Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why renunciation?

Dear Mr. Choo, I'm wondering why some people become monks or nuns and renounce romantic love, personal posessions, etc.? Are they the only ones truly practicing Buddhism? Are they the only ones that can reach true enlightenment and happiness? Or are these things possible as a lay person, too? (i do hope so.) Many thanks.

My comment:

Thank you for asking me. The Buddha's teachings are about universal truths. These truths are truths irrespective of who you are or where you are. In other words, these truths transcend race, nationality, belief, and even time and space. These truths are universal and cannot change.

The 3 characteristics of the nature of this world are universal truths. They are impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and without substance. In each of us, there are 3 universal truths. They are greed, hatred, and delusion. They vary in intensity at different times and in different people.

The other truths are what we call conventional truths. These truths are based on convention and acceptance by the people who are concerned with them. Examples of conventional truths are money, laws of the country, customs, etiquette, culture, rites and rituals, and many other such conventional conduct and behaviour. These may not be considered as good or bad, although generally, they are for the benefit and protection of the population.

As lay persons, we are subject to abide by these conventional truths so that we can live in harmony within our society. However, at times conventional truths may not be in congruent with universal truths. The 5 precepts are universal truths. Can we practise these 5 precepts perfectly and at the same time abide by the myriads of conventional requirements?

In order to FULLY concentrate on spiritual advancement in the Buddhist way, it will be most conducive to leave mundane matters out and to become a monk or nun. If one is a lay person, just imagine the numerous problems and hindrances imposed by conventions, by one's spouse and children, one's job, one's worldly social interactions with so many types of people,etc, etc.

All things being equal, monks and nuns would have a more conducive life-style to practise and gain spiritual liberation. As monks and nuns, they have made the resolution to give up worldly concerns and worldly pleasures; and to FULLY concentrate on spiritual advancement.

As lay person, one can still find happiness and contentment by practising the teachings of the Buddha to live a harmless and noble life. By understanding and accepting the true nature of this world and this life, one can live a happy and contented life by balancing the dictates of conventional requirements with the wisdom of universal truths.

Hope the above comments are adequate. Should you need more elaboration, please come back.

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