Thursday, July 31, 2008

Oil Painting : Beautiful Fruits

So realistic and beautiful I thought I must share with all of you.

I chanced upon this beautiful piece of oil realistic I first thought it was a photo, until I read the artist's comment:

"Tropical fruits original oil painting by Wizan Zaini. This is one of my firsts oil painting. I sold few pieces (padi field landscape) to my friend. Arrgg! I dont have the photo and maybe one day I will visit him and take some photos of the painting. I started with watercolor (painting) then tried the oil in 2006. Actually I am an online designer since 1999. Today, I work less on graphic logo design ( as I have a team to do the job.Sorry! I don't have many oil to show here. If you want to see watercolor, I will have it here soon so please come back. This Tropical Fruits is now hanged on the wall in my dining area. No frame.. still on its home made stretcher. "

Tuesday, July 29, 2008



I am currently working on a personal project about the nature of Sin. I am the artist and co-author of a religious, contemporary graphic novel focusing heavily on Sin. I want to include more than just the Christian viewpoint, though that will be the main focus, so am contacting experts of various different religions in order to gain a better understanding of the world view of Sin. I was hoping you could give me a rundown of Sin and your understanding of it, anything you have to offer me is helpful and much appreciated, I am open to absolutely any information concerning the subject, and I thank you in advance.

My comment:

"Sin" is a totally Christian concept. In Budhhism there is no such thing as "sin". In Buddhism we guard our lives in terms of wholesome living and unwholesome living. It involves a certain degree of skill in the conduct of our lives. That is why we also refer it as skilful and unskilful conduct. When we conduct our lives in an unwholesome manner we are creating problems for ourselves as well as for others. All our unwholesome actions are centred around 3 main premises of greed, hatred and delusion. Failure to reduce these 3 negative characteristics in our lives, we continue to react to circumstances unskilfully, causing problems for oursleves and others. What we want, we lust and crave for more. We become selfish and greedy. What we don't like, we hate. We become hateful and will even kill to rid those we hate. And because of our ignorance of this vicious cycle of likes and dislikes, we continue to be slaves of external factors. We have no control over our lives because we think that we can depend on external factors to give us maximum satisfaction. In this manner we continue with our lives of misery. The closest interpretion of "sin" in the Buddhism context is this continuous unwholesome life-style that we are following.

Then we have this Christian concept of the original sin. As Buddhists we do not subscribe to this idea. We believe all of us have equal oppotunity and not being handicapped by any "original sin". We have complete control over what we want to do right now.

The inevitable result of "sin" is the feeling of "guilt". Two by-products are the finding of a scapegoat and a saviour. A good Buddhist accepts any unwholesome action as a result of unskilled conduct, and accepts full responsiblity for his own action without blaming anyone. As Buddhists we do not depend on any powerful agent to forgive our "sins". Since we are fully responsible, we must rectify whatever misdeed we have committed by learning from the mistake and to ensure we do not repeat it in future.

Monday, July 28, 2008


Euthanasia, Stem-Cells and Life


I'm currently taking part in a project investigating assorted belifs on euthanasia, stem-cell reasearch, importance of life, and other related topics, and I realised that I don't really know much by ways of Buddhist belief on the matter. What is/are major Buddhist view(s) on euthanasia, as well as other similar ethical subjects?

My comment:

I must first comment on the Buddhist perspective of the type of "religion" that the Buddha introduced. Once this is done, your questions will all be considered answered.

The Buddha encouraged his followers to analyze his teachings before accepting them. He advised them not to accept anything in blind faith. Only if it is wholesome and good, for the benefit of all, and conducive to the spiritual welfare of all, do we accept and follow. Buddhists are always reminded that before accepting any instruction, they must carefully observe and analyze, by using their human intelligence and common sense.

From the above premise, you can agree that Buddhists are encouraged to think for themselves. We are not slaves to our religion. We are masters of our religion. Buddhism can withstand the "progress" of new scientific discoveries because Buddhist teachings are based on Universal Truths which transcend race, nationality, culture, and time and space. In fact Budhhism is more scientific than science itself. The Buddha had revealed much more scientific information than modern science has ever achieved. In the area of the mind and consciousness, and psychology, Buddhism stands aloft.

