non-Buddhist or free thinkers always feel that it is an act of
superstition when they see Buddhists repent or chant. To repent is to
admit one's mistake. Everyone of us, from the past until the present,
have committed countless wrong and evil deeds. We have left behind the
karma that brings us sufferings and obstructs our progress towards
enlightenment and freedom. In order to reduce and get rid of this karma
that is obstructing and bringing suffering to us, we should repent in
front of the Buddha or the Sangha and admit our mistakes, so that the
past evil karma can be reduced. There are methods of repentance in
Buddhism and these are equivalent to the confession' in Christianity.
practice is very important for us to progress further along the
path of Buddhahood. One must repent for oneself with great sincerity.
Then this repentance can be beneficial and comply with the teaching of
generally do not know how to repent. So, what should we do? The
great masters in the past thus compiled some procedures and observances
that one could follow if one wants to repent. They taught us to chant
word by word, contemplate and understand the teaching behind it. The
services of repentance teaches us how to pay respect to the Buddha,
seeking for the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas, loving kindness and
compassionate protection. We should admit our own mistakes, knowing
that killing, stealing and adultery are evil deeds, sincerely repenting
our past evil deeds and be determined to practice for a better future.
These are the procedures of repentance taught by the great masters in
the past. However, the most important aim of these services is to
develop one's mind to correcting oneself and repent sincerely for one's
past evil deeds.
people cannot even read the readily written procedures, hence,
they invite the monks or nuns to lead them during the repentance. As
time passes, it gradually turns out to be that these people do not even
know that they should repent, and only employ the monks and nuns to
repent for them. Some, when their parents or family members pass away,
in order to release the past evil karma of the parents and the other
family members, invite the monks or nuns to do a repentance service for
them. They hope that relying on the merits of the Triple Gem, the death
may be relieved from the realms of suffering. However, sometimes they
do not understand the real purpose of the teaching and only emphasise
on how big the ceremony should be; or do it for the sake of tradition,
and spend money to employ the monks or nuns to do the services for
them. They do not have faith in Buddhism, and do not show any sincerity
in repenting themselves. In this case the purpose of these repentance
services will not be achieved.
the purpose of the services for repentance becomes vague.
The Buddhist devotees do not repent and request the monks or nuns to do
everything for them, As a result, the monks and nuns are busy with all
these services all day; to do the service for this family today, and
the next family tomorrow. And these services become the only activity
in some of the monasteries, with the main task of the monks and nuns
being neglected. This is one of the causes of lack of faith in Buddhism
has to come from within. If one repents sincerely, even for
just an hour, it has better merits than inviting a lot of people and
conducting a few days services but not repenting oneself. If one
understands this theory, and would like to show one's filial piety to
the one's parents, the best merit will be to do the repentance oneself.
It is not right to regard the services of repentance or other services
as the occupation of the monks or nuns, as this will not bring any good
to the society, but creates more misunderstanding and defamation for
c) Daily Chanting
people who practices the teaching of the Buddha, recite the name
of the Buddha and chant the sutras every morning and evening as their
daily homework. This is what we call daily chanting (prayer) in
Christianity, they have morning and evening, and meal time prayer.
The Catholic also chants in the morning and evening. There is nothing
wrong with these religious ceremonies, but some Buddhists were
concerned about these matters and asked: "Maybe it is better not to
practice Buddhism. Once one practices Buddhism, problems come. My
mother spends at least one to two hours each morning and evening to do
her chanting. If all practicing Buddhists are like this, then who is
going to do the work at home?"
some of the lay people, this is the real situation. They create
the misunderstanding that Buddhism is only suitable for the old people
and those who are free, it is not suitable for the general people to
practice. In fact, it is not necessary that one must chant a specific
sutra, or recite a certain Buddha's name or to intone for a long time.
One can practise according to one's wish. The duration of the practice
should depend on the circumstances and the time that one has. The
important thing in the daily practices is to recite the verse of taking
refuge in the Triple Gem. The "Ten Vows of the Pu Xian Bodhisattva" is
also important. The Buddhism sect in Japan, such as the Pure Land sect,
the Tien Tai sect and the Secret sect, which originated from China,
have the daily practices of their own sect. They are simple and do not
require too much time. This was the situation of Buddhism during the
Tang and Song Dynasties.
The daily practice in China over the last few centuries varied:
In the forest monastery where there were hundreds of people, it took
a long time to gather everyone together. In order to adapt to this
special environment, the daily practices became longer.
Since the Yuen and Ming dynasties, the different sects in Buddhism
merged. Thus, in compiling the procedure of the daily practice, it
included the practices of the various sects in order to suit the needs
of followers. It is not necessary for a lay person now to follow all
these procedures. In the older days, the Indians who practiced the
Mahayana teachings practiced the Five Repentances six times per day. It
does not matter if the time is shorter. The frequency of the practice
may be increased.
short, to practice the teaching of the Buddha is not to chant only;
and for one who is practising at home, one should not neglect one's
responsibilities at home because of long daily practices.
d) To burn paper money after a death
Chinese in the olden days have the tradition of burning white silk
when praying to the ancestors. They burn the silk so that the ancestors
may use it. They were then replaced by paper; as it is more economical.
