Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Where do we go after this life?


Question : (Unedited)
Thank you for your reply to an earlier question.  I am confused as to what happens after death to someone who is advanced spiritually.  Am I correct in that Nirvana is freedom from the cycle of rebirth? If so, what does being in a state of Nirvana involve? Is this the same as being reborn in a higher realm?

Also, I understand it is the belief that the Dalai Lama and other spiritual teachers choose to be reborn as a human over and over to help lead others toward enlightenment. Would this not be a mission of a bodhisattva? If one chose not to be reborn, would this not be considered self-serving? If one is not reborn, can a Buddha continue to "guide" humans via prayers, etc?

Sorry for so many questions, but I am quite confused on this issue - Thanks!

My comment:
Hi S,

A spiritually advanced person will most probably be reborn in a higher realm.  Higher realm is still within the conditioned state of existence, which means after a period of time the being will die and be reborn; the cycle still goes on.  Nibbana (Nirvana) is very different.  It actually means "no more craving".  It is an enlightened state, where the person has completely irredicated greed, hatred and delusion.  There is no more rebirth into the cycle of births and deaths.  Nibbana is not a place.  It is a state where it is not bound by conditions.  It is actually not within human ability to fully understand what Nibbana is.  For a more elaborate explaination please click here:

I do not know about the thinking of Dalai Lama or other spritual leaders.  The "Bodhisatta" concept is a Mahayana idea.  I practise the Theravada tradition.  The Buddha did not guide humans through prayers.  He guides us through his teachings.  That is why we do not need the Buddha in person to show us the way. That's why, although the Buddha is not around, his teachings (The Dhamma) are our guiding light.  

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Freedom to choose and decide


Question : (Unedited)
I smoke, drink, eat meat and play military computer games. I feel drawn to the bhuddist way of life. Will all of these have to go?

My comment:
Hi B,

Thank you for asking me.

Since you are drawn to the Buddhist way of life, continue to study and practise the Buddha's sublime teachings. You will eventually realize that the teachings of the Buddha are very practical and liberal.  You will be encouraged to use your common sense and human intelligence to analyze all the Buddha's teachings.  Given time you will find the answers by yourself.  Once this happens, your mind will be liberated and you will gain the freedom to think for yourself and not depending on any external agent to make decision for you.  The Buddha's teachings will pave the way for you to walk the path of freedom to know what is right and what is wrong.  Only you yourself can make this decision.   A Buddhist is free to decide for himself what is skilful and what is unskilful living.  He has this freedom and he must use this freedom to decide for himself.

If I were to tell you to stop what you are doing now, don't you think that I am actually insulting your intelligence?  For you are intelligent enough to know what is good and what is bad for you.  I must respect your absolute freedom to decide for yourself.  The Buddha never command anyone to stop doing anything.  He would point out to them that certain behaviour is not beneficial, while others are.  If the person did not want to harm himself,  he should not continue with the unskilful behaviour.

As a guideline, we need to ask ourselves these three questions:
1. Is this action harmful to oneself?
2. Is this action harmful to others?
3. Is this action bebeficial?

Monday, August 20, 2012

The world is not perfect

Question : (Unedited)
monks excommunicating and turning their alm bowls to the ruling junta, is it not the equivalent of a  judgment? how does Theravada Buddhism regards this action in its present context ? and please don't tell me those were bogus monks...

My comment: 
Hi V,
In normal circumstances, your question will be answered based on the purpose of becoming a monk.  A monk's life is supposed to be detached from worldly affairs.  However, in critical situations like the one in Myanmar, I would reason that certain amount of common sense and wisdom have to take into consideration.  The sangha (community of monks) depends on the goodwill of the devotees for their sustenance.  I don't think that the monks should be so heartless not to do anything knowing that the hands that feed them are deliberately tied up.  The cruel regime controls the masses with an iron fist.  It plunders the nation's wealth without a care for their citizens.  Prices are sky rocketing and the masses are threatened with hunger.  If nothing else, I would say the monks have the moral duty to stand up and be counted.  Such is the real nature of this existence.  It is very difficult to live in peace because of the prevalence of evil.  This is the Buddha's warning.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Life after death (Part 2 of 2)

