Mythology, Cosmology & Rituals In Early Buddhism


To see the Buddha “as he really is” we should explore some of the major episodes in his many lives and appreciate how Buddhist mythology, cosmology, and rituals, relate to one another. We’ll be less likely to view these doctrines as “popular Buddhism” – degeneration from reason (philosophy) to religion (mythology). The teachings of the Buddha are about liberation not affiliation.  Their truth isn’t a matter of historical/factual correctness – it’s a matter of the presence or absence of suffering when we internalise the message and strive to live up to it.

 

 


 

 

MYTHOLOGY, COSMOLOGY & RITUALS IN EARLY BUDDHISM

 

Introduction

“Books on the Buddha are becoming shorter. As a result, we do not read about his previous lives hundreds of millions of years ago. We remain ignorant of the conditions of his birth, his boyhood, or his contest with Mara at the time of his awakening. We remain uninformed about his former lives, his travels to the abode of the gods, and his conferences with them. His trials and tribulations during his life as a teacher, his dinner with a courtesan, the miracles he performs, and the grand episode of his birth and funeral also remain unknown to us. What we find is a short “outline” of the life of the Buddha…  We are led to believe that a shortened version, an outline, shorn of myth, is a more genuine representation, a more rational picture, of the actual historical facts; after all, the Buddha was ‘just a man.’ [But] if we want to understand Buddhism and the ‘life of the Buddha,’ we must place them back into the complex mythical/cosmological structure in which we find all of the legends… the fundamental framework of the legends is mythological, not historical.”Hans H. Penner [1]

I was originally inspired to practice Buddhism after reading the “non-religious” shtick of so many Buddhist commentators (secular and traditional), all of them claiming that the Buddha was “just a man” and there is nothing supernatural about his teachings. One of the hardest lessons I’ve since had to learn is acceptance of the fact that the earliest known Buddhist doctrines commonly cited as evidence for an historical buddha – the texts of the Pali Canon – are full of mythology and religiosity. Moreover, they appear to have been recited orally for centuries before they were first written down in the 1st century CE. [2] Knowing exactly who said what, when, and the intention behind the message, is very much a matter of textual study and assumptions therefore.

Contemporary readers and practitioners must accept that they are, to some extent, imposing their own modern cultural values upon (translated) ancient scriptures whenever they asses them. Nonetheless, I’m going to suggest that we regard the Tipitaka not as evidence for an historical buddha but as evidence for an ancient Indian cult that evolved gradually into a world religion. I’m also going to suggest that we stop thinking of these traditional teachings as factually correct and worthy of belief or factually incorrect and unworthy of belief.

In short, the more we understand Buddhist mythology, cosmology, and rituals, and the ways in which they relate to one another, the less likely we are to view these doctrines as “popular Buddhism” – degeneration from reason (philosophy) to religion (mythology). The teachings of the Buddha are about liberation not affiliation. Their truth isn’t a matter of historical/factual correctness – it’s a matter of the presence or absence of suffering when we internalise the message and strive to live up to it.

Although my comments are directed at the Pali Canon in particular, much of what I say will also be applicable to other traditional Buddhist texts.

Terminology

Words like “religion”, “myth”, “mythology”, and “cosmology”, have more than one meaning and so it’s necessary for me to clarify how I’ll be using them in this discussion.

Let’s start with religion. Within the realm of religious studies at least, it’s understood that a doctrinal belief in some or other deity doesn’t by itself constitute a religion. The word religion is conventionally applied to “any cultural system of designated behaviours and practices, world views, texts, sanctified places, ethics, or organizations, that relate humanity to the supernatural or transcendental.” [3] Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism, for example, are religions in so far as they are communal systems all with a distinctly recognisable infrastructure of scriptures, shrines, rituals, ethics, and organisations dedicated to the supernatural or transcendental. Any disputes tend to arise over the religious status of newer fringe movements commonly referred to as “sects” or “cults”. [4]

Ritual is a word usually associated with a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order (the preliminary preparations of an athlete, for example). However, in the context of a religion a ritual refers typically to “a communal system of prescribed… verbal and nonverbal interactions with a superhuman agent [God, Jesus, Buddha, etc.] or agents [deities, ghosts, ancestors, etc.]”. [5]

