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Volume 4  No 4

Venerable Shen-Kai Answers

Understanding Buddhism

Venerable Shen-Kai travelled far and wide to promote the teachings of the Humanity Vehicle Buddhism. Often questions were posted to him covering Buddhism and a wide variety of subjects relating to life. Through his answers, the Venerable clarifies and imparts the Buddha's teachings to the people, and at the same time illustrates the true spirit of Buddhism, The following are 10 such questions and answers.

1. Is the Buddha-dharma an idealism?

The Buddha-dharma is the ideology of enlightenment.

In this world there is materialism and idealism. Some say that the Buddha-dharma is an idealism, but it is not. The Buddha-dharma is the ideology of Buddha. That means the ideology of enlightenment. The word 'Buddha' means awareness or enlightenment. The Buddha is one who has attained the supreme enlightenment. We learn and practise Buddhism in order to attain enlightenment. It is only through enlightenment that we have wisdom.

2. Which religions do the teachings of Confucius and Mencius belong to?

The teachings of Confucius and Mencius are not religious.

The teachings of Confucius and Mencius are within the boundary of the laws of this secular world and are not considered to be religious. They constitute a form of academic ideology. Confucius and Mencius dealt with the laws of this secular world. Taoism deals with the laws that are beyond this secular world. Buddhism deals with the laws that are both within and beyond this secular world.

3. Should the Buddha image be covered up during mourning?

The Buddha image should be displayed during mourning.

Covering up the Buddha image during mourning is an act of superstition. Customs like these differ from country to country. For example, in some countries a piece of white or yellow cloth is used to cover up the 'deity of the door' so that it is convenient for the dead person's soul to come in and out of the house. As for covering up the Buddha image, such a practice is unheard of. In fact, it is good for the dying person to spend more time looking at the Buddha image. It will assist him to be reborn in virtuous realm in his next life.

Often times, customs passed down through the generations are accepted without much thought or investigation. In many cases, they deviate from the original practice through the passage of time and new versions are created, thereby making the world even more superstitious.

4. Can those who are bereaved prostrate before the Buddha?

The bereaved should prostrate even more to the Buddha.

There are more reasons for those who are bereaved to prostrate before the Buddha. They should also encourage others in the family to do the same. Prostrating before the Buddha can lessen the hindrances resulting from negative karma. It can also influence and lessen the hindrances from the deceased's negative karma. It is advisable to adopt a vegetarian diet during the period of mourning. The offering of meat is strongly discouraged as the practice adds to the hindrances of the deceased's negative karma.

5. Is it true that star-fruit, water melon and mango should not be offered to the Buddha?

Offer the Buddha real fruits.

Any fruit that is edible to the human being can be offered to the Buddha. Since the star-fruit, water melon and mango are fit for human consumption, then naturally they can be offered to the Buddha. The use of man-made fruits such as those made of synthetic materials as offerings are inappropriate.

6. How do we show our gratitude to the four kinds of benevolence?

To be with Buddha is real gratitude.

All humanity, regardless of nationality and race, receive four kinds of benevolence: (1) Grace of our parents for raising us and providing for our education, (2) Grace of the sentient beings of the society for providing to our needs, (3) Grace of all our teachers for making us the person we are, and (4) Grace of our country for the security that we enjoy. We survive because of them, and therefore we need to have the appropriate concept of gratitude. For this reason, Jen Chen Buddhism marks the last day of the calendar year as Thanksgiving Day with an occasion to acknowledge our benefactors, and to bless them with good health, and to pray for world peace, security and happiness for humanity.

7. Should Buddhists abstain from beef?

Mahayana Buddhism abstains from meat.
In time gone by, an old grandfather and his farming cow are often portrayed to be the source of livelihood. While it is forbidden to eat the old grandfather's flesh, yet the cow may be slaughtered and eaten. That sounds illogical. The farming cow has tremendous contributions to humanity. How can we bear to eat its flesh? Although in present times the beef consumed by human beings comes from cattle farmed specially for their meat, Buddhists who are vegetarians should still abstain from beef. However, if because of various causes and conditions you arrived in a country that feeds on nothing else but beef, then it is really beyond your control that under such unavoidable circumstances you are compelled to eat the beef.

