- What is Buddhism?
- How old is Buddhism?
- Where and when did Buddhism originate?
- Who was the founder of Buddhism? Can you tell a brief story of him?
- Is the Buddha a God?
- What does ‘Buddha’ mean?
- Is there a God in Buddhism as in Christianity?
- Do Buddhists believe in God or divine beings?
- If Buddhists don’t believe in a God, how do they know right from wrong?
- If the Buddha is not a God, why do people worship him?
- What major Buddhist festivals are celebrated?
- Why is Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday also called the Bathing Buddha Festival?
- Who is the Founder of Buddhism?
- What is Buddhist scripture and how important is it?
- What does the lotus flower symbolize in Buddhism?
- Why are elephant statues usually displayed in Buddhist temples?
- What is the sign found on the chest of many Buddha statues?
- Do you think that Siddhartha Gautama wanted Buddhism to become a famous religion and world known or just a way of life? And what do you think his purpose was?
- Why do monks and nuns have their heads shaven?
- What are the three circular marks on a monastic’s head?
- What is the structure of a regular Buddhist service?
- Why do Buddhists chant?
- Do people wear special clothes to attend Buddhist services?
- What is the meaning of burning incense in temples?
- What is the meaning of offering?
- In rituals and in everyday life, Buddhists tend to burn incense. What is the purpose of burning this and how does this help?
- Compared with traditional Buddhist rituals, what has changed today and how has this adapted to our everyday lives?
- If Buddhists do not believe in a God, how do they know right from wrong?
- Does Buddhism have a code of morality?
- If Buddhists don’t believe in a God, how do they know right from wrong?
- What is Buddhism?
- What is a Buddha? Is Buddha a God?
- What is Humanistic Buddhism?
- If Buddhists don’t believe in a God, what do they believe?
- If Buddha is not a God, why do people worship him?
- Is Buddhism just a philosophy?
- Is Buddhism scientific?
- What are the basic teachings of Buddha?
- What do ‘compassion’ and ‘wisdom’ mean in Buddhism?
- What are the Four Noble Truths?
- What is meditation?
- Why do Buddhists meditate?
- Is it true that meditation is widely used today by psychiatrists and psychologists?
- Is it necessary for Buddhists to be vegetarians?
- What was the primary purpose of becoming a Buddhist? What attracted you initially, and what makes you stay?
- Why do monks of the Temple wear yellow robes?
- In the Temple, to whom is the main shrine dedicated to?
- What are the eighteen statues at the front gate of Chung Tian Temple?
- What is a Pagoda?
What major Buddhist festivals are celebrated?
There are a number of Buddhist festivals celebrated throughout the year, of which the most important is the commemoration of Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. There are three days to be honoured and the original dates are:
- Buddha’s Birthday : Lunar April 8
- Buddha’s Renouncement Day : Lunar February 8
- Buddha’s Enlightenment Day : Lunar December 8
Buddha’s Birthday has become an annual Festival, celebrated in Southbank Parklands on the 1st Sunday of May since 1997.
Why is Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday also called the Bathing Buddha Festival?
Sakyamuni Buddha, originally Prince Siddhartha Gautama was born in Lumbini Park. It was said when the baby prince was born, he walked seven steps and at each step, a lotus flower sprang up from the ground. Two dragons appeared in the sky spurting two streams of purified water down to bathe the baby. Thereafter, when people celebrate Buddha’s Birthday, they use fragrant water to bathe the baby Buddha statue. This symbolizes the purification of our mind to remove our mental dirt of greed, hatred and ignorance.
Who is the Founder of Buddhism?
Buddhism was founded by Sakyamuni Buddha. He was a Prince of Kapilavatthu in Northern India (currently Nepal) in about 600 B.C. and was named Siddhartha Gautama. He was perturbed by the suffering of ageing, sickness and death, and when he saw a monk looking so calm and peaceful, he decided to renounce the world to seek the truth of life and universe. After several years of cultivation, finally sitting under a Bodhi tree in deep contemplation, he was fully enlightened and was entitled as the Buddha.
What is Buddhist scripture and how important is it?