There’s a popular tendency nowadays to apply the word myth pejoratively to any widely held but false belief or idea. [6] However, when scholars use the word myth they are normally referring to “a traditional story, especially one concerning the early history of a people or explaining a natural or social phenomenon, and typically involving supernatural beings or events.” [7], [8] According to Wikipedia, “Use of the term by scholars has no implication for the truth or falsity of the myth.” [9] Mythology usually means “the collected myths of a group of people” but the word can also mean “the study of such myths.” [10]

A legend is generally considered to be “a traditional story sometimes popularly regarded as historical but not authenticated.” [11] Legends often demonstrate human values and may include miracles. [12]

Finally, the word cosmology is normally used these days with reference to “the scholarly and scientific study of the origin, large-scale structures and dynamics, and ultimate fate of the universe, as well as the scientific laws that govern these realities”. [13] However, scholars also apply this word to ancient mythological accounts that purport to explain “the origin, evolution, and end of the cosmos or universe”, such as found in the scriptures of Buddhism and other religions. [14]

Throughout this essay I’ll aim to stick with conventional scholarly usage of the above mentioned terminology.


Early Buddhist Mythology

“Mindful and fully aware the Bodhisatta, the Being Dedicated to Enlightenment, appeared in the Heaven of the Contented… For the whole of that life-span the Boddhisatta remained in the Heaven of the Contented… Mindful and fully aware the Bodhisatta passed away from the Heaven of the Contented and entered his mother’s womb…As soon as the Bodhisatta was born, he stood firmly with his feet on the ground; then he took seven steps to the north, and, with a white sunshade held over him, he surveyed each quarter. He uttered the words of the Leader of the Herd: ‘I am the Highest in the World, I am the Best in the World, I am the Foremost in the world; this is the last birth; now there is no more renewal of being in future lives.'” The Buddha  [15]


“The acceptance of the mythology… has been a crucial factor in the development of Buddhism. Without the rich mythology associated with the Buddha, the religion collapses, and nothing is left but a demythologized, supposedly historical figure in whom it makes little sense to ‘take refuge.'” 
David Llewelyn Snellgrove [16]


Siddhatta Gotama’s “life story” will be known to anyone who’s read an introductory text book on Buddhism. Most of the biographies I’ve read appear to be an arbitrary selection of scriptural highlights, edited and arranged to produce a familiar narrative of birth, enlightenment, teaching, and death. [17], [18], [19]


However, the “official” version actually begins long before Gotama’s birth and extends far beyond his death. “[It] encompasses the millions of lives spent on the Bodhisatta path before the achievement of buddhahood and the persistence of the buddha, in the form of both his teachings and his relics, after he has passed into nirvana.” [20], [21] Gotama Buddha is neither the first nor the last buddha to appear in the world. He’s actually the 7th buddha. The next buddha, Metteyya, will appear after Gotama’s teachings and relics have disappeared from the world. [22] This traditional cosmological perspective should be taken into consideration whenever we’re tempted to believe that Gotama “must have” been based upon a real person.

“Early scholastics speak of the Buddha as having a physical body and a second body, called a “mind-made body” or an “emanation body,” in which he performs miraculous feats such as visiting his departed mother in the Heaven of the Thirty-three Gods and teaching her the dharma. [A] more metaphorical [third] body, a body or collection of all the Buddha’s good qualities or dharmas, such as his wisdom, his compassion, his fortitude, his patience… was identified as the body of the Buddha to which one should turn for refuge.” – Donald S. Lopez [23]

None of the claims that have been made about the Buddha appear to have been accepted unanimously either by scholars or followers. How are we to recognise and unpick historical facts from ancient scriptures that are so evidently religious? Can we really use such texts to construct a reliable, factually correct historical biography of the Buddha? I don’t think so…

I regard the Tipitaka first and foremost as religious information. I see no reason for believing that this preponderance of myths and legends and ritual practices are corruptions of an earlier non-religious Buddhism, taught by an ascetic who was “just a man”.  Why even suspect the Buddha’s transformation from man to myth?  Where’s the evidence for this oft-repeated allegation of Early Buddhist corruption? The only evidence anyone seems to offer in support of such conjecture is the very same texts they are rejecting as corrupted dhamma!

