David Eckel: Buddhism 13-14 of 24

David Eckel Buddhism

The thirteenth and fourteenth lectures by Prof David Eckel on Buddhism he looks at the development of Buddhist philosophy and the emergence of Tantric Buddhism in the middle ages.

Course Notes:

David Eckel on Buddhism 13

The Mahayana tradition developed a refined and sophisticated philosophical tradition to grapple with the difficulties of Emptiness. In India the word we translate as “philosophy” (darshana) means simply “to see.”

For all its complexity, Buddhist philosophy is meant to be a tool to help a person see reality clearly and be free from the illusions that cause suffering and drive the cycle of death and rebirth. Indian Mahayana philosophy is divided into two major schools.

The Madhyamaka School was developed in the second or third century C.E. by the philosopher Nagarjuna. The Yogachara School was founded in the fourth century by Asanga and Vasubandhu. The two schools developed very different approaches to Emptiness. For the Madhyamaka, Emptiness was ultimately unreal. For the Yogachara, it was possible to doubt the reality of all aspects of ordinary experience, but it was impossible to doubt the reality of Emptiness itself.


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Course Notes:

David Eckel on Buddhism 14

The sixth century saw the emergence of a Buddhist movement known as Tantra, Vajrayana (“The Vehicle of the Thunderbolt”), or Mantrayana (“The Vehicle of Sacred Chants”). Buddhist Tantra was based on a radical extension of the doctrine of Emptiness.

The Tantric tradition argued that if everything is empty, there is no practical difference between the serenity of the Buddha and destructive feelings, such as anger or passion, and there is no difference between the sexes. These conclusions produced strikingly new ways of representing and thinking about the Buddha. The Buddha was depicted as a wrathful deity and as the intimate union of male and female. The Tantric approach to Emptiness also produced strikingly new forms of ritual and meditation and unconventional images of the lifestyle of a Buddhist saint.


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