Monday, November 29, 2010

Life is unpredictable

Question : (Unedited)
Your Grace,
  My name is C J, I'm 20 years old. I've just decided to lead a Buddhist path from 20 years of being a Christian. During my transition I've been hit with a devastating breakup from my boyfriend of two years. This breakup involved infidelity and a waste of valuable sacrifices. I'm not educated with all the coping mechanisms of the awaken one and I'm asking for help to get me through this very depressing time in my life and not come out scarred or burdened by the thought love.

Thank you for taking your time,

My comment:
Hi C J,

First, I don't deserve your honorable address.  I am just an ordinary person willing to share my Buddhist knowledge with those who are interested in.

As a practising Buddhist, the most salient reminder of the Buddha's teachings is the trilogy of universal truths.  Please remember this for the rest of your life and you will not feel so disappointed in life when things don't come your way.  They are Impermanence, Unsatisfactoriness, and Insubstantiality.  When one realizes that everything in this world cannot last forever, one is prepared to see change and the end of all component things.  The second reality in life is that one is existing in an environment of imperfection.  It is the true nature of this world and this existence.  The third is a more subtle concept; in the final analysis, one's existence come to naught.  There is nothing that one can hold on to.  One's existence is like a rainbow.  One can indulge in the beauty of the rainbow, but in the end there is nothing.

Having said that, when one sees the Dhamma (the universal truth), one is wary of one's life.  When one faces with seemingly unsurmountable problem, one has to reflect on the second universal truth of existence.  It is this very nature of unsatisfactoriness of existence that one is now facing.  Having acknowledged that, one also must reflect on the first universal truth of impermanence.  Time is the mother of salvation.  Given time the problem that one is facing will also change; maybe resolved or maybe even getting worse.  So one must be prepared to live through this unpredictable journey of problematic existence.

There is no clear-cut solutions to solve life's problems.  But the Buddha had forwarned us of the realities of existence.  One consolation for a Buddhist is the knowledge of this true nature of existence that gives spiritual support to him through life's contingencies.  When faced with problems, a wise Buddhist will reflect on this trilogy of universal truths.  After accepting these irrefutable truths, he then sets out to solve his worldly problems in a worldly manner, with some Buddhist wisdom.  

As for your "problems", I am wary of giving "advice" because I am just an ordinary person without any qualification to give advice.  Maybe just providing some suggestions for your considerations.  This is just simple psychology.  Take a break and do something that you enjoy.  And a little Buddhist wisdom; when thoughts of hatred and depression come, just acknowledge and note the thoughts and don't proceed further with the thoughts.  You will find after some time, the wound will heal.  As I said earlier, time is a great healer.

Take care, and strive on with courage.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Patting the Buddha's belly??

Question : (Unedited)
I have been studying Buddhism for a little while now.  I am interested in practing it but I have several questions that I would like to know the answers to first.  First I heard that Buddhists take up practices such as patting the belly of a statue of Buddha.  While I'm sure it's just an urban myth I would like to know for sure.  Next I work in a grocery store deli, while I have no problem becoming a vegetarian, would it be against Buddhism to work in the deli still.  There are other questions that I have but I am content to research them on my own so please respond when you have the chance Thank-you

My comment: 
Hi A,

Thank you for asking me.

Welcome to the journey of inner peace and happiness.  I heard of people patting the belly of the fat or "laughing" Buddha.  The fat Buddha is supposed to be the future Buddha, the image of which was created by some very "imaginative" people.  It's rather embarrassing actually.  There is nothing "Buddhistic" about it.  The Buddha taught universal truths which transcend race, culture, time and space.  The Buddha also encouraged us to use our common sense and human intelligence to analyze his teachings.  Patting the fat Buddha's belly as far as I am concerned is a very stupid act which insults the sanctity of the Buddha.  

There is nothing a Buddhist is forbidden to do.  The advice from the Buddha was that we should know what is wholesome and what is not.  Knowing that, and if we choose to do the unwholesome things then be prepared for the unwholesome results.  So the choice is solely ours.  The Buddha never issued commandments.  The Buddha advised with reasons.  By the way, being Buddhists doesn't mean to be vegetarians, although to be one is very healthy.  You may want to try out the following three-step analysis as to whether one should proceed with a plan of action.  First, consider whether the act is harmful to others.  Then consider whether the act is harmful to oneself.  Finally, whether the act is beneficial.

Please come back if you need further clarifications.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You have the freedom to choose.

Question: (Unedited)
I have acually talked to you about buddhism before. Last year some time. You helped me become a buddhist. But since then i have discarded buddhism. This is something up until now i have regreted. I would like to become a buddhist again. And id like you to teach me every thing you can about my new slate of becoming a buddhist and learning the ways all again.

My comment:
Hi again A....,

Well, you can become a Buddhist again, anytime!  Actually "Buddhist" is just a "religious label".  It doesn't mean a thing!  So, you had been a "Buddhist" and then decided not to be.  Now you have decided to be one again!  As far as the whole world is concerned, the sun still rises and sets, seasons change, and life goes on.  You see, this is the beauty of Buddhism.  The only person relevant is you, yourself.  You decide, you have the freedom to think and choose.  And that was precisely what you have gone through.  You have actually learned a lot of Buddhism in this process.  You now know what is truth and beneficial; and what is not.  That's why you are here again.  Congratulations!

