Saturday, January 21, 2012


Question : (Unedited)

hi there what day of the week to buddhist pray. i could really use your help as iam writing about this for school thanx regards

My comment:

Hi L,

Thanks for asking me.

In the context of Christian prayer, Buddhists do not pray as we do not believe that there is any higher being to be prayed to.  Prayer usually means an act to solicit, petition, or supplicate a favour from a higher being usually "God".  However we recite the "suttas" which are the discourses of the Buddha.  This is what we call chanting, and after that we may make an aspiration whereby the other beings existing in other planes of existence may assist us in our worldly problems.

We do not pray to the Buddha for he is dead and gone.  But his teachings which are more important, are here for us to live by.  It's just like we know Faraday discovered electricity, but we don't need him around to use electricity.  His discovery is more important than his personality.  So is the Buddha; who advised us to practise his teachings and not to worship him.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Life is about choices

Question : (Unedited)
As I understand Buddhism, Buddhists teach respect towards all living things. Buddhists are expected to not kill or otherwise harm them.

This teaching is clear when dealing with the killing, butchering and eating of animals. My question is how far down the animal chain of complexity does this teaching go.

For example:
Is it OK to kill mosquitoes when one considers that they kill large number of humans via malaria.

Is it OK to use flea powder on one's pets when the option is allowing one's pets to suffer and perhaps die?

Is it OK to take antibiotics to cure a disease when the purpose of the antibiotics is to kill bacteria?


My comment:

The world is surrounded by good and bad things. It is the very nature of this world to be such. That was why the Buddha led us to SEE the real nature of this world. Once we realize this truth, we will gradually come to terms with this contradiction, the dichotomy of good and bad. The Buddha referred this as "Dukkha"..."very difficult to bear".  It is always this Dukkha that we have to live and contend with. If you watch the National Geographic programme, you will see this Dukkha overpowering our lives. Every moment, when a life lives, another life has to be sacrificed. This is great Dukkha. But we are blind to this fact. We ignorantly think that we can live without others dying for us.

One very important faculty that we must utilize is our "wisdom".  The wisdom to see the bigger picture; to realize the greater good of performing certain unwholesome acts; to come to terms with this Dukkha of the world.

If everyone refused to kill even an ant, then who is going to do the "dirty jobs", so to say. Who is going to defend the country? Who is going to keep law and order in the streets? Who is going to get rid of the pests that may affect our health? These are all very urgent and realistic questions. Those who are in this category may take consolation that they are doing it for the greater good of the society and nation. However, at the same time they could strive to lead a dignified, noble and harmless life as best they could. They still can follow and practise the teachings of the Buddha to the best of their ability.

The realities of this world and this existence are such that there are always this unsatisfactoriness and imperfections where many a time we are confronted, without much choice. As for taking life, we must also consider factors like its life-span, its usefulness, its harmfulness to others and the circumstances.  If the life has a very short life-span, is not useful to society, and causes harm to others, then there is some consolation and mitigation if one kills it.  However we must bear in mind that the act of killing for whatever reason is an unwholesome act.  We have to use our wisdom, common sense and intellectual judgement to draw the line.  It is up to the individual to set his "standard" of practice.

Here are my counter questions to your 3 questions:

"Is it OK to kill mosquitoes when one considers that they kill large number of humans via malaria?"
Is it Ok for humans to die by refusing to kill the mosquitoes?

"Is it OK to use flea powder on one's pets when the option is allowing one's pets to suffer and perhaps die?"
Is it OK to allow your pets to suffer and die by refusing to use flea powder?  

"Is it OK to take antibiotics to cure a disease when the purpose of the antibiotics is to kill bacteria?"
Is it OK not to cure a disease by refusing to administer antibiotics?  (Actually bacteria are merely living organisms without consciousness)

The choice is yours.  We must also bear in mind that we can take certain precautions to ensure that these problems be minimized with proper hygiene and healthy living.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Devil in us.

Question : (Unedited)
do buddhists believe in satin A.K.A. the devil ?

My comment:

Hi T,

No, we don't believe.  But yes, we know the existence of the devil.  This "devil" is not affiliated to any religion.  This "devil" is within us.  Whenever we are angry, hateful, greedy, vengeful, selfish, and having other evil thoughts or doing any evil deeds, we just need to stand infront of the mirror and we will see the REAL devil!!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Buddhist history

Question : (Unedited)

What are some changes Buddhism underwent from its founding and why? Difference in practice/belief from past to present.

My comment:
Hi P,

Thank you for asking me.

A little historical background of Buddhism will answer your question. During the Buddha's time, his teachings were all memorized by the learned monks and passed down as such. After a few hundred years, differences in interpretations began to appear. A lot of Brahmins from the Brahmin religion (modern day Hinduism) became Buddhists. During that time the emperor was a Buddhist. His name was King Asoka. Naturally, all would like to become Buddhists! Because of these differences, King Asoka called for a council of senior monks to confirm the authenticity of the Buddha's teachings. The council of learned monks recited and confirmed the full text of the teachings which had been handed down by verbal recitation. They referred to this confirmation as the text of the elders (senior monks). In the Pali language it is called Theravada, which is the tradition that I follow. The Brahmin group decided to have their own version and called themselves the Great Vehicle (Great Wheel), in Pali, Mahayana. They then belittled the Theravada by calling them Lesser Vehicle which in Pali is Hinayana.

The Mahayana spread towards the north-west to Afghanistan, the Silk Route to China, Korea, and Japan. While the Theravada spread to the south to Ceylon (Sri Lanka), and then up north-east to Burma, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam.

Being very practical teachings based on universal truths, Buddhism was able to be accepted by the different communities. They could practise Buddhism without having to change their cultures and customs. That is why we have Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese Buddhism, Japanese Buddhism, and who knows Western Buddhism!

The beauty of Buddhism is that although there are such varieties, the basic teachings of the Buddha are the same. The difference is actually in the rites and rituals, and some other minor subjects.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Who am I?

Question : (Unedited)
If there is no self at all, who is meditating? your body? your mind? Are we something bigger than just humans? and when we die, who is being reborn?

Thank you!

My comment:
Hi K,

Thank you for asking me.

The Buddhist concept of "no self" is not to be literally translated as such. The Pali term is "Anatta".  What the Buddha meant was that there was no permanent,unchanging self.  There is no permanent unchanging soul.  There is no permanent unchanging "I".  In order to understand this concept, we need to know the Buddha's revelation of what constitute a person.  A person is comprised of matter (physical body) and mind.  We know that this physical body will perish one day.  It is not a permanent entity.  The mind is also not a permanent unchanging phenomenon.  The mind is always in a state of flux.  There are thought moments continuously going on in the mind.  This is the consciousness or energy that gives the mind its substance.   The energy of the mind is just like the electric current flowing continuously, but no two moments are the same.

The existence of a person 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.  Likewise, wholesome kammic energy will seek out a happy rebirth.  Often, the kammic energy is a mixture of both good and bad strains.
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