Question : (Unedited)
Hmm, I knew that Buddhists believe in reincarnation, but did not know that they believe in something like heaven and hell and that we die there and again are reborn in another realm of existence.
As for heaven and hell.
I'm a Catholic so I should believe in heaven and hell, and also in purgatory.
According to my faith we have time here on earth to change ourselves for better to get to this better place after death. 
And it's not like this that only those who lead a pious life from birth to death will go to heaven. It's not the start which is important, but the finish. There are many saints in my religion, and many of them were not good people at the beginning of their lives, but they changed, they rehabilitated themselves. Of course we're never sure where they went after death. It might have been heaven or purgatory, but, we're quite certain it's not hell where they went to. I think a good example could be Mother Teresa who worked with the poor almost throughout her life. So many people believe that after death she went straight to heaven cause she lead a pious life, helped many people, lived in poverty, did not seek comfort, devoted her whole life to God she believed in. As I said there is also purgatory. And those who did not manage to redeem all their sins here on earth after death they go to purgatory where they suffer cause they cannot watch God like the souls in heaven. That's why we here on earth, pray for them, cause it is the only way we can help them. However, if someone gets to purgatory it is sure that he/she will one day go to heaven. It is said that at the end of time, when the judgement day comes purgatory will stop exist. There will be only heaven and hell, and all those who were in purgatory will go to heaven.
As for hell it is a place of eternal sufferring and condemnation. It's a place for those who throughout  their lives did almost nothing else but evil. As I said it's not the point how you start but how you finish.
Where do you think Hitler, Stalin, Hussain, and other cruel dictators might have gone when they died? You wrote: are we so evil that we have to be condemned to eternal hell. I think some people are, because they don't want to change when they have time for it. They are selfish, greedy, and won't hesitate to even kill someone to achieve their aims. Where do you think they should go after death? They should be rewarded or punished? There are no pure people, everyone has good and bad sides, everyone once did good and evil, but some people want to change and some don't, or maybe rather- they don't care.
You wrote:  All of us have both good and bad qualities. I agree. It's hard to say for anyone of us if someone deserves to go to heaven or hell. Why? Because we do not know the whole life of the given person. But we believe that God knows everything, and that's why HE's the only one who can pass an objective judgement upon you, and no one else.
Of course there are many things I'm not sure of. For example, what about those who are good, honest, just people, but they do not believe in God. What about them? Frankly speaking I don't know, I would have to ask a priest for instance.
Take care.

My comment:
Hi L,

Thank you for your learned and impartial comments.  It is such a pleasure to communicate with you especially so, now that knowing you are a Catholic.  It is quite unusual for a Christian to be so interested in Buddhism for such a long period.  You are a good Catholic and my respect for you.  It is beneficial to know of others' beliefs although we may not agree with them.  Only with respect and understanding for others can we live in peace and happiness.  

Regards, justinchoo :-)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Life after death (Part 1 of 2)

Question: (Unedited)
Hello justinchoo!
Can we say that Buddhism is an atheistic religion?
Why do Buddhists do not believe in afterlife? I think it would be hard for me not to believe in afterlife. I think it would be very unjust if there were no life after death.
Just imagine two people getting born at the same time. One is born into a very rich family and leads a happy life, is healthy and so on. The other one is born sick, paralysed, poor and has to live like this to the end of his days. They both die at the same time. If there is no afterlife then it would be very unjust, their lives would be unjust, and I believe that justice exists if not here than somewhere else.
What's Buddhist view on after life?
Thank You


My comment:
Hi L,

Welcome back if you are the same Luke.  However,if you are the same Luke, I would be surprised if you still ask such questions.

If "atheistic" means the rejection of the belief in an all-powerful God, then Buddhism is an atheistic religion.

