Sunday, January 25, 2009

What can we learn?

Question:(unedited) How is teh religion used to solve a problem. How is it utilized by leaders/group?

My comment:

Buddhism is about the teachings of the Buddha. What did the Buddha teach? He taught us to use our human intelligence to see the world as it really is. He taught us to be masters of ourselves. He taught us to be free from dogmas and commandments. So long as we are fearful of something or someone we are not free. We cannot have peace of mind if we are fearful.

He taught us how to have peace within ourselves. If we do not understand the true nature of the world and this life, we will never experience peace within ourselves.

The Buddha discovered the way to peace and happiness through realizing the true nature of life and this universe. It was more than 2500 years ago in northern India where the Buddha through harnessing the power of his mind realized that if man were to be free of greed, hatred and delusion, he had to look inward into his mind, and start cleansing his inner defilements. If one reduces one's defilements, one would experience peace and happiness.

He discovered that the whole world had certain characteristics and that life continued to exist because of certain causes. This world is very unsatisfactory, we cannot be fully satisfied with life and that nothing is permanent. He also pointed out that because of our craving for permanent and complete satisfaction, we were always miserable.

The most salient aspect of Buddhism is FREEDOM in its practice. The Buddha encouraged his followers to use their common sense and human intelligence to analyze his teachings before accepting them. The natural law of cause and effect rules the world. No matter who you are and where you are, or what you believe, this universal LAW rules supreme. There is no escape. It is perfectly impartial. In simple language, good begets good; evil begets evil.

Knowing the nature of this world, we begin to accept and face problems. We know that we cannot be rid of problems because it is the very nature of this world which is always beset with problems.

Below is a quotation from my teacher, The Venerable Dr K Sri Dhammananda:

"Life is unsatisfactory because it is impermanent. When a person has a happy life, he would like the passage of time to stand still. This ceaseless passage of time is so obvious a quality of our lives that we take it for granted. Within this ceaseless movement, all things we know are born, grow, decay and die, and we will go through this process with them.

The law of impermanence lays its cruel hands on all people. And all youth ends in old age, all health in sicknesses, all strength in impotence, all beauty in ugliness, and all life in death. Nothing can stop this process. Death follows birth, as night follows day. This process of change is common to all - to the poor and the rich alike, to the young and the old. But this seems to be the very thing some of us forget, living and acting as if we are immortal.

It is important to realize that we are born to this world to do some service for the weal and happiness of mankind. We will be remembered by humanity more for what we have done for mankind than what we have done for ourselves.

When people see their own lives as being only a drop in an ever-flowing river, they will be moved to contribute their little part to the stream of life."

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Can we forgive?

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Question: (unedited)
What does Buddhism teach about anger? What does one do about people who have wronged us?

My comment:

Thank you for asking me.

The Buddha reminded us that "anger" is one of our 3 evil roots. The 3 evil roots are "greed", "hatred", and "delusion". "Anger" is a form of hatred. "Delusion" is our ignorance to comprehend the true nature of our lives and the world. These 3 roots cause us great pain because we react to conditions in the wrong way leading us to greater miseries. Take "anger" for instance. Medical science has proven that when we get angry, our system heats up, all energy wasted to further support this heat wave when we wallow in this cycle of adding fuel to the fire. Our bodies literally burn inside us; consuming us both spiritually and physically. Knowing this fact, do we still want to hurt ourselves by this foolish behaviour? It is already bad enough that others had hurt us. Do we want to further hurt ourselves? By getting angry, we think that we are getting even with the other party. No. It is like spitting up in the air.

"What does one do about people who have wronged us?"
It is easy to advise that we radiate loving kindness to them. I find this to be too difficult for most people. Why not take the rational approach?

First we have to be sure that they are the ones who had wronged us. Many times we may be the culprits. Well, assuming they had hurt us. First, is to take whatever rational approach available, legally or diplomatically.

Now come to the spiritual aspect. You have done whatever that needs to be done...that's all. Now you get on with your life. When we start living life in this positive manner, we will have inner peace. Let nature, kamma, or whatever, takes its course. The Buddha reminded us that if we follow the Dhamma, his teachings, the Dhamma protects us. This is the type of confidence that a wise Buddhist will have. Given time, we will find that we can genuinely forgive those who had hurt us. Then we will have complete peace in ourselves.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Homosexuality : Sexual Misconduct?

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I have seen many references to abstaining from sexual misconduct, and know that in traditional western faiths homosexuality is placed in this category. What is the Buddhist view on this?