Given that many religious people today still believe their received doctrines to be literally true and inviolable, despite modern scientific understandings of the universe, it seems to me most likely that the Buddha’s earliest followers also understood their doctrines literally as received. They believed what they were told about the cosmos and dependent arising. They believed what they heard about the Bodhisatta who had lived many previous lifetimes before his celebrated life as Gotama Buddha, self-enlightened miracle worker and teacher of gods and humans. They understood the religious and cultural milieu in which that dhamma had been revealed, and they would have been very reluctant to make wholesale changes to the received wisdom of the buddhas.

It’s possible of course that the dhamma-vinaya (doctrine and discipline) had symbolic rather than literal meaning for the Early Buddhists. Explaining away the Buddha’s religiosity as “symbols” and “metaphors” would be a neat solution to the paradox of a supposedly rational/natural philosophy founded upon doctrines that are clearly ritualistic/supernatural. Many of the suttas appear to have been intended for the ears of reclusive contemplatives rather than the general laity. The idea that these ancient teachings could have esoteric or hidden meaning that requires discovery/interpretation is certainly plausible but ultimately just more speculation without any real evidence (not the Buddhist way!).  It also implies that rural Buddhists in the Asian heartlands who remain untroubled by modernism and exhibit a more literal and reverential attitude to the dhamma [24] don’t really understand their own religion.

Buddhist doctrines are about liberation – not affiliation. Sometimes meditation and abstract philosophies just aren’t enough when you’re troubled by guilt or depression, for example. An outrageously fantastical and inspirational story on the other hand – such as the Buddha’s taming of Angulimala the serial killer, in which goodness and kindness prevail over wickedness and selfishness – is more easily taken to heart and much more likely to be recalled in difficult times. The redemptive message of the Angulimala Sutta [25] is crystal clear and needs no interpretation. We just need to act as if that message is true and apply its ethical guidance wholesomely to the troublesome situation at hand. The value of a myth lies ultimately in its ability to confound and break down habitual modes of thinking. The truth of the myth isn’t a matter of historical/factual correctness – it’s a matter of the presence or absence of suffering when we internalise the message and live up to it.

Early Buddhist Cosmology

There comes a time, Vāseṭṭha, when, sooner or later, after the lapse of a long, long period, this world passes away. And when this happens, beings have mostly been reborn in the World of Radiance; and there they dwell, made of mind, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, traversing the air, continuing in glory; and thus they remain for a long, long period of time. There comes also a time, Vāseṭṭha, when sooner or later this world begins to re-evolve. When this happens, beings who had deceased from the World of Radiance, usually come to life as humans. And they become made of mind, feeding on rapture, self-luminous, traversing the air, continuing in glory, and remain thus for a long, long period of time.”The Buddha [26]


“I tell you, friend, that it is not possible by travelling to know or see or reach a far end of the cosmos where one does not take birth, age, die, pass away, or reappear. But at the same time, I tell you that there is no making an end of suffering and stress without reaching the end of the cosmos. Yet it is just within this fathom-long body, with its perception and intellect, that I declare that there is the cosmos, the origination of the cosmos, the cessation of the cosmos, and the path of practice leading to the cessation of the cosmos.” –
The Buddha [27]

According to Buddhist doctrine, the universe is the product of karma – of cause and effect. The intentional actions of beings create not only their individual experiences but the domains into which they are born and eventually die – again and again. The ultimate goal of the early Buddhists was to escape this endless suffering cycle of death and rebirth (samsara) through the perfection of bodily, verbal, and mental actions, in accordance with the dhamma of Gotama Buddha.

The scriptures of the Early Buddhists show us that they saw the circumstances and conditions of existence – good or bad – as changeable and unreliable and ultimately dukkha. They understood the Buddha’s first noble truth of dukkha from two different angles – one cosmological and the other psychological.  They considered the possible circumstances in which a being can be born, exist, and die, and the states of mind a being might experience.

