Material

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  • Material Q&A
  • Q1. Why do monastics of the Temple wear yellow robes?

    Reverends in this temple wear identical robes common to that of Tang Dynasty (A.D.618-906). Long sleeves covering the hands are part of the traditional design. Fully ordained monastics usually wear yellow ochre-coloured robes. This earth tone hue derives from the Buddha’s directive that monastics wear clothing assembled from clean but discarded rags, coloured with bark dye to a brownish colour. It also represents the mud of ignorance from which all beings necessarily emerge. For special occasions or service, an additional ceremonial robe is draped over the left shoulder.

  • Q2. In the Temple, to whom is the main shrine dedicated to?

    The main shrine is dedicated to Kuan Yin (Avalokitesvara) Bodhisattva, the Great Compassionate and Merciful One. Kuan Yin’s manifestations are numerous in both male and female forms, and the one representing in the main hall is the ‘Thousand Hands and Thousand Eyes Kuan Yin’ symbolizing his great ability to help all those in need and to see all suffering in the world. The implements held by the hands are metaphors of his infinite power and compassion, as well as of the individual strength a person must summon to overcome unwholesome ways.

  • Q3. What are the eighteen statues at the front gate of Chung Tian Temple?

    They are the eighteen Arhats. Arhats are perfected beings of Hinayana Buddhism who attain enlightenment by listening and practicing the Buddha’s teaching. An Arhat has traversed the Noble Eightfold Path and transcended samsara (rebirth cycle). These Arhats were said to remain in this world to protect the Dharma. They are usually represented as possessing various kinds of supernatural power, symbolized either by objects held in their hands or by wild animals crouching submissively beside them.

  • Q4. What is a Pagoda?

    Pagoda has its origin from Indian stupa, an ancient type of building used to store sutras and sacred relics of Buddha. With the spread of Buddhism to China, Chinese architectural elements were gradually incorporated into pagoda design. Its tapering design reaching to the sky is synonymous with the idea of practicing Buddhism step by step which finally leads to supreme enlightenment. Although different in appearance from its stupa forebears, it continues to symbolize the Buddha, and building one generates much merit. Nowadays it may be used as a resting place for cremated ashes of devotees.

Social

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  • Social Q&A
  • Q1. How do Buddhists view other religious groups?

    Buddhism encourages respect and understanding amongst various religious denominations. Buddhists are not forbidden to give due respect to other religious teachers, nor are they restricted to visit places of worship and attending other religious services, other than Buddhism. They can show their co-operation while maintaining their basic Buddhist principle. Buddhism advocates mutual respect, compassion and co-operation towards other religious groups so as to co-exist harmoniously and to honour each other’s differences.

  • Q2. How does one become a Buddhist?

    Any person who rightly follows and practices Buddha’s teaching is considered as a Buddhist. People wishing to identify themselves as Buddhists typically participate in a Ceremony known as Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem (i.e. the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha), relying on them to alleviate suffering and attain enlightenment.

    In accepting the path of the Triple Gem, one should also pursue further in cultivation to observe the Five Precepts which engender good conduct i.e. no killing, no stealing, no lying, no sexual misconduct and no intoxicant.

  • Q3. Are there any specific roles for the Buddhists in contributing to the temple?

    Besides the monastics, lay Buddhists are the temple's Dharma supporters and protectors. They participate in Dharma functions and activities held in the temple. They support and assist in various aspects, including money, time, talent, and effort. A temple is a non-profit organization, thus, the running and maintenance of it largely depend on the donations of devotees. Besides pecuniary support, lay Buddhists contribute by helping with the cleaning, cooking, paperwork, reception duties, etc. They also assist the Monastics with Dharma functions and organizing activities in the temple. In Chung Tian Temple, hundreds of lay Buddhists working as volunteers are regularly involved in the operation of the Temple, and many others serve during major events.

  • Q4. What are the current steps today, in order to become a Buddhist? And how has this changed from traditional ways?

    Any person can be a Buddhist. People wishing to identify themselves as Buddhists usually take refuge in the Triple Gem of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. This may take place in the form of ceremony when people commit themselves to follow the way of enlightenment (Buddha), to rely on proper views of Buddha’s teaching (Dharma) and to practice purity of mind (Sangha). Such practice has long been passed down from the Buddha and is still upheld nowadays.