Under certain circumstances, one cannot insist on a vegetarian diet, lest others may be discouraged to embrace Buddhism. Once the Buddhism principles are understood, naturally there will be causes and conditions to inspire them to be vegetarians themselves.

8. Abortion is legal in some countries. Does Jen Chen Buddhism support abortion? What are the retributions from the karma of abortion?

Jen Chen Buddhism advocates contraception, not abortion.

en Chen Buddhism advocates the observance of the Five Precepts: to abstain from (1) killing, (2) stealing, (3) sexual misconduct, (4) false speech and (5) consumption of all kinds of intoxicants. To abstain from killing is the first precept and that means to avoid taking the life away from any living beings. All killings are sinful, especially the killing of human beings since they are of the highest order amongst all living things on earth. As viviparous animals, the human embryo is considered a human being. Therefore, one who has aborted a foetus has committed an act of killing.

Jen Chen Buddhism absolutely does not support abortion because it is an act of killing. The retribution of killing is to suffer in hell. Moreover, the consciousness of the foetus whom has been deprived of his birth and caused to suffer in his killing, will be engulfed in hatred and anger. Thus, the collective negative karma of killing will lead to a common retribution, resulting in calamities among humanity.

Jen Chen Buddhism hopes that humanity accepts contraception and objects to abortion. It is in this way that humanity can have happiness and bliss.

9. Is reciting the name of the Buddha the only way of practising Buddhism?

There are 84,000 Dharma-doors in the practice of Buddhism.

The doctrines of the Buddha regarded as the door to enlightenment; methods of cultivation.

The term 'Buddha' means enlightenment. A Buddha is one having the sublime and supreme enlightenment. Sakyamuni Buddha speaks of 84,000 methods of cultivation in the practice of Buddhism. These are called Dharma-doors[1]. In reality the number exceeds 84,000. These methods are like the numerous types of medicines in a pharmacy, and they are needed because sentient beings have numerous types of sicknesses. These sicknesses arise from the mind, and they need the many methods of cultivation to heal them. Therefore, the Buddha is called the great doctor or physician. The Dharma expounded by the Buddha is meant for the minds of all sentient beings. If these minds do not exist, then there is really no need for the Dharma.

Reciting the names of the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas is one of the many methods of cultivation. One could recite Amitabha Buddha, Bhaisajya Buddha, Mansjuri Bodhisattva, Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva, or Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva, depending on the needs and the circumstances. Besides this, there are many other methods, and in fact they exceed 84,000. Regardless of the method, as long as it gives us the peace of mind and inculcate a healthy mental culture, then that is a good method.

Medical treatment relies neither on a single medicine nor on all the medicines that are available. Rather, a correct prescription is essential. It is the same with learning and practising Buddhism. It is not advisable to attach to one particular method of cultivation, and consider that to be complete. We must consider all methods. We can practise the method that we are most comfortable with, and if necessary, change it for a more suitable one. Certainly, it is unfair to criticise the methods that we are not practising, because profound advancements leading to liberation and wisdom are possible with all methods of cultivation.

In his forty-nine years expounding on the Dharma, the Buddha taught many methods of cultivation. And, they are all taught in response to sentient beings' needs and capacities.

10. Besides reciting the names of the Buddha's, are there other simpler methods to purify the mind of the modern sentient beings?

The sweeping method is simplest.
There are numerous types of medicine in a pharmacy. There is no good or bad about a particular medicine itself; it is a good medicine as long as the sickness is healed. Therefore, an appropriate prescription is essential. We all know that ginseng is a good tonic, but one can fall sick with too much of it too.

The Buddha-dharma is like this - 84,000 methods to treat the 84,000 sicknesses of sentient beings. In fact, the number exceeds 84,000. 'All the Dharma taught by the Buddha are meant for all the minds. If there aren't all these minds, then there is no need for all the Dharma.' All the Buddha-dharma are for healing the sicknesses of the sentient beings' minds. When the mind is healed, then naturally the body is healed too. There are many Dharma-doors[1]. You are encouraged to practise the particular method most relevant to your needs, for example, reciting the names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, inquiring to seek the truth, prostrating before the Buddha, contemplation ....... indeed there are just too many methods. If you wish to know the simplest method of all, let me give you a present, a broom, with which to sweep the compound of your mind till it is thoroughly clean. This is the simplest method.


Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre