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Fides_et_Ratio    1
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The Last Samurai is one of my favorite movies. It was good. Well, until after watching it one day I thought, "well if I like all the order and strict discipline, maybe I should be a nun"

... I haven't watched it since. :lol:

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[quote name='Fides_et_Ratio' date='Jul 18 2004, 03:05 AM'] The Last Samurai is one of my favorite movies. It was good. Well, until after watching it one day I thought, "well if I like all the order and strict discipline, maybe I should be a nun"

... I haven't watched it since. :lol: [/quote]
Lol. I like the Discipline, and the Physical side of Bushido. *All the sword-practicing in the movie* :D

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[color=blue][font="Times"][b]Katsu Kaishu: The Man Who Saved Early Modern Japan, by Romulus Hillsborough[/b][/color][/font]

[i]Katsu Kaishu - consummate samurai, streetwise denizen of Downtown Edo, founder of the Japanese navy, statesman par excellence and always the outsider, historian and prolific writer, faithful retainer of the Tokugawa Shogun and mentor of men who would overthrow him ­ was among the most remarkable of the numerous heroes of the Meiji Restoration.[/i]

Kaishu's protégé was Sakamoto Ryoma, a key player in the overthrow of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Surely Ryoma would agree that he owes his historical greatness to Kaishu, whom Ryoma considered 'the greatest man in Japan'. Ryoma was an outlaw and leader of a band of young rebels. Kaishu was the commissioner of the shogun's navy, who took the young rebels under his wing at his private naval academy in Kobe, teaching them the naval sciences and maritime skills required to build a modern navy. Kaishu also imparted to Ryoma his extensive knowledge of the Western world, including American democracy, the Bill of Rights, and the workings of the joint stock corporation.

Kaishu was one of the most enlightened men of his time, not only in Japan but in the world. The American educator E. Warren Clark, a great admirer of Kaishu who knew him personally, called Kaishu 'the Bismark of Japan', for his role in unifying the Japanese nation in the dangerous aftermath of the fall of the Tokugawa. Like Ryoma, Kaishu was an adept swordsman who never drew his blade on an adversary, despite numerous attempts on his life. Indeed the two men lived in dangerous times. 'I've been shot at by an enemy about twenty times in all,'Kaishu once said. 'I have one scar on my leg, one on my head, and two on my side.' Kaishu¹s defiance of death sprung from his reverence for life. 'I despise killing, and have never killed a man. I used to keep [my sword] tied so tightly to the scabbard, that I couldn¹t draw the blade even if I wanted to.'

[color=gray][b]Continued...[/b][/color]

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Katsu Kaishu, who would become the most powerful man in the Tokugawa Shogunate, was born in Edo in January 1823, the only son of an impoverished petty samurai. The Tokugawa had ruled Japan peacefully for over two centuries. To ensure their supremacy over some 260 feudal domains, the Tokugawa had strictly enforced a policy of national isolation since 1635. But the end of the halcyon era was fast approaching, as the social, political and economic structures of the outside world were undergoing major changes. The nineteenth century heralded the age of European and North American capitalism, and with it rapid developments in science, industry and technology. The development of the steamship in the early part of the century served the expansionist purposes of the Western powers. Colonization of Asian countries by European powers surged. In 1818 Great Britain subjugated much of India. Through the Treaty of Nanking, which ended the first Opium War in 1842, the British acquired Hong Kong. The Western encroachment reached Japan in 1853,when Commodore Matthew Perry of the United States Navy led a squadron of heavily armed warships into the bay off the shogun's capital, forcing an end to Japanese isolation and inciting fifteen years of bloody turmoil across the island nation.


Until Perry¹s arrival, pursuers of foreign knowledge existed outside the mainstream of Japanese society. Kaishu was an outsider, both by nature and circumstance. But when his sword master urged him to discontinue fencing to devote himself to the study of Dutch, with the objective to learn Western military science, the young outsider balked. That it was frowned upon for a direct retainer of the shogun to study Dutch had little, if any, impact on Kaishu. He was innately inquisitive of things strange to him. He was also filled with a burgeoning self-confidence. But the idea of learning a foreign language seemed to him preposterous. He had never been exposed to foreign culture, except Chinese literature. It wasn't until age eighteen that he first saw a map of the world. 'I was wonderstruck,' he recalled decades later, adding that he had now determined to travel the globe.


