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Volume 5 No 1

The Dharma in Blossom

A Religion beyond this world
By Venerable Shen-Kai

It is commonly believed that all religions are the same because they all teach us to be good. In addition to teaching 'to do no evil and to perform all good deeds", Buddhism distinguishes itself by also teaching 'to purify the mind.' This is a very important difference because all things are created by the mind. Buddhism is also very broad, and it goes beyond the world as we know it - where we come from and where we headed for.

The word 'religion' originated from the Western countries. A religion is a system of faith and worship. In the Chinese language, 'religion' has a broader meaning and refers to the purpose of a teaching and the teaching itself.

Buddhism is more than a system of faith. A practitioner of Buddhism cultivates his mind and deeds, and seeks true freedom or liberation. The development of purity in the body, speech and mind will enlighten the inner wisdom of humanity. Buddhism is a religion based on the profound teachings of Buddha. Buddha's teachings are so broad and profound that sentient beings call Buddha the World Honoured One; the Saint of Saints; the Heaven of Heavens. Buddhism is called 'the illuminating Saintly Teaching', for it teaches what wisdom is and how to develop wisdom.

All religions, except Buddhism, exist in the Three Fields - the Fields of Desire, Form and Formlessness. They are in the cycle of the Six Realms - the Realm of Heaven, Asura, Human, Animal, Ghost and Hell.

Buddhism teaches people 'to do no evil; to perform all good deeds; and to purify the mind.' If people do evil, their evil karma leads them to suffer in the Three Evil Realms - the Realms of Animal, Ghost and Hell. If people perform all good deeds, their good karma brings them the happiness of the Three Good Realms - the Realms of Heaven, Asura and Human. Those who perform great virtuous deeds will be reborn in the Heavenly Realm. There are 28 heavens in the world. In the highest heaven - the Heaven that is beyond the condition of thinking or non-thinking, the heavenly beings do not have a physical nor any form of body. They only have mind-consciousness. If those heavenly beings had committed killing in the past, and that karma presents to them from their mind, they will die immediately. They are then reborn in the Hell Realm because of the past karma of killing. That is why Buddha said 'no true freedom can be found in the Realm of Heaven.'

It is most important that Buddhist practitioners should seek to liberate from the Three Fields or the Six Realms. The practitioners of Hinayana Buddhism must liberate from the 28 heavens to attain Arahathood(the highest level of wisdom and freedom one can attain from the practice of Hinayana Budhism.) If people pursue Buddhahood and want to become a Buddha, they have to relinquish the Arahat path and cultivate the Bodhisattva path. To attain Buddhahood and the supreme enlightenment, people should not do any evil deeds. After performing all good deeds, they should not attach to the good deeds that they have performed. In this way, the ego dies and the true nature of oneself, the Buddha Nature, is revealed. When a person becomes Buddha, the Buddhahood one attains must also be relinquished.

1. Kalpa: A long period of time; an age. 1 small kalpa = 16.8 million years; 1 medium kalpa = 336 million years; 1 great kalpa = 1.344 billion years.

Buddhism is a profound religion that leads people to go beyond the world itself. Other religions exist in the domain of this mundane world. In Buddhism, 'world' means the Three Fields or the Six Realms. Buddhism will last forever whereas other religions may last hundreds or thousands of years. For example, a previous earth existed before the present earth was formed and existed during the time called the 'Kalpa[1]of Majesty'. There were a thousand Buddhas who appeared on the previous earth. The present time of this earth's existence is called the 'Kalpa of the Virtues'. A thousand Buddhas will appear on the present earth. Sakyamuni Buddha was the fourth Buddha on this earth. After the present earth decays and becomes empty, there will be a new earth. The time during the existence of the future earth is called the 'Kalpa of Stars'. There will also be a thousand Buddhas appearing on the future earth. Therefore, it is said that Buddhism will last forever. Sakyamuni Buddha taught this in a sutra called the "Names of Three Thousand Buddhas'.

Buddhism existed, exists and will exist in the past, the present and the future in worlds in the ten directions of the cosmos. People should feel happy and honoured being a Buddhist.

Most religions, including Buddhism teach people not to do evil and to perform good deeds. However, only Buddhism teaches people how to purify their minds. This is why Buddhism is more profound than other religions.


Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre