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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.