The Buddha in his quest to find the Ultimate Truths, had penetrated into the tiniest particle of life and human consciousness; and on the other end of the spectrum , he had surveyed the infinity of the Universe. He did not use a microscope and a telescope to make his discoveries. He used his superme mind power to penetrate into these hidden truths. Microscope and telescope have physical limitations, while our human senses also have gross limitations preventing us to see into the beyond. The Buddha did not depend on his five senses or any scientific instrument to penetrate the Ultimate Truths. It is only the human mind when properly harnessed and trained, that has the ability to understand and realize these Ultimate and Universal Truths.

Buddhism encourages scientific research for the benefit of all living beings. However, we have to consider 2 very important aspects of all scientific endeavours. The first is purely worldly and intellectual. The second which is more important, is the SPIRITUAL or MORAL (not religious) aspect. Without this MORAL restraint or obligation, scientists can become human monsters. It is this latter consideration that Buddhism places caution in the development of new scientific achievements.

Buddhism does not subscribe to euthanasia because it involves deliberate termination of life. (If you wish to know the rationale of this Buddhist thinking, please follow up in your next question.)

To conclude, may I quote a passage from a book written by one of my Buddhist teachers: "The Buddha upheld the highest degree of freedom not only in its human essence but also in its divine qualities. It is a freedom that does not deprive human beings of their dignity. It is a freedom that releases one from slavery to dogmas and dictatorial religious laws or religious punishments."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Relax with peace of mind

This piece is also from BaoT93 . Thanks Bao for sharing the beauty of music with a Buddhist flavour!

Hope you can relax and find peace of mind.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Is a little alcohol ok?

Hello! I was wondering about the use of alcohol in cooking. Some recipes that I'd like to try have wine or other alcohol as one of the ingredients. For example, the recipe for a mushroom sauce lists sherry as an ingredient. A recipe for a dessert has raspberry liqueur as an ingredient. And I was looking at the ingredients on a bottle of balsamic vinegar, and wine was listed. Someone told me that in the case of the mushroom sauce, the alcohol will be "burned off" during the cooking process. Is alcohol acceptable then in any of those examples? Or is it to be totally avoided? Thank you very much for your response.

My comment:
The fifth precept states that we are to refrain from taking intoxicating substances. We must first analyze the rationale behind this precept. The beauty of Buddhism is that we are given the freedom to use our intelligence and common sense to think and analyze the Buddha's teachings. Of course, the minus side is that freedom of analyses may result in freedom of expressing differing interpretations. In the final analysis, it is up to the individual to make the choice.

The rationale of the fifth precept is that we must guard our mind and be alert. If we are intoxicated, our mind will be intoxicated too, and we will not be able to lead a wholesome live. Exposing ourselves to intoxicants may pose a danger to our mind being intoxicated. To an alcoholic, he is a victim of this intoxicant. Under normal circumstances, if we are not alcoholics, or habitual drinkers; we do not really expose ourselves to this danger of intoxication, even if we "indulge" in a few drops of "flavouring" alcohol "essence" just to enhance the taste of our food.

It is difficult to draw a line as to what constitutes a few drops. It is up to us. If we feel very strongly that we should not even touch a drop, then the choice is ours. On the other hand, if we want to be more pragmatic and know that a few drops cause no harm, then we are free to indulge our senses just that little bit. I have also been told that alcohol vapourizes once heated, but I don't bother to find any scientific proof for this. Hope I have answered your question. Please call again if you have further clarification.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Beautiful Bubbles!!

This photo is so beautiful that I must share it with all of you!!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

13 year-old wishing to convert

Hello, I have been studing buddhism for weeks and weeks and I wish to convert from Catholism to Buddhism (Theravada). Also I'm only 13 years old but (as many say to me) very mature for my age. Any Advice?

My comments:

Changing one's religion is a very serious matter because it may most probably affect people close to oneself. Changing one's religion inadvertently involves some external changes which others will take notice and may feel threatened or offended. We must tread this sensitive path with great caution and sensitivity. I would assume that you are living with your parents who are Catholics. If they are specially devout Catholics, you must be very careful as not to hurt their feelings and sour your relationship with them.

