So Buddhism is just a philosophy?
The word philosophy comes from two words 'philo' which means
'love' and 'sophia' which means 'wisdom'. So philosophy is the love of wisdom or love and wisdom, both meanings describe Buddhism
perfectly. Buddhism teaches that we should try to develop our intellectual capacity to the fullest so that we can understand
clearly. It also teaches us to develop love and kindness so that we can be like a true friend to all beings. So Buddhism is
a philosophy but not just a philosophy. It is the supreme philosophy.
Was the Buddha a god?
No, he was not. He did not claim that he was a god, the child of a god or even the messenger from a god. He was a man
who perfected himself and taught that if we follow his example, we could perfect ourselves also.
Buddha is not a god, then why do people worship him?
There are different types of worship. When someone
worships a god, they praise him or her, making offerings and ask for favours, believing that the god will hear their praise,
receive their offerings and answer their prayers. Buddhists do not indulge in this kind of worship. The other kind of worship
is when we show respect to someone or something we admire. When a teacher walks into a room we stand up, when we meet a dignitary
we shake hands,when the national anthem is played we salute. These are all gestures of respect and worship and indicate our
admiration for persons and things. This is the type of worship Buddhist practise. A statue of the Buddha with its hands rested
gently in its lap and its compassionate smile reminds us to strive to develop peace and love within ourselves. The perfume
of incense reminds us of the pervading influence of virtue, the lamp reminds us of light of knowledge and the flowers which
soon fade and die, reminds us of impermanence. When we bow, we express our gratitude to the Buddha for what his teachings
have given us. This is the nature of Buddhist worship.
So if Buddhists dont believe in gods, what do you
We dont believe in a god because we believe in man. We believe that each human being is precious
and important, that all have the potential to develop into a Buddha a perfected human being. We believe that human beings
can outgrow ignorance and irrationality and see things as they really are. We believe that hatred, anger, spite and jealousy
can be replaced by love, patience, generosity and kindness. We believe that all this is within the grasp of each person if
they make the effort, guided and supported by fellow Buddhists and inspired by the example of the Buddha. As the Buddha says:
"No one saves us but ourselves,
No one can and no one may.
We ourselves must walk the path,
Buddhas clearly show the way". -- Dp 165
Other religions derive their ideas of right and wrong from
the commandments of their god or gods. You Buddhists don't believe in a god, so how do you know right from wrong?
Any thoughts, speech or actions that are rooted in greed, hatred and delusion and thus lead us away from Nirvana
are bad and any thoughts, speech or actions that are rooted in giving, love and wisdom and thus help clear the way to Nirvana
To know what is right and wrong in god-centred religions, all that is needed is to do as you are told.
But in a man-centred religion like Buddhism, to know what is right and wrong, you have to develop a deep self-awareness and
self understanding. And ethics based on understanding are always stronger than those that are a response to a command.
So to know what is right and wrong, the Buddhist looks at three things - the intention, the effect the act will have upon
oneself and the effect it will upon others. If the intention is good (rooted in giving, loving and wisdom), if it helps myself
(helps me to be more giving, more loving and wiser), then my deeds and actions are wholesome, good and moral. Of course, there
are many variations of this. Sometimes I act with the best of intentions but they may not benefit either myself or others.
Sometimes my intentions are far from good, but my actions helps others nonetheless. Sometimes I act out of good intentions
and my acts help me but perhaps cause some distress to others. In such cases, my actions are mixed - a mixture of good and
not-so-good. When intentions are bad and the action helps neither myself nor others, such an action is bad. And when my intention
is good and my action benefits both myself and others, then the deed is wholly good.
be vegetarians, shouldnt they?
Not necessarily. The Buddha was not a vegetarian. He did not teach his
disciples to be vegetarians and even today, there are many good Buddhists who are not vegetarians.
If you eat
meat you are indirectly responsible the death of a creature. Isnt that breaking the first precept?
It is true
that when you eat meat, you are indirectly and partially responsible for killing a creature but the same is true when you
eat vegetables. The farmer has to spray his crop with insecticides and poisons so that the vegetables arrive on your dinner
plates without holes in them. And once again, animals have been used to provide the leather for your belt or handbag, oil
for the soap you use and a thousand other products as well. It is impossible to live without, in some way, being indirectly
responsible for the death of some other beings. This is just another example of the First Noble Truth, ordinary existence
is suffering and unsatisfactory. When you take the First Precept, you try to avoid being directly responsible for killing
What you say so far is very interesting to me. How do I become a Buddhist?
Once there was a man called Upali. He was the follower of another religion and he went to the Buddha in order to argue
with him and try to convert him. But after talking to the Buddha, he was so impressed that he decided to become a follower
of the Buddha. But the Buddha said:
"Make a proper investigation first. Proper investigation is good for a
well-known person like yourself."
"Now I am even more pleased and satisfied when the Lord says to me:
'Make a proper investigation first.' For if members of another religion had secured me as a discipline they would have paraded
a banner all around the town saying: 'Upali has joined our religion.' But the Lord says to me: Make a proper investigation
first. Proper investigation is good for a well-known person like yourself."
In Buddhism, understanding is
the most important thing and understanding takes time. So do not impulsively rush into Buddhism. Take your time, ask questions,
consider carefully, and then make your decision. The Buddha was not interested in having a large number of disciples. He was
concerned that people should follow his teachings as a result of a careful investigation and consideration of the facts.