Buddhism is the oldest and most successful Self-Help program on Earth. There is debate over whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophy. When asked to weigh in on this question my answer is always definitely yes! There is no Divine figure to worship, no cosmogony and no dogma in Buddhism. In that respect it does not appear to be a religion. But if you consider a religion to be a set of ideas around which you live your life and that in turn brings you to peace and a deep understanding of the True Nature of life, then Buddhism is most definitely a religion. This incredibly practical and adaptive tradition is something that everyone should learn about.
I designed this course especially for Westerners who have had little or no contact with Buddhism other than the few words and ideas that have filtered through to the West. It is presented in a very entertaining and light fashion including stories and humor. The simplicity of the course however should not fool you into thinking the content is in any way compromised. I have had lifelong Buddhists in Asia take the class and remark to me that this was the first time they truly understood their own religion. Though that may be true the course is especially designed for those who are looking for a clear and simple explanation of Buddhism.
So whether new to the subject or very experienced you will find knowledge of great value to you and your life in this course. In the end, you will understand why it is that you have been living less than you are deserving of and how to regain your Natural state of Joy, Compassion, Love and Freedom.
Meet your instructor Marshall Stern as he prepares you for the first section, Life Of The Buddha.
Just about everyone has heard of The Buddha but what exactly is a Buddha and what relevance does his life hold for us?
The life's journey of Shakyamuni Buddha begins with a dream of a white elephant.
The King calls in all the soothsayers to predict Siddhartha's future. He receives a mixed message part of which he is not happy about.
Young Prince Siddhartha experiences life changing events that set him on the course of becoming a Buddha.
After leaving the palace and his life behind Siddhartha begins seeking in earnest for the way to liberation from suffering. After trying extreme methods he finds a middle path.
Having settled upon meditation as his method he begins to attain enlightenment only to be confronted with the likes of Mara the Hindu God of Illusion who seeks to thwart Siddhartha.
Having attained Liberation and Become the Buddha, the next 45 years of the Buddha's life are spent reading the Dharma. (Note- Special piece of information at the very end for your eyes only)
This is a Zen story set up to prepare your palette for the classes to follow. Spoiler alert- It has to do with attachment and freedom.
The Buddha, The Dharma and the Sangha are called the three jewels in Buddhism. Here is what they are and why they are so important.
Though Buddhism is expressed differently in different countries there is a core that runs through all the different Buddhist sects. This is what the Buddha taught and it comes down to The Four Noble Truths.
The First Noble Truth acknowledges the existence and universality of the experience of suffering though not as an organic part of life. Joy and Love are our natural state. Suffering is an aberration.
If suffering his not an organic part of life, what causes it? This is the Second Noble Truth, the cause of suffering.
The Third Noble Truth is about the end of suffering.
The Fourth Noble Truth lays out an eight fold plan for specifically ending suffering and returning to your own natural state of joy.
Buddhism takes on different forms including two major schools. We will be focusing on the older off these two schools called Theravadan.
This Zen story about a cloud that grows enamored with its own power illustrates the idea behind the Concepts we will be looking at.
This is the basis of the Buddhist thought that all are one. It really does make sense as you will see.
Everything changes constantly therefore everything is impermanent. What are the implications?
The idea of No-Self is one of the most misunderstood concepts in Buddhism. Here it is explained and made clear.
Who and what we think we are in daily life is a construct created by us but it has no reality beyond that which we invest in it.
Who we are and what we are become obscured when we mistakenly identify with things that are not us.
This is another Buddhist concept that is badly misunderstood. As with other explained concepts this will clear up any misunderstandings about, and clarify the importance of non-attachment.
So now that we know what we aren't what exactly are we?
There are two different types of meditation as described by the Buddha. Focus and Insight meditation.
Aside from being the actual 8th step of the Noble Eightfold Path, meditation is integral to making the Path come alive.
Our bodies are like instruments and meditation is the tuning of our instruments.
What waits for us in Stillness and Silence is the thing we are all searching for.
From a very practical point of view how does meditation benefit us?
Remember Mara who tried to interrupt the Buddhas enlightenment? Who exactly is he and what does he symbolize?
Meditation is one of those Buddhist concepts that has made it to the West but with many misunderstandings. We will clear those up in this class.
There are many ways to meditate. Some of the more popular Zen positions are shown and explained.
Relax, get comfortable and enjoy this guided and silent meditation.
Buddhism is nothing if not practical. Applications of Meditation you can use in your daily life are explored.
Do you have to believe in Reincarnation in order to be a Buddhist? What is the connection between the two?
A Zen story about a wave that finds its own True Nature.
All beings fear death. There is no reason to as you will see in this class.
Birth is going to sleep, death is waking up and life is a dream.
The greatest pain associated with death is that of loss but loss is also our greatest teacher.
Compelling evidence in support of Reincarnation.
Reincarnation is not seen as a desirable thing in Buddhism. The idea is to stop the cycle.
What is the mechanism that keeps us returning and determines the conditions of our lives?
What des it look like when you have transcended the cycle of suffering? Spoiler alert: It's very good!
The top five regrets of those for whom death is imminent and what we can learn from them.
A Zen story illustrating the idea behind Meet The Buddha Kill The Buddha.
What does it mean to really Meet The Buddha?
Where the Buddha is and where he is not.
The whole idea behind Buddhism is to transcend everything, this includes the Buddha.
I discovered Buddhism and began to practice in earnest around thirty years ago. I am the author of Meet The Buddha Kill The Buddha, the host of Awakened America (A Zen Political Talk show on WCPT in Chicago), Co-Host and creator of the Zenprov Podcasts and Lecturer for Celebrity cruise lines teaching Buddhism to Westerners in Asia. My approach to teaching Buddhism is one of using a very light touch and making it easy to grasp. It has been my experience that my students have so much fun and are so engaged that they learn without feeling like they are learning. Mo Phat! (Vietnamese for "Blessings of the Buddha")