[EDIT: originally mistitled Symbolism in the EBTs]
A romp through nearly a hundred of my favorite suttas, with commentary by Bhikkhu Anālayo and Hellmuth Hecker, this course explores the similes, words and rhetoric of the Early Buddhist Texts as a window into “the thought-world” of the Buddha.
It’s still shiny and fresh, so please let me know if you find any errors or have any other feedback. I hope you enjoy it!
Additional Release Notes
In the last couple months, there’s been a few other happenings at the library which I’d like to share:
As noted in an edit to the original post, the library took its first baby steps out of Google Drive and onto the World Wide Web last month.
Thanks for the great contribution, excellent as always!
May I raise one issue? It is probably just my perspective, but when I see the word “symbol” I think of Jung and the archetypes and all that stuff. But the paper is really about “images” or “similes”, which is a much more straightforward topic. I think it’s really useful as-is, it shouldn’t try to be about “symbolism”, but maybe it could be described differently?
Yeah, I was using “Symbolism” in the like… High-School-Literature-Class sense not the PhD-in-Religious-Studies sense
Interestingly, Wikipedia makes the same “mistake” so I’m curious to hear from other people who don’t happen to be the world’s top expert in Buddhist mythology — Was anyone else expecting something different when you opened the link?
Thanks for creating this resource, Ven @Khemarato.bhikkhu, it’s a very nice addition to your library. The Buddha’s ability to find just the right image to describe psychological tendencies and complex doctrinal points is an extraordinary gift to us down through the ages. In today’s world with our ready access to multimedia, I think most people (especially younger folks) have an inclination more towards visual forms, which is immediate and engaging, than written forms which takes a bit more effort to engage with. There’s a sort of failure that we have today where we find it more difficult to “see” the text we are reading, it’s hazy and forgettable but when we are shown it, then it is much easier to apprehend and remember. That’s why increasingly I am using these images in my teaching practice and the feedback has been very enthusiastic - people can actually remember the images and apply them in their lives. I’ve had long term practitioners say that they had never grasped a particular topic till they saw it depicted! I’m more of a visual learner, myself, so this makes sense to me.
It’s wonderful to see Ayya @yodha BEAUTIFUL drawings being used here. Thank you Ayya for your sensitive and thought-provoking images and especially much gratitude for making them freely available.
@Khemarato.bhikkhu just one small bit of feedback. It’s usually considered a good convention to firstly ask permission for use, and then acknowledge and credit an artist’s whose work you use. Even more so in this case, where the images form such an integral part of the resource. Here you have acknowledged the authors of the written works you used, so just think of artists as visual authors, you wouldn’t just quote an author at length but fail to give their name. I’m sure Ven Yodha would be very humble and modest about this and maybe even decline acknowledgement but it’s just something to be aware of in general. As with texts, your readers might also like to investigate her work further, so it’s good practice to let us know who made the artworks. Hope this is received in the congenial spirit it was intended.
I’m not sure that is exactly true. It’s interesting to see the different ways it is treated in the different articles. But there is a connecting thread, however tenuous.
The main article for “symbol” emphasizes that symbols are tokens used to communicate meaning. This is a very general sense.
“Religious symbols” are the images used to represent a religion: the cross, the star and crescent, etc. In modern terms, this is basically an “icon” (but not the religious sense of icon!)
In Christian symbolism there is an emphasis on the use of hidden meanings. I guess this stems from the early history of the church as persecuted. But in any case they are images used by the religion to communicate religious identity or concepts. This is different from imagery found in texts, although obviously the symbols are often drawn from textual imagery.
“Buddhist symbolism” is similar, it’s about the use of symbols to communicate ideas or identity. Apart from some tantric schools, I don’t think we have a sense of “hidden” meanings, though. (The Theravada section here is seriously lacking.)
Indeed I do plan to add it to the site eventually, but I want to focus on creating a few other courses first. The four “foundational” courses on the site now have a nice symmetry to them, and I am loath to spoil that tout ensemble until I have a more balanced set of “intermediate” courses to migrate over all at once.