Kaishu's wonderment was perfectly natural. His entire world still consisted of a small, isolated island nation. But his determination to travel abroad was strengthened by his discovery of strange script engraved on the barrel of a cannon in the compounds of Edo Castle. The cannon had been presented to Edo by the Netherlands, and Kaishu correctly surmised that the engraving was in Dutch. Thus far he had only heard about 'those foreigners, the Dutch', who lived in a small, confined community in the distant Nagasaki. 'Those foreigners' had occasionally fluttered through his mind as mere phantasm, the stuff of youthful imagination. But now, for the first time, he saw in his mind's eye, however vaguely, the people who had manufactured the cannon, and who had engraved in their own language the inscription upon its barrel. Those undecipherable letters of the alphabet, written horizontally rather than vertically, served as cold evidence of the actual existence of people who communicated in a language completely different from his own, but who until now had only existed as so much hearsay. Since these foreigners were human beings like himself, why shouldn't he be able to learn their language? And once he had learned their language, he would be able to read their books, learn how to manufacture and operate their cannon and realize his aspiration to travel the world.

[color=gray][b]Continued...[/b][/color]

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In the face of Perry's demands, the shogunate conducted a national survey, calling for solutions to the foreign threat. The shogunate received hundreds of responses, the majority of which, broadly speaking, represented either of two conflicting viewpoints. On one side were those who proposed opening the country to foreigners. Their opponents advocated preserving the centuries-old policy of exclusionism. But neither side offered a constructive means for realizing their proposals. In contrast, the memorial submitted by one unknown samurai was clear, brilliant, progressive, and included concrete advice for the future of Japan. In his memorial Kaishu pointed out that Perry had been able to enter Edo Bay unimpeded only because Japan did not have a navy to defend itself. He urged the shogunate to recruit men for a navy. He dared to propose that the military government break age-old tradition and go beyond birthright to recruit men of ability, rather than the sons of the social elite - and certainly there was nobody in all of Edo more poignantly aware of this necessity than this impoverished, brilliant young man from the lower echelons of samurai society. Kaishu advised that the shogunate lift its ban on the construction of warships needed for national defense; that it manufacture Western-style cannon and rifles; that it reform the military according to modern Western standards, and establish military academies. Pointing out the great technological advances being achieved in Europe and the Untied States, Kaishu challenged the narrow-minded traditionalists who opposed the adoption of Western military technology and systems.


Within the first few years after the arrival of Perry, all of Kaishu's proposals were adopted by the shogunate. In January 1855, Kaishu was recruited into government service. In Japanese chronology this corresponded to the second year of the Era of Stable Government, to which purpose Kaishu dedicated the remaining forty-four years of his life. In September, Kaishu sailed to Nagasaki, as one of a select group of thirty-seven Tokugawa retainers to study at the new Nagasaki Naval Academy, where he remained for two and a half years.

[color=gray][b]Continued...[/b][/color]

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In January 1860 Katsu Kaishu commanded the famed Kanrin Maru, a tiny triple-masted schooner, on the first authorized overseas voyage in the history of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Captain Katsu and Company were bound for San Francisco. They preceded the Japanese delegation dispatched to Washington aboard the U.S. steam frigate Powhatan to ratify Japan's first commercial treaty. After the arrival of the Powhatan, they would return to Japan to report the safe arrival of the delegation. But more significantly for Captain Katsu and Company was the opportunity to demonstrate the maritime skills they had acquired under their Dutch instructors at Nagasaki, 'for,' as Kaishu emphasized, 'the glory of the Japanese Navy.'


Kaishu remained in San Francisco for nearly two months, observing American society, culture and technology. He contrasted American society to that of feudal Japan, where a person was born into one of four castes ­ warrior, peasant, artisan, merchant ­ and, for the most part, remained in that caste for life. Of particular interest to Kaishu, who was determined to modernize and indeed democratize his own nation, were certain aspects of American democracy. 'There is no distinction between soldier, peasant, artisan or merchant. Any man can be engaged in commerce,' he observed. 'Even a high-ranking officer is free to set up business once he resigns or retires.'


