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Analysis of a Key Scripture of Buddhism - Research Paper Example

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Course 29 February 2012 Analysis of Vimalakirti Sutra The development of the Buddhist creed has historically proceeded through the differentiation of various schools and branches of the general doctrine of this religion…
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Analysis of a Key Scripture of Buddhism
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Download file to see previous pages Within a framework of the present study, the Vimalakirti Sutra has been selected for analysis. This text is claimed to have been composed in India approximately in early 2nd century CE . Representing a story of a certain Vimalakirti, this sutra provides a sophisticated theological account of the concept of bodhisattva as the ideal form of attaining the Awakening, which is contrasted and compared with the traditional Buddhist idea of arhat. Nonetheless, the Arhatship is far from being rejected in the text of the sutra; on the contrary, the text purports to provide instructions for both categories. The main thrust of the Vimalakirti Sutra is aimed at the followers of the Mahayana tradition of Buddhism. This tradition encompasses a number of Buddhist schools and sects that, despite their manifold differences, agree on the necessity of helping the other being to achieve Awakening, rather than purely individual efforts at attaining this condition themselves. The former variant, known as the Bodhisattva Path, is construed as involving the dedication of life energies of the prospective bodhisattva to the assistance to other living beings, rather than disappearing from the worldly existence (sa?sara) at the end of the personal lifetime, as in the case of traditional concept of arhat. The collectivist impulse found in Mahayana allowed it to become more popular than traditional ‘Southern’ schools of Buddhism in many regions of the world, including Japan, Mongolia, China, etc. The Mahayana Buddhism was not, however, a completely laymen-based phenomenon, as there is strong evidence that the monastic spiritualists play an important part in its development (Mitchell 97). The main aim of Mahayana devotees has always been the definition of the essence of the ‘Great Vehicle’ that can allow them to reach the condition of Buddha through the path of Bodhisattva. Such Great Vehicle was eventually associated with the altruistic desire (bodhicitta) to assist the other mortals in achieving the Awakening necessary to free themselves from the shackles of earthly existence. Various Mahayana schools used differing terminology to describe the specific stages that must be passed on the way to the state of Bodhisattva, but eventually the majority of Mahayana teachers laid down the sequence of Ten Stages that are to be passed by the true Bodhisattva, with generosity, morality, tolerance, effort, concentration, and true wisdom being the most important virtues of this set. It is worth noting that it was the Vimalakirti Sutra that introduced this canon of virtues of Bodhisattva for the first time in history of Mahayana school. The role of the Vimalakirti Sutra for the adherents of Mahayana Buddhism is rather encompassing, as this is the text that laid down some of the most important tenets of Mahayana doctrine. The main subject of the sutra is both practical and philosophical, as it combines the discussion of the most important themes in Buddhist ontology (e.g. the concept of ‘emptiness’, or sunyata) with the practical advice and contemplations on the integration of Mahayana Buddhist practices in daily life of the devotee. The Vimalakirti Sutra played an important role in further development of Mahayana cosmogony; by introducing the concept of ‘Buddha-field’, it has connected the notions of cosmic existence inherited from the Hindu tradition with the specifically Buddhist philosophy of ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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