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Buddhism a Teaching of Substance and Not Just Forms by Bugs Tan

Buddhism a Teaching of Substance and Not Just Forms by Bugs Tan

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Published by Bugs Tan
An article for people who are interested to know about Buddhism in Malaysia.
An article for people who are interested to know about Buddhism in Malaysia.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Bugs Tan on Aug 07, 2013
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Buddhism: A teaching of substance and not just forms.

Buddhism from China to Malaysia A Malaysian who is born into a Chinese family is most likely to follow the religion of his parents. This does not necessary apply to all, but I would say large numbers of Chinese who live in Malaysia follows their parent’s faith. It is rather sad that when the baton is passed down there wasn’t really much knowledge being passed down except for traditional rituals. So, it is more accurate to say there isn’t really much that was passed down. Our parents and forefathers were born in the era of hardship. They were economic refugees suffering hardship due to China’s Culture Revolution and the battle with the Japanese army during the 2nd world war. They seek greener pasture in Nanyang (South East Asian countries). They came in big numbers and they have brought along with them their way of life, culture, food, language, believes and religion. In time of hardship and rebuilding their own lives, not much time and care was used to cultivate the teaching of their religions and culture that they were practicing. Recently I heard this from a lady over a diner. She said, “It is like my mother did that and so I also followed”. That’s how the younger generation adopted the way of life in Malaysia. This goes on from the 60s till to-date with not much improvement. People are still doing what their forefathers have been doing over half a century ago. However, over the decades the economy in Malaysia improved and so are the people’s living standards. Agriculture and industrialization took place and people were elevated from poverty. Younger ones are getting proper education and soon this generation became more astute. Trends were changing and soon most young Chinese boys and girls took up Christian names. It is cool to have a Christian name because most educated ones have already taken-up Christianity. By having a Christian name you are perceived to have also converted to be a Christian. This was seen to be learned and is in-good order. Those who did not speak English and do not have a Christian name were seen as “ Jinjang” (notorious) and not clever. All this happened in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Fast forward, today this trend has lost its glamour. Not everyone clamours to have a Christian name. However there are still a lot of people converting to Christianity. To some extent that was done at the price of bad mouthing Buddhism. This happened because there is a lack of understanding of the true teaching of Buddhism.


Buddhism : A Teaching of Substance and Not Just Forms

People get confused with Taoism and Buddhism

There are a lot of things that caused such trends to be associated to Christianity. Let’s examine some of the causes. When we were small and first entered school, our parents needed to register us. The school system segregated us in terms or race and religion. We must get an identity and belonged to a certain group. That’s how it worked before, and even now. We have to get a religious label for the children even though many do not know much about their own religion. It is easy to select a race grouping for your child because there is a box for each race Melayu, Cina, India and dan lain-lain. But when it comes to religion, most Chinese parents would tick “Buddhism”, because the choices are limited. You can only choose to be a Muslim, a Christian, a Hindu or a Buddhist. There isn't a box t to tick if you are a Taoist. I would safely say most Chinese Malaysian parents would tick “Buddhism” as a religion for their kids. Not knowing that there is a world of difference between Buddhism and Taoism. By the way for some readers who are not familiar with the Malaysian scene, most Chinese living in Malaysia practices Taoism and lives by the way of life as taught by Confucius. Buddhism which originated from India is a lot different if we compare it to what is practiced here by the Chinese families in Malaysia. I reckon the confusion came about when people misunderstood Buddhism for Taoism and Chinese culture. People on the street have no idea what is Buddhism. This is a big mistake.

Feared and confused I think it only make sense if we look deeper and see the differences. During the Chinese New Year celebration, people celebrate with joy to usher a brand new year. This is an auspicious occasion and such practice is acceptable to people from around the world. However, one part of the celebration where the Chinese light-up the fire crackers and make LOUD noise which disturbs the neighbourhood is something to look at. Sometimes it is done in a “Chinese tokong” . My Malay friends who lived next door asked me why Buddhist people are noisy people. The Malay family need to endure the loud firecrackers once a year when it is Chinese New Year festive. I replied him, “Tuan this has nothing to do with Buddhism.” It only took me 5 minutes to explain and he understood.


Buddhism : A Teaching of Substance and Not Just Forms

There was a case I heard recently from a lady who was giving her testimony after converting to Christianity a few months ago. She is in her early 50s and said that she had a hard time living by the rules of Buddhism. In her story she related a tale about how she had suffered for 21 years. Her first child was a baby boy and he was born on a New Moon day. The priest of a Chinese temple told her that due to the fact that her son was born on a New Moon day. She has to come to the temple and make offering of incense and pray to the God every time it is a New Moon day. So, she did that for years. Obviously she jumped on the chance to end this troublesome ritual when she was informed that she doesn’t have to do that if she converts herself into a Christian. Who could blame her for taking up Christianity at that instant? It is a pity that she has to religiously bring her son to the temple once a month for 21 years. But this is not a Buddhist practice. Buddha did not instruct anyone to make offering at a temple if a baby is born on a New Moon or Full Moon day. You can never find this in any sutta. It is so unfortunate that this lady was misled and caused her so much trouble for so many years. What a pity. These are just two examples of how Buddhism has been wrongly accused for unwise rituals. There is more to share. There are hundreds and perhaps thousands of stories to showcase how Buddhism has been wrongfully conjured. But I think it brings better value to this article if I could share what Buddhism is.

