A follower of the Buddha’s teachings is called a Buddhist.
Estimates vary from 200 to 500 million adherents. The general consensus is that Buddhism includes approximately 350 million adherents worldwide, with an estimated 3–4 million in the United States. The major geopolitical centers of historical Buddhism are in Southeast Asia (Theravada), East Asia (Mahayana) and the Himalayan Region, sometimes called the Tibetan School (Vajrayana). Each of the three traditions is also represented worldwide both among people of Asian origin as well as among local populations. Most Buddhist groups in the West are at least nominally affiliated with one of the three Asian branches. While Buddhism is sometimes received in the West as exotic and progressive, it is both familiar and traditional in the East. Translation of the scriptures into Western languages is not yet complete.
Adherents in Central Florida
Wat Florida Dhammaran, on Old Vineland Road in Kissimmee (Thai/Theravadan / http://watflorida.org/), Guang Ming, on Hoffner Road in Orlando (Chinese, Mahayana / http://www.orlandobuddhism.org/) and Chuà Long Van, Chuà Bao An, and Chuà Phap Vu (Vietnamese/Mahayana /http://www.thebuddhagarden.com/blog/vietnamese-temples-usa/#florida) in or near Orlando, as well as Wat Navaram (Lao/Theravadan / http://www.watnavaram.org/) are traditional temples where services are conducted in Asian languages. There are several other Asian language temples in the area as well as a Tibetan Center in Orlando where English is spoken (http://www.meditationinorlando.org/). In addition, English-language Mahayana groups include the Orlando Zen Center (http://orlandozen.com/about.htm), which meets on Sunday evenings at Shine On Yoga on Thornton Avenue in Orlando; the Brevard Zen Center, on Range Road in Cocoa, which meets on Sunday mornings and Wednesday evenings (http://www.brevardzen.org/); as well as Sokka Gakkai International, which meets regularly on South Semoran in Orlando (http://www.sgi-usa.org/). Other groups, including The Chenrezig Project (http://www.chenrezigproject.org/) gather privately for study, meditation and spiritual growth.
Shakyamuni Gautama, the historical Buddha, lived during the late 6th and early 5th centuries Before the Common Era. Originally a privileged member of a royal family, he was protected from everyday concerns until, as a young adult, he traveled the small kingdom where he grew up and witnessed poverty, sickness, old age and death for the first time. Bothered by realization of old age, sickness and death, he sought understanding by leaving his home to study with yogis, only to be disappointed that his understanding of old age, sickness and death was not deepened. He began the practice of meditation under a tree, vowing not to abandon the practice until he came to Full Enlightenment. Upon his Enlightenment, he began to teach the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path.
Beliefs and Practices
Many versions of the Four Nobel Truths and the Eightfold Path exist. One such version, simplified, is this:
The Four Noble Truths are 1) Suffering exists, 2) Suffering is caused by ignorance, 3) Ignorance can be overcome, and 4) the way to overcome ignorance is the Eightfold Path.
The Eightfold Path is (1) Right Views, (2) Right Thoughts, (3) Right Conduct, (4) Right Speech, (5) Right Livelihood, (6) Right Effort, (7) Right Mindfulness, and (8) Right Meditation.
The foundation of Buddhist practice rests in The Three Jewels, which are the Buddha (who is the teacher) the Dharma (which is the teaching) and the Sangha (which is the community). By taking refuge in The Three Jewels, one becomes a Buddhist. Ritual formalities vary according to the school of Buddhism one practices. Practice, rather than a belief system, is basic to realizing a full experience of Buddhism. The central practices lead to Enlightenment, sometimes referred to as Liberation, from the Wheel of Suffering. The Wheel of Suffering is analyzed by the doctrine of Dependent Origination, a linking of causes and effects at both the physical and spiritual dimensions of human life. Bowing, offering incense, chanting and sitting or walking meditations are all practices that require profound mindfulness and a focused attitude. Without necessarily rejecting the concept of gods, Buddhist practice focuses on meditation and meditative practices to help to sweep aside distractions from the goal of realizing Full Enlightenment.
All three major Buddhist schools emphasize moral behavior and meditation. The Theravada schools emphasize monastic practice and mastery of the scriptures. The Mahayana schools embrace a wide perspective, including lay participation in the practices, meditation and the chanting of scriptures and mantras. The Himalayan schools of Vajrayana (often described as Tibetan) include both the Theravada and Mahayana concerns as well as an emphasis on Tantra, ceremonial practices of self-dedication to specific virtues, values, and private practices.
The traditional response to questions about Buddhist practice is “Come to the temple and see for yourself.”
