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Author Topic: Religion Question
MiaB
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Okay, I'm not sure if this is the right place to post, and I hope no-one minds me posting! I have an.. interest on what people can tellme about Buddhism? I'm sorry if a question like this is not allowed, I'm just interested in the religion, there are no books on it at my local Library, and the few websites I've visited on Buddhism have given me the impression (NO disrespect meant here this is completely how it has seemed, and the reason I'm asking about it is because I don't believe this is true about the religion) that it sort of means to accept depression and the bad in life, and that depression is life, and forget emotion and pleasure.... please inform me if anyone doesn't mind. Also, why is it thought a great thing to reach Nirvana, why is reincarnation not thought so good?

Thank you very much.

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*Mia*


Posts: 45 | From: Durham, NE, England | Registered: Aug 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Dzuunmod
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Questions like this most certainly are allowed here, but this one has nothing to do with Sexual Ethics and Politics, so we'll move it down to the It's All About You forum.

I'd be willing to bet a certain staff member here can tell you a thing or two about Buddhism...

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Heather
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I think when you say depression, you're referring to the address of suffering, which isn't the same thing.

To sum that up as neatly as I can (with the understanding that there is more than one school of Buddhism, and things tend to vary between different schools and types), the point isn't to eschew pleasure and sink into sorrow.

Rather, it's to realize that there is a lot of suffering in the world and in life, and that is often because we desire things which we do not currently have, be that a house when we don't have one or feeling happy when we feel angry or upset. Attachment to permancence is another biggie when it comes to suffering: one of the goals is to accept that the nature of life is change, and that a discire for permanence is fruitless and likely to cause suffering. So, point is to accept what is already present, in every moment in which you are present. If you are feeling joyful, experience it and feel joyful. if you are feeling sad, experience it and feel sad, without wishing to be some other way.

By NO means is Buddhism about forgetting emotion, but it does address not being a slave to it. But there's no "bad emotion," deal at all: a big part of Buddhism is learning to be compassionate and empathetic, which would be awfully hard to do without feelings.

Per your other questions, your best bet is to do some decent reading.

Tricycle -- http://www.tricycle.com/new.php?p=home -- is a nice place to start. They have a link to some basics you might find helpful. per books, it's hard to know what to suggest without knowing what type of Buddhism has your interest right now. I study and practice Zen Buddhism, and the books of Thich Nhat Hanh are my favorites: I often give "Peace is Every Step" to friends who want a basic primer that's also something very nice to read. I've also passed on "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" by Shunryu Suzuki a few times. But if you're interested in Therevada (Gumdrop Girl is Therevada Buddhist, so she's a good person to talk to about that), or Tibetan or Pure Land, what have you other books may be more up your alley.

That probably sounds confusing, but the thing is, there is no one "authority" or one doctrine for Buddhism. In fact, it's not even technically considered a religion by most Buddhists at all. So, any of the sorts of questions you're asking can have a whole lot of different right answers.


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MiaB
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Thanks a lot Miz Scarlet I just have a big interest in theology, and despite living only about 20miles out of Whitby (might not be heard of in america, big gothic and buddhist old fashioned fishing town... strange combination I know) Buddhism is one of the things I know least about, and I'm not always that good at using google search.

So thanks

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*Mia*


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MiaB
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Miz Scarlet, I have a question I hope you can answer.... sorry if it seems daft!

I read this Q&A on a Buddhist website Tricycle led me to:

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If we're all reborn when we die, how does Buddhism explain the world's increasing population?
According to Buddhist cosmology, when a living being[1] passes away he or she is reborn into one of thirty-one distinct "planes" or "realms" of existence, of which the human realm is just one. An increase in the human population simply implies that creatures from other planes are being reborn into the human realm at a rate faster than humans are dying. Likewise, a decline in the human population would imply that humans, upon death, are taking rebirth in other planes (or exiting samsara altogether) at a rate faster than other creatures are taking rebirth as humans. These sorts of population shifts have been occurring for countless eons and in themselves hold little cosmic significance.

Note:

1. Except an arahant, a fully-enlightened being. Arahants have escaped the round of rebirths once and for all and, upon death, are not reborn.
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It made me think, does this suggest overall that living beings will be decreasing gradually in number over time, as more eventually become enlightened? Or, that the world will gradually become full of... persistently bad beings, as those that improve find Buddhism and become enlightened...?

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*Mia*


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logic_grrl
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Something to bear in mind is that there isn't a single "Buddhist cosmology", especially when it comes to ideas such as reincarnation (for example, "arahantship" is generally more of a focus within the Theravadan traditions).

Some branches of Buddhism have highly specific beliefs when it comes to reincarnation or different planes of existence; others don't (for example, there's usually relatively little focus on reincarnation in Zen Buddhism).

So you can be a Buddhist without believing in reincarnation - and as people have pointed out, it's a concept that can be ambiguous in itself.

I think it's the current Dalai Lama who posed the question: if there isn't an unitary self, what is there to be reincarnated anyway?

This is one of the reasons why you'll sometimes hear people say that Buddhism isn't a religion, at least not in the standard sense. It doesn't necessarily require any particular "supernatural" beliefs (in deities, afterlives, etc.); its core is a set of beliefs about suffering, attachment, and the right way to live and act.

(This is how some people can combine Buddhism or Buddhist practice with other religious beliefs - for example, there are people who identify as Buddhist Jews, or Buddhist pagans. And that's not just something recent; historically, many people in Japan have happily combined Buddhism and Shinto for a long while).