My comment:

Thank you for asking me.

To abstain from sexual misconduct is the third of the 5 precepts which a good Buddhist would abide. The purpose of keeping the 5 precepts is to keep us away from troubles and problems. The emphasis here is "misconduct". If one is having extra sexual affairs with all and sundry, it is sexual misconduct. We all know the problems and troubles this type of sexual misconduct will create. Sexual misconduct does not necessarily mean illegal sex, which is against the country's laws. As the key word is "misconduct", it implies our misbehaviour in sexual activities. If a couple is sincerely in love, whether legally married or not, their sexual activities should not be construed as sexual misconduct. However, if the particular society or culture dictates that couples should be legally married, then it is their social and legal responsibilities to abide by the rules.

I am not an expert in this rather controversial topic of homosexuality. However, from my personal point of view, homosexuality is a dysfunction caused by psychological problems and/or genes. The precept just states "sexual misconduct". I would not construe sexual activities between 2 homosexuals as "sexual misconduct" if they do not extend their sexual activities with other parties. So long as they keep their sexual relationship within themselves, I don't see any harm or trouble that they may cause to others, or themselves.

Just to reiterate; the 5 precepts are for us to practise so that we do not court troubles and problems for ourselves and to others. So long as we live a dignified, noble, and harmless life, we should be able to live in peace with ourselves and with the society.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Why this, why that?

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My questions are less about the technical aspects of Buddhism and more about your personal beliefs on evil and God from your relgious poin of view. If you feel like you can not answer these questions please email me back. Thank You for your help.

1. Why is there evil in the world?
2. Why is there so much horrible in the world? Wouldn't just a little evil provide humans with the opportunity to grow and learn?
3. Why would an all-powerful, all loving God allow evil in the world?
4. Do you believe in an intervening God? If so, why does this Divine not intervene when there is a great injustice? (holocaust, baby dying, genetic diseases) Then why does he intervene in trivial affairs? (ex. good grade on a test) Does this seem a little capricious? If you do not believe that God is intervening why not?
5. Do you believe in the fall of human kind by the disobedience of Adam and Eve? If so is it fair that there is such suffering in the world due to Adam and eve disobeying God by eating an apple? If you dont believe this was the fall og human kind, do you believe we had one and if so what was it? If not why not?
6. Why do such bad things happen to good people and good things happen to such bad people?
7. What is your personal religious belief?
8. What is your profession?

My comments:
Thank you for asking me. Since you put your "subject" as "School Paper", I will assume that this is more of an academic exercise. But I think it is not.

If you understand the teachings of the Buddha, all your questions would have been answered "en masse". If you are a committed Christian you will have a lot of bones to pick with me after reading my answers. But since you ask in this "Buddhist" site, you will be given the Buddhist answers.

Ans for qn 1:
Because it is "THE WORLD". Just like asking why are there so many sick patients in the hospital....Bec it is a hospital. It is the nature of this world, which is not perfect and subject to perpetual change.

Ans for qn 2:
Just like in a hospital, some patients will be cured while others will perish.

Ans for qn 3:
Simply because there is NO SUCH GOD!

Ans for qn 4:
It is indeed capricious!

Ans for qn 5:
As I said in the beginning, if you know Buddhism, you will have all the answers. Why apple, why not banana? I have no problem trying to rationalize things which are not consistent and not logical. No one forces us to believe (at least in this day and age) things that we DO NOT WISH TO BELIEF. I don't believe, so I don't have any problem with illogical and inconsistent conjectures.
There is no "fall" or "rise" of human kind. It is what you have been led to believe. There is this world's theatrical high drama of life's follies because of the SHEER IGNORANCE of the human kind as to why they are here and where they are heading.

Ans for qn 6:
Following my comment on question 5, what you are observing now is just a small paragraph from the book of life. It is just a very small scene in the whole scenario of life's drama. The present act of this high drama is a continuation of the past chapters of life; while the further chapters are yet to come. The whole drama has yet to end, if ever it will.

William Shakespeare wrote:
"All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages." --From As You Like It (II, vii, 139-143)

The Buddha pointed out the beginningless of life and the endlessness of existence; overwhelmed by our ignorance. This life is just a little scene in the ever endless drama of human follies.

Ans for qn.7:
"Religion" is a "dirty" word. I follow the universal teachings of the Buddha.

Ans for qn 8:
I have gone through almost life's full cycle. What more do I want to do?

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Altering DNA

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Question: (unedited)
I am writing a critical response paper to Easterbrook and his idea that science could one day end violence via DNA alteration. Assuming that this is possible, How would a Buddhist feel about this? How would this affect the practice of Ahimsa, and rebirth? Does Buddhism believe that violence is, at the least, partly genetic?

My comment:

Thank you for asking me. People throughout history had fantastic ideas. They may be very clever altering this and that. But it's not going to change the world for the better or worse. It would be just doing things differently, or living in a different manner. For example, the computer and digital technology does not solve life's problems. The fast track in space exploration and communications do not lessen our human burdens. We are just doing things differently. Petty bickerings still exist in the office and in the family. Wars and pestilence still scourge the world.

Your notion is like saying modern medical science has advanced to such great heights that one day we will be free from all diseases; there will be no more need for doctors and hospitals.

As for your last question, the Buddhist perspective of life is that this "being" consists of the physical body and the mind. The existence of this being is the results of the energy of the mind taking existence in this physical body. The nature of life-form that this mind energy affixes to, will depend on the nature of the accumulated "kammic" store-house which the being had generated throughout its numerous life existences. If the kammic storehouse has a greater portion of evil and unwholesome kammic energy, this mental energy will seek a rebirth in the appropriate existence such that the evil and unwholesome energies will actualize in that life, causing agony and suffering for the being. In this sense, you can consider that evil mental energies will seek out conditions that favour such existence.

Although genes play a great part in one's character, the mind if properly trained may be able to counter the bad effects of bad genes to a certain degree.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Why Buddhists Are Evil?

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Question: (unedited) (questioner is a Chinese)

Mr. Justin Choo,

Why two person who affect my life were Buddhist? I work for an international company for 26 years and was out-source to a company that the MD was a "Buddhist" and he made me lost my job.

The second one was my daughter's father in law who is a MD of a company also, it was just a family problem between him and my son in law, so my son in law and my daughter left the house, they are already age over 24. But it end up this "Buddish" MD threatened to kill them and my family just because he suspect I am the one who support them to leave the house. It was a police case but my daughter and son in law have to stay out-stations. It was not just threatening because this MD did attack someone before!

I " " the word Buddhist because although I am not Buddhist I do follow the Buddhism teaching and this is not what Buddhism teaching should be.
But what you said about the two cases? They both are MD and they always tell people that they practice Buddhism".

The first case not only I lost my job but there were all 50 over staff who out-source lost their jobs. And we have evidence that he cheated us and a court case is still on going.

Why are they both also Buddhist? Why they are still wealthy, rich and no punishment?

Best Regards, G..........

My comment:

Hi Mr G........,
Thank you for asking me.

First, I will assume that what you wrote is the truth. I have no reason to doubt your words.

We give labels to ourselves in order to differentiate one another. In terms of religion, we label ourselves as Buddhists, Christians, Muslims and Non Believers. How many of us really practise the true teachings of our religious founders? For the few who really practise the true teachings also make mistakes at times. I nearly lost a deal today because I got upset at my "difficult" client. Because of a brief unmindfulness on my part I had made a blunder and a fool of myself. I cannot undo what I had said and I have to learn this bitter lesson and not repeat the mistake in future. But is there any guarantee that I will not make the same mistake again? No.
(Post-script: I have since retired.)

This is the tragedy of life. This is so because we are only "humans".
We have to see the "humanness" in people, not what they call themselves. They may be Buddhists as labels only. To aggravate matter, most Chinese are only Buddhists in name and most do not actually know the teachings of the Budhha. It is only traditionally accepted label to regard themselves as "Buddhists" if they are not Christians. Even if they are true Buddhists, they are not perfect because they are mere mortals.

Those who make effort to follow the teachings of the Buddha can be regarded as true Buddhists. Those who do not follow the teachings of the Buddha are simply NOT Buddhists. As good Buddhists, we make effort to reduce our defilements such as greed, hatred and foolishness. We make effort to live a harmless, noble, and dignified life.
The true nature of this world is that it is not perfect and so are its inhabitants. We will meet with nasty people who give us agony and sleepless nights. The art of living is to understand this imperfection in life and to take steps to reduce the incidence of such problems.

If we take heed of the Buddha's teachings, we will have to continue to lead a harmless life. We have to reduce the negative, selfish and hateful tendencies; and to replace them with positive, generous and compassionate tendencies. It is the universal law of reaction, that positive and wholesome actions will bring about positive and wholesome results eventually.