The Buddhist scripture is the Buddhist Canon or Tripitaka. It includes Sutras (Dharma or Buddha’s teachings), Vinaya (Precepts) and Abhidharma (Commentary). The voluminous Tripitaka is estimated to be about eleven times the size of the Bible. Before the Buddha passed away, he told his disciples, “Whatever doctrine and discipline have been taught and promulgated by me, they will be your teacher when I am gone.” Thus the Tripitaka becomes the sole guide and source of inspiration to all Buddhists.
What does the lotus flower symbolize in Buddhism?
The lotus flower is one of the most complex and prominent Buddhist symbols of purity and enlightenment. From the swampy depths, lotus flower grows into an uncontaminated, exquisite and fragrant flower. Likewise, people can emerge from ignorance, become pure and blossom into enlightenment. The lotus is also a cosmic flower, representative of the supramundane. Most of the Buddha and Bodhisattva figures are on lotus thrones.
Why are elephant statues usually displayed in Buddhist temples?
The symbol of elephant represents endurance and a character that is strong and unshakable. According to Buddhist texts, Sakyamuni Buddha’s mother, Queen Maya dreamt that a white elephant with six tusks entered her side – a sign of divine conception. Thus, a white elephant has long been synonymous with the Buddha himself.
What is the sign found on the chest of many Buddha statues?
A Sauvastika sign is usually seen on the chest of Buddha’s statues. It is an ancient auspicious sign used over 3,000 years ago in ancient Persia, Greece, India etc. with the symbolic meaning of universality and the power to overcome evil. The arms of the Buddhist Sauvastika point in a counterclockwise direction and the sign is always in an upright “+” position. It is NOT related to the Nazi sign of Hitler who made use of it, reversed its direction, tilted it in an ‘X’ position and named it Swastika.
Do you think that Siddhartha Gautama wanted Buddhism to become a famous religion and world known or just a way of life? And what do you think his purpose was?
To Sakyamuni Buddha, his prime intention is to teach people the truth of life and the universe and to guide them to the way of enlightenment – a way that leads us to liberation and ultimate happiness. Buddhism is more than a religion and a way of life but is a perfect education as we address Sakyamuni Buddha as our ‘original teacher’. ‘Buddhism’ refers to his teaching and practice. Buddha never had the intention of establishing his status or soliciting fame and praise from people in propagating his teaching but purely to benefit others and deliver people from suffering. Please refer to the website for more information.
Why do monks and nuns have their heads shaven?
In Buddha’s time, followers of monastic life already had their heads shaven. The Buddha prescribed their ascetic appearance with simple robes and a shaven head so that they would not become conceited and attach to their appearance and good looks. Shaving the head also signifies renunciation from worldly pleasures. From the traditional Buddhist viewpoint, hair represents impurity. Removing it symbolizes one’s dedication to eradicate all defilements.
What are the three circular marks on a monastic’s head?
During a Foguangshan monastic ordination, three pieces of burning incense are placed on a monastic’s head, thus producing permanent circular scars. These three marks represent:
- The Triple Gem: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha;
- The three vows of ridding oneself of bad habits and thoughts, cultivating good, and having wisdom to help releasing others from suffering;
- The Three Trainings: Morality/Discipline, concentration and wisdom
What is the structure of a regular Buddhist service?
A regular Buddhist service is usually a joint cultivation. Dharma instruments will be used to provide rhythm for chanting and singing. Usually there is the reading of a Sutra (Buddhist scripture) and chanting of Buddha’s name. Reading of different Sutras reminds us of the teaching of Buddha, and chanting of Buddha’s names helps to purify our mind and reminds us of their special virtues. Many a troubled mind has found solace upon chanting. Chanting and reading Sutras can generate merits which can promote good karma to grow, and prevent our misdeeds to germinate.
Why do Buddhists chant?
Chanting helps to stabilize and purify the mind by concentration, and gives the opportunity to learn and reflect upon various Buddhist teachings, as well as venerate Buddhas and Bodhisattvas and the virtues they embody. There are many different chants, the texts of which may be a Sutra (on Buddha’s teaching), mantras (short symbolic phrases) or names of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Chanting is often an integral part of Buddhist ceremonies and is important as a means of self cultivation.
