Friday, 19 December 2014

Top 5 Common Misconceptions on Buddhism

#1. The more amulets i have, the more protection.

The Buddha taught us that the best way to protect ourselves is through the usage of the five precepts. i.e: 
1.   Abstain from killing 
2.   Abstain from stealing or taking things that are not given. 
3.   Abstain from adultery and sexual misconduct. 
4.   Abstain from false speech. 
5.   Abstain from any alcohol and addictive drugs that cause intoxication and heedlessness. 

These precepts are encouraged to be kept in order to cultivate wholesome qualities, free us from any harmful situations and create good conditions to develop a peaceful mind. 

Thus the fearless mudra (hand gesture as shown on the left) is often placed in temples to remind us of keeping the five precepts.

When one were to commit harmful deeds (example: killing of another being), the number of amulets he or she wears will not free him from undesired/unfavorable results. 

#2. Offerings are made so that the Buddha will be happy.

The Buddha is an enlightened being. He certainly does not need an incense stick to be happy! We make offerings to create positive energy and develop good qualities such as giving with a respectful attitude and gratitude.

There are different kinds of offerings made with different symbolism behind it:

1. Incense
Just like the fragrance of the incense when it is lit, the sweet teachings of the Buddha spreads far and wide. The fragrance too symbolize pure moral conduct.

2. Flowers
Just like a flower that will age and wither over time regardless of its beauty, we too are subject to the impermanent nature of things. This reminds us to live in the present.

3. Lotus 
The characteristics of the lotus rising above the muddy waters unsoiled reminds us to rise above our defilements and sufferings in life. 

4. Fruits
Fruit reminds us that all actions will have their effect (good or bad). It symoblizes the ultimate fruit of our Buddhist practice which is enlightenment. 

5. Water 
Water symbolizes purity and clarity of the mind. Just as light can pass through clear water, wisdom can arise if our mind is clear and still. This reminds us to constantly cultivate our minds. 

6. Light 
The candles represents light that dispel darkness, reminding us to cultivate a pure and bright heart filled with wisdom.   

#3. The Buddha looked like the statues we see today.

No representations of the Buddha were made for about four or five centuries until the time when Buddhism was spread to part of the Indo-Greek Empire, which is the present day Afghanistan and Pakistan. 

Prior to that, Buddhist would show their devotion and remind themselves of the teachings using objects such as Bodhi leaves, elephants, lotus, the "Great Wheel" etc. 

The first statue in a human form of the Buddha was believed to be created by the Greek King, King Minlinda due to his deep faith in the teachings.

The style in which the first statue was made was of Greek appearance, wavy hair of that of Apollo. This was subsequently adopted by other parts of the world with the appearance influenced by respective cultures.

#4. Buddha is a god. 

The Buddha was not a deity, and he never claimed to be one. Just like you and me, the Buddha was a normal man who, through his own efforts, attained enlightenment. 

When we bow down in front of the Buddha statue, we are showing our utmost reverence to him as a great teacher, his well-expounded teachings as well as the community of noble disciples who have practiced well. Bowing helps us to cultivate humility. By recollecting the virtues of the Buddha when we bow, it reminds us to strive to develop peace and love in our hearts.

#5. All Buddhists should be Vegetarian.  

Not all Buddhists are vegetarians. Some sects of Buddhism (example Mahayana Tradition) refrain from meat consumption out of compassion for all animals. 

In the Theravada Tradition, monks and nuns still follow the early day practice of going on alms round. The monastics are to have little possessions, and are prohibited from growing their own food, storing their own provisions or cooking their own meals. Hence, they depend on villagers to offer food to them to nourish their body for the practice.  They are not to be picky and to accept whatever food that was given. Whether the food is delicious or awful tasting, freshly made or from the left overs, it has to be accepted with gratitude and regarded as medicine (which is much harder than being a vegetarian).

The only exception is when a monk or nun finds out an animal has been killed specifically to feed him/her, or when he/she sees the killing of the animal. The Buddha also listed 10 forbidden meats: 
1.  Humans (because they are our own kind)
2.  Elephants (because it was the animal of the royal)
3.  Horses (because it was the animal of the royal)
4.  Dogs 
5.  Snakes 
6.  Lions 
7.  Tigers 
8.  Leopards
9.  Bears 
10. Hyenas

From no.4 - 10: the reason behind is because these animals can be provoked by the smell of the flesh of their own kind. For the safety of the monastics when they wander around the forest, it has been prohibited for consumption. 

Buddhism is never about rites and rituals, blind faith or prayers. Cultivating and developing wisdom has been the core emphasis of Buddhism. It is only with wisdom that one can see through the darkness, penetrate the truth and gain peace. May you be well and happy and wisdom grow in you each day. Sadhu! (rejoice)

Source :
Photo #1 Photo credit: Big Buddha by the gingerboximages, Flickr
Phote #3 Photo credit: Wikimedia
Phote #4 Photo credit: Myanmar, monks and novices by Dietmar Temps, Flickr
Phote #5 Photo credit: Vectored Vegetables by Nancy Regan, Flickr