1. Discuss the meaning of our "Buddha Nature".
Buddha-nature or Buddha Principle is the ability of every sensitive soul to reach enlightenment and this ability is something inside. Every sensitive soul has Buddha element but it is not in full blossom. Before attainment of this complete Buddhahood the soul wants to achieve this state. This want or urge is Buddha Nature. This doctrine is important in Far Eastern Buddhism.
2. Discuss the structure of the ego.
Ego is related to the ignorance, greed, and hatred. Ignorance is the believing in, identifying with and clinging to the ego. But this strong clinging to ego makes attachment/desire, anger/hatred to arise and repeatedly gain strength. The ego needs activity in order to exist. Like and dislike, attachment, aversion, greed and hatred are the main activities of the ego. The more desire and aversion we have the more real and concrete the ego seems. In fact, the ego depends on desire. The ego and desire are like the two sides of a coin. This is why desire cannot be satisfied. If we stop desire then our sense of self starts getting weaker. What we desire, like or dislike are not really important. They are merely excuses for the activity of the ego, to prevent its death. Even getting upset, irritated, and angry at others for trivial things is to make the ego seem more alive.
3. Discuss the meaning of ''Nirvana''.
Nirv%u0101na is a common concept in all Indian religions, having different interpretations. In the Hindu context it is the state free of suffering and individual existence, and in the Buddhist context it is blowing out of the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion. In Buddhism nirv%u0101na is the perfect peace of mind that is free from craving, anger, and other troubling states. It is also the state of no identity and limitlessness for the mind. This material world comes to an end in this state. The person is at peace with this world and has compassion for all. This peace is achieved when urge for materialism is controlled. In nirv%u0101%u1E47a, the root causes of craving and aversion have been removed.
4. Discuss the "Four Noble Truths". How are they related to liberation?
These four truths are best understood, not as beliefs, but as categories of experience. The basic teachings of the Four Noble Truths are:
The Noble Truth of Suffering i.e. birth, death, old age, getting undesirable and losing desirable. This is the truth of suffering.
The Noble Truth of the Accumulation of Suffering i.e. our delight in getting material things, our lust for this world is the sources of accumulation of suffering.
The Noble Truth of the Elimination of Suffering i.e. our desire to remove the accumulation of suffering. When we understand this we get the truth of Elimination of Suffering.
The Noble Truth of the Path that Leads Away from Suffering i.e. how to achieve the path of righteousness. It is through right view, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness and concentration.
These Four Noble Truths are source of liberation as they help us in liberating us from the retribution of our karma. Our karma is controlled which, ultimately helps us in getting nirv%u0101%u1E47a thus liberating our mind.
5. Discuss as clearly as you can the meaning of "Dependent Origination" as applied to the process of all reality.
"Dependent Origination" is basically the principal of cause and effect. All the objects in this world are “dependent” upon some cause/s for their birth or “origination”. This is true for all the objects. In Buddhism this concept is related with Four Noble Truths. Our desire for the suffering is the cause of suffering and the effect is suffering. Similarly our desire to end suffering is the cause of path to end suffering and the cause is end of suffering. "Dependent Origination" is closely linked with the problem of birth and suffering. There are 12 components for "Dependent Origination". They are ignorance, mental formation, consciousness, name and form, the six senses, contact, feeling, craving, clinging, becoming, birth, and old age and death. They are related with us in our life, if we take our life as Past, Present and Future. With Past the components of ignorance and mental formation are related. With Present consciousness, name and form, the six senses, contact, feeling, craving, clinging and becoming are related. While with Future birth and old age and death are related. All things depend on these components for their existence and in this way “Dependent Origination” is related to the process of all reality.
6. How would you do "Vipassana Meditation"?
Vipassana meditation is an effective and proven practice that strengthens the ability to manage emotions and thoughts and improves ability to concentrate. This meditation can be performed by following the below mentioned procedure.