  • Q5. Could Buddhists still show respect to the gods of other religions?

    Yes. In fact, it is very important for Buddhists always to show respect for other religions. The act of taking refuge in the Triple Gem means that we take the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha to be our spiritual guides and that we agree not to follow the teachings of other religions. It does not mean that we do not show respect for the beliefs of other people or for their religious symbols. Indeed, it would be a fundamental contradiction of our own beliefs for us to show anything but the greatest respect for other religions. Just as we shake hands with and show respect to the peoples of other faiths, so we may show respect toward their gods and religious symbols. Our beliefs may be different than theirs, but our respect for their beliefs should be no less than theirs.

Ethical

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  • Ethical Q&A
  • Q1. If Buddhists do not believe in a God, how do they know right from wrong?

    The ability to distinguish right from wrong is based on one’s wisdom, intelligence, knowledge and experience. It has nothing to do with whether one believes in a God or not. Does it mean that those who are atheists are unable to tell right from wrong?

    Buddhism is an education where knowledge and wisdom predominate. By understanding the truth of life and universe, we are able to distinguish right from wrong.

  • Q2. Does Buddhism have a code of morality?

    Buddhism contains an excellent moral code including one for the Sangha and another for the laity. The base of Buddhism is morality, and its apex is wisdom. Of the Four Noble Truths that form the foundation of Buddhism, the fourth (Noble Eightfold Path) forms the basis of the ethics of Buddhism. The common basic moral principles of conduct which set guidelines for all Buddhists in daily life are the Five Precepts. They are no killing, so stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying and no intoxicants

Mythological

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  • Mythological Q&A
  • Q1. Who is the Founder of Buddhism?

    Buddhism was founded by Sakyamuni Buddha. He was a Prince of Kapilavatthu in Northern India (currently Nepal) in about 600 B.C. and was named Siddhartha Gautama. He was perturbed by the suffering of ageing, sickness and death, and when he saw a monk looking so calm and peaceful, he decided to renounce the world to seek the truth of life and universe. After several years of cultivation, finally sitting under a Bodhi tree in deep contemplation, he was fully enlightened and was entitled as the Buddha.

  • Q2. What is Buddhist scripture and how important is it?

    The Buddhist scripture is the Buddhist Canon or Tripitaka. It includes Sutras (Dharma or Buddha’s teachings), Vinaya (Precepts) and Abhidharma (Commentary). The voluminous Tripitaka is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Bible.

    Before the Buddha passed away, he told his disciples, “Whatever doctrine and discipline have been taught and promulgated by me, they will be your teacher when I am gone.” Thus the Tripitaka becomes the sole guide and source of inspiration to all Buddhists.

  • Q3. What does the lotus flower symbolize in Buddhism?

    The lotus flower is one of the most complex and prominent Buddhist symbols of purity and enlightenment. From the swampy depths, lotus flower grows into an uncontaminated, exquisite and fragrant flower. Likewise, people can emerge from ignorance, become pure and blossom into enlightenment. The lotus is also a cosmic flower, representative of the supramundane. Most of the Buddha and Bodhisattva figures are on lotus thrones.

  • Q4. Why are elephant statues usually displayed in Buddhist temples?

    The symbol of elephant represents endurance and a character that is strong and unshakable. According to Buddhist texts, Sakyamuni Buddha’s mother, Queen Maya dreamt that a white elephant with six tusks entered her side – a sign of divine conception. Thus, a white elephant has long been synonymous with the Buddha himself.

  • Q5. What is the sign found on the chest of many Buddha statues?

    A Sauvastika sign is usually seen on the chest of Buddha’s statues. It is an ancient auspicious sign used over 3,000 years ago in ancient Persia, Greece, India etc. with the symbolic meaning of universality and the power to overcome evil. The arms of the Buddhist Sauvastika point in a counterclockwise direction and the sign is always in an upright “+” position.

    It is NOT related to the Nazi sign of Hitler who made use of it, reversed its direction, tilted it in an ‘X’ position and named it Swastika.

