Posts Tagged ‘Buddhism

08
Apr
09

On This Day, April 8: Dietrich Bonhoeffer

April 8, 1945

Defiant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is hanged

On this day in 1945, Lutheran pastor and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is hanged at Flossenburg, only days before the American liberation of the POW camp. The last words of the brilliant and courageous 39-year-old opponent of Nazism were “This is the end–for me, the beginning of life.”

Two days after Adolf Hitler became chancellor of Germany, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, lecturer at Berlin University, took to the radio and denounced the Nazi Fuhrerprinzip, the leadership principle that was merely a synonym for dictatorship. Bonhoeffer’s broadcast was cut off before he could finish. Shortly thereafter, he moved to London to pastor a German congregation, while also giving support to the Confessing Church movement in Germany, a declaration by Lutheran and evangelical pastors and theologians that they would not have their churches co-opted by the Nazi government for propagandistic purposes. Bonhoeffer returned to Germany in 1935 to run a seminary for the Confessing Church; the government closed it in 1937. Bonhoeffer’s continued vocal objections to Nazi policies resulted in his losing his freedom to lecture or publish. He soon joined the German resistance movement, even the plot to assassinate Hitler. In April 1943, shortly after becoming engaged to be married, Bonhoeffer was arrested by the Gestapo. Evidence implicating him in the plot to overthrow the government came to light and he was court-martialed and sentenced to die. While in prison, he acted as a counselor and pastor to prisoners of all denominations. Bonhoeffer’s Letters and Papers from Prison was published posthumously. Among his celebrated works of theology are The Cost of Discipleship and Ethics.

“Defiant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer is hanged,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6409 (accessed Apr 8, 2009).

 

On This Day

1525 – Albert von Brandenburg, the leader of the Teutonic Order, assumes the title “Duke of Prussia” and passed the first laws of the Protestant church, making Prussia a Protestant state.

1789 – The U.S. House of Representatives held its first meeting.

1913 – The Seventeenth amendment was ratified, requiring direct election of senators.

1935 – The Works Progress Administration was approved by the U.S. Congress.

1939 – Italy invaded Albania.

1942 – The Soviets opened a rail link to the besieged city of Leningrad.

1946 – The League of Nations assembled in Geneva for the last time.

1974 – Hank Aaron hits 715th home run breaking Babe Ruth’s record.

1985 – India filed suit against Union Carbide for the Bhopal disaster.

1998 – The widow of Martin Luther King Jr. presented new evidence in an appeal for new federal investigation of the assassination of her husband.

April 8, -563

Buddhists celebrate birth of Gautama Buddha

On this day, Buddhists celebrate the commemoration of the birth of Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, thought to have lived in India from 563 B.C. to 483 B.C. Actually, the Buddhist tradition that celebrates his birthday on April 8 originally placed his birth in the 11th century B.C., and it was not until the modern era that scholars determined that he was more likely born in the sixth century B.C., and possibly in May rather than April.

At his birth, it was predicted that the prince would either become a great world monarch or a Buddha–a supremely enlightened teacher. The Brahmans told his father, King Suddhodana, that Siddhartha would become a ruler if he were kept isolated from the outside world. The king took pains to shelter his son from misery and anything else that might influence him toward the religious life. Siddhartha was brought up in great luxury, and he married and fathered a son. At age 29, he decided to see more of the world and began excursions off the palace grounds in his chariot. In successive trips, he saw an old man, a sick man, and a corpse, and since he had been protected from the miseries of aging, sickness, and death, his charioteer had to explain what they were. Finally, Siddhartha saw a monk, and, impressed with the man’s peaceful demeanor, he decided to go into the world to discover how the man could be so serene in the midst of such suffering.

Siddhartha secretly left the palace and became a wandering ascetic. He traveled south, where the centers of learning were, and studied meditation under the teachers Alara Kalama and Udraka Ramaputra. He soon mastered their systems, reaching high states of mystical realization, but was unsatisfied and went out again in search of nirvana, the highest level of enlightenment. For nearly six years, he undertook fasting and other austerities, but these techniques proved ineffectual and he abandoned them. After regaining his strength, he seated himself under a pipal tree at what is now Bodh Gaya in west-central India and promised not to rise until he had attained the supreme enlightenment. After fighting off Mara, an evil spirit who tempted him with worldly comforts and desires, Siddhartha reached enlightenment, becoming a Buddha at the age of 35.

The Gautama Buddha then traveled to the deer park near Benares, India, where he gave his first sermon and outlined the basic doctrines of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, there are “four noble truths”: (1) existence is suffering; (2) this suffering is caused by human craving; (3) there is a cessation of the suffering, which is nirvana; and (4) nirvana can be achieved, in this or future lives, though the “eightfold path” of right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

For the rest of his life, the Buddha taught and gathered disciples to his sangha, or community of monks. He died at age 80, telling his monks to continue working for their spiritual liberation by following his teachings. Buddhism eventually spread from India to Central and Southeast Asia, China, Korea, Japan, and, in the 20th century, to the West. Today, there are an estimated 350 million people in 100 nations who adhere to Buddhist beliefs and practices.

“Buddhists celebrate birth of Gautama Buddha,” The History Channel website, http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history.do?action=Article&id=6861 (accessed Apr 8, 2009).

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