REL 315: Buddhism
Final Exam

 Click to download a printable version
of the essay questions from Parts III-V

Part I: Quiz-Style Questions
30x.5=15 points
A selection of 30  quiz-style questions
(multiple-choice, true/false, fill-in-the-blank)
Part II: Identify & State the Significance
5x5=25 points
Identify and state the significnce of 5/8 terms
Part III: Essay Question 1
20 points
Write an essay-style response to one of the following two questions:

1A. Tiantai and Huayan: The Mutual Interpenetration of Things

The jeweled net of Sakra is also called Indra’s Net, and is made up of jewels. The jewels are shiny and reflect each other successively, their images permeating each other over and over. In a single jewel they all appear at the same time, and this can be seen in each and every jewel. There is really no coming or going. Now if we turn to the southwest direction and pick up one of the jewels to examine it, we will see that this one jewel can immediately reflect the images of all of the other jewels. Each of the other jewels will do the same. Each jewel will simultaneously reflect the images of all the jewels in this manner, as will all of the other jewels. The images are repeated and multiplied in each other in a manner that is unbounded. Within the boundaries of a single jewel are contained the unbounded repetition and profusion of the images of all the jewels. The reflections are exceedingly clear and are completely unhindered. (Sources of Chinese Tradition, 473)

What do the individual jewels represent in the metaphor of Indra’s Net? What is the relationship between the individual jewels and the net in its entirety? How is this “mutual interpenetration of things without obstruction” related to Nagarjuna’s views on “emptiness” (sunyata) and the relationship between “conventional” and “ultimate” truth? What are the implications of this perspective with regard to the historical Buddha’s distinction between samsara and nirvana?

1B. Vajrayana: Esoteric/Tantric Buddhism

In [the Womb World] mandala, all kinds of Buddhas and deities are lined up together. If we ask if only the very magnificent Buddhas are lined together, the answer is no. Only the cosmic Buddha Dainichi Nyorai [a.k.a. Mahavairocana] in the center is one hundred percent perfect. Many of the others surrounding it are deities from Indian folk religion. On the very outer edges, a lot of snakes and demons have been included. Now each one of them is an offshoot of Dainichi Nyorai. Each has some kind of special characteristic, and each can become a Buddha by means of that special characteristic. What we find here is a logic by which even something that is ninety-nine percent bad has a hundred percent value by virtue of the one percent of the special characteristic it has. … Therefore there is no such thing as leaving behind something that is ninety-nine percent bad. Because they have a special characteristic in the amount of one percent, they are seen as an offshoot of the one hundred percent that is Dainichi Nyorai. Such a world is woven into the mandala. It is a way of thinking in which everything is embraced and every single special characteristic is nourished. (Japanese Mandalas, 58)

Discuss the above passage in the context of the Esoteric claim that “ultimate reality can and should be approached through sensory experiences — bodily through mudras, verbally through mantras, and mentally through mandalas” (Japanese Mandalas, 34). How is this Esoteric perspective related to the Tantric practices associated with Tibetan Buddhism?

Part IV: Essay Question 2
20 points
Write an essay-style response to one of the following two questions:

2A. Nichiren: The Daimoku and the Gohonzon

Now is when the Bodhisattvas of the Earth will appear and establish in this country the supreme object of worship [i.e. the gohonzon] on the earth which depicts Shakyamuni Buddha of the essential teaching attending [the original Buddha]. This object of worship has never appeared in India or China. ... Thus the revelation of the true object of worship has been entrusted only to the Bodhisattvas of the Earth. They have been waiting for the right time to emerge from the earth and carry out the Lord Buddha’s command. ... Showing the profound compassion for those ignorant of the gem of “the three thousand worlds comprised in a single thought,” the Buddha wrapped it within the five-character phrase [myoho-renge-kyo], with which he then adorned the necks of those living in the Latter Day. (Sources of Japanese Tradition, 302-3)

Compare Nichiren’s practice of reciting the daimoku (namu-myoho-renge-kyo) with the Pure Land recitation of the nembutsu (namu-amida-butsu) — a practice that he thoroughly criticized. What is the significance of the fact that Nichiren placed the daimoku at the center of his mandala, the gohonzon, at which one was to stare while chanting the daimoku? In the end, would you say that Nichiren advocated “Self Power,” “Other Power,” or some combination of the two?

2B. “Self Power” and “Other Power”

Chan/Zen: Bodhidharma
A special transmission outside the scriptures,
Not founded on words and letters.
Directly pointing to a person’s mind,
One sees one’s nature and becomes a Buddha.
(Translated by Brian Hoffert; cf. Buddhism: Introducing the Buddhist Experience, 244)
Pure Land: Amitabha
When I realize supreme enlightenment, there will be sentient beings in other Buddha-lands who, after hearing my name, dedicate their good roots to birth in my land in thought after thought. Even if they have only ten such thoughts, they will be born in my land. (A Treasury of Mahayana Sutras, 342-3)

Discuss the concepts of Self Power and Other Power with reference to the Chan and Pure Land traditions of China. How did the relationship between Self Power and Other Power change with the development of the Zen and Pure Land schools of Japan?

Part V: Essay Question 3
20 points
Discuss the relationship between Theravada, Mahayana, and Vajrayana Buddhism, highlighting the distinctive features of each as well as the unifying role of the Four Noble Truths, which provide the foundational principles for all three.