Brief explanation about Buddhism Buddhism originated in India and not China. This took place about 2,600 years ago. During the time of the Buddha, the continent of India was engulfed with Hinduism. Hinduism was the way of life. But Prince Siddhartha was not too happy with some un-answered questions. He was thirsty to find the answers to questions about lives that surrounded him. He saw people getting old, contracted diseases and dying. He felt a deep sense of disappointment that there are no answers to eradicate this ageing process which leads to a lot of unhappiness to the human race. At the age of 29 years old, the young prince left the palace to seek for answers to these questions. To do that he has given-up the luxury of the life of a prince. He became an ascetic and wandered in the woods for five and a half years. Finally, he found the answers to the questions under a banyan tree. In fact he had acquired perfections and fully understood how lives worked. He saw far and wide. He could also see how the universe works too. After that enlightenment, the prince was known as the Buddha. The Buddha then shared what he learnt for the next 45 years until his death at 80. The Buddha is not a God. He did


Buddhism : A Teaching of Substance and Not Just Forms

not claim to be a creator. In fact he just discovered what already existed in this universe. He discovered the law of Kamma and explained it in detail. In a nut shell this is his definition of Kamma “Human beings are owners of their actions, heirs of their actions, they originate from their actions, are bound to their actions, have their actions as their refuge. It is action that distinguishes beings as inferior and superior”. He also told us about the 3 natural characteristics in life. That is, “everything is impermanent, the existence of suffering (dissatisfaction) and the reality of non-self”. The Buddha’s knowledge about life attracted a large following during his time. He was able to explain things to the satisfaction of people from all walks of life. He was able to give the right answers to different questions asked by different people of different levels of understanding. In the Buddha’s teaching, there are no myths or super natural skills.

In fact, things that amaze us today like people walking on water, people walking on burning charcoals, piercing sharp rod through one’s cheeks, seeing the future through a crystal ball, palm and face reading, astrology, fortune telling, tarot card reading, I- cheng, fung shui, geomancy and etc. According to the Buddha, these are low arts. The Buddha advised us not to waste time acquiring such low arts when these skills do not solve the problems in our lives.

The core teaching of the Buddha For many years the Buddha walked the vast land in the North east of India, he taught people to be good. The Buddha’s teaching are revolved mostly around the Four Noble Truth. In the First Noble Truth, the Buddha declared that there is an existence of suffering. He also described the 3 evil roots that caused these suffering in great details in the Second Noble Truth. Off course he showed us the way to overcome greed, hatred and illusion. In the Third Noble truth the Buddha stated that this suffering can be stopped. The Fourth Noble truth described a formula designed by the Buddha to end suffering. This formula is called the Noble Eightfold Path. And if a person follows this path, he has a good chance of getting out of the cycle of death and rebirth. In the Noble Eightfold Path, a practitioner starts-off by having the right view. By having the right understanding, it will be able to provide the right thoughts, right speech and right actions for himself. This helps the practitioner to train his mind to act mindfully. Other areas


Buddhism : A Teaching of Substance and Not Just Forms

he should put into practice is for him to have a right livelihood, put in the right effort, right concentration and right meditation. The ultimate goal of a Buddhist practitioner is for him to eradicate defilements in his mind. Stop the flow of craving in his mind, acquire knowledge of the nature and be free of any desire of wanting to be reborn again. Upon achieving this, he will cease to be re-born and thus attains Nibanna. Buddhism also emphasises on the need to cultivate wholesome values in a person. The foundation is morality. Strong morality will give rise to wisdom. This will then give good concentration of the mind. In other religions one aims to meet God in heaven upon death. Here in Buddhism you get recycled and enter into other realms in accordance to the deeds that you have done on earth. In fact there are 31 types of realms a person can be born to when he dies. This happened instantly without having to meet God at all.

Buddhist rituals which are NOT In Buddhism, there is not much rituals required. In fact there is none that is worth mentioning here. True Buddhism does not require one to burn joss stick and paper money for the dead. Buddhist teaching does not insist that you must not eat meat. It does not ask you to wear a Buddha amulet. It does not ask you to wear beads around your neck and wrist. It does not ask you to burn talismans over a cup of water and drink it. It does not ask you to put a frog which has a coin in its mouth to face south east in your room. It does not ask you to hang-up a coin sword on the wall. It does not ask you to wear certain colour on certain day of the week. It does not ask you to have lion dance for your new office. It does not ask you to pray to the statue of a fat man. It does not ask you to be sprinkled with holy water. It does not ask you to be a vegetarian on Full Moon and New Moon day. It does not ask you to pray to idols. It does not ask you not to have the number “4” on your car plate. The Buddha doesn’t know if your husband is having an affair with another woman. The Buddha cannot give you protection against snatch thief. The Buddha cannot bring you luck for your business. The Buddha cannot give you empat ekor. The Buddha cannot give 10 As for your children in their examination. The Buddha cannot find a free parking for you at the shopping complex. The Buddha cannot guarantee that you'll strike lottery. Eating Bah Chang, eating tung yuen, lighting up lantern during mid-autumn summer, giving ang pow, yum seng, tea ceremony, moon cake, baby full moon, five days funeral procession, wearing red during Chinese new year, Cheng Beng are all certainly not Buddhist practices.