Later, they used paper to make money, ingots, notes, and even houses
and cars, and burn them for their ancestors. These are generated from
the traditional customs of the olden days. They are not the teachings
of the Buddha.
there are also some good points about this. It allows the
children to show appreciation to their parents. When they are drinking
or eating, they think of their parents and ancestors. When they are
living in good houses and wearing nice clothes, they remember their
ancestors, and do not forget the help of their ancestors. This practice
has the implication of remembrance. When Buddhism spread to China, in
order to adapt to the Chinese culture, and for convenience sake, this
practice was merged into the practice of chanting and paying respect to
the Buddha. It arouses the criticism of others, and thoughts that
Buddhism is superstitious and wasteful. Buddhists should understand
this and should not burn paper money as this is not the teaching of the
Buddha. If one still wants to keep the tradition and want to show one's
remembrance towards the ancestors, then one may burn a little at home.
But do not burn them in the temple or monastery as this will create
misunderstanding of Buddhism.
e) To draw lots, to ask for fortune, to divine
some Buddhist monasteries and temple, there is misbehaviour such as
drawing lots, asking for fortune, divining etc. This arouses the
criticism and ire of the society, and people say that Buddhism is
superstitious. In fact, true Buddhists do not allow this behaviour
(whether they are effective or not is another matter). One who is
really practising the teaching of the Buddha, should believe in the Law
of Cause and Effect. If one has committed evil karma in the past or
present lives, one will not be able to avoid the effect of it through
who practises good acts will gain good fruit. One who does evil
deeds will not be able to run away from the evil effects. In order to
gain good effects, one must do more merits. A practicing Buddhist
should try to do more good deeds, according to the teaching of the
Buddha, and should not try to find short cuts and behave in a bad way.
Misunderstanding that arises from the current development of
Chinese do not understand Buddhism and its development in the
international level. They criticise Buddhism on their own accord and
opinion, based on the current situation of Buddhism in China. The
following are two commonly heard criticisms:
a) The country will weaken and end if the people believe in Buddhism.
think that the end of India is due to its people's belief in
Buddhism. They want China too strong and hence subjectively conclude
that the people should not believe in Buddhism. In fact this is totally
wrong. Those who have studied the history of Buddhism will know that
the time when India was strongest was during the time when Buddhism was
most popular. At the time of Emperor Asoka, he unified the whole India
and spread the teaching of the Buddha to the whole world.
the revival of the Brahmana practice, Buddhism was
destroyed and India became more restless each day. When India was
conquered by the Muslims and the British, Buddhism has already
deteriorated to the stage of near to non-existence.
in the Chinese history also has a similar path. Now that we
call the overseas Chinese the "People of the Tang", and to call China
as the "Mountain of Tang", shows that the Tang dynasty was the
strongest dynasty in the history of China. And, that is in fact the
time when Buddhism was at its high peak: After the destruction of
Buddhism by Emperor Tang Wu Zhong, the Tang dynasty began to
deteriorate. After the Tang dynasty, the Song Emperors, Song Tai Chu,
Tai Zhong, Zhen Zhong and Ren Zhong were all faithful followers of
Buddhism. That was also the peak period of the Song dynasty. For the
Ming Emperor, the Ming Tai Chu had had the experience of leading a
renounced life, the Tai Zhong was also very faithful to Buddhism.
Weren't these the times when the country was in good order, peaceful
Japan is facing failure at the moment, they became one of the
stronger countries in the world sometime after the Ming Zhi Revolution.
Then, they were mostly Buddhist. Thus, who says that Buddhism will
weaken a country? From the facts in the history, the time when a nation
was strong was also the time when Buddhism was at its peak. Why are
people wishing that the Chinese nation can become stronger but at the
same time condemn the propagation of Buddhism?
b) Buddhism is useless to society
Chinese this century, see the Catholic and Christians' contribution
in setting up schools and hospitals, but little is being seen to be
done by the Buddhists. Hence they feel that Buddhism is pessimistic and
does not contribute to the social welfare of the society. This is a
wrong concept. The most that one can say is that Chinese Buddhists this
century were not hard working and responsible. This is not the attitude
that the Buddha taught us to have.
Chinese Buddhist in the past also participated in the social
welfare activities in the society. In Japan, Buddhists are at present
setting up a lot of universities and high schools. The monks and nuns
are the principals or lecturers of the universities or high schools.
The charitable work of the society is also conducted and organised by
the Sangha of the monastery or temple. This is especially so in Sri
Lanka, Burma and Thailand. The Buddhists in these countries maintain a
very close relationship with the development of education and other
charitable work in the society.
one cannot say that Buddhism is not bringing benefit to the
society, one can only say that the Chinese Buddhists have not fulfilled
their responsibilities or acted as true followers of the Buddha. One
should put more effort into these areas of charity in order to fulfil
the basic teaching of the Buddha in relieving the sufferings of the
world, and hence increase the popularity of Buddhism.
many Chinese do not understand Buddhism well. Today we
have discussed some of the common criticisms. I hope this has enabled
you to understand better the wisdom of the Buddha's teachings. I hope
too, that you may practise according to the Buddha's example, rather
than allowing yourself to blindly follow meaningless and perhaps,
by Neng Rong, edited by Mick Kiddle, proofread by Neng Rong.
