Zen 101

Questions?ArchiveARTICLESBuddha VocabZen StoriesSourcesComics

catstin asked - "I just discovered your blog and I'm loving the explanations. I spent the last year in Asia studying Tibetan and Mahayana Buddhism in Sichuan (as well as Chinese ) and I absolutely love the explanations you're giving. :) 加油!"

Hello!

Right on!  Thanks, man.  I appreciate it very much.  If you have any pieces about your experiences in Asia regarding Buddhism, I’d love to feature them here!  Also, let me know if you have any questions.

Lastly, you’re studying Mandaring, too?!  That’s amazing man!

謝謝你,和感謝認識你:)

Gassho,
Dan

樂山佛 - Leshan Buddha, in China!

alongthewatchtower94 asked - "Hello first off I wanted to say I'm a devout Christian, but I like to learn and get educated on different religion. What are some similarities of Buddhism and Christianity? Thanks!"

Hello!

Thanks for your question.  It is a very interesting one to talk about, but the way it was framed makes it so difficult to analyze.  The problem with that question is the assumption of a Christianity and a Buddhism, when in observation it is more accurate to say that there are Christianities and Buddhisms.

As you may know, Christianity and Buddhism—along with the rest of the world religions—are extremely diverse.  Even different sects within one religion sometimes contradict each other on very fundamental points.

Still, even if we were to say compare, let’s say, Methodist Protestant Christianity with Pure Land Mahayana Buddhism, there are only certain parallels.  (Just a quick side note: in a way Pure Land Buddhism (esp. as practiced by the Japanese community in the United States) resembles Protestant Christianity the most in that it centers around devotion and prayer towards one celestial buddha, Amitabha Buddha.  By praying to him with a sincere heart, one can attain rebirth in his Pure Land, in which it is easier to practice the dharma and become a bodhisattva.)

Certainly, we can say that the doctrines on which these two religious systems operate are miles apart from each other, and their ritual practices are, for the most part, also quite different from each other, as well.

However, in the interest of interfaith dialogue, Christianity and Buddhism, like essentially all other world religions, operate according to very similar ethical principles like compassion, forgiveness, and love.  Yes, on a big picture one can draw a vin diagram and say “aha! these are the things that these two ‘religions’ have in common!”.  Although those statements are well-intentioned, we must not overshadow the vast diversity that exists not only between Christianity and Buddhism, but within each religion itself.

Gassho,
Dan

Anonymous asked - "Hey, do you know anything about like occupations within Buddhism? Like working within Buddhist organizations or whatever as a job?"

Hello!

Hmm, I don’t know of many positions in which you can make a living out of working with a Buddhist organization, although I’m sure that there are many.  The Tzu-Chi organization is the biggest Buddhist organization in the Chinese-speaking world, and one of the biggest Buddhist organizations in the world.  I know that they have many volunteering programs around the world, but I don’t know of any positions—though they probably do have some.  I am familiar with other organizations like Fo Guang Shan and Dharma Drum Mountain.  Tzu-Chi and the other ones mentioned are all from Taiwan.  Maybe you can find a position somewhere translating scriptures, or something?  I’m not sure.  What do you have in mind to do?

I feel like I only tangentially helped you answer your question.  Still, let me know if I can be of further help.

Gassho,
Dan

fotojournalismus:

Ferry passengers, including a Buddhist nun, center, watch an episode of a popular Myanmar soap opera at a ferry terminal in Yangon on May 15, 2014. (Gemunu Amarasinghe/AP)

winterssamurai asked - "Hello, I would like to start off by saying your blog is absolutely wonderful. And also have a question for you; I've always had an interest with Buddhism, it's always seem so interesting. Certain parts of it really does appeal to me as does some things from Christianity. I'm on a self journey to be a Christian Buddhist, because as I said they both have parts that appeal to me. My question is how would you recommend a beginner to begin in Buddhism ? I am willing to read and learn :) Thank you"

Hello!

Thank you so much, I appreciate it!  Well, I suppose that the best way to start is by learning about the Three Marks of Existence, the Four Noble Truths, the Eightfold Path—which you can read about in the Dhammacakkapavattana Sutta, or “Turning of the Wheel Sutra”.  Buddhism is more concerned with practice than it is with doctrine, so look into applying the Eightfold Path into your life.  I believe it’s a good way to start, and one that has much in common with the lifestyle prescribed by Jesus.

Since I don’t identify as a Christian-Buddhist, I am not sure how to go about it.  But there is a book by the famous Thich Nhat Hanh called “Living Buddha, Living Christ”.  I believe he draws parallels between the core teachings of the two.  It might be useful in your studies.

I would go out on a limb, and say that both the Messiah and the Buddha would be okay with the whole “love your neighbor AND your enemy as yourself” teaching found in Matthew 5:43-48!

Practice compassion!  The rest is commentary.

