Monday, September 13, 2010

I'm sure many of you have met friends who subscribe to Chinese superstitions and claim that their Buddhists. Here's an article that will help you to understand more and refer your friends to so as the clear the common misconceptions people have on Buddhism. At the same time, you might just find that you've had some misconceptions about your own religion. Otherwise, it'll serve a good source for you to reinforce your basics and learn how to correct the others. I've only extracted some of the common ones that my friends ask me about, if you want to read the full article, do refer to the link at the end of the post =]

1. Buddhists must be vegetarians
All Buddhists are vegetarians, right? Well, no. Some Buddhists are vegetarians, but some are not. Attitudes about vegetarianism vary from sect to sect as well as from individual to individual. If you are wondering whether you must commit to being a vegetarian to become a Buddhist, the answer is, maybe, but possibly not.

The earliest Buddhists scriptures suggest the historical Buddha himself was not a vegetarian. The first order of monks begged for their food, and the rule was that if a monk was given meat, he was required to eat it unless he knew that the animal was slaughtered specifically to feed monks.

There was an exception to the meat for alms rule, however. If monks knew or suspected that an animal had been slaughtered specifically to feed monks, they were to refuse to take the meat. On the other hand, leftover meat from an animal slaughtered to feed a lay family was acceptable.

The Buddha also listed certain types of meat that were not to be eaten. These included horse, elephant, dog, snake, tiger, leopard and bear. Because only some meat was specifically forbidden, we can infer that eating other meat was permissible.

The Middle Way
Buddhism discourages fanatical perfectionism. The Buddha taught his followers to find a middle way between extreme practices and opinions. For this reason, Buddhists who do practice vegetarianism are discouraged from becoming fanatically attached to it.

A Buddhist practices
metta, which is loving kindness to all beings without selfish attachment. Buddhist refrain from eating meat out of loving kindness for living animals, not because there is something unwholesome or corrupt about an animal's body. In other words, the meat itself is not the point, and under some circumstances compassion might cause a Buddhist to break the rules.

For example, let's say you visit your elderly grandmother, whom you have not seen for a long time. You arrive at her home and find that she has cooked what had been your favorite dish when you were a child -- stuffed pork chops. She doesn't do much cooking any more, because her elderly body doesn't move around the kitchen so well. But it is the dearest wish of her heart to give you something special and watch you dig into those stuffed pork chops the way you used to. She has been looking forward to this for weeks.

How Vegetarianism helps
Vegetarians today also believe that by playing their part as a market player, eating less meat decreases the demand and hence the supply of meat, thus decreasing the number of animals killed for consumption.

2. Kamma is fate
The word "karma" means "action," not "fate." In Buddhism, karma is an energy created by willful action, through thoughts, words and deeds. We are all creating karma every minute, and the karma we create affects us every minute.

It's common to think of "my karma" as something you did in your last life that seals your fate in this life, but this is not Buddhist understanding. Karma is an action, not a result. The future is not set in stone. You can change the course of your life right now by changing your volitional acts and self-destructive patterns.

In our previous sharing session we have discussed that results are conditioned by factors in the 5 categories, including the biological world, the kammic laws, the physical world and seasonal changes. Yes, we may have had kamma from past actions. However, without the conditions present, the kammic energy might not have the opportunity to ripen. Simply to say, by altering the conditions around us with the choices and actions we make, we do have control of our lives.

4. Buddhism Teaches that we Live to Suffer

The four noble truths states that life is Dukkha, which has been often inappropriately translated as "suffering". A better term for dukkha will be a state of dissatisfaction. Dukkha can be categorised into the following:

a) Birth
b) Old Age
c) Sickness
d) Death
e) Being associated with the unpleasant
f) Being separated from the pleasant

After allowing us to identify the sources of dissatisfaction in life, the Buddha has not failed to remind us that there is happiness in life through spiritual friendship and such. However, he reminded us that these are impermanent and we should not be attached to them. In addition, the Buddha has not kept us pessimistic by informing that there is an end to Dukkha and he told us the solution to it- the noble eightfold path. He has thus informed us and reminded us that there is a solution to the end of it- and we can all achieve it through practice and purification of the mind.


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