Please do not assume that they will not be punished. In fact punishment comes abruptly once they create sufferings for others. Their minds will be tortured with guilt and fear. They will spend sleepless nights trying to rationalize and substantiate their evil actions, even though deep down in their hearts, their conscience pricks them. They will not be happy and they will live in fear.
The day has not ended yet. How can we be sure that they will continue to be rich and wealthy? Even if they remain so, do you think they can live a happy and peaceful life?

Be rest assured. The universal law of kamma will take effect sooner or later. There is NO escape. Knowing that, we must lead a harmless life. Then we can live in peace. For peace is internal in our mind. No one can steal the peace from us, although they can give us problems. So long as we understand the law of retribution, let this law take its course. We can continue living our lives without aggravating the problems which these people had caused us.

Hope my comments help.

Please come back if you need further clarifications.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Enlightenment, Bodhisatta, Meditation.

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I'm fifteen, and have a more than slightly curious mind. I'll try to make my questions as breif as possible, so here we go.

1) We both know that Buddha realized the Truth of how the world can save itself from ignorance. Yet, he realized how we can do it, yet he may not have actually done it himself. He acheived Enlightenment, yet in a different way than we are supposed to do now. He did all the right stuff, became a great man and the like, yet did not acheive Enlightenment in the way he told us to, mainly by the Eightfold path. I guess I find it hard to articulate through writting it, so I'll try to be as blunt as possible, please forgive my ignorance: How did the Buddha acheive Enlightenment different than we did? It must be hard to understand, please try to understand that I only seek to end my own curiosity.

2) How does one become a Boddhisatva? I'm not even sure on spelling, but I do know that they help mankind a lot. I find myself at great peace when I help others, so much so that I want to dedicate my self to helping others. I'm not sure if that's selfish of me, since I may only be doing it because I like the feeling, but I find that people learn from my actions. Preaching the Dhamma through my actions, I guess is the only way to put it. I know that's what any Buddhist should do, yet I want to dedicate myself to it.

3) How does someone think when meditating? I know how I'm supposed to meditate, yet I fail to understand how answers come from nothingness. With my mind focused and cleared, I fail to see what to focus on, since it has just been cleared. I guess the real question is how can I find answers that lead to Enlightenment when I don't know the question?

I guess that's it. Sorry if I haven't been clear on a question, I find it hard to put the right words down when I type, so my meaning is somewhat lost in translation ,I guess. Answer at you leisure, just please answer soon.
Your partner in crime

My comment:

Hi D......,

Thank you for asking me.

At your age, you have read alot about Buddhism. Keep it up. I know it is very difficult to put questions in words, especially when one is not very clear on the subject. You have done very well. I shall try my best to share whatever knowledge I have with you.

1) The Buddha's realization of the truth was not the same as our understanding of the truth. We come to "understand" through the Buddha's teachings. To "realize" is very different from just "understand". That's why we still cannot gain enlightenment although we can fully understand the Buddha's teachings.
The Buddha discovered the truth not within a lifetime. It took the Buddha such a long time that we refer this time period as 4 Mahakappas and 100,000 aeons. In simple term, the period is unimaginably and incomprehensibly long. During that long period he had gone through the process of perfecting his life through innumerable rebirths. What we know of the historical Buddha was his last rebirth before he attained full enlightenment. Even during his last birth, he had to go through 6 excruciating years in his search and practice before he found the answer, by his own effort. We are different because we have not developed our mind to such extreme and powerful level. We need someone to teach us the method. The Buddha is called the fully enlightened one, the Samma Sambuddha. He was omniscient; understanding all that needs to be understood.

2)"Bodhisatva" is Sanskrit. "Bodhisatta" is in Pali. In Mahayana interpretation, a Boddhisatva is a person who has attained enlightenment but chooses to still exist in this "world" to help others realize the truth. In Theravada interpretation, a Boddhisatta is an enlightened being destined to Buddhahood, a future Buddha. The historical Buddha before his enlightenment, was addressed as a Bodhisatta.

Helping others is a very noble act. I do not consider helping others as selfish.

3)Buddhist meditation is to calm the mind. An uncontrolled mind is like a fluttering fish out of water. In order to "control" this mind we have to constantly focus on one object. By focusing as such, the mind is relaxed but alert. When one has achieved this state of mind, one can proceed further to train the mind to note or contemplate on the true nature of things. In this way, we gain "insight" into the realities of this world and this life.

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