Generally, the samurai, who received a stipend from their feudal lord, looked down upon the men of the merchant class, and considered business for monetary profit a base occupation. 'Usually people walking through town do not wear swords, regardless of whether they are soldiers, merchants or government officials,' while in Japan it was a samurai's strict obligation to be armed at all times. Kaishu also observed the peculiar relationship between men and women in American society. 'A man accompanied by his wife will always hold her hand as he walks.' The immense cultural and social gaps notwithstanding, Kaishu, the outsider among his countrymen, was pleased with the Americans. 'I had not expected the Americans to express such delight at our arrival to San Francisco, nor for all the people of the city, from the government officials on down, to make such great efforts to treat us so well.'

[color=gray][b]Continued...[/b][/color]

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In 1862, Kaishu was appointed vice-commissioner of the Tokugawa Navy. He established his naval academy in Kobe in 1863, with the help of his right-hand man, Sakamoto Ryoma. The following year Kaishu was promoted to the post of navy commissioner, and received the honorary title Awa-no-Kami, Protector of the Province of Awa. In October 1864, Kaishu, who had thus far enjoyed the ear of the shogun, was recalled to Edo, dismissed from his post and placed under house arrest for harboring known enemies of the Tokugawa. His naval academy was closed down, and his generous stipend reduced to a bare minimum.


In 1866 the shogun's forces suffered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of the revolutionary Choshu Army. Kaishu was subsequently reinstated to his former post by Tokugawa Yoshinobu, Head of the House of Tokugawa, who in the following December would become the fifteenth and last Tokugawa Shogun. Lord Yoshinobu did not like Kaishu, just as Kaishu did not like Lord Yoshinobu. Kaishu was a maverick within the government, who had broken age-old tradition and even law by imparting his expertise to enemies of the shogunate; who openly criticized his less talented colleagues at Edo for their inability, if not blind refusal, to realize that the years, and perhaps even days, of Tokugawa rule were numbered; who in the Grand Hall at Edo Castle had braved punishment and even death by advising then-Shogun Tokugawa Iemochi to abdicate; and who was now recalled to service because Yoshinobu and his aides knew that Kaishu was the only man in all of Edo who wielded both the respect and trust of the revolutionaries.


In August 1866, Navy Commissioner Katsu Kaishu was dispatched to Miyajima ­ Island of the Shrine ­ in the domain of Hiroshima to meet representatives of Choshu. Before departing he told Lord Yoshinobu, 'I'll have things settled with the Choshu men within one month. If I'm not back by then, you can assume that they've cut off my head.' Kaishu was aware of the grave danger to his life as an emissary of the Tokugawa, but nevertheless traveled alone, without a single bodyguard. Shortly after successfully negotiating a peace with Choshu, the outsider resigned his post, due to irreconcilable differences with the powers that were, and returned to his home in Edo.

[color=gray][b]Continued...[/b][/color]

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In October 1867, Shogun Tokugawa Yoshinobu announced his abdication and the restoration of power to the emperor. But diehard oppositionists within the Tokugawa camp were determined to fight the forces of the new imperial government. The leaders of the new imperial government were equally determined to annihilate the remnants of the Tokugawa, to ensure that it would never rise again. Civil war broke out near Kyoto in January 1868. Although the imperial forces, led by Saigo Kichinosuke of Satsuma, were greatly outnumbered, they routed the army of the former shogun in just three days. The new government¹s leaders now demanded that Yoshinobu commit ritual suicide, and set March 15 as the date fifty thousand imperial troops would lay siege to Edo Castle, and, in so doing, subject the entire city to the flames of war.


The services of Katsu Kaishu were once again indispensable to the Tokugawa. Kaishu desperately wanted to avoid a civil war, which he feared would incite foreign agression. But he was nevertheless bound by his duty as a direct retainer of the Tokugawa to serve in the best interest of his liege lord, Tokugawa Yoshinobu. In March 1868, with a formidable fleet of twelve warships at his disposal, this son of a petty samurai was the most powerful man in Edo. And as head of the Tokugawa army, he was determined to burn Edo Castle rather than relinquish it in battle, and to wage a bloody civil war against Saigo's forces.


When Kaishu was informed of the imperial government's plans for imminent attack, he immediately sent a letter to Saigo. In this letter Kaishu wrote that the retainers of the Tokugawa were an inseparable part of the new Japanese nation. Instead of fighting with one another, those of the new government and the old must cooperate in order to deal with the very real threat of the foreign powers, whose legations in Japan anxiously watched the great revolution which had consumed the Japanese nation for these past fifteen years.