Briefly stated, the Early Buddhist Cosmos comprises three worldly destinations for karmic rebirth:

  • Arupaloka is the Immaterial World (four realms); formless; a possible rebirth destination for those who are skilled at formless-jhana meditation.
  • Rupaloka is the Fine-Material World (sixteen realms); predominately free of delusions, aversions and cravings; populated by gods who experience extremely refined bodily and mental pleasures; a possible rebirth destination for those well practiced in form jhana-meditation.
  • Kamaloka is the Sensual World (eleven realms); typified by base desires; the highest seven realms are favourable destinations populated humans and demi-gods and the lowest four realms are unfavourable destinations populated by demons, ghosts, and animals. [28], [29], [30], [31]


Penner’s diagram (Buddhist Cosmology: Fig1.) below illustrates the complex geographic structure of these cognitive, hierarchically arranged, spatial spheres. Mount Sineru (Mount Meru) is the cosmological axis, surrounded by seven concentric mountain ranges each separated by an ocean. Four continents are located at the cardinal points of the outermost mountain range and ocean. Above each continent dwells a Heavenly King and his retinue, who guard their respective realms from attack by jealous gods. Sakka (Indra), the king of the gods, reigns over them all from his abode in the Tavatimsa Heaven at Mount Sineru’s summit. [32]


In addition to the above geo-spatial dimension there’s a temporal dimension to Buddhist cosmology. Buddhism recognises no creator being or an ultimate beginning or end to the universe. However, as I’ve already mentioned, Buddhism does recognise life as a process of birth, death, and rebirth. There’s a beginning and an end for each specific life lived in each the various cosmological spheres, no matter whether the life span is measured in eons, years, days, hours, or thought-moments. All things – even the spheres themselves – are governed by the law of dependent arising:  conditioned things are born, they die, and they are reborn.

The complexity of Early Buddhist cosmology can be reduced to a simple set of oppositions that appear again and again in the myths and legends of the Buddha, as illustrated in Penner’s second diagram (Buddhist Cosmology: Fig 2.) below. [33]


On this point I think it’s worth quoting Penner directly –

“Just as Mount Sineru is the axis of the cosmos, the mediation between the four cardinal points, so Buddha in the night of his enlightenment becomes the axis or mediation between life and death, creation and destruction, birth and death. He has his back to the west, to night and destruction, while facing east, day, creation, and the gods. His meditation takes place from within a specific cosmology in both its horizontal and vertical dimensions; he is not only seated at the axis of the cosmos, we are told that his meditation throughout the watches of the night take him through the hierarchical levels of the cosmos into its highest spheres and then back again into the sphere of sensation and desire, this world.”Hans H. Penner [34], [35]

“The cosmological framework is made explicit once again at his funeral… If we retrace the funeral procession, it takes the body out of the city and brings it back in through the north gate, that of life, dawn, the human domain. The procession then goes through the city and out of the east gate, that is, creation, the domain of the gods, noontime. The procession is clearly marked by the cosmology. The funeral procession [tells us it is] a funeral for a Universal Monarch, a superhuman agent, else he would have been taken through the south gate at twilight into the domain of death as is the case with all human beings. This episode also repeats the ritual of his birth and his enlightenment as episodes whose narrative constraints are also cosmological in their structure and thus a necessary framework for their significance.”Hans H. Penner [36], [37]

“The legend of the Buddha seems to fit the cosmological framework on a grand scale. If we take [Buddhist Cosmology: Fig 2.] as our cosmological grid or template and place it on a map of ancient India, we discover that the Buddha’s birth at Kapilavatthu is at the northern end of his travels. His enlightenment at Bodh-Gaya marks the most southern location. Regardless of how we arrange the various episodes of his travels, they follow a north-south axis between life and death.”Hans H. Penner [38]

As I’ve already mentioned, it’s a doctrinal fact that Gotama Buddha is neither the first nor the last Buddha to appear in the world. What’s perhaps less obvious is that the “biography” of Gotama Buddha’s life – so often asserted as an historical fact and assumed to be self-evident – bears a striking similarity to the “biographies” of the six Buddhas who proceeded him.  According to Penner, when all seven Budhas are compared they appear to have the same narrative structure that can also be defined as sets of oppositions. [39] If we believe that the traditional accounts of Gotama Buddha have some historical factual basis then why not believe the same for all the other Buddhas whose lives apparently fit the same narrative structure?

Early Buddhist Rituals

“What have you heard, Ananda: do the Vajjis have frequent gatherings, and are their meetings well attended…? do the Vajjis assemble and disperse peacefully and attend to their affairs in concord…? do the Vajjis neither enact new decrees nor abolish existing ones, but proceed in accordance with their ancient constitutions…? do the Vajjis show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards their elders and think it worthwhile to listen to them…? do the Vajjis refrain from abducting women and maidens of good families and from detaining them…? do the Vajjis show respect, honor, esteem, and veneration towards their shrines, both those within the city and those outside it, and do not deprive them of the due offerings as given and made to them formerly…? do the Vajjis duly protect and guard the arahats, so that those who have not come to the realm yet might do so, and those who have already come might live there in peace…? So long, Ananda, as this is the case, the growth of the Vajjis is to be expected, not their decline.” – The Buddha. [40]


“There are four places, Ananda, that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence. What are the four…? ‘Here the Tathagata was born…! Here the Tathagata became fully enlightened in unsurpassed, supreme Enlightenment…! Here the Tathagata set rolling the unexcelled Wheel of the Dhamma…! ‘Here the Tathagata passed away into the state of Nibbana in which no element of clinging remains…!’ These, Ananda, are the four places that a pious person should visit and look upon with feelings of reverence. And whoever, Ananda, should die on such a pilgrimage with his heart established in faith, at the breaking up of the body, after death, will be reborn in a realm of heavenly happiness.”
The Buddha. [41]

“There are four persons, Ananda, who are worthy of a stupa. Who are those four? A Tathagata, an Arahant, a Fully Enlightened One is worthy of a stupa; so also is a Paccekabuddha, and a disciple of a Tathagata, and a universal monarch… And why, Ananda, is a Tathagata, an Arahant, a Fully Enlightened One worthy of a stupa? Because, Ananda, at the thought: ‘This is the stupa of that Blessed One, Arahant, Fully Enlightened One!’ the hearts of many people will be calmed and made happy; and so calmed and with their minds established in faith therein, at the breaking up of the body, after death, they will be reborn in a realm of heavenly happiness.”The Buddha. [42]

Merit or punna is a fundamental concept of early Buddhist ethics; it is a beneficial and protective force which accumulates as a result of good deeds, acts, or thoughts. [43] As the Buddha himself tells us on the eve of his passing (above), merit-making through rituals brings good and agreeable results, determines the quality of the next life and contributes to a person’s growth towards enlightenment.

There are many forms of merit-making rituals described in ancient Buddhist texts. Rituals aimed at transferring merit to deceased relatives [44], [45] and the practice of reciting certain verses and scriptures (parittas) in order to ward off misfortune or danger [46], also appears to have been an early Buddhist preoccupation. (“A few paritta involve the asking directly for the aid of the Buddha. Examples of this type of paritta verse can be seen in the Candima Sutta (SN 2.9) and Suriya Sutta (SN 2.10) of the Samyutta Nikaya… In these cases, the Buddha is shown as specifically hearing and responding to the paritta.” [47]) The most fruitful form of merit-making is those good deeds done with regard to the Triple Gem of the Buddha (Teacher), the Dhamma (teachings), and the Sangha (Monastic Community). [48] Such good deeds include veneration and showing respect, meditating on the qualities of the Triple Gem, gifts given to the relics of the Buddha and to images that represent him.

In ancient stupa complexes, [49] the primary form of merit-making ritual for the individual was circumambulation of the stupa. [ 50] While the architectural form varies, all large stupas contain an assembly area for communal ritual worship. [51] According to Gregory Shopen, if we stick to what we actually know for certain from architectural inscriptions that predate the earliest known Buddhist texts by around 150 years, it would seem that Buddhist monks and nuns have always participated actively in a wide range of ritual practices and institutions that modernists nowadays judge as “popular” – from the accumulation and transfer of merit; to the care of deceased relatives; to serving as sponsors and donors, rather than always as the recipients, of gifts. “None of this accords very well, if at all, with the received views… that there is a sharp distinction between the kinds of religious activities undertaken by monks and the kind of religious activities undertaken by laymen, and with the view that cult and religious giving were essentially and overwhelmingly lay concerns in the Indian Buddhist context.” [52]


Summary/Conclusion

“To view the Buddha merely as a historical figure is to see him only intellectually, as through a non-Buddhist scholar’s eyes. It may mean that we are not aware of or even reject his spirituality. To view the Buddha as a miraculous or legendary figure is to deify him and so to distance him from our spiritual development, even from our daily life. To see the Buddha only as either a mere human or a rare superhuman is to limit our vision of the ideal of human awakening. Ideally, we should strive to see him as he really is. To do this, it helps to remind ourselves that the Buddha and the arhat, as awakened beings, are beyond any conceptual categories—it is simply impossible to describe them in words or language in the conventional sense. In short, the texts mostly give us helpful concepts and instructions to work with our mind, preparing us for a fuller vision of the Buddha and the Dharma. The Buddha Dharma does not teach an affiliation but teaches us liberation.” – Piya Tan [53]


Early Buddhist scriptures are first and foremost sources of religious information.

If we take the myths and legends literally – as meaning what they say – we’re less likely to have a problem seeing the Buddha as a superhuman who performs miracles. If we take the message of Buddhism seriously, the life of Gotama Buddha (the “historical buddha”) is just one chapter in a series of lives stretching into the past and into the future. To see the Buddha “as he really is” we should explore some of the major episodes in the Buddha’s long cosmological life.

When we explore Buddhist mythology we notice a narrative structure (a set of oppositions) in the myths that’s repeated again and again. The more we understand Buddhist mythology, cosmology, and rituals, and the ways in which they relate to one another, the less likely we are to view these doctrines as “popular Buddhism” – degeneration from reason (philosophy) to religion (mythology). On the contrary – no karma, no cosmology, no Buddhism!

Merit or punna is a fundamental concept of early Buddhism. There are many forms of merit-making rituals described in ancient Buddhist texts. Merit-making through rituals brings good and agreeable results, determines the quality of the next life and contributes to a person’s growth towards enlightenment.

The idea of Gotama Buddha having taught a natural secular philosophy that was later “corrupted” by religiosity is mere speculation without evidence. The idea that ancient Buddhist doctrines have hidden or obscure symbolic meaning that requires discovery/interpretation is plausible and may be a tempting alternative for people who are averse to religiosity, but ultimately it’s just more speculation without evidence (not the Buddhist way!).  It also implies that rural Buddhists in the Asian heartlands who remain untroubled by modernism and exhibit a more literal and reverential attitude to the dhamma don’t really understand their own religion.

The religious teachings of the Buddha are about liberation not affiliation. Their truth isn’t a matter of historical/factual correctness – it’s a matter of the presence or absence of suffering when we internalise the message and strive to live up to it.

_________

Notes

[1] Rediscovering The Buddha: Legends Of The Buddha & Their Interpretation by Hans H. Penner. Oxford University Press 2009. (p. vii.)

[2] “The Pali Language and Literature”Pali Text Society. (Home Page > About Pali > The Pali Language & Literature.)

[3] “Religion” in Wikipedia. Last edited 17 September 2017.

[4] Sociology Themes and Perspectives (7th Ed) by Michael Haralambos and Martin Holborn. Harper Collins Publishers Ltd, 2008. (p. 396.)

[5] Rediscovering The Buddha, by Hans H Penner.

[6] “Myth” in Wikipedia. Last edited 9 September 2017.

[7] “Myth” in Oxford Dictionaries. Last accessed 25 October 2017.

[8] “Myth”, in Wikipedia.                                                

[9] Ibid.

[10] “Mythology”, in Wikipedia. Last edited 14 September 2017.

[11] “Legend” in Oxford Dictionaries. Last accessed 25 October 2017.

[12] “Legend” in Wikipedia. Last edited 19 October 2017.

[13] “Cosmology”, Wikipedia. Last edited 7 September 2017.

[14] “Religious Cosmology”, Wikipedia. Last edited 12 August 2017.

[15] The Life Of The Buddha According To The Pali Canon (3rd Ed), translated by Bhikkhu Nanamoli. Buddhist Publication Society, 1992. (pp. 3, 5)

[16] “Buddhism: Mythology”, by David Llewelyn Snellgrove, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Last revised 27 February 2017.

[17] See for example: The Life Of The Buddha According To The Pali Canon, by Bhikkhu Nanamoli.

[18] See for example: The Buddha And His Teachings (Electronic Edition), by Venerable Narada Mahathera. Buddhist Publication Society, 2012.

[19] See for example: Buddha, by Karen Armstrong. Phoenix, 2002.