Glossary of Major Terms
• Arhat: a fully realized and enlightened person who is living in their last incarnation and will enter into Nirvana at the end of this lifetime. This concept is especially important in the Theravada.
• Bodhisattva: a person who has taken vows to achieve enlightenment and remain in this world to work for the benefit of suffering beings without entering into the fullness of Nirvana. This practice is typical of the Mahayana.
• Buddha: literally, “the awakened one,” a fully realized and enlightened person, usually referring to Gautama Siddhartha Buddha, the earliest historical Buddha but not the only Buddha. The Buddha can be thought of as the teacher. Mahayana considers that everyone already has Buddha nature (i.e., the potential to “wake up.”)
• Dependent Origination: the central concept of impermanence and interdependence; the teaching that no individual or thing has an absolute identity without reference to other factors that give rise to existence.
• Dharma: the teachings of the Buddha.
• Karma: known as the law of cause and effect in both the physical and spiritual realms, the concept that any act has consequences.
• Mantra: a short phrase suitable for repetition or recitation, useful for the development of singleminded attention or mindfulness. Reciting a mantra can be a meditative practice that serves as a mental vehicle for achieving Right Meditation.
• Meditation: activities such as sitting meditation (zazen), walking mindfully, chanting sutras or mantras; the performance of ceremonies such as bowing and incense offering are techniques that help to focus the mind to pay attention to one thing at a time, developing right-mindfulness while deepening the attention to achieve a state of spiritual absorption (samdhi) with the object and eventual insight (vipassana) into things as they really are.
• Nirvana: the state of absorption or clarity where all attachments are extinguished.
• Sangha: the Buddhist community in a broad sense; the Buddhist clergy in some traditions.
• Sutra: Buddhist scriptures, often recording the early teachings of the Buddha.
• The Three Treasures: A traditional figure of speech referring to the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha, also known as The Three Precious Jewels.
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought: It is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts. If a man speaks or acts with an evil thought, pain follows him, as the wheel follows the foot of the ox that draws the carriage.”–Dhammapada, Chapter One, Twin Verses.
(Alternate translation: “We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with an impure mind and trouble will follow you as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart. We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with a pure mind and happiness will follow you as your shadow, unshakeable.”–Dhammapada, Choices.
When Buddha was on his death bed, he noticed his young disciple Ananda was weeping.
“Why are you weeping, Ananda?” he asked.
“Because the light of the world is about to be extinguished and we will be in darkness.”
The Buddha summoned up all his remaining energy and spoke what were to be his final words on earth:
“Ananda, Ananda, be a light unto yourself.”–from the Parinirvana Sutra.
“If science proves some belief of Buddhism wrong, then Buddhism will have to change.”–Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama.
Tipping Over a Water Bottle
When Isan Osho was with Hyakujo, he was tenzo, or head cook of the monastery. Hyakujo wanted to choose a master for Mount Tai-i, so he called together all the monks and told them that anyone who could answer his question in an outstanding manner would be chosen. Then he took a water battle and stood it on the floor, and said, “You may not call this a water bottle. What do you call it?” The head monk said, “It cannot be called a stump.”
Hyakujo asked Isan his opinion. Isan tipped over the water bottle with his feet and went out. Hyakujo laughed and said, “The head monk loses.” And Isan was named as the founder of the new monastery.–from The Gateless Gate, Koan # 40.
The Human Route
that is human.
When you are born, where do you come from?
When you die, where do you go?
Life is like a floating cloud
Death is like a floating cloud
The floating cloud itself
Originally does not exist.
Life and death, coming and going,
are also like that.
But there is one thing
which always remains clear.
It is pure and clear,
not depending on life and death.
Then what is the one
pure and clear thing?
–Ancient Zen poem
Services and Resources
http://orlandozen.com/about.htm (in Orlando)
http://www.brevardzen.org/ (Brevard Zen Center in Cocoa)
http://www.thebuddhagarden.com/blog/vietnamese-temples-usa/#florida (Vietnamese temples in Florida)
http://www.orlandobuddhism.org/ (Guang Ming Temple in Orlando)
http://watflorida.org/ (Wat Florida Dhammaram in Kissimmee)
http://orlandoinsightmeditation.org (Insight meditation group)
http://www.meditationinorlando.org/ (Vajrapani Kadampa Buddhist Center in Orlando)
http://www.watnavaram.org/ (Lao Temple in Sanford)
http://www.fishlakesangha.org (in tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh)
http://www.sgi-usa-orlando.org/ (in Orlando)
http://www.chenrezigproject.org/ (Tibetan studies in Yalaha and Winter Park)