  • Q6. Do you think that Siddhartha Gautama wanted Buddhism to become a famous religion and world known or just a way of life? And what do you think his purpose was?

    To Sakyamuni Buddha, his prime intention is to teach people the truth of life and the universe and to guide them to the way of enlightenment - a way that leads us to liberation and ultimate happiness. Buddhism is more than a religion and a way of life but is a perfect education as we address Sakyamuni Buddha as our ‘original teacher’. ‘Buddhism’ refers to his teaching and practice. Buddha never had the intention of establishing his status or soliciting fame and praise from people in propagating his teaching but purely to benefit others and deliver people from suffering. Please refer to the website for more information.

Festival

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  • Festival Q&A
  • Q1. What major Buddhist festivals are celebrated?

    There are a number of Buddhist festivals celebrated throughout the year, of which the most important is the commemoration of Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. There are three days to be honoured and the original dates are:

    Buddha’s Birthday : Lunar April 8
    Buddha’s Renouncement Day : Lunar February 8
    Buddha’s Enlightenment Day : Lunar December 8

    Buddha’s Birthday has become an annual Festival, celebrated in Southbank Parklands on the 1st Sunday of May since 1997.

  • Q2. Why is Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday also called the Bathing Buddha Festival?

    Sakyamuni Buddha, originally Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born in Lumbini Park. It was said when the baby prince was born, he walked seven steps and at each step, a lotus flower sprang up from the ground. Two dragons appeared in the sky spurting two streams of purified water down to bathe the baby. Thereafter, when people celebrate Buddha’s Birthday, they use fragrant water to bathe the baby Buddha statue. This symbolizes the purification of our mind to remove our mental dirt of greed, hatred and ignorance.

Experiential

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  • Experiential Q&A
  • Q1. What is meditation?

    Meditation is an effective means for cultivating a calm and focused mind. Buddhists believe it is an important part of mental development which is necessary to gain wisdom and enlightenment. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are often portrayed in meditative states. There are various types of meditation, most of which essentially emphasize concentration on an object or concept, as well as correct gesture and awareness of breathing. The meditative school of Buddhism is Ch’an (or ‘Zen’ in Japan) and is based on intuitive insight and spontaneous enlightenment.

  • Q2. Why do Buddhists meditate?

    Meditation is a cultivation of awareness and mindfulness that develop deep mindful concentration, leading to the recovery of our Buddha nature and our perfect innate wisdom. It is an activity of mental consciousness. Our delusions stem from our misunderstanding of reality and habitual clinging to the ways we see things. Through meditation, we can recognize our mistakes and adjust our mind to think and react more realistically and honestly. This transformation of mind happens gradually and delivers us from instinctive and habitual fallacies to becoming familiar with the rightful truth.

  • Q3. Is it true that meditation is widely used today by psychiatrists and psychologists?

    Yes, it is. Meditation is now accepted as having a highly therapeutic effect upon the mind and is used by many professional mental health workers to help induce relaxation, overcome phobias and bring about self-awareness. The Buddha’s insights into the human mind are helping people as much today as they did in ancient times.

  • Q4. Is it necessary for Buddhists to be vegetarians?

    To be a vegetarian is to cultivate our compassionate mind, a respect for all lives and to observe the precept of refraining from killing. This practice originated in Chinese Buddhism. While traditional Buddhist scriptures do not mandate vegetarianism, Chinese monastics must take a vow not to eat meat. Lay followers, however, are not required to do so. If not daily vegetarians, many Buddhists observe vegetarian diet during retreats or special days of a month.

  • Q5. What was the primary purpose of becoming a Buddhist? What attracted you initially, and what makes you stay?

    To me, Buddhism is a perfect and profound teaching about the genuine truth of life and the universe and is able to account for all phenomena that many other religions may not be able to explain in a satisfactory way. Buddhism does not demand you to have blind faith on an ‘almighty entity’ and put yourself under the mercy of him, but Buddha as a teacher teaches us how to help ourselves and to be the master of ourselves to create a better future. It has a perfect code of morality and ways of practice that we can follow to really benefit ourselves not only in this life time but even in the infinite future.

Ritual

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  • Ritual Q&A
  • Q1. Why do monks and nuns have their heads shaven?

