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Volume 4  No 2

Venerable Shen-Kai answers

Understanding Buddhism

Venerable Shen-Kai travelled far and wide to promote the teachings of the Humanity Vehicle Buddhism. He endeavours to create a Bliss Culture for humanity by explaining and bridging Buddhism as a religion and Buddhism as a way to a blissful life. Through a question and answer approach, the Venerable clarifies and imparts the Buddha's teachings to sentient beings, and guides them to the correct principles, knowledge and the true spirit of what the Buddha taught in the Humanity Vehicle Buddhism. He shows that understanding what Buddhism stands for and putting them into practice can indeed lead us to a care-free, happy and blissful life. The following are 10 such questions and answers.

1. Is there Buddhism in other worlds?

The Buddha-dharma is universal.

THE PATHS of all Buddhas are the same. When the Buddha was alive, there were many Bodhisattvas in other worlds and they often came to this *Saha World to listen to Sakyamuni Buddha expound on the Dharma. Likewise, the Bodhisattvas of the Saha world also visited other worlds for this purpose. It will be known from this that not only is Buddhism taught in the Saha world, it is also taught in all the worlds of the **Ten Directions. Buddhism will not become extinct.

2. Since all things originate and cease because of causes and conditions, will the Dharma cease to exist one day?

The Dharma is non-originating and non-ceasing.

SINCE ALL originate because of causes and conditions, therefore a particular set of causes and conditions will result in a particular phenomenal existence. Naturally all things in this world will experience origination and cessation. They do not remain unchanged forever. If we proclaim that they do not change, then the statement is not in accord with the natural law. However, the ultimate Dharma is non-originating and non-ceasing.

3. Is it possible to learn Buddhism and practise self-cultivation at home?

Cultivate at home and wherever you are.

OF COURSE, as a Buddhist one has to cultivate at home! However, if you wish to learn and practise Buddhism, then first and foremost you need to take refuge in the Three Treasures. You also need to have a correct understanding of Buddhism. You cannot be superstitious, and hopefully you can find a virtuous friend or teacher who can guide you. You should not cultivate and practise blindly, and unwittingly enter into the wrong paths.

4. How do we apply the Heart Sutra in our daily lives?

Maintain neither form nor emptiness.

THE HEART is the most important volume of the Maha-prajna-paramita Sutra which consists of 600 volumes. The essence of the Maha-prajna-paramita Sutra is contained therein. There are many ways to apply the Heart Sutra in our daily lives. To put it simply, the most important thing to do is to constantly empty the thoughts in our minds. "Realise that the five aggregates are empty" as stated in the Heart Sutra, means that the five aggregates; form, feeling, cognition, action and consciousness, need to be emptied.

After having emptied the thoughts, there should be no attachment to the emptiness itself. In this way, wisdom will unfold. However, if you say that "I have wisdom", then it is also incorrect! This is because the Sutra also states that in reality there is "no wisdom and no attainment". Thus, the need to spontaneously maintain neither form nor emptiness. This is the way to apply the Heart Sutra in our daily lives.

5. How can I be free of distress?

See through, let go and be care-free.

IT IS a simple matter to be free of distress. One only needs to be able to accept and let go. For example, you take to liking a pretty girl and you think of her day and night. But, she does not like you at all. Because she does not reciprocate your feelings, you become distressed. At this moment, if you want to alienate from this suffering, there is only one way and that is to 'let go'. There are too many things happening in our daily life and if we are not able to 'let go', these things will cause us to suffer. Once, the Venerable Dai Xu was asked, "What is the Dharma?". The Venerable replied, "See through, let go and be care-free."

6. What is true repentance?

A resolution not to repeat.

FOR INSTANCE, a person who likes to gamble. He may tell himself that it is wrong and that he should change his ways. However, he continues to gamble.

Some hard-core gamblers even chop off their fingers in desperation. Still, they continue to gamble with the other hand. And when the fingers of both hands have been chopped off, they gamble using their toes. Such a behaviour is not true repentance. One who truly repents does not need to resort to that sort of actions. He only needs to sincerely repent from within, resolve and correct himself thoroughly.

7. Buddhism speaks of tolerance, abstention from argument and non-competition, wouldn't these obstruct the progress of human culture?

Being conscientious in our roles is real progress.

ABSTENTION FROM competition is in fact the most sublime principle for the progress of humanity. All competition create disharmony in the society.

The eventual result of competition is war. Wars lead to harm, which in turn leads to destruction. It is not true to say that non-competition is backward and competition is progress. The Bodhisattvas of the Western Pure-land do not compete, they cultivate by themselves and reap tremendous blessings. They have all their needs fulfilled. How can that be backward? On the other hand, we compete in this world of suffering, resulting in us screaming in misery. Thus, we call this world the *Saha World. The Saha World is also known as the world of endurance. One who resides in this world needs to endure. One who fails to endure cannot survive. When we have understood this point, and we play our roles and perform our duties conscientiously, then that should be good enough.

8. If the majority of the society renounce to be Buddhist monks or nuns, wouldn't this affect the material development and progress of the society?

The reality is that there are very few monks or nuns in this world.

THAT SHOULD not be the case. The people of the Western Pure-land are all monks or nuns. Think about it - the kind of happiness and the scientific and technological development, they are many times more advanced than our *Saha World. The Western Pure-land is filled with extreme happiness. Suffering exists in our world because of male and female forms. There is no gender amongst the Bodhisattvas of the Western Pure-land, and therefore they are all very happy. Since male and female forms do not exist therefore marriage also does not exist! There is also no such thing as renunciation to be monks or nuns! Emotions, love and desire arise amongst human beings due to the male and female forms; because of these forms, the world is a boundless sea of suffering. It is not easy to find even a few monks or nuns in this world. Let us not question if it is possible for all people to renounce and become monks or nuns. It is not meaningful to discuss such a question. As long as our mind is pure, that should be good enough.

9. Why does the human population increase?

Emotion, love and desire.

EMOTION, LOVE and desire are a sea of suffering. And because of these, the human population increases.

10. Should children be handed corporal punishment?

Investigate the causes, it may be the parents that need to be punished.

WHEN A child is disobedient, we should investigate the causes. Perhaps the parents themselves are not behaving properly, and the child learned from them. In that case the parents should be punished, not the child.

If children are really disobedient, the parents must identify the causes of their misbehaviour. Were they influenced by external sources or did they learn from within the family? Is it because the parents' conduct is not exemplary, or is it due to the habits from their previous lives? We should carefully investigate the causes first, and then use our wisdom to handle such problems. It would be unfair to blame the child otherwise. If the adults themselves smoke and they expect the children not to smoke, of if they gamble and yet expect the child not to gamble, then it is going to be quite difficult. As parents we have to set good examples. Only then, can we set expectations of our children. When we understand this principle, we can then prescribe a remedy. It is in fact quite easy for children to learn to be good.

*Saha world: Our world, wherein one has to endure in order to live.

**Ten directions: Ten directions of space; 8 directions of the compass, and the nadir and zenith.

Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre