Wednesday, March 24, 2010

If you suffer physical pain, go see a doctor.

Question (Unedited):

The first noble truth speaks of suffering and Buddhism is based on logic. But what if the suffering of an individual is an actual physical pain? How could Buddhism help?

Hi M,

Welcome back.

The Buddha pointed out universal truths. In fact we need not discuss Buddhism. It is Universal Truth that is relevent. The truth of this existence, if we care to open our minds and our eyes to observe, is that unsatisfactoriness is all pervasive. It cuts through the whole spectrum of life. Everywhere we look, we see problems...from petty squabbles, sickness, to senseless killings. In the animal kingdom we see the scenario of the survival of the fittest in its gross manifestation. In human kind we see the endless confrontations amongst nations, amongst different beliefs, different races, down to family disputes. This is the hopeless nature of the world which the Buddha advised us to open our eyes to see and realize. This is the first Noble Truth. The third Noble Truth states that there is a way out of this vicious cycle of birth, sickness, old age, and death. The Buddha's notion of this release from this suffering is not to exist in this unwholesome world. The Buddha did not prescribe for us to cure our pain while in this world. So long as we exist in this world we will be subject to this pain (dukkha). If we want to find release and salvation, the only way is not to exist in this world. It is like saying that the hospital is for the sick. The person is sick; that's why he is in hospital. The world is like the hospital. If the person is healthy, he does not need to be in the hospital. Likewise if a person knows how to cultivate his mind to the level of perfection, he will not be reborn in this world. He is a free from further suffering. You can treat it as a self-fulfilling prophesy. We are here to suffer because we have created conditions to "sentence" ourselves to suffer in this world.

Buddhism looks into the larger picture of existence, not merely the physical pain. Buddhism teaches us to SEE this truth of unsatisfactoriness which we cannot change so long as we are here, because it is the nature of this world to suffer. Once we can realize this truth, half of our pain and problems is resolved because we can now bear with the realities of existence, which is pain and sorrow. In the meantime if we have physical pain, we can go see a doctor!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Just good moral values.

Question (Unedited)

What buddhists do for their spiritual growth?

My comment:

Hi V,

Thank you for asking me.

In order to grow spiritually, we need spiritual nourishment. It is in contrast with material nourishment which encourages accumulation of more and more, and the chasing after material possessions. The more we have, the more we desire. This results in selfishness and greed. On the other spectrum, we seek to escape from the unpleasant things. We get upset when we are confronted with those things that we do not like. This is the nature of the world. Most often we are forced to associate with those that we do not like, while we don't seem to get enough of that which we desire. We get annoyed and in the extreme case we become hateful when we are irritated with the unpleasant.

In the life of a "normal" person, his life revolves around 3 things: I want; I don't want; and I don't care. The whole mindset is not conducive for spiritual growth. The whole system is stifled with greed, hatred, and delusion. There is no room for spiritual growth. Knowing this, a diligent Buddhist will cultivate certain values so as to reduce the greed, hatred, and delusion. First he has to start by reducing greed, by being more charitable. Second, he has to cultivate good moral principles which will help him overcome hatred. He has to be a good person without harming others. Third, he practises meditation in order to calm and train his mind to improve on his mission to reduce greed and hatred.

The Buddha's teachings can be summed up in 3 sentences:
Avoid doing evil (avoid greed and hatred)
Do good (practise good moral principles)
Purify the mind (through meditation)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Second Noble Truth and Compassion

Question : (Unedited)

Hi, I touched on this slightly before with you, in referance to a different question, but I wanted a means of clarrification so you can clear this up for me; The First Noble Truth is life is suffering because of impermanence. The Second Noble Truth, according to what I've read is, suffering is from Ignorance. Yet when reading about this ignorance I see many things; The ignorant nature of reality, but I also see dependant origination, I also see, delusions (ie inflictive emotions, anger, pride, self-grasping ignorance), I also see, we have to eliminate selfish desire. How does all this fit in together? Is all of this ignorance or am I totally off base?

Also, how does compassion fit with this? What is the Buddhist definition of compassion as well as how it works in practice? Thanks

My comment:
Hi Mc,

Welcome back.

