Friday, February 24, 2012

Society, salvation and the path

Question : (Unedited)
Hi! One of my assignments this week in my Virtual High School course
and Western Thought) is to interview an expert with three questions
the subject of Buddhism. Obviously, I chose you as my expert! If possible, I
would appreciate a reply by Saturday, October 6th. Thank you so much for
time and availability!
1) Present-day society is consumed and dominating by rapid, changing,
and powerful forces such as technological innovation, industrialization, and
urbanization. Even if one is able to meditate daily in quiet and peace, how
does one effectively maintain this calm, reflective mindset and effectively
apply it to interactions in the frenzied day-to-day world?
2) The following question is a theoretical query regarding karma,
reincarnation, and nirvana.  Is it theoretically possible for someone to never
truly realize and overcome all accumulated karma? Can certain individuals
possess so much delusion, greed, and aversion that they never achieve
release from the retributive cycle of reincarnation, or do all people inevitably
enter the stream toward Nirvana despite their varying degrees of
3) Out of the eight guides of the Noble Eightfold Path (Right View, Right
Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right
Mindfulness, Right Concentration), which do you think is the most vital and
practical towards achieving ultimate Nirvana in present-day society? Why?

My comment:
Hi K,

Thank you for asking me.

1) Very difficult.  For an average person (including me) it is very difficult to maintain the mindfulness to be calm and alert in troubled situation.  It takes great effort in training one's mind to be constantly guarded and mindful.  Different people will experience different levels of "success".  It depends on the intensity of meditation training and the person's inborn character.  But the idea is to constantly practise within one's level of ability, and to progress from there through time.

2) The time frame of our existence is beyong our worldly comprehension.  The Buddha used the term "kappa" to denote an infinite period of aeon.  Assuming a rock cube of 1 cubic mile.  Once in every 100 years it is wiped with a cloth.  Even when the rock is wiped out, a kappa is still not complete.  Such is the great length of time that we mortals are not able to imagine.  And the number of beings is also uncountable.  There will never be an end to this cycle of birth and death.  Since it is a cycle, some will gain release, while others will wallow in this great cycle of birth and death.  It is just like a hospital...when will the hospital be able to cure all and close shop?

3) The eightfold path can either be viewed as a cycle, or an eight-lane highway.  Either way, it means that the eight factors must be practised together; with varying emphasis at different times.  
  The Buddha started with "Right View" to explain the Path.  Before we can do anything, we MUST have the right view or understanding of the things we wish to do.  Take for example, driving.  We must understand what is "driving" before we take on the wheels.  Only with understanding, can we "think" correctly.  When we can think correctly, we will be able to speak and act correctly. With our moral foundation laid, we can now take to life, ensuring we lead a dignified and harmless life.  With our daily activities in good control, we can now make extra effort to improve our spiritual lives to build up our mindfulness in order to practise the eightfold path.  With our lives in control, we then set out to purify our mind through Buddhist meditation, which will set us free from this worldly existence.

We can divide the Path into three parts. The first two is what we call "wisdom" path.  The next three is the "morality" path.  The last three is the "concentration or meditative" path.    

As you can see, the Path has to be taken in toto.  The eight parts cannot be seperated. They must be practised together.  However we may say that we should start with the "morality" stage, then making effort to practise "meditation" in order to gain insight and wisdom (the wisdom stage) as to the real nature of existence.
If we insist on pin-pointing the most important factor, then as the Buddha pointed out, the first one is the most important...Right View.  Without right view or understanding, everything collapses.

Hope this helps.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Freedom to decide

Question : (Unedited)
Im only 12 years old but i firmly believe that buddhism is the religion i have been looking for. I have confidence that the four noble truths will lead me through my life in happines. I told my parents the great news that i had become a buddhist. There reply was,"When you are 18 you may switch to whichever religion you like, but for now you are a christian." Should i stay a christian and wait for the age of 18 or follow my beliefs and freedom of religion and be a buddhist anyway?

My comment:
Hi M,

Welcome to the path of inner peace and happiness.  You are a very special person to be interested in Buddhism despite your young age.  You are also very lucky to have parents who will give you the freedom of choice come 18 years old.  You should respect your parents' feelings and advice.  That doesn't mean that you cannot practise Buddhism now.  As you know the Buddha's teachings are very practical.  Just follow his teachings to be good, avoid evil and be always mindful of these two values; you will be in the right path.  I am sure your parents will agree with these universal principles.  As far as your mind is concerned you are a Buddhist.  No one can take away your mental decision.  When you turn 18 you are free to declare to the world that you are now "officially" a Buddhist, and with the "blessings" of your parents.  Who knows, your parents may be impressed by your Buddhist virtues that they may want to know what is it in Buddhism that their intelligent son can be so devoted to.  

Best wishes to you.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012


Question : (Unedited)
My husband has cheated on me.  I have forgiven him but i am having a hard time trusting him.  It has put me into depression because he has told me how it has been my fault for not being a good wife for all these 20 years we have been married.  I never knew this, because he has never once complained to me about it.  I have gone to the doctors to be put on antidepressants.  They don't seem to be helping me, i still feel sad about how he has betrayed me and lied to me.  This hasn't been the first time he has done this i have found out.  I still love him but don't know what to do next, do i divorce him and move on without him.  we have 3 children we still need to raise and if i do divorce him it will put me in the poor house.  Help.

My comment:
Hi D,

I only wish I can give you clear cut answers and solutions; but that would be cheating you.  I am also not qualified to provide advice of this nature.  Nevertheless, I shall share my opinion regarding your situation.  Before that, let me assure you that everyone has worldly problems, including me.  Everyone's problems seems to be the greatest compared with others.  At times I also feel that my problems are the greatest.  The true fact is that all our problems are stressful and some don't seem to have any solution.  It is "very difficult to bear", so pointed out by the Buddha.  This is the first Noble Truth of our miserable existence.  The only consolation is to realize this universal truth of life, and try to sail through the rough waters with all the pains and agony; and hope that with our wholesome living by pratising the Buddha's teachings, life can be a little bit more sympathetic to us.  

As for your situation, the society that you live in also plays an important part in your decision.  Different societies have different perceptions regarding marital problems.  Some societies are more sympathetic and supportive of separated families, while others are not.  You have to take into serious considerations of the welfare of your children.  A lot of Asian families still stay together despite problems like yours just because of the love and for the sake of the children.  Please weigh your priorities and your present situation.  Let wise judgement be the teacher.  Do not let immediate heartache and emotional sentiment lead you to hasty and unwise decision.  If possible, talk to your trusted friends and relatives.

May you still find peace in this turbulent world.

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