The Buddha taught universal truths which have no boundaries and which transcend space, time, belief, and race. Truth IS truth. We still can practise universal values based on universal truths without outwardly changing our religion. We can practise Buddhism in our heart. It is the practice that is important, not the external physical exhibition. You can continue to study Buddhism and practise the Buddha's teachings. In this way, you build up your SPIRITUAL awareness and maturity. You can practise Buddhism just like any Buddhist; by keeping the 5 precepts, and paying homage to the Buddha and taking refuge in the Buddha, his teachings, and his holy order of monks.

Unless you have a very liberal and understanding parents, to outwardly change your religion would surely cause problems for you and your immediate members of the family. Continue to practise Buddhism SPIRITUALLY without having to change your present religion. Respect your parents and do not hurt their feelings. This will be to your advantage in order to live harmoniously with your family members. You have plenty of time on your side. Wait till the time is ripe and conditions are favourable, and then you can declare to the world that you have changed your religion.

Hope you are satisfied with my opinion. Please call again if you need further clarifications

Monday, July 21, 2008

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Skilful Living

Question: (unedited)
My 13 yr old daughter is doing a project on Buddhism and one of the questions is, what responsibility do Buddhists have to the environment, to each other and themselves? I have found out a lot of basic information about Buddhism, but cannot seem to find the answer to this. Would be grateful for your help.

My Comment:
The Buddha's teachings are very practical, moderate, and relevant for this day and age. His teachings are based on universal values which transcend race, nations, time and space. We first must be responsible to ourselves before we can project our values outwards. As good Buddhists we follow certain guiding principles which we call precepts, to guide our daily activities. The Buddha encouraged us to use our human intelligence and common sense to live our daily lives in a noble and dignified manner. We do not need any religion to teach us what is good and what is bad. It is up to us to come to terms with realities, that what we don't want others to do to us, we should not do to others. What we want for us should also be given to others. The Buddhist is more concerned with what we call "skilful living".

As practising Buddhists, we observe the 5 basic principles as advised by the Buddha:

1. To refrain from taking life

2. To refrain from stealing

3. To refrain from indulging in unwholesome sexual activities

4. To refrain from telling lies

5. To refrain from taking intoxicants

These 5 precepts we undertake to live by, to the best of our ability, everyday.

On our relationship with others, we are taught to practice right speech, right action, and right livelihood. Right speech means not to tell lies and waste time in useless chatter,and also not to slander others. Right action means not to hurt all live forms unnecessarily; not to steal; and not to engage in harmful sexual activities. Right livelihood means we dissociate ourselves with activities that bring miseries to others, such as dealing with weapons, slavery, killing of life, intoxicants, drugs and poisons. A Buddhist life centres on kindness and harmlessness. Being kind to others and ourselves; and being harmless to others, a Buddhist is in harmony with himself, with others, and with his environment.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Rebirth As Animal

"If you are reincarnated into a cow or other animal, how is it possible to reach nirvana from that state."

My comment:
The Buddhist concept is called "rebirth". "Reincarnation" assumes a sort of a permanent entity that takes birth from one life form to another, while still maintaining all its characteristics. Buddhist concept of rebirth is quite different. The Buddha explained that a physical life form contains 2 main entities: the physical entity and the mind or consciousness. This mind is a stream of consciousness. It is a "stream" in perpetual flux, ever flowing. Just like a stream; we see a stream as a permanent flow of water; but the stream we see now is actually not exactly the same as the one we saw a moment ago. This is because the water that flows is not the same as that was before. It is also like the electric current. The current flows continuously, but the energy of the current is not the same at any point in time. That was why the Buddha described the "rebirth process" as a process that is "not exactly the same, yet not completely different".

As our stream of consciousness has no physical entity or mass, it can attach itself to any physical entity. It can also exist without a physical entity! It is just like the electric current; which can light up a small bulb, as well as operate huge machines. If the current of consciousness is weak because of deposits of evil defilements, it will seek to attach itself to miserable entity like a cow or any other animal. Under this birth, it is virtually impossible for it to attain Nibbana (Pali) or Nirvana (Sanskrit), because it is actually living out the results of its bad actions (kamma) from its previous lives. However, the Law of Kamma (Cause and Effect) is a very equitable Law. Once the being had served its due, this being is elevated to a higher or more fortunate rebirth. Through continuous cultivation of the mind, the being is able to progress towards the ultimate goal of Nibbana.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

What Monks?

A monk at Tiger Temple spraying urine on a tiger to induce submission.

