Questions & Answers on Buddhism
Here are a series of questions that I was recently asked as part of a Casey Multifaith Network presentation for the local Star Newspaper, with the intention to create peace, understanding and harmony within the community.
I thought the answers may be of some benefit for practising Buddhists and Non-Buddhists alike.
Happy Vesak. May all beings be well and happy.
1) What is your name and where do you live?
Andrew Williams. I live at Phillip Island & Endeavour Hills.
2) What religion do you believe in and/or follow and what is your involvement?
Buddhism. I have studied & practised Buddhism since I was quite young. I have been teaching Buddhism since 1998, initially in the USA & now back home in Australia.
3) Does your religion have different groups within it?
4) What are the main groups?
The 3 major traditions within Buddhism are Theravada (School of the Elders), Mahayana (Great Vehicle) & Vajrayana (Diamond Vehicle).
5) Does your religion have any Holy Scriptures or Sacred writings?
Yes, known as the Tripitaka (3 collections). It includes the Vinaya or collection of the rules of conduct, relating predominantly to morality; The Sutra's or recorded discourses of the Buddha & his major disciples, relating predominantly to meditation; and the Abhidharma or Higher Knowledge, relating to wisdom, it includes investigation & analysis of Buddhist philosophy & psychology.
6) What do all people from your religion (whatever the group) have in common?
Have faith, trust & confidence in the Triple Gem. Namely, the Buddha, the Supremely Enlightened Teacher; the Dharma, the Teachings; and the Sangha, the supportive & harmonious spiritual community of Buddhist practitioners.
7) What are some of the differences between the different groups?
The differences are mainly cultural, although there are some differences in relation to the interpretation of the higher teachings & ultimate reality.
8) What is the most important foundational truths or teachings, that all members of your religion would say is the basis of the religion?
- To understand & practise the Four Noble Truths. 1) Suffering 2) Cause of Suffering 3) Cessation of Suffering & 4) The Path Leading to the Cessation of Suffering. Namely, Right understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, effort, mindfulness & concentration.
- To understand & practise the Four Immeasurable's of universal love, compassion, joy & equanimity.
- Understand & belief in the Law of Karma (cause & effect) & rebirth.
- Understand the Three Marks of Existence. That is that all conditioned phenomena, both mental & physical, are impermanent, have the nature of suffering & have no independent self identity.
- Nirvana or Supreme Enlightenment is unconditioned & liberation from the cycle of unsatisfactory existence (samsara).
9) How important is it to obey the sacred texts? What happens if some parts say things that seem to disagree with other parts?
The Buddha said, in relation to our body, speech & mind, " Do no harm, do only good, purify your mind". Therefore it is very important to live by these guidelines. We should abstain from killing, stealing & sensual misconduct (body); slandering, lying, using harsh language & gossip (speech); and covetousness, harmful intentions & wrong views (mind). We should also develop love & compassion for all, practise meditation & develop insight into the nature of reality (wisdom).
10) What is your religion's belief about the future: the future of the world, and life after death?
The future is caused by our actions (karma) of body, speech & mind in the past & present. Both individually & collectively. We are continually reborn, according to the results of our karma, in samsara (cyclic existence), until we realise the ultimate truth of enlightenment.
By Lay Dhamma Teacher Andrew Williams
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