Thursday, April 28, 2016

Buddhist Paradiseology or Buddhist Edenology

This is just for pure fun. Every language, culture, or religion may have its own words and concept of paradise or heaven. Buddhism is no exception. In course of time, it has developed various notions of paradise or heaven. By the way, nivāṇa is not a paradise or heaven. There are, in general, concepts of higher realms” and “lower realms,” “good or happy existences” and “bad or miserable existences,” “worldly spheres” and “Buddhaic spheres,” “pure realms” and “impure realms,” and so forth. Impure realms are usually said to be karmically produced, whereas pure realms may be produced through the previous resolutions of certain Buddhas and which serve as kinds of temporary stations of relief that would enable one to pursue one’s onward journey towards becoming a buddha. Not all higher realms are heavenly realms. Human realm, for example, is a higher realm but not a heavenly or celestial realm. Not all lower realms are hellish realms (be they hyperthermic or hypothermic hells). Animalic realm is a lower realm but not a hellish realm. Paradisical realm of the Buddha Amitābha is called Sukhāvatī (“[Realm] Endowed with Bliss].” Based on East-Asian tradition and sources, it came to be known as the “Pure Land of Amitābha,” and the Buddhist tradition that is associated with it is known as “Pure-Land Buddhism,” although one is tempted to call it “Land-of-Bliss Buddhism” instead. In the Tibetan tradition, there is no such a thing “Sukhāvatī Buddhism” although followers of each school might believe that birth in the Sukhāvatī is a possible (albeit only temporary) option. Paradisical realm of a Buddha is not limited to that of Buddha Amitābha alone. Akṣobhya and the like, too, have their own paradisical realms. Tārā, too, has her own paradisical realm. Padmasambhava’s paradisical realm is very popular among his followers. In the end, we also encounter the idea that heaven or hell is one’s own projection or construction, and thus one should rather aspire to cleans one’s own intellectual emotional defilements and other obscurations. Such a paradisical realm in Buddhism may be called a “Buddhist Elysian Field” or “Buddhist Elysium” or “Buddhist Edenic Abode.” The theory or study of paradise-like realms or spheres in Buddhism may be called “Buddhist Paradiseology” or “Buddhist Edenology.” Just a random thought!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Buddhist Hodology

My obsession with coining new (or borrowing old) words for expressing certain ideas in Buddhist philosophy and religion continues. This time it is “Hodology.” It is supposed to mean “study of pathways.” The word is derived from the Greek hodos, meaning “path.” It is used in various contexts such as in neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and geography. I wish to use this word in Buddhist philosophy and soteriology. Let us say “Buddhist hodology.” In the Buddhist context, it is supposed to include all reflections, explanations, descriptions, and systematization of topics all subsumed under what Tibetan Buddhist scholars would call “discourses of the spiritual stages and paths” (sa dang lam gyi rnam gzhag). This is an important topic. One could also call “Buddhist Mārgology.” Nowadays we use the expression “Meditation Theories” very vaguely to express the theories of bhūmis and mārgas. But the expression is perhaps too narrow. “Buddhist hodology” would include everything that is linked with Buddhist soteriology. It would deal with mundane (laukika) and supramundane (lokottara) paths, the correct and the wrong paths, the pitfalls and dangers on the way, regression and progression, signs, qualities, and achievements. In order to have a historically (or diachronically) and doctrinally (or synchronically) representative picture of Buddhist hodology, one has to consider hodology from the perspective of various schools and systems of Buddhism. At any rate, I feel that the use of the use of the term “Buddhist hodology” is justifiable.