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Joseph Rock - Skeleton dancer (Citipati), Choni (1925)

Vajrayana, aka “Tibetan” Buddhism

From ThePerfectSolution144:

What can you tell us about Maitreya?


Dear ThePerfectSolution144,


I have spoken a little bit about Maitreya before here!  Just to recap, Maitreya is a bodhisattva who is prophesied by Sakyamuni Buddha to come after his dharma banishes from this world system.  He is a very popular bodhisattva in East Asian Mahayana Buddhism, and is often depicted as the so-called “Fat Buddha” or “Laughing Buddha”.  Suffice to say that The Fat Buddha =/= Sakyamuni Buddha.

I hope this helped. Do you have any specific questions about him in mind?


jenbeezawwwzome asked - "I think my biggest challenge at school will be dealing with immature catty girls but I know I should be thankful and compassionate towards them because they are giving me an opportunity to cultivate my own loving kindness and my own patience."


Very good.  I’m glad you get to make the most of that situation. Unfortunately, we are sometimes stuck in a situation where we’re forced to face unpleasant people.  But yes!  That’s great that you’re taking it as an opportunity to grow.  Keep it up!


befurbelowed asked - "I've had to postpone school because I was in a serious car accident, and it'll be a few months before I'm walking around. Do you have any suggestions on reads or meditation to take my mind off of all this?"


Wow, I’m really sorry to hear that.  As with anything, I recommend zazen before any readings.  The practice of continually observing your mind, and letting go of thoughts—whether “good” thoughts or “bad” thoughts—is a practice that will help you see your true nature.  It happens to have certain positive side effects, like becoming more calm and self-aware.

I recommend keeping in mind The Four Noble Truths that the Buddha left for us.  The teaching that old age, sickness (& pain), and death are inevitable facts of this life.  But understanding that this is a fact of life is letting go.  While pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.  We cannot control what happens to us, but we can control what we make of it, how we react.

Here is an essay that I found for you by a Theravada monk on the use of meditation to deal with pain, illness, and death.  I hope that you find it useful, and sincerely pray that you recover as quickly as possible.

A vow to you,


Here is a link to zazen instructions.  If you cannot sit cross-legged because of your medical condition, just find a way to sit in a stable spot where your spine can remain straight.

Back to School, Anyone?


It’s been a LONG time since I’ve posted something on Buddha Zen 101, but I haven’t forgotten about you, guys!  After a very difficult semester, I escaped to my hometown in Guadalajara for a sweet month and a half.

I feel refreshed, and (kinda) ready to start school again.

Are you back in school yet?  What are some challenges that you think you’ll face this semester? Any questions regarding Buddhism?

Anonymous asked - "I went to a Vietnamese temple last weekend and they had statues of three buddhas sitting next to each other? Are they all the same Buddha? Thanks."



Excellent that you’re visiting a Buddhist temple!  It’s good for getting a perspective of Buddhism as it is actually practiced.

Great question.  The answer is yes, they are different Buddhas.  Buddhism in Vietnam is heavily heavily influenced by Chinese Mahayana Buddhism, which most often incorporates both Pure Land and Ch’an elements to it.  The statues most likely looked something like this, right?


In East Asian Mahayana Buddhism, this is a very standard shrine.  This is a popular Buddhist “trinity”.  Usually, the Buddha in the center with the dhyana mudra is Sakyamuni Buddha, the most recent Buddha in our world system.  The one holding the pagoda to the right is usually the Medicine Buddha, who vowed to use his merit to alleviate not only mental but also physical ailments.  He’s very a very popular buddha prayed to for health.  And the buddha to the left is usually Amitabha Buddha, a celestial buddha who established the Western Pure Land.  If you recite his name with sincerity in your mind, then you can be reborn into his Pure Land where one can practice the dharma most easily and attain liberation.

However, the three Buddha statues also represent a very beautiful and important concept in the Mahayana schools—The Trikaya, or three bodies of the Buddha.

In the Mahayana tradition, the Sakyamuni Buddha (along with all other Buddhas) is believed to have had at least 3 bodies:

1) nirmanakaya, or physical body, with which they come to earth to teach the Dharma,
2)  sambhogakaya, or manifestation body, with which the buddhas continue to reveal teachings to us (sentient beings) in dreams or visions, and with which they divinely intervene to help us out on the path

3) dharmakaya, or their transcendent body, which is the manifestation of ultimate reality, and can thus not be talked about or described.  This last body cannot be described or comprehended.

This is a reminder that the message of Sakyamuni Buddha is well and alive, that his compassion for us continually manifests, and that the ultimate reality is ineffable.

Hope this helped!


Further Information:

Trikaya Doctrine (explained with a Theravada bias, but still good explanation)

Amitabha and Pure Land Teachings

Medicine Buddha (page 236 of this, which refers to him by his Sanskrit name, Bhaisajyaguru)

The Buddha didn’t even say this!!!  Ugh… people.  This is a (mis?)quotation of Joseph Campbell!  Stop attaching Buddhist images to things that are not Buddhist in themselves.  It’s confusing, annoying, and washes out the tradition.  Read a scripture!  Practice!  Just don’t do this.

delightfullyrobust 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!"


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!



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!"


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.


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


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.