The New Idea We Ought To Have
I would like to introduce a "new" Buddhist idea to you all. What
I would like to talk about is actually an old faith that has been a
vital tradition amongst Buddhist circles for thousands of years. Yet it
is always new and fresh whenever it is mentioned, especially in a
desolate and miserable period such as this. Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta
used to say, "I would never slight you, you shall all be Buddhas." His
saying indicates the ingrained truth of life. It denotes the attitude
we ought to have towards all human beings.
know that everyone in this world is different. There are the wise,
the ignorant, the weak, the strong, the progressive, the stagnant, and
the down-trodden. Thought distinguishes the faulty and the correct.
Behaviour distinguishes the kind and the cruel. But the differences are
never permanent. The differences between us should not be interpreted
as good or bad racial qualities, or as fundamental differences in the
natures of individuals. According to Buddhism the present differences
between wise and ignorant, strong and weak, rich and poor, kind and
cruel, are intermediate steps in the process of life. They are not
final. As long as we have not achieved the perfected state of
enlightenment we are all trapped in the ongoing process of cause and
effect, reaping the results of past deeds whilst continually sowing the
seeds of future crops.
are unable to strive upwards towards the light will
eventually degenerate. Those who are able to exert themselves striving
for goodness will find improvement. We humans have the capacity and
latent virtues necessary to progress upward, to develop our goodness
and to search for the supreme accomplishment. Assuredly then, we will
finally attain the state of perfect enlightenment after many rebirths.
Just as Bodhisattva Sadaparibhuta said, "Everybody will become a
Buddha." In Buddhism there is no permanent sin, no permanent affliction
and no permanent degeneration. On the contrary, we are all able to
recover from delusion and ignorance to become awakened and enlightened.
We can turn our defilements into cleanliness and purity. The future
always holds goodness and joy. We should apply this idea to ourselves
and to our perception of others. This life-view is positive and
optimistic and allows us have the confidence and motivation to overcome
any difficulties without becoming disheartened.
beings are equal, and all of us are able to achieve Buddhahood."
Possessing this faith enables us to avoid slighting others. What is
meant by "slight"? Slighting others may involve demeaning them with our
disdain, offending them with our pride, or abusing them with our
insulting words and behavior. Whilst the tenacious attachment to the
competitive self endures and the Buddha-potential remains unclear to
us, we may be drawn into this ignorant and unskilful mode of being,
alienating ourselves from others. Very often we are self-cantered and
are inclined to bully others. This self-intoxicated pride is a
distortion caused by an erroneous view of the ego-concept.
Unfortunately, this overwhelming complex of egotistical ideas has been
deeply ingrained in our hearts all along the chain of rebirths. Our
egos have ensnared us in the endlessly repetitive round of
transmigrations. Ego delusion involves us in successive births and
deaths, making the wide world evolve with afflictions.
disdain for others may not be very serious, but sometimes it
develops into proud conceit and self-aggrandisement. It makes our self
into the seeming master, the supposedly superior person; one who has
either the intention to make others obey, or one willing to sacrifice
the welfare of others in the pursuit of self-satisfying pleasure.
Sometimes our self-esteem may reach a low ebb. We place a degraded
value upon ourselves but deep in our hearts we refuse to accept that
others are better than us. The effect of this smarting insecurity is to
arouse tension, hatred, jealousy, intrigue and cruelty in both
ourselves and others, thereby making the whole world our foe. This
ego-inspired antagonism is a deeply rooted tendency.
number of religious, political or ideological leaders have fallen
into such serious error and come to consider their own religion or
philosophy to the only one that represents the Truth. The only way to
be right and to deserve to exist is to believe in them, follow them,
obey their directions and act upon their opinions. Those who do not
believe in these leaders and who do not follow them will be looked on
as if they are completely tainted and extremely evil, no matter how
good in actuality they may be. They are guilty of treason and must be
killed. This old way of praising the mean self, and with narrowed mind
feeding its insecurity by cutting down all others in supposed
opposition, ruins both oneself and others. It should be changed.
we can accept the idea that all humans are equal, and that we can
all attain Buddhahood, our pride will gradually dissolve. There will be
no disdain for others, nor denial of the dignity of the disagreeable. A
Buddhist ought to be broad-minded, tolerant, respectful and kind
towards others. A real Buddhist will not consider other religions or
tenets of thought as nonsense and of no value. Even if they are
imperfect, erroneous, or misleading, it is possible that they may carry
some semblance of truth and may act as qualified points of reference
for us. Regardless of whether a person opposes Buddhism, has unorthodox
beliefs, or does not believe in anything at all, that persons
shortcomings should not be taken for granted. Nor should it be assumed
that he is a completely bad person. Such a person may have a sublime
personality, good behavior and excellent habits that serve society's
needs well. Even if he is indeed evil, he will not be completely
without a kind thought or behavior worthy of praise.