Discussing Buddha’s nature

Questions for discussion

  • How convincing do you find the notion of a Buddha who does not know everything at all times but who can know anything that he wishes to know?
  • Given that the Buddha himself reportedly discouraged his followers from discussing whether or not he continues to exist after the death of his physical body, what do you think led people to argue about whether the Buddha in some way survived the death of his physical body?
  • What do you see as some of the advantages and disadvantages of the view that one who has attained the eradication (nirvāṇa) of the causes of discontent no longer has any motivation to exist after death and therefore simply ceases to exist?
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages of the view that one who has attained the eradication of the causes of discontent enjoys a state of disembodied bliss after the death of the physical body?
  • In this module various depictions of the Buddha have been outlined. What has not been discussed is whether it really matters what kind of view on has of what the Buddha was like. What do you see as some of the practical implications of how one envisions the Buddha? How might the behavior and practice of a Buddhist who pictures the Buddha as having a rationalistic or scientific temperament differ from one who pictures the Buddha as a transcendental figure whose nature cannot be grasped by the rational mind?
  • There are Western Buddhists who resist seeing their approach to Buddhism as being parallel to, let alone influenced by, tendencies in western thought. If one were determined to see Western Buddhism in purely Buddhist terms, how might the various Western ways of envisioning the Buddha be seen as continuations of traditional Asian ways of envisioning the Buddha?

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