Triratna Resources

Dharma Teaching - Beginners Buddhism: Mahayana Buddhism, A Six-Week Course (Achala)

On Sun, 17 July, 2016 - 21:36
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Centre Team

Here you can download handouts for a six-week course introducing the various schools of Mahayana Buddhism. The handouts were provided by Achala from New Zealand. Please note that Achala says they all need further improvement! 

This is what Achala said about his intentions when designing this course:

I tried to construct a course such that it:

  • covers what an average human being needs to effectively practice Buddhism.
  • doesn’t not have a scholastic bent (so a few Pali/Sanskrit terms seemed reasonable but not so many as to give the impression that the courses are oriented towards bookish types).
  • appeals to people’s imagination, as well as being intellectually clear.
  • includes all of Bhante’s fundamental insights such as his stress on right understanding and the importance of Going for Refuge – although I accept that not all Order members will agree what those fundamental are.
  • appeals especially to younger people – in their late teens and early twenties.
  • does not involve a great deal of reading (typically max three pages of notes per week).
  • excludes material that has neither inspirational value nor practical use.

The notes for the course are almost complete. A few have yet to be written, and some could do with a bit of an edit to correct errors, and perhaps occasionally rephrase things. The material that has been prepared has been in use for about three years, and has worked really well.

  1. The Emergence of Mahayana Buddhism. [This part of the course most urgently needs re-consideration. While it contains some useful notes and seminar extracts on the notions of the arhat and the bodhisattva, in its historical description of early Buddhism it is very much outdated. for the time being teachers are advised to replace (or integrate) this handout with handout 2.1 from Sagaraghosa’s introductory Buddhism course which you can also download here.
  2. The Bodhisattva: Bodhisattvas as historical and archetypal figures; an ideal to be practised; the Bodhisattva ideal in Buddhist literature; quotations from Sangharakshita and questions to think about.
  3. The Wisdom Schools: sunyata; about the Diamond Sutra; how much ‘reality’ can we bear?; quotations and questions.
  4. Yogacara and Zen: Yogacara; Cittamatra; Chan/Zen; some examples of Zen-poetry.
  5. Pure Land, Hua-yan, and Vajrayana: introductions and text extracts to each of these branches of Buddhism.
  6. The Unity of Buddhism: Buddhahood and Enlightenment; Going for Refuge; conditionality and the three laksanas. 
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