Buddhism

Learn about Buddhism, its history and cultural roots.

Buddhism is, at its depths, a grand philosophy of life. It encourages all sentient beings to transcend life’s sufferings by casting away desires and mental afflictions and thereby embark on a journey to attain the ultimate level of spiritual understanding. Buddhists refer to this as the state of “Enlightenment”. As each of us treads this path, we must take responsibility for our own actions and choices, even beyond our current lifetime, while practicing compassion to all living things.

It is no wonder that, since its introduction to East and South Asia, Buddhism has flourished in many countries over long periods in history. The International Buddhist Society is proud to play a part in Buddhism’s fast-growing popularity and acceptance in Western culture. We will continue to strive for Enlightenment, while helping others, both locally and internationally, to do the same.

 

 

Philosophy

Learn our values and teachings.

Buddhism upholds the virtues of benevolence, perseverance, self-discipline, and charity. On a deeper level, Buddhism is a philosophy, a way of life, and the cultivation of one’s mind. In fact, Buddhists believe that harmony stems from the mind.

Buddhism is not a faith of idolatry but, rather, encourages free thought. It is more than a religion and goes beyond rituals and traditions. Buddhism is a profound philosophy discovered and taught by the Buddha over 2,600 years ago. It explains life and the world we live in.

The three truths of existence are Dukkha , Anicca , Anatta – suffering, impermanence, and the absence of an eternal self. According to Buddhist teachings, no phenomenon in this world is permanent or real. There is no permanent self or “soul”, for human beings are constantly changing under the influence of our surroundings and actions. Our minds are deluded to the true nature of the world, however, and we still try to hold onto our thoughts, bodies, wealth, and other earthly possessions. Trapped in the samsara of lives and deaths, with our attachment to these fleeting things, we suffer. Thus, the cause of suffering is the unenlightened mind.

These realities can also be summarized by the Four Noble Truths:

1. Life is suffering.
2. The cause of suffering is attachment.
3. The cessation of suffering is attainable.
4. The path to the cessation of suffering.

Besides addressing the truths of our existence, the Four Noble Truths reminds us that we are all capable of ending life’s sufferings and escaping from the cycle of birth and death (Third Noble Truth). The Fourth Noble Truth identifies the way to do this, as taught by the Buddha. It shows us the path to realize the potential we each have within to attain the highest level of spiritual liberation.

What is this path? The Buddha referred to it as the Eightfold Path (Noble Eightfold Path) , which is:

Right Understanding
Right Thought
Right Speech
Right Action
Right Livelihood
Right Effort
Right Mindfulness
Right Concentration

Besides the Four Noble Truths and Eightfold Path (Noble Eightfold Path) , Buddhism can also be summed up by the words, “do no evil, cultivate good deeds, purify one’s mind”. To do no evil is to refrain from killing, stealing, lying, sexual misconduct, greed, anger, and ignorance. However, Buddhists must also actively encourage and perform good deeds. For instance, we avoid eating meat and encourage the freeing of lives. Instead of stealing, we give. Instead of lying, we must tell the truth, and be humble and considerate to others. Instead of engaging in sexual misconduct, we set high moral standards for our actions, speech, and thoughts.

All of one’s actions have consequences, determined by the person’s intentions. If we are motivated to hurt others by greed, for instance, our actions will produce negative results. In Buddhism, those outcomes may not occur immediately after the actions, or even in this lifetime. The consequences of our actions could affect us through subsequent lives, and the universal law that governs those actions and their consequences is Karma .

Of course, there is much more to Buddhism than what is highlighted on this webpage. If you are interested in learning more, please visit our Lessons page to access publications or audio/video recordings of sermons by our Abbot. Or, feel free to drop by the temple to pick up some Buddhist books and publications for free distribution. If you would like to experience Buddhism first-hand, come and attend our weekly class on Buddhism and Meditation, held every Saturday morning from 9:00AM to 11:00AM.

Buddhism Rituals

Learn the different rites and rituals of Mahayana Buddhism.

When worshippers come to the temple to pay homage to the Buddhas, many of them perform several Mahayana rituals. Buddhists may chant, pray, meditate, eat vegetarian meals, and celebrate Buddhist holidays, such as the Buddha’s Birthday and other Enlightenment dates of the Chinese lunar calendar.

When worshippers enter a room in which there is a Buddha statue, they put their palms together and bow, to show their highest respect for the Buddha and His teachings. The proper term for the bowing is prostration. The individual prostrates three times by facing the Buddha or Bodhisattva and kneeling – with palms turned upward – on a kneeling stool. The open palms represent wisdom and compassion; during the first prostration, the turning out of one hand symbolizes cultivating wisdom internally, while the movement of the other represents the outward offering of compassion.

 

The second prostration indicates the Buddha or Bodhisattva’s bestowal of wisdom
and compassion upon the individual. The third shows the sincerity of the person’s prayers to the Buddha or Bodhisattva. It takes three prostrations to build up concentration and emphasize one’s earnestness.

When Buddhists chant, their speech is pure and free of lies, curses, slander, and so on. Chanting is the uttering of the Buddha’s teachings, and thus it trains our thoughts, through repetition, to be visions of benevolence, perseverance, self-discipline, and charity.

Gongs are used in Buddhist ceremonies as chanting instruments. They are used in the temples for three purposes: to announce the time for a meeting, to mark different phases of services or tempos of chanting, and to aid the congregation during their meditation. We listen as it resonates to soundlessness, which signals the beginning of the meditation session.

Lighting or burning incense is a gesture of paying one’s highest respects to the Buddha. The lit incense prompts us to follow the Buddha’s practices and teachings, and trains our minds to focus on one single object during meditation. The act of lighting incense reminds us to free ourselves from the Samsara  of life and death, from mental afflictions, reincarnation, and attachment to material desires. This practice guides us on our journey of spiritual development.

Some worshippers may also use lit incense as offerings to the Buddha for His blessings.

At the temple, one would often see tables laid with fresh fruits and flowers. Buddhists place these items upon the altars in appreciation for the Buddha’s teachings, and blessings bestowed by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. This is most apparent on the Chinese New Year’s Eve, when thousands of people come to the temple with offerings, to thank the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for a safe and harmonious year.

Altar offerings at the temple are typically flowers and fresh fruit. Sometimes there may be small vegetarian dishes. All food offerings are vegetarian, as Buddhists advocate vegetarianism and do not kill animals for food.

Meditation is about the mind and its purification. It is a technique for developing the right concentration which can only be acquired through direct experience, and not from reading alone. The purpose of meditation is to calm the wandering of our minds. To calm the mind is the first step, Samadhi. We focus on an object and direct our monkeying or false minds so that it is no longer engaged in egoistical thought. Vipassana or self-contemplation follows. This is when we put our minds under control and contemplate introspectively.

In detail, meditating is the adjustment of the body, breath, and mind. The first adjustment is the Body:

Sit upright, with legs crossed and hands on your knees. Gently close your eyes. Keep your back straight and your head upright. If you cannot cross your legs, you may sit on a chair.

The second adjustment is the Breath –

breathing is one of the most important steps in meditation:

Concentrate on the spot where air enters the nostrils.

The third adjustment is the Mind:

Be conscious of your breath as you inhale and exhale. When air comes in, touching the insides of your nose, count “one” in your mind. Do not count when the air exits the nostrils. Count to ten in this method and then repeat from “one”.

There are many more specific and advanced meditation techniques used to guide us in the pursuit of true spiritual understanding. The temple offers weekly classes on Buddhism and Meditation for both beginners and advanced students every Saturday, from 9:00 AM to 11:15 AM.