Zhaijiao. It is a vegetarian religion. The followers of these sects follow partial or complete vegetarian diet. (“Taiwan's Buddhist Nuns,”in DeVido, p. 10)
Thus the practice of Buddhism is dependent upon the cultural and Geographical situations of the nations. The practices are different, the rituals are different. It is because they have turned themselves with the root culture. But ultimately the objective is same and that is the emancipation from the worldly miseries and sufferings.
The paragraph in the first short answer is taken from Vimalakirti Nirdesa Sutra, part 5. The first line of the paragraph describes Bodhisattva's unconditional love towards all the people. His love is unconditional because it is like a love between the mother and the child. Real love is not based on the attachment but it is undiscriminating, spontaneous, and unlimited (“Growing in Love and Wisdom: Tibetian Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditation,” in Stabile, 34). Everyone is equal for Bodhisattva and He cares for everyone. His love is so intense that he feels miserable when his children are not in good condition. The basic principle taught here in this sutra is Non-duality. Everything is self and the self is empty. Empty things are not independent. It means that all the things never exist of their own irrespective of relations, conditions and cognitions. In the state of non-duality the world or the multiple objects of the world are not seen distinct or separate from each other. The self and the other things feel same. This emptiness creates harmony just like said in the above paragraph. There is a harmony between the people and the Bodhisattva. This feeling is also recognized as the freedom from dualistic extremes. The word sick is associated with suffering. If the living things are suffering or leading a miserable life, the world cannot be happy. The physical and mental sufferings are expected here. The elimination of sickness is the elimination of egoism and possessiveness. The egoism and possessiveness are the major hindrances in attaining the non-dual phase in the life of human beings. Vimlakirti says that he is sick because all human beings are sick. It is a universal compassion. When the world is unhappy, how can one person be happy? There is nothing that can be called as an independent object in the universe. Each and everything is interconnected, so as the miseries and the sufferings of mankind.
The Buddha Nature according to Buddhism is the ultimate reality and it is there within everyone. The concept of duality can be applied in this context. Duality as discussed in our first short question, teaches that nothing and no one is independent in this world. It is a state of emptiness that creates harmony. This harmony naturally will not allow the dog to be separated from human being. In that case, one can say that the Buddha Nature exists in the dog. According to the Buddhist belief, all sentient beings have Buddha Nature. Sentient beings can be defined as the beings that are able to perceive or feel or they are responsive or conscious of the senses. The dog is sentient and hence the dog has Buddha’s Nature
The answer the monk got from Master Joshu is “Mu”. The reply was vague. Neither the answer was ‘yes’ nor was it ‘no.’ The above line creates a dilemma. Jashu replied Mu. Mu in Japanese means no. Joshu may have denied that Buddha Nature can be there in dog. It is because dog is not intellectually capable like human being. As a human being, God has given us the privilege of intellectuality. Intellectuality leads to rationality, thinking power, and retrospection. Thus enlightening and awakening ourselves towards the divine and spiritual path. Animals generally lack the intellectuality required for self-awareness and enlightenment. But the word “Mu” also implies nothing. Nothingness is associated with emptiness. One can also interpret the word “Mu” as why not? Hence the reply is unambiguous.
Cook, Joana. Meditation in Modern Buddhism: Renunciation and Change in Thai Monastic Life. N.p.: Cambridge University Press, 2010. Print.
DeVido, Elise Anne. Taiwan's Buddhist Nuns. N.p.: Suny Press, 2012. Print.
Gethin Rupert. The Foundation of Buddhism. N.p.: Oxford University Press, 1998. Print.
Khyentse Jamyang. What Makes You Not a Buddhist. N.p.: Shambhala Publications, 2007. Print.
Stabile, Susan. Growing in Love and Wisdom: Tibetian Buddhist Sources for Christian Meditation. N.p.: Oxford University Press, 2012. Print.
Strong John. The Legend of King Ashoka: A Study and Translation of the Asokavadana. N.p.: Princeton University Press, 2014. Print.
Xing, Guang. The Concept of The Buddha: Its Evolution from early Buddhism to the Trikāya Theory. London & New York.: Routledge Curzon Taylor & Francis Group, 2005. Print.