Buddhism : A Teaching of Substance and Not Just Forms

To be a practising Buddhist, one only need to avoid evil, do good and purify the mind

Can God help? If this is not and that is not as per described above, then you may ask what exactly is the real Buddhist practice. What so special about Buddhism? Muslim and Christian have their respective holy books to refer to. Normally they only have one book. Where else in Buddhism the scenario is a lot more different. Buddha spent a long time performing his ministership. And most of his discourses were recorded and made into three major collections. There is a total of more than 300 volumes. The suttas will be our guide said the Buddha just before he passed away. These suttas which is also called the Pali Canon are made in such a way that it can be repeated. It is then spread out to the world by learned monks in all directions. This is done very much like the way present day motivational gurus like Steven Covey marketing his concept of "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People" throughout the world via certified trainers. But what is important for a lay Buddhist is to pay attention to our own practice. Buddhism is a DIY religion and we have to do it by ourselves if we wish to find success. We cannot outsource our problems to God. We cannot just pray to Buddha for happiness. It does not work this way in Buddhism. In fact the Buddha has passed away. He is gone forever. He is not in the sky. He cannot hear our prayers at all.

The Mind Due to the fact that we have to find success by ourselves, we have to go to where all things begin. And all things begin in our mind. Hence, a big portion of the Buddhist teaching is placed on the development of the mind. In the Bahasa Malaysia language, the word for human being is manusia. The word manusia is borrowed from the word manusa in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. The word Manusa is made up of two root words manu and usa. Manu means the mind. And usa means potential. When the words are put together, manusa means a human being that has a mind that could cultivate to its full potentials.


Buddhism : A Teaching of Substance and Not Just Forms

That’s what we are. A human being with a mind that has an unlimited potentials.

Developing the Mind It’s like when you buy a lap top computer. It is made up of hardware and software. You have the Acer computer as the hardware and Microsoft Windows 8 as the operating software. Likewise, in a human being we have the body as the hardware and the mind as the software. But we (a human being) is special. We are loaded with four types of software instead of only one OS in a computer. The four types of human software are, one “sense organs”. This is the driver that processes the information received from external into our mind. Two, we have the “perception” software. This driver is similar to the hard-drive in a computer. It stores the memories as well as processing the information when it’s called to recognize a voice, a sight, a smell, a taste and a touch. The microprocessor chip in the human mind is a thousand times faster than a super computer. Three, we also have the “emotion” software. This driver allows us to express our feelings accordingly. And lastly the fourth software that we have is called the “volition” software. This is a very powerful driver. It is the main software in a human being where all our intentions, volition, decision (whether it’s good or bad) are made here. Buddhism teaches you to develop the thoughts that are generated from your mind. It teaches you how to manage your mind, how to process your thoughts and respond correctly so that any volitions and intentions that you have in your mind are manifested through wholesome speech and wholesome action. This is the practice of a Buddhist, creating wholesome deeds.

The charter of Free inquiry There is an old story in Buddhism which I am sure will sync well with a logical mind. In the olden days in India there is a town called Kalama. The Buddha was passing by this town and the people of Kalama asked him. “Sir before you came here; there were also other gurus, other teachers and other leaders. All claimed their teaching is good. All claimed their teaching is the truth. Including you Sir, you too say your teaching is good and is the truth. Sir, we are confused to who shall we believe.”


Buddhism : A Teaching of Substance and Not Just Forms

Then the Buddha answered, “Kalamas, do not believe because you heard it from someone, or heard it through traditions, or heard from a rumour, or acquire it from a scripture, or from a learned leaders, or heard it from a great teacher or it was brought down from generation. Do not even believe in me (the Buddha). Kalamas, you should test the teaching by yourself. Test it like the way a gold smith would test the purity of gold. Kalamas, when you yourselves know: These things are good; these things are not blamable; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness, enter on and abide in them.”

Do not be confused I hope people will do some research before jumping into a conclusion and drag certain foolish practices into Buddhism. The effect of misconception about the true teaching of Buddhism will adversely affect those who genuinely wish to embrace this way of life. Buddhism is a teaching that has a lot of substance and not just form.

Written by, Bugs Tan August 2013

Pls click the link to read this article from a blog http://buddhistbugs.blogspot.com/2013/08/buddhism-teaching-of-substance-and-not.html


Buddhism : A Teaching of Substance and Not Just Forms

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