(Photo from The Star)

It all started with a natural bonding between a Buddhist monk and a tiger. And this widened into a community of monks and tigers attracting world wide interest and media coverage, including a documentary by Animal Planet.

Now the latest report in The Star is most shocking!! It reported that " this conservation facade of the monastery in Kanchanaburi province, 322km north of Bangkok, has crumbled under the weight of a damning report released late last month by UK-based Care for the Wild International (CWI)." It further reported that the temple, far from being a rescue centre, was operating as a commercial breeding establishment, mistreating the animals which they were supposed to protect.

The report "Exploiting the Tiger: Illegal Trade, Animal Cruelty and Tourists at Risk at the Tiger Temple" was based on two years of investigation.

One might ask, "What has Buddhism got to do with this?" Precisely the point. Over time, with VIP treatment, and Big Money, the monks have forgotten they are still wearing the robes. It's not surprising that this happens in Thailand. There are thousands of bogus monks roaming the streets of Thailand. A sheer disgrace to the pristine teachings of the Buddha. That was why the Buddha always reminded his monks to stay clear of worldly affairs.


Monday, July 14, 2008


Question: (unedited)
I want to know if there is any kind of repentance in buddha. and if it is, how and where it would be done?

My comment:
I think what you mean is whether there is such a practice like the Christian act of confession, and asking someone or some power to forgive your sins. Buddhism is about self realization and the willingness to practise the teachings of the Buddha for personal peace and happiness. The Buddha pointed out to us that we were responsible for all our actions, thoughts, and words. It is our untrained mind that leads us to behave and react in a wrong manner that results in problems. We have freedom to choose our course of actions; and we are fully responsible for our deeds. In this premise, since we have full control over our lives, we are not dependent on any agent to reward or punish us.

Buddhists believe in the law of kamma, or the law of cause and effect. This is the universal law of retribution, which deals with each action in complete fairness. If an act of misdeed is done, a corresponding "punishment" will be forth coming for that particular person. There is no escape. This is the natural law of retribution. It does not depend on an agent to carry out the punishment. The only repentance the person can mitigate is to realize the mistake and not to repeat it. No amount of punishment or forgiveness can vindicate the person if he does not want to change his behaviour.

In Buddhism, there is no necessity for any authority to punish or forgive anyone who commits misdeeds. In the first place, no one has the authority or power to forgive or punish another person's misdeeds. Secondly, Buddhists realize that the only way to repent is for the person to correct himself willingly. If he thinks some power can forgive his sins, this will give him good reason to commit the misdeeds again. After all, he can always fall back to that power to forgive him again.

Saturday, July 12, 2008


Let's take a break. Just received this beautiful picture note thru email and I wish to share with all of you.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Treasure box for my mother!

Treasure box for my mother, please click here:

Busy yesterday

I was busy yesterday and did not update my blog. Please read my coming post to nite.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Animal Euthanasia (Part 2 of 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

Your question: We don't feel as though re-releasing them is an option because they would be subject to extreme weather conditions, predators such as coyotes and dogs, and illnesses such as feline leukemia and feline HIV. In short, they would more likely than not be subject to a short life of suffering. Additionally, no-kill shelters might also not be a good option because they would likely spend the rest of their lives in a cage, with sporadic human contact.

My comment: If you have no other choice, it is my personal opinion that this is your only option left.

Your question: I feel as though I would be responsible for their deaths if I were to take them to a shelter and responsible for their suffering if I re-release them or take them to a no-kill shelter. I guess my question is: given the choice between imposing a likelihood of suffering, either long term or short term, on these cats, and causing them to be euthanized, which would be least horrible under Buddhist principles?

My comment: You have done a very compassionate act which not many would do. You have done a lot of good already. You can in the meantime send them to a no-kill shelter, while searching for any good samaritan to adopt them later.

My parting comment: When the Buddha first attained enlightenment, he was reluctant to preach the truth to the world, because he knew that most people would never understand. He realized that this existence (this world) was by its very nature a very unsatisfactory place. Each and everyone of us has to grow old, get sick, and eventually die, irrespective of who you are, or what you believe. There is no escape! As Buddhists, we accept this condition, this universal truth. Once we realize this truth, we become less proud, less aggressive, less hateful. On the positive side, we are better ready to forgive, to care, to share, to do good, to be more compassionate, to live and let peace. There is always that much we can do. If you have done your best, that is more than enough. We cannot save the whole world.