Sit comfortably in a quiet room. Focus attention to the crown of head. Slowly scan your attention over your entire body from the crown of head. Scan your entire body until you have returned focus to the crown of your head. Then start a new cycle. With more focus you will be able to observe the sensation of your body objectively. When no sensation is able to upset you the goal is attained. Follow this practice at least for an hour in the morning and an hour in the evening.
7. How would you do "Metta Meditation"?
Metta meditation is for getting peace and composure into one's own heart and sending loving compassion to others. In order to carry out this meditation following procedure is adopted:
Sit comfortably with a straight posture and starts taking slow, deep breaths with eyes closed. After feeling relaxed, focus the mind on health, well being, and happiness. With an open heart, begin thinking kindly of yourself. Now, in the mind say, "May I be happy," while imagining being happy. Continue to be in this positive environment for as long as desired until ready to end the meditation. Once comfortable with sending kindness to yourself, it's time to start sending it out to others. When getting ready to send loving kindness, first envision the group of people it's being sent to in the mind's eye. When choosing neutral people, pick a group of people in which no emotions are attached. When sending loving kindness, a couple of ideas of what to mentally say are, "May these people be happy," or "May these people live with peace and joy."
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8. How would you do "Tonglen Meditation"?
A powerful and good way to push away pain and hold onto pleasure is the practice of tonglen. Tonglen is a Tibetan word that literally means "sending and taking." There are four steps to perform tonglen, which are as follow:
First step is to rest your mind by freeing it from all thoughts.
Second step is to breathe in feeling of hot and dark while breathe out feeling of cold and light.
Third step is to start thinking about your painful situation.
Fourth step is to start thinking on a large scale. Not only about yourself but imagine the pain of all those who are in the same situation.
9. What is a "koan"? How does it lead to enlightenment?
Koan is a central part of the history and tradition of Zen Buddhism. It consists of a story, dialogue, question, or statement, the meaning of which cannot be understood by thinking but may be got through intuition. The purpose of koan for a Zen practitioner is to make him aware of the difference between himself, his mind, and his beliefs, which effect how he understands the world; and, eventually, to help him grasp his true nature. Once this is achieved the “koan” starts making sense. Although lot of literature on “koan” is present but it can be fully understood only by experimenting it. It is this emphasis which leads to enlightenment.
10. Explain from a Buddhist point of view: "Thank you for slapping me in the face."
Religions are for promotion of ethics, humanity and peace. Although in current era we find ourselves in a world full of violence in the name of religion still it is not religion to be blamed rather its followers. Buddhism stands out clear when it comes to notion of non violence. In Buddhism the first percept is “non violence”. It is for all the followers of Buddhism. They are told not to tease even small animals. According to Buddhist’s scripture it is forbidden to drink or through water having small animals. From this idealism we see that people are indulged in violence. The reason is very simple. Religion gives high values and standard. Followers could not attain those and succumb under the pressure of world realties and constraints. From a Buddhist point of view, in ideal situation, it is normal to say “Thank you for slapping me in the face” but in real world the situation may be different.
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11. Extra Credit: Discuss the meaning of the Heart Sutra, so that your neighbor will understand.
The Heart Sutra is a well-known sutra that is very popular among Mahayana Buddhists for its brevity and depth of meaning. The Heart Sutra is made up of 14 shlokas in Sanskrit; a shloka composed of 32 syllables, while in English it is composed of sixteen sentences. The insight of this Sutra is based in a philosophy of introspective awareness of meditative insight. Indeed an insight into the meaning of the Sutra can be gained by relating it to contemporary Science. What is knowledge? Study of Matter is knowledge. This matter is divided into elements. Each element is divided into atoms. Each atom is divided in proton, electron, neutron, positron and God Particle. Each layer of interpretation is decomposed into another more basic, more fundamental, until we feel space and time as indefinable, as mystery. At this level the categories melt and return in strange forms. This Sutra tells how all things are wrapped up in mystery and we can unfold it through ourselves.