I think you are referring to the Christian concept of "afterlife" where one goes to eternal heaven or eternal hell.  Buddhism does not subscribe to such "eternal" places as they view even heavens and hells as not eternal.  Anyone reborn in heaven or hell will eventually die and reborn again in another realm of existence.  Buddhists believe in life after death.  The concept of rebirth explains clearly that this is not our first liives nor our last.  We have been through the cycles of births and deaths since time immemorial.  Two people born with different conditions clearly confirm the concepts of kamma and rebirth.  Because one had enough accumulation of good actions (kamma) in his previous life, one is born healthy and happy.  Whereas the other had committed bad actions during his past life, he is born crippled to suffer.  The law of cause and effect is amoral and works like clockwork.  Just like gravity, there is no escape from its pull.  I agree with you that it is very unjust if there is no life after death.  It would also be unjust if there is only one afterlife and only two places to go, heaven or hell.  How could our lives be so clearcut that we either have to go to hell or heaven?  Are we so pure that we will go to heaven to enjoy ourselves forever?  Or are we so evil that we have to be condemned to eternal hell?  All of us have both good and bad qualities.  As such if there is only one heaven and one hell, there will be great problem in selection.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Life is a dream


Question : (Unedited)
Hi there, i'm a 'beginner' buddhist in that i have only become interested in buddhism in the last few months and have taken it upon myself to read through introductory texts. I am currently reading through 'The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying' and really wanted some help in understanding a certain concept i have stumbled upon. I keep reading of the Buddhists equating reality to an 'illusion' or a 'dream'. I can't seem to get past the fact that if this were to be believed then it would put one in a rather depressed state? Surely if all this life were merely a dream then there would be no point whatsoever to it? Am I taking this the wrong way? Are the texts simply saying that 'metaphorically' life is a little bit 'like' a dream or do Buddhists actually belive this to be true? Sorry for the waffling - hope you can help me understand. Thank you.

My comment :
Hi Dan,

Thank you for asking me.

This "illusion or dream" is the "emptiness" that the Buddha revealed.  "Emptiness" concept in Buddhism is a unique revelation by the Buddha.  It is the 3rd characteristic of what we call the 3 characteristics of the nature of this world.  The Buddha expounded the trilogy of Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta, meaning Impermanance, Unsatisfactoriness, No soul or insubstantiality or emptiness.
This concept of emptiness can only be understood if one understands the concept of Anatta.  It takes some time and a lot of contemplation to understand Anatta.  The underlying concept of Anatta is that in the final analysis, there is nothing in this world which we can call our own.  As such it is "empty".  The Pali term is called Sunnata (pronounce: Soon - ya - ta).  If one can really accept this concept then one is free from the clutches of the miseries of this world.

What we are experiencing in life IS real; not exactly "emptiness" or "illusion".  It is the whole futile process of living (existence) that is "emptiness" or "illusion".  Now let us be an observer of a life cycle of a butterfly.  First the egg, then the caterpillar, followed by the pupa in the chrysalis, and finally emerged the butterfly.  All this process took only a few weeks, and the butterfly will die after another two weeks.  As an observer, we can SEE the futility of this cycle which is real; but don't we see the "emptiness" in this process?  As far as the butterfly is concerned, it is a real life.  As far as we observers are concerned, it is just a passing passage of one very short life.  This to me relates very well to the concept of "emptiness".  Imagine the butterfly to be you, maybe you could see this "emptiness" for real!

I would suggest you study the basic concepts of Buddhism first before going into the deeper discussion of Buddhist concepts.  Also bear in mind there are slight differences in Buddhist interpretations by the different traditions.  The "mother" of all Buddhist web sites is which you will be given all the relevent links to all Buddhist subjects.

Hope this helps.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Being honest is not necessarily arrogant


Question : (Unedited)

I follow a spiritual path and include a lot of buddhism into it. One of the buddhist parts is humbleness. I try to not be arrogant and to be humble. The thing is that i am unemployed.  When not having a job i have to "market myself", which basicly entails to brag about my positive sides. To have to market myself like a product does not feel very humble. How do i solve this? I want to practice being humble but every day i have to write job applications, and i am supposed to exaggerate my good sides and really, really advertise myself. This does not feel like a humble thing to do at all.

Do you have any suggestions on what to do?

My comment:
Hi D,

Thank you for asking me.

Being humble means not to act arrogantly.  When you write about your positive attributes, you are telling the truth.  That is not being arrogant.  Please continue to project your positive attributes, and by all means market your talents.  Please remember, this is not arrogance.  This is wise marketing.  If you don't project your salient talents, you are only short-changing yourself!

I wish you success in your job search. 

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