I hope my comments are of some help. If you have further questions please call again.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Animal Euthanasia (Part 1 of 2)

Question : I don't really know if I'm a Buddhist or not, but I've been reading a lot about it and it makes a lot of sense to me. I have never been to any formal meditation practices or anything like that, though. I also don't come from a religious background. That said, I'd like to ask the following (lengthy) question.

My comment: Buddhism is about universal truth which transcends religion, race, space and time. The very fact that you can agree with the Buddha's teachings means that you are truly a spiritual person. A true spiritual person is one who values life and peace. In that sense you are a good Buddhist.

Question: It is my understanding that it is wrong to take a life, under the Eightfold Path. Here is my dilemma. My wife and I trapped two semi-feral cats recently because they were in imminent danger of being killed. We are not in a position to keep these cats because 1) we rescue dogs and currently have a number for whom we have not found homes. We are trying to place two dogs in good homes currently, so we spend every weekend at adoption clinics showing them to prospective parents. We also have full time jobs. Thus, we don't have the time needed to properly socialize these cats, which would be needed to find them a good home.

My comment: There are 5 conditions to be fulfilled in order to fully commit an act of killing. 1) there is a living being, 2) knowledge of this living being, 3) the intention to kill, 4) the actual act of killing, and 5) the living being is dead as a result of the act of killing. If a person is not aware and is not fully responsible for the killing, he may only be partly responsible. If you have not trapped those cats, you would not have the problem. It is very wholesome and compassionate to want to rescue lives, but there comes a point that we can only do that much. Beyond that, we have our hands full. We have to make a choice. Either we expand our capabilities, or we just have to stop right here. Life is full of dilemma. This is the universal truth that the Buddha had been pointing out to us. The realities of the unsatisfactoriness of existence.

Question: Second, we already have an elderly cat who does not get along with other cats. Morevoer, I think the environment in our house might not be satisfactory for the cats and keeping them would likely cause friction in the household.

My comment: There you are. You have your hands full and now you realize the "problem".

Question: Since it would be very difficult, if not impossible to keep these cats, we are trying to find homes or foster homes for them, without success. We have been trying continually for two weeks now, and have contacted nearly every cat rescue organization in town. If we are not successful in finding a home or foster home, we will likely take the cats to the shelter, where, because they are not very adoptable, will likely be euthanized.

My comment: A lot of "animal protection societies" think that they are doing a good service for the poor animals, by killing them off, under the guise of the sugar-coated term called "euthanasia". No animal has asked these "kind-hearted" people to "save" them so that they be put to death. A lot of animal suffering is due to the selfishness and irresponsibility of humans. If all the animals are being left by themselves in their natural habitat, there will be less suffering for them.
(To be continued)

Monday, July 7, 2008

Question: (unedited)

How does buddhism deal with divorce?

My Comment:
First, we should discuss the subject of marriage. Marriage is a secular contract. Buddhism is spiritual development. Buddhism is very unlike other religions which dictate the worldly activities of their followers. The Buddha's teachings are for seekers of truth and peace. It is totally spiritual. Once a person understands and follows the Buddha's teachings, his worldly activities will flow with his spiritual development. He will encounter less problems in his worldly affairs and pursuits because he can conduct his life in accordance with the Buddha’s teachings. He will keep his precepts diligently and live a wholesome and skillful life.

In India, even long before the Buddha's time, institution of marriage was already an entrenched tradition. India had already an established body of customs and traditions. The people did not have to wait for the Buddha to introduce man-made laws and rituals to guide their lives. Likewise, the Buddha did not spend his numerous past lives developing his mental power just to establish rules and regulations for marriage and divorce. This also holds true for other worldly or secular activities such as birth and death.

The Buddha had a loftier mission, that is, to search for Truth and Peace of the highest order and to share his discoveries with the rest of the world. The Buddha advised us to keep the 5 precepts; one of which is very relevant to a happy marriage, that is, not to commit sexual misconduct. As with marriage, divorce is also a secular problem. As commented above, the Buddha also did not set any rule or restriction regarding divorce. I would say that during the Buddha's time, there was no such problem as divorce.

