he Varieties of Saintly Lifestyle: Who Are They

Dr. Steven Goodman
Co-director of Asian and Comparative Studies
Philosophy and Religion Department
California Institute of Integral Studies
Religious Affiliation: Buddhism

This lecture is an explanation of the Buddhist sacred texts and different categories of saints, emphasizing the Sanskrit terminology. It also delves into the Buddhist philosophy relevant to the understanding of these categories. The sacred Buddhist texts are divided into three parts: the sutras, the actual talks given by the Buddha, the advice he gave on matters of conduct, and the notes on these texts. There is also a vast literature of commentaries to these texts. Yet, the dharma, or teaching, is achieved not only through the study of the texts, but also through the awakening which occurs in individuals. Thus, ethics in the Buddhist tradition is not derived from law, as is the case with the Abrahamic religions, but realized by the individual through the process of spiritual training. The Boddhisatava, the perfected, awakened being, excels in two qualities: openness that results from the dissolution of the fixity of belief and opinionatedness , and compassion, never turning away from any forms of suffering. The mahasiddhas are realized beings about whom there exists a vast collection of stories, and the vidyaharas are those who embodied and maintained the flow of wisdom energy. There are those beings who are believed to be the tangible human incarnation of the Buddha, such as the Dalai Lama. In addition, there are in the Tibetan tradition the ‘treasure finders’, living Buddhas who can create new holy texts from their own experiences. Thus, in the Tibetan tradition, revelation is an ongoing, open process.