    In Buddha’s time, followers of monastic life already had their heads shaven. The Buddha prescribed their ascetic appearance with simple robes and a shaven head so that they would not become conceited and attach to their appearance and good looks. Shaving the head also signifies renunciation from worldly pleasures. From the traditional Buddhist viewpoint, hair represents impurity. Removing it symbolizes one’s dedication to eradicate all defilements.

  • Q2. What are the three circular marks on a monastic’s head?

    During a Foguangshan monastic ordination, three pieces of burning incense are placed on a monastic’s head, thus producing permanent circular scars. These three marks represent:

    1. The Triple Gem: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha;
    2. The three vows of ridding oneself of bad habits and thoughts, cultivating good, and having wisdom to help releasing others from suffering;
    3. The Three Trainings: Morality/Discipline, concentration and wisdom

  • Q3. What is the structure of a regular Buddhist service?

    A regular Buddhist service is usually a joint cultivation. Dharma instruments will be used to provide rhythm for chanting and singing. Usually there is the reading of a Sutra (Buddhist scripture) and chanting of Buddha’s name. Reading of different Sutras reminds us of the teaching of Buddha, and chanting of Buddha’s names helps to purify our mind and reminds us of their special virtues. Many a troubled mind has found solace upon chanting. Chanting and reading Sutras can generate merits which can promote good karma to grow, and prevent our misdeeds to germinate.

  • Q4. Why do Buddhists chant?

    Chanting helps to stabilize and purify the mind by concentration, and gives the opportunity to learn and reflect upon various Buddhist teachings, as well as venerate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the virtues they embody. There are many different chants, the texts of which may be a Sutra (on Buddha’s teaching), mantras (short symbolic phrases) or names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Chanting is often an integral part of Buddhist ceremonies and is important as a means of self cultivation.

  • Q5. Do people wear special clothes to attend Buddhist services?

    In Buddhist services, normally lay Buddhists may wear a black robe which has the effect of solemnity and uniformity. It is of a traditional design common to Tang Dynasty when Buddhism was first established as a state religion in China. The black monotonous colour reduces distraction of mind, thus helping people to concentrate more. However, wearing the black robe may not be compulsory in temples.

    Buddhists who uphold the Five Precepts or Bodhisattva Precepts may drape a brown precept robe over the black robe.

  • Q6. What is the meaning of burning incense in temples?

    Burning incense in Buddhist altars is a kind of offering, an act of veneration for the Triple Gem (the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) with a sincere heart. Aromatic incense purifies the atmosphere and reminds us to purify our mind. Just as its fragrance travels afar, so do good deeds extend to the benefit of all. Burning incense also embodies the transience and dissolution of phenomena.

  • Q7. What is the meaning of offering?

    Most Buddhist altars display different kinds of offering. Making offerings allows one to practice giving, express gratitude and respect to the Triple Gem, and reflect upon the life sustaining law of interdependence. As such, making offering develops wholesome and positive karma, e.g.
    l + Flower offering: Flowers are beautiful and fragrant, yet their splendor will not last forever, and as such they illustrate the impermanence of all things.
    l + Fruit offering: It reminds us the result of our spiritual cultivation and the Law of Cause and Effect.

  • Q8. In rituals and in everyday life, Buddhists tend to burn incense. What is the purpose of burning this and how does this help?

    Burning incense is a kind of offering, expressing gratitude and veneration to the Buddha. Also burning incense gives rise to a fragrance which is to purify the air and reminds us to purify our mind. Just as its fragrance travels afar, so do good deeds extend to the benefit of all.

  • Q9. Compared with traditional Buddhist rituals, what has changed today and how has this adapted to our everyday lives?

    Straightly speaking, many rituals that you may see in Buddhist services or ceremony may not be passed down by the Buddha; instead they are much affected by the local traditions and culture. In general, a Buddhist service is a joint cultivation when devotees can get together and cultivate in a more effective environment. There are usually chanting Buddha’s name to concentrate and purify the mind, and reading of Sutras to remind us about the teaching of Buddha. Besides the regular Buddhist services, there may also be repentance services, memorial services for the deceased to show our gratitude and respect for them, or meditation retreat for mind cultivation. All these are for the cultivation of our virtues which are of timeless relevance, but of course with the advancement of scientific development nowadays, a wider range of modern facilities can be adopted.