The Buddha always reminded us to use our common sense and human intelligence to conduct our lives based on the Buddha's guiding principles. I will not comment on the problems of marriage or the causes of divorce. In the final analysis, if there is really nothing that can be done to save a marriage, then wouldn't it be better for the parties to go separate ways? As a personal observation, I would like to share with you this information that in Asian communities, the love for the children is good enough reason for families to stay together, despite all the problems.

So, as a parting comment on your question. Buddhism does not "deal with divorce". Buddhism deals with the correct understanding of this "life" and this "universe". Once we can fully understand the true nature of all these, we will know how to live a peaceful and harmonious life free of "divorce".

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Buddha Images

Question: (unedited)
who/what is the buddah statue resembled after?

My comment:
You have unwittingly correctly phrased the question, by adding the "what". The image of the Buddha is the embodiment of all his supreme and compassionate qualities of a super human who had successfully cultivated the mind to its purest possible state. There is no other image in the world that has been so widely and diversely moulded, literally. The image of the Buddha comes in all shapes and sizes, we can humanly imagined. Its material base ranges from the humblest worthless clay to the priceless and exquisite gemstones. Its form, ranges from crude primitive shape to skilfully crafted piece of art. Its size ranges from the minutest to huge giant struture carved out of steep cliff and high mountain.

The traditional Buddha images are the physical embodiments of the historical Buddha--Gotama Buddha. The Buddha images always show the serene and compassionate facial expression of the Buddha. The different hand gestures convey different messages of protection, preaching, fearlessness, blessing, and meditation.

Buddhists revered the Buddha images as a form of respect for their teacher. The Buddha image provides a medium for contemplation of the Buddha's supreme qualities. It is a reminder to the Buddhists to follow his teachings with confidence. The Buddha assured us that when we practise his teachings and advice, the teachings will protect us. What are actually his teachings? They are universal truths which transcend cultures, nationalities, beliefs, space and time. Also, when we see and practise his teachings, we see the Buddha.

The Budhha image symbolizes peace, compassion and perfect wisdom in the understanding of the true nature of life and the universe. Buddhists do not pray to the Buddha images for favour and protection. Buddhists pay respect to the Buddha images, as others would, their teachers and leaders who are worthy of respect.

There are, however, available in the market, so to say, "mystical and ancient 'Buddha' images" which are supposed to possess "supernatural powers". These are generally called "magical amulets" which are definitely NOT Buddha images.

Being practical

Question: (unedited)

I have a question which has been troubling me for quite some time. I have joined an online investment scheme which will give us some returns every month. The revenue generated comes from different sources, eg. real estate, financial services,restaurants etc. My question is that am i creating bad karma as one of the revenue source comes from restaurants which will definately have meat and beer. Am i indirectly killing lives? I loved this scheme as 10% of our revenue will be donated for humanitarian aid and the boss of this scheme seems a good man as he is always helping others and contributing to charities. It's just that the "restuarant" is making me worried. The boss is intending to franchise the resturant all over the world. I am scared that the meat eaten all over the world will be held responsible by me. Really hope you can help me with this. Thank you for your patience and time.


First, we have to define what constitute "killing". There have to be the 5 conditions fulfilled to constitute full responsibility in the "killing". First, there has to be a being; second, knowledge of it being alive; third, the intention to kill; fourth, the act of killing; fifth, the being is dead as a result of the action.

The Buddha advised us to use our human intelligence and common sense to live a wholesome and practical life. In Buddhism, we must always remember that there are 2 paths to conduct our lives. One is that of renunciation, which means we have made up our mind to keep stringent precepts irrespective of consequences. Our precepts take precedence over anything else. If we want to follow this path then we have to become monks (or nuns). Otherwise, the conditions of this world are such that we will face contradictions between our supreme spiritual principles and the dictates of our worldly affairs.

The 2nd path is to live as a lay person to face the challenges of this unwholesome world and to try our best to live in peace with ourselves while being bombarded with the evils of life. Here, we have to be very careful in interpreting and living a Budhhist way of life. The Buddha encouraged us to keep the 5 precepts. The precepts are supreme principles; they are like what we call in worldly terms, "standards"or "yardsticks". Standards are yardsticks to measure our performance. Each of us has a certain level of "performance standard". It is our "standard". How much we score depends on our level of this "standard". Just like performing gymnastic in the Olympics. Are we required to score a perfect 10 every time? Or can we?

