BBC In Our Time – The Buddha Listening Guide


This is an optional listening guide to help you understand the assigned material. Below you will find questions to consider as you listen. You can find the original audio material by clicking here.

[0:11] Introduction - How does the presenter introduce the Buddha (Siddhartha Gautama)? Who was he and what did he do?

[1:24] Buddha’s Life – What are the details of Buddha’s life, and how do we know the details of his life? What is an “existential crisis” and why did Buddha have one? [3:02]

[3:45] Spiritual Quest – What activities does Buddha do during his “spiritual quest”? What results does he get?

[5:23] Enlightenment – What happens after Buddha’s enlightenment? What does the image of the lotus pond mean? [5:46]

[7:27] Spread of Buddhism – Who was the Emperor Ashoka? What is a “missionary”? Why did Buddhism appeal to Ashoka? (You can also hear a separate discussion of Ashoka the Great from the same series or from Incarnations: India in 50 Lives.)

[11:33] Teachings of Buddha – What does it mean to be “reborn” or have “past lives”? What is karma and how does it relate to “past lives”? What does it mean for a person’s relationship with other beings? What does it mean that good karma will “run out”? [14:00]

[15:15] Constant Change – What does this mean for the creation of the world, the idea of god, or the cycle of birth and death?

[16:08] Four Noble Truths – What are the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism? What is the purpose and result of meditation in Buddhism?

[20:57] Nirvana (Liberation) – What is nirvana? How does it relate to the idea of a soul and personal responsibility? How can one answer the question “where is this place, this state, nirvana”? [22:32] Why is nirvana difficult to describe? [23:36]

[24:26] Buddhism and Society – What is the relationship between Buddhism and society?

Important Vocabulary (Sanskrit words are in italics)