The second Noble Truth states that suffering is caused by craving. Craving for sensual pleasures, craving for eternal existence, and (ironically?) craving for non-existence which can be interpreted in two ways. One is craving to end life; while the other is viewing life as nihilistic which has no other purpose except to enjoy life to the fullest while still alive, for after death nothing is left. This craving is caused by our ignorance about the true nature of life. To end this vicious cycle, we must have Right View, the first of the Noble 8fold Path, as presented in the 4th Noble Truth.

The path to understanding the true nature of this existence is explained in the Noble 8fold Path, which is the blueprint of the complete teachings of the Buddha. If you study carefully the explanation of the Noble 8fold Path you will find that everything that the Buddha taught is in this Path. "Compassion" is all-pervasive throughout the Path, especially in Right Thinking and Right Action.

"Compassion" is a very tall order. The dictionary explains "compassion" as "sympathetic consciousness of others' distress together with a desire to alleviate it"

Can we be totally compassionate to others to alleviate all their sorrows and distress? Do we have the means and the ability? This would also require us to give up all our selfish desires. It is easy to FEEL or EXPRESS compassion, but to practise complete compassion is another cup of tea. We have to be honest with ourselves and to practise the level of compassion that we are comfortable with, while improving our level in due course.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Trying to be funny?

Question : (Unedited)

Dear Buddhist:
Is it wrong to pray for the love of woman?


My comment:
Hi JB,

Buddhism is about seeking inner peace and final liberation from pain and suffering. Praying for material favours and selfish desires are not encouraged, and not in the ambit of Buddhism.

On a more mundane aspect, seeking love of a woman is a very natural behaviour. If by "praying" you mean petitioning a creator god to grant your wish, then it has nothing to do with Buddhism. But praying and hoping that some kind "angels" may come to your aid is plausible.

Smile from justinchoo :-)


Question : (Unedited)

Hey, hey, hey, now, I don't regard the love of woman as a material accessoire. When it comes to praying that "that some kind "angels" may come to your aid" is "plausible," does "plausible" mean acceptable? Also, couldn't that help one find inner peace? Even Buddha was married!


My comment:

Hi JB,

I don't know whether you are joking or being sincere. But I shall give you the benefit of the doubt. In Buddhism there is no strict rule required for the followers to abide. The teachings of the Buddha emphasizes wholesome and unwholesome actions; skilful and unskilful conduct; and, wise and foolish lifestyle. Whether it is acceptable or not, we can consider the following:
Is the action harmful to oneself?
Is the action harmful to others?
Is the action beneficial?
If not harmful to both, and beneficial, then it is acceptable. If not harmful to both, but not beneficial, then it is up to you.

If you think you can find inner peace by your action, then you can go ahead and you will find the answer when you have taken that action.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Where to place Buddha's image?

Question :(Unedited)

Hello my husband and I have just opened a restaurant and both of us observe the buddhism beliefs and we wanted to put a statue in the restaurant, however the only available place to put the statue is near the bathrooms, but not in them since I know this disrespectful..Is is disrespectful to place the statue near the bathroom?

My comment:
Hi C,

Thank you for asking me.

Congratulations on your new venture! May you prosper!

If you have a free mind, then you actually can place the image anywhere you like. However, with due respect to the holy image, we use our discretion to place it in a more respectable location. It also depends on where you are, I mean, which country you are in. In Buddhist countries, there are always certain allotted location for the image. This is purely tradition and complying to social norm. If you are not in those countries, then it is quite "safe" to place it in any respectable location without causing any offence to anyone. I don't think it is disrespectful to place it near the bathroom. If you are not in a Buddhist country, then you may want to place it in a discreet and yet commanding location, say around the cashier's corner.

But please be cautious if others have different views and opinions. There are a lot of ignorant and superstitious people around. Just ignore them.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Pain management.

Question :Unedited)

I have been greatly concerned about this issue. If one is in physical pain, how can Buddhism help? Buddhism is so logical, what can it offer to one in constant physical pain?

My comment:

Hi M,

I believe my previous answer is relevent to this question. I can offer a little "arm chair" comment. First, to understand the law of kamma will help. Second, meditation with right effort will help. Third, chanting of suttas will also relieve. Fourth, moral support from loved ones and genuine friends will ease the pain. Last but not least, medication.


Follow-up Question (Unedited):

Hi, I asked you a question about suffering, specifically "physical pain" and I was having computer problems so I think you got the same question twice. I received your answer and thanks. You and I went back and forth on Karma and God a couple of weeks ago until I got it and again thank you. I understand what you wrote recently of "the universal truth of existence" (survival being a bitch) and the First Noble Truth. Undertanding that is useful. But is there something more useful? For example; Through dependant origination one see onself in a different way and the pain becomes less; physical pain could make one more compassionate; I read something about mediating on patience (though I don't know what that means); also I read the Dali Lama said, if someone is in pain and there's nothing they can do about it, it is illogical to be upset because then one would have the emotional problems in addition to the physical. These are practical ways of confronting pain, because although life is suffering, Physical pain is a unique type of suffering and therefore may require a unique type of answer. Could you please give me more?

My comment:

Hi M,

It is easy to indulge ourselves in intellectual debate and discussion. It is another thing if one is the victim of pain. Have you ever been in pain for a long period of time? I had, when I was a young student away from home. It was very difficult to bear. At that time Buddhism hasn't yet gelled in my life. I had faith in the medication, but the problem did not go away entirely, even after surgery. One day someone suggested a new remedy and it worked!

So there wasn't any spiritual remedy involved in my case. There are definitely others who share the same experience. What I'm trying to conclude is that pain is pain. The only difference is how to deal with perpetual pain. This is serious matter. Nowadays, cancer is a very common sickness. According to common knowledge, the pain is excrutiating, and the treatment is very painful and debilitating. Unless the patient has a good grasp of Buddhism and has been meditating, it is very difficult for a "newcomer" to use the teachings of the Buddha to overcome pain in sickness. That is why the Christians have a field day "saving dying souls", by performing prayers for them.

The Buddhists have their methods to face pain with mindfulness through meditation. As I cautioned earlier, it is easy to indulge in theoretical exercise. It is a different matter when one is actually suffering great pain continuously. In the end we still need medical help.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Hard it is to maintain one's cool.


We touched on this before on a separte issue, but I would like more information if you would be kind enough to share it; On frustration, I realize its a negative emotion that can only harm myself, but once anger begins its easy for it to spiral. How does one stop it in the first place?

My comment:

Hi M,

I am sorry to disappoint you with my answer. There is NO easy way to stop all negative and aggressive emotions from flaring up. I am speaking from my personal experience. Different people have different tendencies and characteristics, mostly carried forward from their past kamma. As such these are very strong traits which are very difficult to change. If one is fortunate to carry positive and amiable traits, one faces less problem and would be most probably a very likeable and successful person. On the other hand, if one carries negative and obnoxious traits, then one is in trouble for the rest of one's life.

The immediate defence is to learn from mistakes and to acknowledge them. Then we try again. For long term strategy, Buddhist meditation is the answer. We have to cultivate good habits in order to rid the bad ones. If we can successfully train our mind to be constantly mindful of our thoughts and actions, then we can control the situation. When negative or hateful thoughts or reactions surface, we will have the presence of mind to check our reactions, and respond skilfully and wisely.

The other approach is to tell ourselves that negative thoughts are harmful to our nervous systems. If we choose to prolong this mental poisoning, then we ourselves, are to suffer and not the other parties. If we are wise, then we will take steps to check our negative emotions.

Below is the recitation that I used to recite most mornings upon waking up. It is from the famous "motivation Guru (teacher)" Napoleon Hill, which I quote:
"Until I've learned to be tolerant with those who do not always agree with me-- Until I've cultivated the habit of saying some kind words of those whom I do not admire--Until I've formed the habit of looking for the good instead of the bad thare is in others; I will be neither successful nor happy. For every act or thought that I release modifies my own character in exact conformity with the nature of the act or thought. I cannot release a thought without first implanting the sum and substance and nature of it in my own subconscious mind, there to become a part and parcel of my own character. This is why I cannot afford to hate or envy or strike back at another person."

See? Universal truths have no boundary. I am sure Hill is no Buddhist, but he had wisdom to see the truth!

Have peace: from justinchoo :-)
Related Posts with Thumbnails