Do people wear special clothes to attend Buddhist services?
In Buddhist services, normally lay Buddhists may wear a black robe which has the effect of solemnity and uniformity. It is of a traditional design common to Tang Dynasty when Buddhism was first established as a state religion in China. The black monotonous colour reduces distraction of mind, thus helping people to concentrate more. However, wearing the black robe may not be compulsory in temples. Buddhists who uphold the Five Precepts or Bodhisattva Precepts may drape a brown precept robe over the black robe.
What is the meaning of burning incense in temples?
Burning incense in Buddhist altars is a kind of offering, an act of veneration for the Triple Gem (the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha) with a sincere heart. Aromatic incense purifies the atmosphere and reminds us to purify our mind. Just as its fragrance travels afar, so do good deeds extend to the benefit of all. Burning incense also embodies the transience and dissolution of phenomena.
What is the meaning of offering?
Most Buddhist altars display different kinds of offering. Making offerings allows one to practice giving, express gratitude and respect to the Triple Gem, and reflect upon the life sustaining law of interdependence. As such, making offering develops wholesome and positive karma, e.g. l + Flower offering: Flowers are beautiful and fragrant, yet their splendor will not last forever, and as such they illustrate the impermanence of all things. l + Fruit offering: It reminds us the result of our spiritual cultivation and the Law of Cause and Effect.
In rituals and in everyday life, Buddhists tend to burn incense. What is the purpose of burning this and how does this help?
Burning incense is a kind of offering, expressing gratitude and veneration to the Buddha. Also burning incense gives rise to a fragrance which is to purify the air and reminds us to purify our mind. Just as its fragrance travels afar, so do good deeds extend to the benefit of all.
Compared with traditional Buddhist rituals, what has changed today and how has this adapted to our everyday lives?
Strictly speaking, many rituals that you may see in Buddhist services or ceremony may not be passed down by the Buddha; instead they are much affected by the local traditions and culture. In general, a Buddhist service is a joint cultivation when devotees can get together and cultivate in a more effective environment. There are usually chanting Buddha’s name to concentrate and purify the mind, and reading of Sutras to remind us about the teaching of Buddha. Besides the regular Buddhist services, there may also be repentance services, memorial services for the deceased to show our gratitude and respect for them, or meditation retreat for mind cultivation. All these are for the cultivation of our virtues which are of timeless relevance, but of course with the advancement of scientific development nowadays, a wider range of modern facilities can be adopted.
If Buddhists do not believe in a God, how do they know right from wrong?
The ability to distinguish right from wrong is based on one’s wisdom, intelligence, knowledge and experience. It has nothing to do with whether one believes in a God or not. Does it mean that those who are atheists are unable to tell right from wrong? Buddhism is an education where knowledge and wisdom predominate. By understanding the truth of life and universe, we are able to distinguish right from wrong.
Does Buddhism have a code of morality?
Buddhism contains an excellent moral code including one for the Sangha and another for the laity. The base of Buddhism is morality, and its apex is wisdom. Of the Four Noble Truths that form the foundation of Buddhism, the fourth (Noble Eightfold Path) forms the basis of the ethics of Buddhism. The common basic moral principles of conduct which set guidelines for all Buddhists in daily life are the Five Precepts. They are no killing, so stealing, no sexual misconduct, no lying and no intoxicants.
If Buddhists don’t believe in a God, how do they know right from wrong?
The ability to distinguish right from wrong is based on one’s wisdom, intelligence, knowledge and experience. It has nothing to do with whether one believes in a God or not. Does it mean that for those who are atheists, they are unable to tell the right from the wrong?
What is meditation?
Meditation is an effective means for cultivating a calm and focused mind. Buddhists believe it is an important part of mental development which is necessary to gain wisdom and enlightenment. Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are often portrayed in meditative states. There are various types of meditation, most of which essentially emphasize concentration on an object or concept, as well as correct gesture and awareness of breathing. The meditative school of Buddhism is Ch’an (or ‘Zen’ in Japan) and is based on intuitive insight and spontaneous enlightenment.