[color=gray][b]Continued...[/b][/color]

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Saigo replied with a set of conditions, including the peaceful surrender of Edo Castle, which must be met if the House of Tokugawa was to be allowed to survive, Yoshinobu's life spared, and war avoided. At an historic meeting with Saigo on March 14, one day before the planned attack, Kaishu accepted Saigo's conditions, and went down in history as the man who not only saved the lives and property of Edo's one million inhabitants, but also the entire Japanese nation.

[i][b]This article originally appeared in the Summer 2002 issue of Tokyo Journal.
Copyright©2002 Romulus Hillsborough[/b][/i]


Romulus Hillsborough is the author of RYOMA - Life of a Renaissance Samurai (Ridgeback Press, 1999) and Samurai Sketches: From the Bloody Final Years of the Shogun (Ridgeback Press, 2001) RYOMA is the only biographical novel of Sakamoto Ryoma in the English language. Samurai Sketches is a collection of historical sketches, never before presented in English, depicting men and events during the revolutionary years of mid-19th century Japan. Reviews and more information about these books are available at
www.ridgebackpress.com.

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[font="Times"][color=blue][b]Early Japan - The Rise of the Japanese State - By F.W. Seal[/b][/color][/font]

[b]The Ancient Period[/b]

The origins of Japanese culture as we know it are to be found on the island of Kyûshu. The classic Japanese record of ancient events, the Kojiki, records that the Emperor Jimmu-Tenno oversaw the migration of the Japanese people from Kyûshu to the Yamato region. While the Kojiki says that this move occurred around 660 BC, modern scholars believe the transition occurred sometime in the 1st Century AD - perhaps around the same time iron working was introduced to Japan.

The Yamato peoples were essentially a clan (uji)-based society, loosely ruled by an Emperor or Empress, and in which religious ceremonies played an important part in governance. There would be no permanent seat of Imperial power for centuries, instead shifting with the ascension of each new ruler. This practice may have been based in the Shintô religion, which held that a home was defiled once a person had died within it's walls. It might be noted here that the Yamato rulers were elaborate tomb-builders, and one of these, the final resting place of the Emperor Nintoku, is truly remarkable.

In time, three families became particularly influential with the court-the Sogo, Motonobe and Nakatomi. The Motonobe appear to have been responsible or at least concerned with military affairs, for they were known as the 'Armorers'. The Nakatomi were the official practitioners of the Shintô faith and were the 'Court Ritualists'. There were many more clans, but judging by the following events, these seemed to have taken up camp behind one or the other of these three main families.

The Wei Chih, a chronicle of the events of the Wei Dynatsy in northern China (founded by the Emperor Cao Cao in 220 AD), provides us with an interesting and evidently faithful outside impression of the developing Yamato peoples as of around 297 AD…

"The people of Wa make their abode in the mountainous islands located in the middle of the ocean to the southeast of the Taifang prefecture. Formerly there were more then 100 communites. During the Han Dynasty their envoys appeared in court… They wear loincloth wrapped around their bodies and seldom uses stitches. Women gather their hair at the ends and tie in a knot and then pin it to the top of their heads. They make their clothes in one piece, and cut an opening in the center for their heads. They plant wet field rice, China grass (ramie), and mulberry trees. They raise cocoons and reel the silk off the cocoons. They produce clothing made of China grass, of coarse silk, and of cotton…They fight with halberds, shields, and wooden bows... There are class distinctions within the nobility and the base, and some of vassals of others. There are mansions and granaries erected for the purpose of collecting taxes. Each community has a marketplace where commodities are exchanged under the supervision of an official of Wa…'1