If you look at the Four Noble Truths, The Eightfold Path, and the Three Jewels (which would generally be seen as the core tenets of Buddhism), they don't say a single thing about anything "supernatural".

[This message has been edited by logic_grrl (edited 09-25-2004).]


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logic_grrl
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To add to Miz S's suggestions for "starter reading":

"Zen Flesh, Zen Bones" compiled by Paul Reps gives you a good taste of Zen Buddhism. And I'd recommend anything by Pema Chodron, who's an American Tibetan Buddhist teacher; her books are wonderful and very accessible.

I haven't read so much in the Theravada traditions - GumdropGirl, we need you!


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Heather
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Logic answered that question basically the same way I would.

Couple things though:

1) We don't really do "good" and "bad" in Buddhism. Not in peeople, not in anything, really, and that spans most types.

2) Reincarnation, especially in Zen, is a compete afterthought for a lot of practitioners, because it involves focusing on a time that isn't now, which is the opposite of what we aim to do.

To boot, why there is a greater level of population is an idea that's going to differ. Personally, I'm pretty pragmatic about it, but no, I don't think what you've read and posted suggests there will be one growing or decreasing level of sentient beings, and as well, there's never in Buddhism a focus or idea that the more people who discover it...yadda yadda. Again, it's not analagous to relgions in many ways, and the idea of the "spreading ofthe word," as it were is one of the things that doesn't happen often in most branches, not is the ideathat those who aren't Buddhist are neccessarily "bad" or unenlightened. Heathenism isn't a buddhist concept. )

And yes, Pema Chodron seriously rocks.


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MiaB
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Sorry, I was aware at the time when i used the terms 'good' and 'bad' that they weren't accurate, and I agree myself with the thought that nothing is categorically either, but I couldn't think of a way to get around using them. I was referring to Karma and the reincarnation thoughts surrounding the consequences of it in one life.

Again, sorry if I offended, maybe I am too skeptical, but as much as I appreciate the focus on the present in Buddhism I'm probably too curious! Same thing that made me question the presence of a Christian devil when I was younger, despite being told doing so was the work of the devil himself, no doubt.

I have other.. questions on what I have read so far on reincarnation, but they're quite far fetched and I don't want to get told off again, so I'll keep my mad thoughts to myself .

Thanks a lot for all the replies, I'll get book-hunting for your recommendations!

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*Mia*


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MiaB
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As for combining buddhism with other religions, I think it's great... I love some of the religious and cultural history relating to how Buddhism has merged so agreeably with Taoism and its traditions in China.

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*Mia*


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Heather
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Really, if your central focus and interest is with reincarnation and karma, you're actually more likely to find big address of that in something like Hinduism. It's part of some types of Buddhism, but it generally isn't a super big one.


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logic_grrl
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quote:
Again, sorry if I offended

I don't think anyone's been offended - just trying to clarify things. There are a number of concepts which tend to be taken for granted in Western religions but which don't necessarily apply very well to Buddhism.

quote:
maybe I am too skeptical,

Hardly. Actually, there's one text where the Buddha tells his followers not to take anything on trust, but to test his teachings against their own direct experience .

It's fine to ask questions about reincarnation, but you just have to be aware that different traditions will have very different answers, some Buddhists don't believe in reincarnation anyway, and many will tell you that whether there is reincarnation or not is pretty irrelevant.


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MarvellousPurple
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"Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, not even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

(It's on my wall.)


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Gumdrop Girl
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Hmm, well, okay I'll throw in a few pence about Theravada Buddhism...

First off, we're a small but really old sect of Buddhism. You'll find Theravada Buddhism practiced in Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma (whenever the military junta allows it, anyway) and Sri Lanka.

Therevada Buddhists are significantly different from Mahayana, Zen and Tibetan Buddhists because we are very dharma-centric and don't place any emphasis on deities or esoteric philosophies. The BIG point of difference is that we don't believe in bodhisattvas at all.

On its own, Theravada Buddhism is a pretty thin religion. We have 5 Precepts (don't kill, don't steal, don't use sex to cause harm, don't lie, and don't abuse drugs) that guide the lives of daily laypeople. We're not expected to adhere to all of them all the time, of course, but that's just karma that piles up over time anyway. We follow the 4 Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, but ask most Theravada Buddhists about it, and they might look at you blankly because in my experience, it's about the 5 Precepts. We do adhere to the ideas of reincarnation, samsara, karma and so forth.

Theravada Buddhism doesn't draw a lot of converts compared to other sects. It's because we are small, and because it Theravada Budhism tends to be practiced in conjunction with local animist beliefs. When I mentioned that the religion places no emphasis on deities. Within the context of the religion itself, that is true. But in every Theravada Buddhist home, you will see see a shrine to spirits and ancestors. Separating the religion itself form the indigenous culture is something of an impossibility.

But hey if you really dig on mainland Southeast Asian cultures and the ideas sound right to you, it might be a better cup of tea. I do know a few converts. All of them are white men who did some soul-searching and traveled to Thailand (btw, I go to Thai Buddhist temples exclusively because that is how I was raised -- like I said, the religion and culture are inextricable). They fell in love with the culture and customs and decided that Theravada Buddhism was what they wanted.

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MiaB
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Thanks for that Gumdrop Girl, I appreciate the input. I still have some thinking and reading to do about Buddhism, but you and Miz Scarlet have given me a great starting point to distinguish the different kinds with

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*Mia*


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