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Searching For the Buddha - Launch of Gautama Buddha

by Vishvapani

The first 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'.

In this talk we meet the Buddha set firmly in his own historical context, with space too for the legendary and particular reference to the natural world. Vishvapani explores the presence of nature in the Pali suttas, exploring its significance in the texts, in our own contemporary mental landscapes and in the imaginative life of a country and its people. Ancient India comes alive as we wander with the Buddha, facing his fears amongst the ghosts of the jungle. There is much that is important for reflection here - the Dharma made fascinating by dint of the author's depth of engagement with Buddhist practice and the sheer breadth of his cultural reference.

Features an extended question-and-answer session (NB, poor sound quality on the questions themselves).

Talk given at the Manchester Buddhist Centre, January 2011.

This talk is part of the series Gautama Buddha.

Tracks (click play to listen)

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1. Introduction by Mahabodhi (2:24) 
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2. A biography of a figure of world historical importance, Gautama Buddha, the founder of one of the great religious cultures of the world; different aspects of the Buddha - timeless forms, legends (6:47) 
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3. The act of engaging with the historical Buddha is an act of imagination; the Buddha's physical appearance and his presence; the Buddha's relationship with the natural world (2:57) 
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4. How do we relate to the natural world in our culture? Seeing is as idealized, tamed, controlled, spoiled by us; importance of seeing the Buddha in his own historical and cultural context (2:08) 
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5. The environment in which the Buddha grew up; agriculture and the Trade Roads; the Buddha as a sramana (religious wanderer) (3:11) 
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6. The Discourse On Fear and Dread - dialogue with Janussoni; four great forests dominating northern India; landscape of the Buddha's time; dangers in the jungle; shrines to guard humans from spirits of the wilderness; the Buddha's own story of practice (5:10) 
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7. The Buddha notices fear and decides to confront it directly; opening awareness to experience; the key to Enlightenment as facing one's fears and own mind; a suggestion about the figure of Mara; the difference between the Buddha and a shaman (5:05) 
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8. Glimpses of the Buddha on his own in his self-mastery; taming spirits and opening up a new relationship with nature; the hidden treasures and poetry of the Pali Canon (2:02) 
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9. The Theragatha, the Buddha's enlightened disciples recall their experiences; uncovering the roots of terror and changing our relationship with nature; something missing from the Mahayana; lessons for us in returning the Buddha to his own time and place (5:11) 
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10. Conclusion and a reading from the book - the Buddha moving towards Enlightenment (3:33) 
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11. Question 1 - The commisioning terms for the biography and why Vishvapani chose his particular approach (1:23) 
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12. Question 2 - Reconsidering the Pali Canon; T. S. Eliot on Ben Jonson; finding the right translators (2:39) 
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13. Question 3 - Nature as threatening and the function of fear (2:56) 
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14. Question 4 - Mara and Death; coming to terms with death (1:42) 
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15. Question 5 - Quotes in a text; writing with lots of sources; making the Pali Canon more accessible, bringing the Buddha to life (5:36) 
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16. Question 6 - The legendary aspects of the Buddha's story; the Buddha facing West - the mythic narrative (3:28) 


Total running time: 56:12

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