[20] “Buddha: Founder Of Buddhism”, by Donald S. Lopez. Encylopaedia Britannica. Last updated 24 October 2017.

[21] “Mahâpadāna Sutta: The Sublime Story” (DN 14), Sutta Central. Last edited 15 March 2017.

[22] “Cakkavatti Sutta: The Wheel-turning Emperor” (DN 26), Sutta Central. Last modified 15 March 2017.

[23] “Buddha: Founder Of Buddhism”, by Donald S. Lopez.

[24] “A Buddhist who acknowledges gods can thus be cleared of doctrinal incorrectitude… So long as Buddhists continue to treat gods as a kind of supermen, able to grant favours to suppliants, but still ultimately of limited life and powers and subject to moral law, their beliefs are not syncretistic. Belief in gods like this is not logically (or otherwise) incompatible with Buddhist doctrine.”  – Richard Gombrich.
Precept and Practice: Traditional Buddhism in the Rural Highlands of Ceylon, by Richard F. Gombrich. Clarendon Press, 2009. (pp. 55, 58.)

[25] “Angulimala Sutta: About Angulimala” (MN 86), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013.

[26] “Agganna Sutta: A Book Of Genesis” (DN 27), Sutta Central. Last modified 19 March 2017.

[27] “Rohitassa Sutta: To Rohitassa” (AN 4.45), translated from the Pali by Thanissaro Bhikkhu. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013.

[28] “The earliest strata of Buddhist writings, the Nikayas/Agamas, do not provide a systematic account of the Buddhist understanding of the nature of the cosmos, but they do contain many details and principles that are systematized into a coherent whole by [later] Abhidharma traditions of Buddhist thought.”Rupert Gethin.
The Foundations of Buddhism, by Rupert Gethin. Oxford University Press, 1998. (p. 115)

[29] “Buddhist Cosmology”, in Wikipedia. Last edited 19 August 2017.

[30] “Religious Cosmology”, in Wikipedia.

[31] “The Thirty-one Planes of Existence”, edited by Access to InsightAccess to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013.

[32] Rediscovering The Buddha: Legends Of The Buddha & Their Interpretation by Hans H. Penner. (p. 146.)

[33] Ibid. (p. 148.)

[34] Ibid. (p. 155.)

[35] See also Buddhist Birth-Stories: Jataka Tales. (187–205)

[36] Rediscovering The Buddha: Legends Of The Buddha & Their Interpretation by Hans H. Penner. (p. 156.)

[37] See also “Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha” (DN 16), translated from the Pali by Sister Vajira & Francis Story. Access to Insight (BCBS Edition), 30 November 2013. (Homage to the Remains)

[38] Rediscovering The Buddha: Legends Of The Buddha & Their Interpretation by Hans H. Penner. (pp. 156-7)

[39] Ibid. (p. 140.)

[40] “Maha-parinibbana Sutta: Last Days of the Buddha” (DN 16), translated from the Pali by Sister Vajira & Francis Story. (Conditions of a Nation’s Welfare)

[41] Ibid. (Four Places of Pilgimage)

[42] Ibid.

[43] “Merit (Buddhism)”, in Wikipedia. Last edited 1 November 2017.

[44] “Transfer of Merit”, in Wikipedia. Last edited 17 September 2017.

[45] The Foundations Of Buddhism, by Rupert Gethin. (pp.109-10.)

[46] “Buddhism: Popular Religious Practices”, by  Giuseppe Tucci, in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Last modified 18 July 2017. (Protective Rites)

[47] “Parita”  in Wikipedia. Last edited 6 September 2017.

[48]  “Merit (Buddhism)”, in Wikipedia.

[49] [ “Stupa: Buddhism”, in Encyclopaedia Britannica. Last modified 5 April 2017.

[50] [ “Ritual and Presentation in Early Buddhist Religious Architecture”, by Lars Fogelin, Academia.edu, 2017.

[51] Ibid.

[52] [ “Bones, Stones, and Buddhist Monks: Collected Papers on the Archaeology, Epigraphy, and Texts of Monastic Buddhism in India”, by Gregory Shopen, University of Hawaii Press, 1997. (pp. 31-32)

[53] “The Buddha As Myth: Universal Themes In The Buddha’s Life”, by Piya Tan. The Dharmafarers, 2007. (p. 66.)

 

 

 

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