Little is known for certain about the centuries prior to and immediately following the Wei Chih, which is both intriguing and thought provoking. What, precisely, was meant by '100 communities'? Some recent scholars have taken the view that this could indicate multiple 'Japanese', of which the Yamato and Yamatai were two. In helping to at least fill the empty places in the story of Japan, our two primary Japanese sources on ancient affairs, the Kojiki and Nihon sho-ki, both call attention to the semi-mythical Yamato Takeru. A younger son of the Emperor keiko, Prince Yamato began his adventures by killing an elder brother who had not attended dinner with the family for a week. Perturbed at his son's violent disposition, keiko sent Yamato off to fight a rival tribe at Kumaso on Kyûshu. He arrived at Kumaso to find his quarry, two brothers, heavily guarded in their house, and hastily devised a scheme. He dressed himself in a robe his aunt had given him prior to departing and did his hair up in the way a woman might. Yamato was thus able to mingle with the women of the Kumaso borthers, and was allowed to sit with them during a feast that night. Mid-way through the proceedings, Yamato suddenly attacked and killed one of the brothers outright. The other brother attempted to flee but was tackled by Yamato…

"The prince said, 'I am a son of Emperor Otarashi-hiko-oshiro-wake (keiko), who, seated at the Hishiro Palace in Makimuku, rules the Great Eight Islands, and my name is Boy Prince Yamato. His majesty heard that you two Kumaso Braves haven't surrendered or paid your respects, so he sent me here to kill you.

'When he heard this, the Kumaso Brave said, "That's quite correct. In the west there's no other brave, no strong man other then the two of us. But in the Great Country of Yamato there is a man far braver then we are. May I give you a new name? From now on you should call yourself Prince Yamato Takeru."

As soon as this was said, the prince killed him by splitting him like ripe melon. From then on, people honored the prince by calling him Prince Yamato Takeru. On the way back he subdued and pacified all the mountain deities, river deities, and deities of the strights."2


On his way home, Yamato killed an independent leader of Izumo Province by first befriending him then tricking him into a swordfight (having sabatoged the man's sword). The prince was no sooner back in Yamato then his father had sent him to quell the eastern provinces (in this case the lands to the east of Yamato, to include Owari and Omi. After a series of further adventures (in which he sheds his earlier boorishness), Yamoto tragically dies.

The historical basis for Yamato Takeru is obscure at best, and he is likely an amalgamation of several different men, possibly including one emperor. Even the date of his father's reign is unclear. What can be said with some certainty is that the story of Prince Yamato (scarcely done justice here) loomed large in the development of what one could call the 'Japanese Philosophy'. Men of bravery, duty, and of tragic ends would crop up again and again throughout Japanese history, from Minamoto Yoshitsune to the old Takeda generals of Nagashino.

[b]Sources:[/b]

[b]1.[/b] Lu Sources of Japanese History pg.8 - 9.
[b]2.[/b] Lu Sources of Japanese History pg. 30 - 31

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[b]Buddhism
I INTRODUCTION [/b]

Buddhism, a major world religion, founded in north-eastern India and based on the teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, who is known as the Buddha, or Enlightened One.

Originating as a monastic movement within the dominant Brahman tradition of the day, Buddhism quickly developed in a distinctive direction. The Buddha not only rejected significant aspects of Brahmanic philosophy, but also challenged the authority of the priesthood, denied the validity of the Vedic scriptures, and rejected the sacrificial cult based on them. Moreover, he opened his movement to members of all castes, denying that a person's spiritual worth is a matter of birth.

Buddhism today is divided into two major branches known to their respective followers as Theravada, the Way of the Elders, and Mahayana, the Great Vehicle. Followers of Mahayana refer to Theravada using the derogatory term Hinayana, the Lesser Vehicle.

Buddhism has been significant not only in India but also in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Burma, and Laos, where Theravada has been dominant; Mahayana has had its greatest impact in China, Japan, Taiwan, Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Korea, and Vietnam, as well as in India. The number of Buddhists worldwide has been estimated at between 150 and 300 million. The reasons for such a range are twofold: throughout much of Asia religious affiliation has tended to be non-exclusive; and Buddhism has been able to adapt itself to many different local religious and cultural traditions. It is especially difficult to estimate the continuing influence of Buddhism in Communist countries such as China.

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[b]II ORIGINS AND EARLY TEACHINGS[/b]

Buddhism began with the teachings of the historical Buddha and was propagated through the community of disciples he established, the sangha.

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[b]A Buddha's Life[/b]

No complete biography of the Buddha was compiled until centuries after his death; only fragmentary accounts of his life are found in the earliest sources. Western scholars, however, generally agree on 563 bc as the year of his birth.

Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, was born in Kapilavastu near the present Indian-Nepal border, the son of the ruler of a petty kingdom. According to legend, at his birth sages recognized in him the marks of a great man with the potential to become either a sage or the ruler of an empire. The young prince was raised in sheltered luxury, until at the age of 29 he realized how empty his life up to this point had been. Renouncing earthly attachments, he embarked on a quest for peace and enlightenment, seeking release from the cycle of rebirths. For the next few years he practised Yoga and adopted a life of radical asceticism.

Eventually he gave up this approach as fruitless and instead adopted a middle path between the life of indulgence and that of self-denial. Sitting under a bo tree, he meditated, rising through a series of higher states of consciousness until he attained the enlightenment for which he had been searching. Once he had known this ultimate religious truth, the Buddha underwent a period of intense inner struggle. He began to preach, wandering from place to place, gathering a body of disciples, and organizing them into a monastic community known as the sangha. In this way he spent the rest of his life.

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[b]B Buddha's Teachings[/b]

The Buddha was an oral teacher; he left no written body of thought. His teachings were transmitted as an oral tradition for several centuries, and were subsequently systematized and interpreted by various individuals and schools within India and elsewhere.

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[b]C The Four Noble Truths[/b]

At the core of the Buddha's enlightenment was the realization of the Four Noble Truths. (1) Life is suffering. This is more than a mere recognition of the presence of suffering in existence. It is a statement that, in its very nature, existence is essentially painful from the moment of birth to the moment of death. Even death brings no relief, for the Buddha accepted the prevailing Indian idea of life as cyclical, with death leading to further rebirth. (2) All suffering is caused by ignorance of the nature of reality and the craving, attachment, and grasping that arise from such ignorance. (3) Suffering can be ended by overcoming ignorance and attachment. (4) The path to the suppression of suffering is the Noble Eightfold Path, which consists of right views, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right-mindedness, and right contemplation. These eight are usually divided into three categories that form the cornerstone of Buddhist faith: morality, meditation, and wisdom.

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[b]D Anatman[/b]

Buddhism analyses human existence as made up of five aggregates or “bundles” (skandhas): the material body, feelings, perceptions, predispositions or karmic tendencies, and consciousness. A person is only a temporary composition of these aggregates, which are subject to continual change. Noone remains the same for any two consecutive moments. Buddhists deny that the aggregates individually or in combination may be considered a permanent, independently existing self or soul (atman). Indeed, they regard it as a mistake to conceive of any lasting unity behind the aggregates that constitute an individual. The Buddha held that belief in such a self results in egoism, craving, and hence in suffering. Thus he taught the doctrine of anatman, or the denial of a permanent soul. To the Buddha, all existence was characterized by “the three universal truths”: impermanence (anitya), suffering (dukkha), and non-substantiality or no-soul (anatman). The doctrine of anatman made it necessary for the Buddha to reinterpret the Indian idea of repeated rebirth in the cycle of phenomenal existence known as samsara. To this end he taught the doctrine of pratityasamutpada, or dependent origination. This 12-linked chain of causation shows how ignorance in a previous life creates the tendency for a combination of aggregates to develop. These in turn cause the mind and senses to operate. Sensations result, which lead to craving and a clinging to existence. This condition triggers the process of becoming once again, producing a renewed cycle of birth, old age, and death. Through this causal chain a connection is made between one life and the next. What is posited is a stream of renewed existences, rather than a permanent being that moves from life to life—in effect a belief in rebirth without transmigration.

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[b]E Karma[/b]

Closely related to this belief is the doctrine of karma. The Sanskrit term karma literally means “action”, and as a technical term it referes to a person's intentional acts and their ethical consequences. Human actions lead to rebirth, wherein good deeds are inevitably rewarded and evil deeds punished. Thus, neither undeserved pleasure nor unwarranted suffering exists in the world, but rather a universal justice. The karmic process operates through a kind of natural moral law rather than through a system of divine judgment. One's karma determines such matters as one's species, beauty, intelligence, longevity, wealth, and social status. According to the Buddha, karma of varying types can lead to rebirth as a human, an animal, a hungry ghost, a denizen of hell, or even among the various categories of gods.

Although never actually denying the existence of the gods, Buddhism denies them any special status or role. Their lives in heaven are long and pleasurable, but they are in the same predicament as other creatures, being subject eventually to death and further rebirth in lower states of existence. They are not creators of the universe or in control of human destiny, and Buddhism denies the value of prayer and sacrifice to them. Of the possible modes of rebirth, human existence is preferable, because the deities are so engrossed in their own pleasures that they lose sight of the need for salvation. Enlightenment is possible only for humans.