As lay Buddhists, we must be aware of this "standard". We can only perform up to our "standard" at this point in time. Hopefully, with progressive improvements through diligent practice. The Buddha would want us to analyze conditions in this manner and not to succumb to rigid interpretations of life. But one word of caution. Whatever or whichever we choose, we must be guided by the Buddha's teachings. What is it? Avoid doing evil, do good, and think wisely. Once we have decided, we must have the courage to face the consequences, whatever they may be. In the final analysis, you must decide for yourself.

Friday, July 4, 2008


Question: (unedited):
How do Buddhists view extraterrestrials? The possibility of life elsewhere in the universe? Thank you very much!

My comment:
The Buddha’s explanation of the universe was what the present scientists found out to be. He divided the process of "creation" (for lack of better word) into four stages...formation, existence, degeneration, and destruction. Upon destruction, all the material elements returned to their original base elements, and after a long long time, they began to group together and the process of formation would start again. So you can understand, that the whole process is a cycle, and has no beginning or ending. These forces of "formation, existence, degeneration and destruction" are universal throughout the entire cosmic space which has no ending. Time is a non factor, it has no meaning in this cosmic display of life cycle. Space is also a non entity; it is just void.

At any point in time there is this incessant cycle of creation, existence, degeneration and destruction of stars, planets, and even galaxies! Space has no ending, which can be better described as void. The Buddha called our galaxy, Cakkavala. Cakka meaning wheel or spiral. Our galaxy is spiral in shape. The whole universe, the Buddha called it Loka Dhatu, meaning, world of elements. In this endless void, there exists countless galaxies. The size and distance of these galaxies are beyond our human imagination and understanding! Our earth world is just an insignificant speck of dust in this whole unimaginable universe of cosmic existence! As a law of probability alone, if such an insignificant speck of dust can support life, what about the others in this gigantic display of cosmic drama! The answer to both your questions is that Buddhists know that there exists extraterrestrials; but very very very far away.

In many of the Buddha's discourses there was always the mention of beings from 10,000 world systems gathered to listen to him. The Buddha also revealed that in our world alone there were 31 planes of existence (life forms). Humans and animals are 2 planes that we can see. The others, such as ghosts and higher plane beings, we cannot see with our limited vision. All are subject to this universal cycle of formation, existence, degeneration, and ultimate destruction; and the cycle repeats itself ad infinitum.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Sacred Book
Question: (unedited)
What is the Buddhist book? (like the bible in christianity)

My Comment:
We are used to regard religion as a form of revelation by a supreme being, or his prophet; his message and commandments being inscribed into some text which must be obeyed without any questioning. We have been indoctrinated to believe that a religion must possess this attribute of a supreme being and a sacred text to command us to obey. To study Buddhism, we have to discard this preconceived stereotype mentality. In other words, we have to approach our study with an open mind.

The Buddha was not a god or a prophet. He was a human being with extraordinary powers. He had cultivated his mind to the ultimate purity that gained him the power of omniscient knowledge. In common language, we call this supreme psychic power. He had the ability to know what had to be known. He knew everything under the whole universe, and more importantly, he realized the real nature of this universe and this self. His mission was to inform us the truth about the whole universe and the reality of this life, so that we could live in peace with ourselves. In short the Buddha's message was how to find truth and peace. The Buddha spent 45 years preaching and spreading the message of truth and peace. The monks would then commit his teachings into memory.

In order to understand the development of the Buddhist sacred text, a little bit of Buddhist history will help. Three months after the passing away of the Buddha, the senior monks congregated and recited all his teachings to confirm the authenticity. After another 100 years, another group of senior monks again reconfirmed all the teachings. A 3rd council meeting was held after another 100 years, and the elder monks once again confirmed the authenticity. This time they referred it as the Theravada council. Theravada means the teachings of the elders, i.e., the teachings as confirmed by the elder monks.

Then, around 80 b.c., a 4th council was convened in Sri Lanka. The teachings were confirmed as authentic having passed through the authoritative confirmation down the passage of time. After that, it was decided that all the teachings be transcribed into writing and accordingly done. The text was called Tipitaka, meaning, 3 baskets, because all the teachings were grouped together into 3 baskets or sections.