I dare not teach you everything about Buddhism because I myself do not know everything about Buddhism.  You are welcome to ask any question at anytime and I shall be very happy to share my thoughts with you.   Here is one:

The fool is always blind
That's why the Buddha is the All-seeing One
When we SEE with our mind,
This world perfection is none.

The Buddha can only teach
We have to play our part
To put into practice
And feel real peace in our hearts.

The Buddha's teachings are like air
The universal truths
For each and everyone to share
They are free and everywhere.

For those who choose not to breathe
The Buddha's air
Let it be, let it be
Then die in despair!

If you think you care
Then take command
To proclaim and share
The Dhamma with everyone!

Smile From Justinchoo :-)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Do we want to reinvent the wheel?

Question : (Unedited)
Hey Justin,

Can you explain any important new developments in the Mahayana movement: the greater sangha, new sutras,, the idea of the bodhisattva, and the expanded idea of the Buddha.  

What do you personally think led to these new ideas?  

Thanks so much for your time! - J...
My comment:
Hi J....,

Welcome back.

The Buddha re-discovered the universal truths of existence.  It was nothing new.  It is the eternal truths of existence.  The most salient points of these truths are embodied in the Trilogy of Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta.
The Buddha said that we had to examine our experience in order to discover its most pervasive features, the universal characteristics of phenomena, namely, impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and egolessness or notself.
The Buddha said:
All formations are impermanent.
All formations are unsatisfactory.
All phenomena, everything whatsoever, are not self.

If we can understand the Dhamma as revealed by the Buddha, there is nothing else to add.  Simply put, if you understand what a wheel is, there is nothing for you to alter or add to the wheel to make it "more round"!!!  You cannot improve on the wheel, let alone reinvent it!  If anyone insists of "improving" the wheel, it only shows that person's foolishness, or that person having some ulterior motives to hookwink other ignorant people.

The Buddha was the Fully Enlightened One.  This means that he was the Perfect One, the Omniscient, the All-knowing One.  What else do we want to add, and make fools of ourselves and disgrace and insult the purity of the Buddha.

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rebirth is not the same as reincarnation (Part 2 of 2)

Question (Follow-up) : (Unedited)
Thanks for your answer; the light bulb metaphor makes a lot of sense.  Now, I have another related question if I may about how Buddhists view the origin of the universe (or all existence).  I won't pretend to be extensively knowledgeable of Buddhist scriptures (I try to devote more time to practical applications and also translations of the pali cannon tend to be a bit too expensive and hard to come by), but I am familiar with the agga├▒├▒asutta which describes beings (and their world) as having experienced a sort of “fall from grace” from being creatures of light to humans because of their desires.  From this I would imagine that it is thought that at some past point all beings existed in a type of nirvana-like state but experienced some crisis that led to our current universe and that this sort of cycle of fall into samsara and liberation happens endlessly in all universes.  Am I way off the mark here?

My comment :
Hi J,

You are not off the mark.  Maybe I can make some comments.  The beginning of the world or even the universe was actually not a real beginning.  There cannot be a beginning.  It was the "beginning" of a cycle of formation and destruction. When the world was completely destroyed, beings existed in other dimensions.  As existence is not permanent, sooner or later beings would be reborn to other realms depending on the quality of their storehouse of consciousness.  Inevitably, when one was at a higher realm, the lower would be one's next rebirth, as the merits would have been depleted in one's storehouse of consciousness. There won't be any opportunity for accumulation of merits in the higher realms.  It would be more for enjoyment over there. This would be the reason for the higher realms' devas taking rebirth on earth in the "beginning".  And the vicious cycle repeats itself.  

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rebirth is not the same as reincarnation (Part 1 of 2)

Question : (Unedited)
My question is a somewhat complex one, or at least so it seems to me; I would like to know precisely how the Buddhist idea of rebirth differs from the idea of reincarnation.  I understand that the latter involves the transmigration of a soul from one physical body to the next and that rebirth is supposedly different because it involves no such transmigration because Buddhists do not believe in a soul.  I've heard it explained that rebirth is more of just a realization of how each being finds it cause in the previous being, like the handing of a flame from a dying candle to a new one, yet time and time again, I hear Buddhists speaking of being someone else in a past life.  How can this be?  Wouldn't it to be more accurate to say not that I WAS such and such person before this life, but rather that I simply received the kamma of that person?  Even the Buddha speaks of past lives, and we say that he was Vesantara and the others Jataka Heroes.  If there is no soul or essence (because there is no eternal self/ego) which survives death, then how is it that we are our predecessors and successors?  And if we are not them, how can kamma be just as it punishes and rewards us for the actions of others?

My comment:
Hi J.,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I must congratulate you that you have got the idea of rebirth correctly.  So I need not elaborate.  This phenomenon of rebirth is a very unique one.  We can say the consciousness is like an electric current.  This current lights up different bulbs.  This current is not the same at any one moment, it travels or in a flux.  As for the bulbs, it is quite obvious that they are different bulbs.  However the light that the different bulbs emit is neither the same nor different.  The Buddha expressed the rebirth process as "neither exactly the same nor totally different" ("Na ca so, na ca anno", in Pali) (Pronounce: "Nar cha so, nar cha un-yo").

The very fact that we cannot remember our past lives is an indication that we were not them.  But the fact that we are here, brings question as to wherefrom we came.  We may argue or analyze by using our intellectual capacity till the cows come home; still we will never be satisfied.  It is believed that if one practises Buddhist meditation diligently, one may ultimately find realization through the power of the mind.

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