Doctrinal

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  • Doctrinal Q&A
  • Q1. What is Buddhism?

    Buddhism is a perfect education based on the profound and wholesome teachings of Sakyamuni Buddha, revealing the genuine truth of life and universe. ‘Life’ refers to us and ‘universe’ refers to our living environment.

  • Q2. What is a Buddha? Is Buddha a God?

    Buddha is NOT a God. Buddha refers to a fully enlightened person. ‘Budh’ in Sanskrit means ‘to know or to be aware’.

  • Q3. What is Humanistic Buddhism?

    Sakyamuni Buddha’s very life as a human being has given us all an inspiration and a model for the spiritual path and for making our own life a spiritual practice. Humanistic Buddhism, promoted by Foguangshan International Buddhist Order can be seen in its objectives established by Venerable Master Hsing Yun: “Give others faith, give others joy, give others hope and give others convenience.” Foguangshan aims to make Buddhism relevant in this world, in our lives, and in each one of our hearts. In so doing, it is hoped to build a Pure Land on earth.

  • Q4. If Buddhists don’t believe in a God, what do they believe?

    Buddhists believe that all sentient beings have a Buddha nature, and that man has the potential to become a Buddha – a perfectly enlightened person. To achieve enlightenment, they believe human beings can outgrow ignorance and irrationality and see things as they really are. They believe that greed, hatred, jealousy and ignorance can be replaced by generosity, loving-kindness, compassion and wisdom. These are within the grasp of each person if they make effort, guided and supported by Buddha’s teaching, and inspired by the example of Buddha.

  • Q5. If Buddha is not a God, why do people worship him?

    Buddha is our teacher who taught us the truth of life and universe, thus we address Sakyamuni Buddha as our ‘Original Teacher’. Buddha statues in temples do not represent idol worship but should be viewed as symbolism which serves as reminders of their respective virtues. Thus, when a Buddhist kneels down before the image of Buddha, he does not worship the holy image but brings to mind the teaching of the Enlightened One who has taught us the way to liberation. The kneeling and bowing are forms of veneration to Buddha as our most honored teacher.

  • Q6. Is Buddhism just a philosophy?

    Buddhist teachings are wide and profound, and have given us much insight to various phenomena of life and universe. The content of Buddha’s education is more like a complete university of both theory and practice, and philosophy is only one of its courses. Philosophy deals mainly with knowledge and is not concerned with practice, whereas Buddhism does not stop with theoretical pursuits alone but lays special emphasis on practice and realization. It also differs from other religions in that it allows one to have questions regarding the teachings.

  • Q7. Is Buddhism scientific?

    Buddhism dispenses with the concept of a supreme being, as does science, and explains the truths of the universe in terms of natural laws. All these exhibit a scientific spirit. Buddha advised us that we should not blindly believe but rather question, examine and rely on our own experience. Albert Einstein, the greatest scientist of the 20th century said, “The religion of the future will be a cosmic religion. It should transcend a personal god and avoid dogmas and theology……. If there is any religion that would cope with modern scientific needs, it would be Buddhism.”

  • Q8. What are the basic teachings of Buddha?

    Buddha’s teaching centers on three major aspects: Precepts (morality), concentration (mind stability) and wisdom. Disciplining through observing precepts is the method that helps one to achieve concentration. With mind stability or concentration, wisdom will be realized naturally.All sentient beings possess this innate wisdom or Buddha nature but are unable to realize it because of delusion and attachment. Buddha’s teaching helps us to realize this innate perfect wisdom with which we can reduce our afflictions and turn suffering into happiness.

  • Q9. What do ‘compassion’ and ‘wisdom’ mean in Buddhism?

    Compassion is unconditioned love, kindness and active sympathy. It extends itself without distinction to all sentient beings since it is based on the enlightened experience of the oneness of all beings. It is the will to end people’s suffering.Compassion must be accompanied by wisdom in order to have the right effect. Wisdom or ‘Prajna’ in Sanskrit is the fundamental wisdom which is inherent in all people and can manifest itself only in deep concentration or after the attainment of a pure mind. In Buddhism, the main objective of practice is to achieve this ultimate wisdom.