Gassho,
Dan

happinessisameadow asked - "Hi. Could you expand on why you think meditation isn't essential to the practice of Buddhism? And on the same note, how is a person expected to understand the Four Noble Truths, commit to the Precepts and follow the Eightfold Path without the practice of meditation as a tool? May you be well."

Hello!

Yes, I’d be happy to expand.  First of all, this is shown in that most lay Buddhists around the world do not practice meditation.  In the Buddhist world, meditation has been traditionally seen as a practice of the monks at monasteries.  Second, the Buddha’s primary prescriptions to lay people were the Five Precepts.  He was concerned with the personal improvement of oneself and living peacefully and ethically with others. Third, meditation is one of the many ways that there are to practice Buddhism.  Other practices include making donations to the monks, chanting, reading scriptures, praying, making offerings (e.g., offering fruit or incense before the Buddha), decorating altars, etc.  All these are very valid tools in the practice of the different forms of Buddhism.

Surely, there is nothing wrong with practicing meditation.  It is a beautiful way to examine one’s mind and gain merit.  But many Americans automatically assume that Buddhists meditate, or are at least supposed to.  Meditation is hard at first, and it’s supposed to be serious a commitment—not a fad.  This was the reason why I said not to worry about meditation for the time being.  However, it is one useful way out of the many to practice Buddhism.

I also said it because I wanted to emphasize compassion towards other sentient beings.  As the Dalai Lama said (and I’m paraphrasing), “we do not need more Buddhists; we need more compassion”.

Gassho,
Dan

Anonymous asked - "Hey I'm really drawn to Theravada Buddhism but I can't find a place to practice i.e. temple/center. What should I do?"

Hello!

Great that you have acquired an interest in Theravada Buddhism.  I’m sorry to hear you’re having a hard time finding a community.  Have you taken a look at this directory? (I assume you live in USA).  You may be able to find a temple near you.  Not all of the ones listed are Theravada, but it might be worth the shot.

Don’t give up on your search to find a community with which to practice!  

First I would like to question why it is that you want to practice Buddhism.  Be honest with yourself.  Once you feel ready (and the only person that can tell if you’re qualified yet is you), then you may take your Vows of Refuge.  They go like this:

I take refuge in the Buddha,
I take refuge in the Dharma (his teachings)
I take refuge in the Sangha (monastic and lay community)

There are some things you can do to start practicing, and many of them you may be already doing!  The basic requirements of a lay person in Theravada lie on the Five Precepts (Pañca Sīla)*, which are:

1. Do not destroy life
2. Do not take that which is not given to you
3. Do not consume alcohol (including intoxicants)
4. Do not engage in sexual misconduct
5. Do not lie

Practicing this leads to the acquisition of karmic merit not just for a better rebirth, but to more harmony in this lifetime as well.  You can think of these practices as a subcategory of the principle of Right Conduct in the Eightfold Path.  The Eightfold Path is as follows:

1. Right View

2. Right Intention -

  • Being committed to putting teachings in action.

3. Right Speech -

  • Not just not lying, but abstaining from idle chatter, bragging, criticizing, etc.  Speech that may harm others or yourself.  

4. Right Conduct* - The Five Precepts

5. Right Livelihood -

  • Earning your living in a respectable manner and not at the expense of others’ suffering (e.g., soldier, weapons/drug/poison dealer, butcher, slave trader, etc.)

6. Right Effort

  • It is not enough to just abstain from doing bad things. We should actively seek to do good things for others

7. Right Concentration

  • Pay attention to the world around you.  I have found out it’s helped me to enjoy it more.

8. Right Meditation

  • To practice meditation

Many people think meditation is essential to the practice of Buddhism, but it is not.  It is not widely practiced by lay people.  Don’t worry about it just yet.  

For now I recommend that you question your motives for following Buddhism, observe the Five Precepts, and on top of it all practice compassion toward all other beings.  That’s always the most important.

Yuttadhammo is a Theravada monk on YouTube that answers questions you may have every week.  Also a very good resource to check out.

Check in with me and let me know how you feel!

Many bows,
Dan 

kelledia:

She sits in perfect diamond clear samadhi clearly seeing all things; Spring comes  to every land and the new moon shines brightly in the sky.
Respectfully brushed by Tenryu-ji Seisetsu.
Kannon Bosatsu.


SokushinbutsuThe practice of self-mummification, once performed by Buddhist monks in Japan. The monk would start by eating only nuts and seeds to strip them of their body fat, then move to drinking tea made from the urushi tree. The poisonous tea would cause vomiting to further their weight loss, as well as help dissuade insects from disturbing their body after death. 


This is true!  It happened in Northern Japan!

awakeupcall:

If you didn’t get blessed, here’s the Lok Ta at Wat Khmer San Jose granting my big sister & I with our New Year’s blessing & ksaidai (red blessed bracelet). Happy Cambodian, Lao & Thai New Years to all.

(via fckyeahcambodia)

Next