Why do Buddhists meditate?
Meditation is a cultivation of awareness and mindfulness that develop deep mindful concentration, leading to the recovery of our Buddha nature and our perfect innate wisdom. It is an activity of mental consciousness. Our delusions stem from our misunderstanding of reality and habitual clinging to the ways we see things. Through meditation, we can recognize our mistakes and adjust our mind to think and react more realistically and honestly. This transformation of mind happens gradually and delivers us from instinctive and habitual fallacies to becoming familiar with the rightful truth
.Is it true that meditation is widely used today by psychiatrists and psychologists?
Yes, it is. Meditation is now accepted as having a highly therapeutic effect upon the mind and is used by many professional mental health workers to help induce relaxation, overcome phobias and bring about self-awareness. The Buddha’s insights into the human mind are helping people as much today as they did in ancient times.
Is it necessary for Buddhists to be vegetarians?
To be a vegetarian is to cultivate our compassionate mind, a respect for all lives and to observe the precept of refraining from killing. This practice originated in Chinese Buddhism. While traditional Buddhist scriptures do not mandate vegetarianism, Chinese monastics must take a vow not to eat meat. Lay followers, however, are not required to do so. If not daily vegetarians, many Buddhists observe vegetarian diet during retreats or special days of a month.
What was the primary purpose of becoming a Buddhist? What attracted you initially, and what makes you stay?
To me, Buddhism is a perfect and profound teaching about the genuine truth of life and the universe and is able to account for all phenomena that many other religions may not be able to explain in a satisfactory way. Buddhism does not demand you to have blind faith on an ‘almighty entity’ and put yourself under the mercy of him, but Buddha as a teacher teaches us how to help ourselves and to be the master of ourselves to create a better future. It has a perfect code of morality and ways of practice that we can follow to really benefit ourselves not only in this life time but even in the infinite future. Material
Why do monastics of the Temple wear yellow robes?
Reverends in this temple wear identical robes common to that of Tang Dynasty (A.D.618-906). Long sleeves covering the hands are part of the traditional design. Fully ordained monastics usually wear yellow ochre-coloured robes. This earth tone hue derives from the Buddha’s directive that monastics wear clothing assembled from clean but discarded rags, coloured with bark dye to a brownish colour. It also represents the mud of ignorance from which all beings necessarily emerge. For special occasions or service, an additional ceremonial robe is draped over the left shoulder.
In the Temple, to whom is the main shrine dedicated to?
The main shrine is dedicated to Kuan Yin (Avalokitesvara) Bodhisattva, the Great Compassionate and Merciful One. Kuan Yin’s manifestations are numerous in both male and female forms, and the one representing in the main hall is the ‘Thousand Hands and Thousand Eyes Kuan Yin’ symbolizing his great ability to help all those in need and to see all suffering in the world. The implements held by the hands are metaphors of his infinite power and compassion, as well as of the individual strength a person must summon to overcome unwholesome ways.
What are the eighteen statues at the front gate of Chung Tian Temple?
They are the eighteen Arhats. Arhats are perfected beings of Hinayana Buddhism who attain enlightenment by listening and practicing the Buddha’s teaching. An Arhat has traversed the Noble Eightfold Path and transcended samsara (rebirth cycle). These Arhats were said to remain in this world to protect the Dharma. They are usually represented as possessing various kinds of supernatural power, symbolized either by objects held in their hands or by wild animals crouching submissively beside them.
What is a Pagoda?
Pagoda has its origin from Indian stupa, an ancient type of building used to store sutras and sacred relics of Buddha. With the spread of Buddhism to China, Chinese architectural elements were gradually incorporated into pagoda design. Its tapering design reaching to the sky is synonymous with the idea of practicing Buddhism step by step which finally leads to supreme enlightenment. Although different in appearance from its stupa forebears, it continues to symbolize the Buddha, and building one generates much merit. Nowadays it may be used as a resting place for cremated ashes of devotees.