  • Q10. What are the Four Noble Truths?

    1. Truth of Suffering – Life is subject to all kinds of suffering, the basic being birth, ageing, illness and death.
    2. Cause of Suffering – Suffering is caused by ignorance, resulting in desire and craving which produce rebirth and a clinging in life.
    3. Cessation of Suffering – This comes from total elimination of ignorance and detachment from desires and craving, reaching to a state of supreme bliss or Nirvana.
    4. Path leading to Cessation of Suffering – The Noble Eightfold Path.

  • Q11. What is the Noble Eightfold Path?

    1. Right understanding – Understanding the Four Noble Truths
    2. Right thought – Develop a noble quality of life, not causing harm to others.
    3. Right speech – No lying, idle-talk, slander and harsh words.
    4. Right action – No killing, stealing and sexual misconduct.
    5. Right livelihood – Avoid occupation causing harm to others.
    6. Right effort – Self-discipline to develop a clear mental state
    7. Right mindfulness – Awareness of all actions and thoughts to avoid wrong deeds.
    8. Right concentration – Attain mental peace and wisdom.

  • Q12. What is ‘Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem’?

    ‘Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem’ is a Ceremony for people to commit themselves as Buddhists, following the proper practice. ‘Taking refuge’ means to return and rely. Triple Gem refers to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. When we take refuge in the Buddha, we are returning from our deluded mind and relying upon an awakened mind. When taking refuge in the Dharma, we are returning from deviant views and relying upon proper views and understanding. When taking refuge in the Sangha, we are returning from a polluted mind and relying upon the purity of the mind.

  • Q13. Who is the ‘Happy Buddha’?

    The ‘Happy Buddha’ found in temples is usually depicted as a chubby, happy figure. He is actually Maitreya Bodhisattva whose name refers to ‘one who has loving-kindness’. He is the next Buddha to come in this Saha world and at present, he presides over Tushita Heaven. His jovial portrayal occurred in China during the Sung Dynasty (A.D. 960-1278) when a rotund and generous itinerant monk became associated with him. His gigantic belly represents his ‘big heart’ of tolerance and acceptance.

  • Q14. What is meant by ‘karma’? If our lives are determined by karma, can we change it?

    Yes. Karma refers to our past volitional deeds and thoughts, forming ‘seeds’ stored in our 8th consciousness which will be manifested when the right conditions come. Some ripen in this life, some in the next life and some in future lives. Evil seeds will give rise to evil fruits. They will not be cancelled out by doing good deeds. The only thing to change our fate and destiny or prevent the reaping of evil effect is to practice kind deeds, correct our faults and accumulate more good conditions. If many good deeds are accumulated, the good fruit will ripen quickly and life can be changed for the better.

  • Q15. What is the Buddhist belief regarding death and after-life?

    According to Buddhism, death of any living being is inherent in its nature. Death is a natural function of the ongoing process of life. For just as birth leads inevitably to death, so death leads inevitably to birth. Death is metaphorically taken as abandoning an old house (the physical body) and changing to a new house. After-life refers to the state of being reborn.

  • Q16. Is there any proof that we are reborn when we die?

    Not only is there scientific evidence to support the Buddhist belief of rebirth, it is the only after-life theory that has any evidence to support. During the last 30 years, parapsychologists have been studying reports that some people have vivid memories of their former lives. Professor Ian Stevenson of University of Virginia’s Department of Psychology has described dozens of cases of this type in his books. He is an accredited scientist whose 25 year study of people who remember former lives is very strong evidence for the Buddhist teaching of rebirth..

  • Q17. What is the Buddhist concept of rebirth?

    Buddhists view death as exiting one realm of existence and entering another. The cycle of rebirth into countless lives continues until enlightenment, and Nirvana occurs. Rebirth is not the same as reincarnation, as it is not an eternal soul that migrates to a new physical form. Rather, our voluntary actions produced by body, speech and mind create our karma which will induce consequences either in the current life or in the future ones. Karma follows the Law of Cause and Effect that good begets good and bad begets bad. It will form a karma force that determines one’s future existence in rebirth.

