Friday, February 25, 2011

Self defence

Question :(Unedited)
If you are in a confrontation and have tried your best to sort out a solution in a non violent way and the person is still insisting on a physical fight, is it okay to defend yourself? If it is not okay is there any way to atone for the action?

Hi M,

Welcome back.

Your question had been asked a million times, but there is no clear-cut satisfactory answer.  If it is so easy to provide a solution, then there will not be any war right now!  Some say it's just a hypothesis.  Some say it's ok, while others not.  Actually, in a real scenario, one would not have the time to think that rationally.  Most probably the urgency will give way to immediate instinct of self-preservation.  To be "politically" correct, the answer may be "depend on the situation".

In the Buddhist context, it boils down to "wholesome" and "unwholesome" action.  To inflict harm on others is "unwholesome" action, and there is no mitigation appeal.  However, the level of severity may differ.  Downright murder is very serious compared with killing in self-defence.  We are faced with such uncertainties in life simply because it is the very nature of this existence.  This is precisely what the Buddha was trying to wake us up to see the danger and uncertainties in life.  Be that as it may, we therefore must strive on with diligence to practise the Golden Rule: "Do not do to others what you do not wish others do to you."  If we conduct our lives wisely, wholesomely, and peacefully, then the natural law will protect us, and we will not have to face with situations as described by you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

How to pray?

Question : (Unedited)
Is it best to pray standing up, sitting down, on your knees, or bowing down? Should my hands be open, closed, or lifted up? Do my eyes need to be closed when I pray? Is it better to pray in a temple building, or out in nature? Should I pray in the morning when I get up, or at night before I go to bed? Are there certain words that I need to say in my prayer? How do I begin my prayer? What is the proper way to close a prayer? What is the proper way to pray? Do any of the above things even matter?

Hi L...,

Thank you for asking me.

I shall answer your last question first.  It really doesn't matter how you "pray".

Actually Buddhists do not "pray" in the Christian sense.  However we pay homage to the image of the Buddha as a mark of reverence.  We also recite the suttas which are the teachings of the Buddha; and after that we radiate good thoughts to share with the Devas (higher beings) and other beings.  With this sharing we may make aspirations that the Devas may protect us.  This is the Theravada practice.

Coming back to the "proper" rites and rituals; it will depend on which tradition you practise.  The three main groups, namely, the Tibetan, Chinese Mahayana, and Theravada have different "styles" in their "praying" gestures.  The best way to know them is to visit the respective temples and join in the rituals.

I can share with you the Theravada way I am practising.  I recite the "salutations and refuges" and the five precepts first thing in the morning and last thing before going to sleep.  As my alter is low, I recite, kneeling with hands clasped.  After the recitation, I bow three times with my forehead touching the floor.  Please click here to follow the ritual:

Monday, February 7, 2011

Holy string

Question : (Unedited)
i visited cambodia.  in a buddhist temple, a buddhist priest surprised me and
put a red yarn around my wrist.  someone said it was for luck. what does it
symbolize?  i am not sure what it is for but i was going to take it off because it
looks like the string they use for kabbala but wondering if it means something
special for buddhism.  

My comment: 
Hi M,

Traditionally, after chanting and blessing, the monk will tie a string (usually yellow or orange colour) on the wrist of the devotee, as an assurance for protection.  There is no harm in taking off the string. 

However since it signifies something "spiritual" or "holy" you should treat it with respect and avoid throwing it in the rubbish bin (trash bin).  You could put it in a flower pot.

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