What Buddhists Must Know

Buddhism: 11 Common Misunderstandings and Mistakes
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What makes you a Buddhist?

This natural Law of Kamma becomes the force behind, and reason for, the practice of morality and compassion in our society. The Buddhist scriptures are larger and more detailed than the Christian Bible, however, and in translation would fill a dozen volumes. Buddhist teachings can be understood and tested by anyone. Yet that situation persisted for over a year before the meaning of both the question and the answer became clear to me. They follow the five basic Buddhist principles that have already been mentioned. In general, the first precept has been interpreted by Buddhists as a call for non-violence and pacifism.

Though the expected time length is about three months, some will stay as little as a day or two. The majority of monks remain for at least a few weeks. Young men do this in order to receive good karma and merit. Those Thais who are affluent or have money are considered to have very good karma. Those who do not have money are thought to have behaved poorly in a previous life, thus, not having good karma.

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If a man does decide to become a monk, there are several rituals and processes they must go through. For instance, they must shave their head and eyebrows as well as partake in a number of ceremonies. They also receive daily duties in the temple they reside at, such as cleaning or receiving offerings in the mornings. Living as a monk is no easy task. For one, there are hundreds of rules by which they must abide.

They must also follow a long list of stipulations when going out in public. For example, monks cannot laugh or speak loudly. Monks are normally very friendly, even to foreigners.

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Some temples have things like monk chats, where tourists can sit down with a monk and talk with them about their lives. As a reminder, the majority of Thais will give up their seats on public transportation for a monk.

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Tourists should do this as well. One of these is called the Makha Puja. Buddhists gather at temples and light candles during the full moon in February for this nationwide festival. Southeast Asia's Buddhist temples live in two worlds: many of them are simultaneously sacred places of worship and major tourist attractions. Most travelers to the region will visit at least one—if not several—during their travels.

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Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, was born a wealthy prince in India sometime between the sixth and fourth centuries BCE. He saw the progressive stages of birth, youth, old-age, and eventual death; a cycle that seemed horrible and full of suffering. After Siddhartha became. In this article, you'll learn everything you need to know about how to practice Buddhism. What to do. What not to do. (And most important of all).

Full of history, intrigue, impressive architecture and carved reliefs, many temples are wonders to explore. Usually peaceful and quiet, wandering the grounds of a temple while lost in your own thoughts can be a meditative experience, no matter what your religious beliefs are. However, governments often find themselves in a bind when balancing locals' sensitivities and tourist revenue. And there's plenty of opportunity for offense: worshipers often get up in arms about travelers wearing too little clothing, not taking off their shoes, and sometimes for having a tattoo of the Buddha, which can be seen as disrespectful.

However, as long as you follow the rules, there's no need for you to feel intimidated. Visitors who are respectful and aware of the rules will always be welcome. You might also find it helpful to learn about the specific dos and don'ts that apply to one of Southeast Asia's Buddhist-majority countries and read up on etiquette for visitors to Thailand , Cambodia , Vietnam , and Myanmar.

Turn off mobile phones, remove headphones, lower your voice, avoid inappropriate conversation, remove hats, and no smoking or chewing gum. You are likely entering an actual consecrated area, where locals go to commune with the sacred, so any hint of irreverence might cause deep offense. Hats and shoes should always be removed before entering a temple. You can leave your shoes outside the temple in the designated area and hold your hat in your hands or put it away during your visit. In some countries, this isn't just a rule of the temple—it's the law.

This is the rule most ignored by tourists who dress for the heat in countries around Southeast Asia.

Theravada Buddhism

Shoulders should be covered and long pants should be worn rather than shorts. Some temples in tourist places may be more lenient, but your modesty will be appreciated. Some, but not all temples, may provide a sarong or other cover-up for a small fee if the gatekeeper thinks you're not covered up enough. But Buddhism does not teach there is no existence at all.

The "nothing exists" folklore mostly comes from a misunderstanding of the teaching of anatta and its Mahayana extension, shunyata. But these are not doctrines of non-existence. Rather, they teach that we understand existence in a limited, one-sided way.

Everyone's heard the joke about what the Buddhist monk said to a hot dog vendor -- "Make me one with everything. In the Maha-nidana Sutta , the Buddha taught that it was incorrect to say that the self is finite, but it is also incorrect to say that the self is infinite. In this sutra, the Buddha taught us not to hold on to views about whether the self is this or that.

The Four Noble Truths

We fall into the idea that we individuals are component parts of One Thing, or that our individual self is false an only an infinite self-that-is-everything is true. Understanding the self requires going beyond concepts and ideas. If you define reincarnation as the transmigration of a soul into a new body after the old body dies, then no, the Buddha did not teach a doctrine of reincarnation.

For one thing, he taught there was no soul to transmigrate. However, there is a Buddhist doctrine of rebirth. According to this doctrine, it is the energy or conditioning created by one life that is reborn into another, not a soul. However, you don't have to "believe in" rebirth to be a Buddhist. Many Buddhists are agnostic on the matter of rebirth. Some schools of Buddhism do insist on vegetarianism, and I believe all schools encourage it. But in most schools of Buddhism vegetarianism is a personal choice, not a commandment.

The earliest Buddhists scriptures suggest the historical Buddha himself was not a vegetarian. The first order of monks begged for their food, and the rule was that if a monk was given meat, he was required to eat it unless he knew that the animal was slaughtered specifically to feed monks. The word "karma" means "action," not "fate. We are all creating karma every minute, and the karma we create affects us every minute.

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It's common to think of "my karma" as something you did in your last life that seals your fate in this life, but this is not Buddhist understanding. Karma is an action, not a result. The future is not set in stone. You can change the course of your life right now by changing your volitional acts and self-destructive patterns. Karma is not a cosmic system of justice and retribution.