  • Q18. Where does man come from and where is he going?

    When we die, the mind with all the tendencies, preferences, abilities and characteristics that have been developed and conditioned in this life, re-establishes itself in a fertilized egg. Thus the individual is reborn and develops a personality conditioned both by the mental characteristics that have been carried over and by the new environment. The personality will change and be modified by conscious effort and conditioning factors like education, parental influence and society, and once again at death, re-established itself in a new fertilized egg, again entering a rebirth cycle.

  • Q19. Is one always reborn as a human being? What decides where one will be reborn?

    No, there are five realms that one may be reborn i.e. heaven, human, animal, hungry ghost and hell. The most important factor influencing where we will be reborn is ‘karma’ – our intentional mental actions and thoughts. Whatever mental habits are strongly developed in this life will continue in the next life. In general, loving type of people practicing wholesome deeds, speech and thought tend to be reborn in a heavenly realm, and those upholding the five precepts may be reborn in the human realm. Those that fall in the three lower realms are usually obsessed by ignorance, greed and hatred.

  • Q20. Will the rebirth cycle continue without stopping?

    The rebirth cycle is always the source of our suffering where there are life and death. The cycle of rebirth into countless lives continues until the conditions that cause it, i.e. craving and ignorance, cease. This is the state of Nirvana.

    The Buddha teaches us various Dharma ways to practice so as to enable us to transcend the rebirth cycle, an essential step before the further attainment of Buddhahood, and to obtain complete liberation and happiness. This is the unique and ultimate goal of Buddhism, and the purpose of life.

  • Q21. The Buddha considered such practices of fortune telling, wearing magic charms for protection, finding lucky sites for buildings, prophesizing and fixing lucky days to be useless superstitions, and he expressly forbade his disciples to practice s

    It is true that Buddha discouraged people to indulge in these practices as many are just superstitions and deceitful. Even though some may be based on reliable studies and statistics, our future should not be bound by these fortune telling. Buddha teaches us that all things and phenomena in our lives are governed by the ‘Law of Cause and Effect’. Nothing that we encounter is haphazard as there must be a hidden cause we created in the past, i.e. everything whether good or adverse is self created. Based on this genuine truth, we are able to control our own fate and destiny as good begets good and bad begets bad. Buddha’s teaching is to tell us how to create our own better future and how to face adversity due to our past unwholesome deeds. Buddhism is a teaching that guides people to have a positive attitude towards life instead of relying on prophesy and fortune telling.

    However, practices of fortune telling, fung-sui and so on have long been a kind of tradition and culture among the Chinese community for thousands of years and many people who are deluded about the truth of life, are still attached to them. Their practice has nothing to do with Buddhism. Though you may find such practices in some temples, these temples may not be Buddhist temples as many Chinese temples are devoted to the worship of deities and spirits. Even so if you find this in Buddhist temples, this is only a way to accord with people’s traditional beliefs, but still if they practice it, the effect mainly relies on their ultimate sincerity of the mind and not on superstitious belief.

  • Q22. Is there a God in Buddhism as in Christianity?

    In Christianity, people believe in an Almighty God who is the Creator of the earth and who has absolute power over nature and human destinies. In such sense, Buddhism has no God.

  • Q23. Do Buddhists believe in God or divine being?

    Buddhists believe in gods who are defined as heavenly beings or Devas. Devas are believed to inhabit the heavens above the human realm, but are still unenlightened, bound to Samsara or subject to birth and death. Many such beings have been converted to Buddhism and become its protectors (Dharma Protectors). Any living beings can be reborn as one of the gods if that living being has the required merit and virtue.

  • Q24. If the Buddha is not a God, why do people worship him?

    Buddha is not a God but serves as our exemplary teacher who taught us the truth of life and the universe, thus we address Sakyamuni Buddha as our ‘Original Teacher’. Buddha statues or images in temples do not represent idol worship but should be viewed as symbolism which serves as reminders of their respective qualities. Thus, when a Buddhist kneels down before the image of the Buddha, he does not worship the holy image but brings to mind the teaching of the enlightened one who has taught the way to liberation. The kneeling and bowing are forms of deep respect to the Buddha as a teacher as the more you respect a teacher, the more you will learn from him.