The sacred text of the Buddhists is called Tipitaka. It has 3 sections. The 1st section contains all the general discourses of the Buddha; the 2nd section refers to the code of conduct for the monks; and the 3rd section embodies the higher teachings regarding detailed analyses of matter and mind.

It is very difficult to fully understand by reading the Tipitaka. That is why most people learn Buddhism from books and from the learned monks and lay preachers. I am sorry to confuse you a little bit more. There are a number of different schools (traditions) of Buddhism, and some discourses are not found in the Tipitaka. To explain this will entail another question if you care to ask.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Be both Buddhist and Christian?

Question: (unedited)
what does does your religeon say about catholics aspiring to be both catholic and buddhist?

My Comment:
Actually, if someone is "aspiring" to be both Catholic and Buddhist, we will welcome him. By "aspiring" means "trying to become". In this case, this person is now experimenting with two spiritual paths which he thinks he will be able to live with both beliefs. If he is an earnest seeker of truth, he will gradually come to realize that the 2 paths are different, and in the final analysis, he will definitely end up deciding for himself, the one path which best answers his spiritual aspiration.

If on the other hand, what you mean is whether a person can be both a Catholic and a Buddhist for the rest of his life, then the answer can be deduced from the above comment. In the end he will eventually have to decide on one, because he cannot be both. It is like a person trying to be both a vegetarian as well as a meat-eater. To a vegetarian, he cannot eat meat. To a meat-eater, he can be flexible. A meat-eater will tell this person that he can eat vegetables as much as he wants to. But the vegetarian will tell him that he is forbidden to eat meat. A Buddhist is like the meat-eater. A Catholic is like the vegetarian.

The Catholic, for that matter, any Christian, will insist that you must believe in the all-powerful creator God. If you don't then you cannot be a Catholic, and be condemned to eternal burning hell. The Buddhist will tell you that there is no such creator God. But if you insist of wanting to believe in this God, then there is nothing stopping you. You have the freedom of choice, except that a Buddhist does not believe in the creator God.

To a Buddhist, he does not condemn others who do not wish to share his belief. What he is concerned of, is the purity of a person's life; being kind and being harmless to himself as well as to others, so that all can live in peace.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Prayer alters
can you tell me about your altars and what they are used for?

This is too general a question, and quite unusual too.

Buddhism, being a very tolerant, adaptive, and accommodating religion, has been practised by the various races and nationalities according to their different traditions and customs. This means that you will find altars of various shapes and sizes, according to which country you go to.
The Chinese use very elaborate and finely crafted altars, usually with inlaid mother-of-pearls design. They are of the standard heights, but some higher. The Thais use altars of lower heights; also very elaborately crafted with gold coloured paint or covered with gold wafers. They are of course very Thai in design. The Burmese and the Sri Lankans also have their differing unique designs. And so are the Tibetans and the Japanese. All are very beautifully and elaborately crafted. Who knows, the Westerners may come up with their different versions!
The purpose of an altar is the same as with all altars, that is, to provide space for putting or displaying all the paraphernalia of a person's religion, and to worship in front of it. In a Buddhist altar you will find the Buddha images, urns for incense/joss-sticks, water bowls, candle holders, oil bowls for lights, vases for flowers, and other related things. These paraphernalia vary in shapes and sizes, even the Buddha image.
I have a very simple altar in a small recess in my home. The Buddha image occupies the centre stage, with 2 smaller Buddha images below it. In front of the Buddha image, I place a small bowl of water, to reflect the purity of the Buddha and his teachings. That's all. Very tidy and simple.
The main rituals will of course be conducted in front of the altar. The religious objects and symbols are just "objects and symbols" which we reflect on their qualities of purity and their meanings and messages. Because they are holy or wholesome objects, we treat them with respect and reverence.
If you really want to know the different types of altars, you will have to visit the various temples of the different traditions, and see for yourself. No amount of description and explanation can do justice to this exercise.
Please bear in mind that these Buddhist altars are for devotees to perform their "Buddhist" rites and rituals according to their respective traditions and customs. The universal message of the Buddha transcends race, nationality, space, and time.
His message:
1)Avoid committing evil
2)Perform good and wholesome actions
3)Train the mind so that one can commit oneself to lead a noble and dignified life
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