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The Buddha's Personality

by Vishvapani

The third in a major new series of talks by Vishvapani to mark the launch of his new book: 'Gautama Buddha: The Life and Teachings of the Awakened One' (Quercus, 2011).

Vishvapani is a well known figure in the Triratna Buddhist Community and is a regular contributor on the BBC's 'Thought for the Day'.

Great artists have tried and failed to grasp the essence of the Buddha's character. Beyond the narrative and the drama, what was the Buddha actually like? And what can be gleaned from the diverse sources that tell us about him? In this reflective talk Vishavapani looks behind the veils of history, legend and the texts themselves to conjur a vivid, felt image of the Buddha's personality. In a series of beautifully observed close-up drawings from the Pali Canon we are left with a portrait of spiritual genius that is both enigmatically distant and thoroughly human.

Talk given at the London Buddhist Centre, February 2011.

This talk is part of the series Gautama Buddha.

Tracks (click play to listen)

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1. Launching a book; getting ordained and meditation in that context; Going for Refuge and the Enlightened Mind; opening up to an expansive space; the blinking open of the Dharma Eye (the experience of Upali); reflections of the Buddha in archetypal forms (6:29) 
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2. Reflecting on the Buddha who is time-bound and distinct as individual; Wagner's failed attempt to write an opera about the Buddha; Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba The Greek and the Buddha; Nietzsche on the Buddha; seeing the Buddha as against life itself (3:27) 
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3. Why the Buddha can appear an abstract figure; the 32 marks of an Enlightened being; what might a Buddha look like? The Dhatu-vibhanga Sutta and Pukkusati; hagiography; the Buddha with Ananda - subject to old age (4:31) 
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4. What kind of person was he? How we learn about what the Buddha was like; the Buddha's decision to teach as a psychological process; bother and hassle; love of solitude and the welfare of beings; the Buddha and the bull elephant in the forest (6:16) 
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5. The Buddha as a kind man; force-field of loving kindness (metta); the Buddha's parody of the sramana community - unwillingness to engage in debates; how the Buddha chose to teach, skilful communication based on what's of value to people (6:40) 
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6. The Buddha as funny; dung beetles and monks greedy for food; a bizarre ritual for a king; a distinctive humorous voice - a whiny verse from the Dhammapada and the Buddha as an old man (3:38) 
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7. The Buddha as intensely creative; relative dullness of Abhidharma; similes and metaphors for the mind; the Buddha remaking contemporary ways of thinking, myth and language; Vepacitti, King of the Asuras, mind-forged manacles; intricate intelligence (4:19) 
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8. 'Knowing' the Buddha as very familiar and a close friend; the Buddha as most himself in moments of inspired utterance; the Buddha of negation; a vivid presence we cannot fully comprehend (2:35) 


Total running time: 37:55

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