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[b]F Nirvana[/b]

The ultimate goal of the Buddhist path is release from the round of phenomenal existence with its inherent suffering. To achieve this goal is to attain nirvana, an enlightened state in which the fires of greed, hatred, and ignorance have been quenched. Not to be confused with total annihilation, nirvana is a state of consciousness beyond definition. After attaining nirvana, the enlightened individual may continue to live, burning off any remaining karma until a state of final nirvana (parinirvana) is attained at the moment of death.

In theory, the goal of nirvana is attainable by anyone, although in early Buddhism it is a realistic goal only for members of the monastic community. In Theravada Buddhism an individual who has achieved enlightenment by following the Eightfold Path is known as an arhat, or worthy one, a type of solitary saint.

For those unable to pursue the ultimate goal, the proximate goal of better rebirth through improved karma is an option. In Theravada Buddhism this lesser goal is generally pursued by lay Buddhists in the hope that it will eventually lead to a life in which they are capable of pursuing final enlightenment as members of the sangha.

The ethic that leads to nirvana is detached and inner-oriented. It involves cultivating four virtuous attitudes, known as the Abodes of Brahma: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity. The ethic that leads to better rebirth, however, is centred on fulfilling one's moral duties as a member of a family or society. It involves acts of charity, especially support of the sangha, as well as observance of the five precepts that constitute the basic moral code of Buddhism. The precepts prohibit killing, stealing, telling lies, sexual misbehaviour, and the use of intoxicants. By observing these precepts, the three roots of evil—lust, hatred, and delusion—may be overcome.

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[b]G Early Development[/b]

Shortly before his death, the Buddha refused his disciples' request to appoint a successor, telling them to work out their own salvation with diligence. At that time Buddhist teachings existed only in oral traditions, and it soon became apparent that a new basis for maintaining the community's unity and purity was needed. Thus, the monastic order met periodically to reach agreement on matters of doctrine and practice. Four such meetings have been focused on in the traditions as major councils.

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[b]H Major Councils[/b]

The first council was held at Rajagrha (present-day Rajgir) immediately after the Buddha's death. Presided over by a monk named Mahakasyapa, its purpose was to recite and agree on the Buddha's actual teachings and on proper monastic discipline.

About a century later, a second great council is said to have met at Vaisali. Its purpose was to deal with ten questionable monastic practices—the use of money, the drinking of palm wine, and other irregularities—of monks from the Vajjian Confederacy; the council declared these practices unlawful. Some scholars trace the origins of the first major split in Buddhism to this event, holding that the accounts of the council refer to the schism between the Mahasanghikas, or Great Assembly, and the stricter Sthaviras, or Elders. More likely, however, the split between these two groups became formalized later as a result of the continued growth of tensions within the sangha over disciplinary issues, the role of the laity, and the nature of the arhat.

In time, further subdivisions within these groups resulted in 18 schools that differed on philosophical matters, religious questions, and points of discipline. Of these 18 traditional sects, only Theravada survives.

The third council at Pataliputra (present-day Patna) was called by King Ashoka in the 3rd century bc. Convened by the monk Moggaliputta Tissa, it was held in order to purify the sangha of the large number of false monks and heretics who had apparently joined the order because of its royal patronage. This council refuted the offending viewpoints and expelled those who held them. In the process, the compilation of the Buddhist scriptures (Tripitaka) was supposedly completed, with the addition of a body of subtle philosophy (abhidharma) to the doctrine (dharma) and monastic discipline (vinaya) that had been recited at the first council. Another result of the third council was the dispatch of missionaries to various countries.

A fourth council, under the patronage of King Kanishka, was held about ad 100 at Jalandhar or in Kashmir. Both branches of Buddhism may have participated in this council, which aimed at creating peace among the various sects, but Theravada Buddhists refuse to recognize its authenticity. The council at Pataliputra is recorded only in Theravada sources. and the council of Kashmir is described only in some Indian sources and subsequent Chinese and Tibetan accounts. These appear therefore to be gatherings representing local traditions rather than the Buddhist sangha as a whole.

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