How to Live Without Fear and Worry

Dear readers of World Religion Weekly,

This book was not a holy script of Buddhism. Rather, it is exactly what its title suggests: “How to Live Without Fear and Worry.” Of course, this instruction is heavily influenced by Buddhism because a life without suffering (including fear and worry) is one of the goals of Buddhism. It is well-written, with little anecdotes spaced throughout. It gives sensible advice such as: avoid toxic relationships, anger is useless, and let children pursue their true passions and talents. The Buddha and other religious leaders are cited throughout.

I would definitely recommend this to just about anyone, regardless of religion. It is just good advice. However, just use your good judgement. I don’t advocate all of it, and parts, especially the sections about marriage and family, may be a bit controversial.

Thanks for reading,

Audrey Cole

Several free Buddhist books

Here are the citations for the two books I acquired from the Buddhist temple.

Dhammananda, K. Sri. How to Live Without Fear & Worry. BMS Publications, 2001.

Thich, Thien-Tam, and Forrest G. Smith. Pure-Land Zen: Zen Pure-Land: Letters from Patriarch Yin Kuang. Amida Fellowship, 1995.

Q and A with a Buddhist Priest

Dear reader of World Religion Weekly,

After completing our tour of the temple, my grandmother and I returned to the front desk, where the man who had kindly given us a tour was seated. My grandmother and I introduced ourselves, and he did as well, which was nice because now I could mentally refer to him as Pra Sandy instead of man-from-the-front-desk. He asked if we had any questions, and I said that I actually wanted to conduct an interview.

He didn’t want to be audio-recorded (I am starting to realize that most people find this awkward), but he was fine with me talking notes.  This is not an exact transcription. I waited too long, so it has slightly faded from my memory, and my notes only have large gist statements.

Q: What is the most important part of Buddhism?

A: Some of the most important parts are probably the unimportance of the concept of self, the resulting avoidance of bias, and seeking a higher view. The obviously most important part is probably the Four Noble Truths (the First Truth is that life is suffering, the Second Truth is that this suffering comes from craving, the Third Truth is that suffering can be eliminated, and the Fourth Noble Truth is that the Middle Path or Eight-Fold Path can lead to this elimination of suffering). The Eight-Fold Path is also one of the most important parts of Buddhism. Spontaneous craving is fine, like craving food when you are hungry and heat when you are cold. These keep you alive. However obsessive craving is what causes suffering. Sometimes it is very hard to tell the difference.

Q: Building off the last question, what is the most unique part of Buddhism?

 

A: Identity is not really essential to it. In fact, Buddhism is less of a religion, and it is more of a way of purifying the mind, so that you can see the world clearer and be happier.

Q: What is the most controversial part of Buddhism?

A: That is also probably the non-essentiality of identity. Everyone wants to know who you are. The government needs to know who you are for their censuses, your friends want to know who you are so they can interact with you, people in general want to know who you are so they can classify you and seperate you out from the sea of humanity. This whole idea of yourself as a separate individual with a set identity is not really what Buddhism teaches.

Q: What is the most universal teaching of Buddhism?

A: Probably selflessness. This whole concept of how you should act for the good of a larger whole.

Q: How has Buddhism affected your life?

A: I actually had a graduate degree in chemical engineering, and I was a chemical engineer. That was pretty different (he is now a Thereavaada Buddhist monk and priest at this Buddhist temple). I sort of had a constant internal dialogue. Buddhism took away a lot of the constant material naggings. The most pure mental state is intent. Intent just is. Buddhism teaches you strip away the internal dialogue to get at the intent, in a sort of purification.

Q: How is your day-to-day life different from that of an atheist, for example?

A: Well, Buddhism is technically atheism, We don’t believe in the traditional omniscient, omnipotent , anthropomorphic god. Gods are born and die. You are an island unto yourself.

Q: What other religion is Buddhism most akin to?

A: Buddhism actually arose from Hinduism. Hinduism is sort of the father religion of Buddhism (like Judaism to Christianity). However, Buddhism has a lot in common with most religions ranging from Christianity to Native American beliefs.

Q: What would you like to say about Buddhism to individuals of different faiths?

A: We are all dealing with greed, hatred, and delusion. We all need to overcome these unwholesome states in order to purify our minds and focus more on intent.

Q: What is the ideal relationship between Buddhists and non-Buddhists?

A: It should be a wholesome relationship. Everyone has a lesson to share, so there should definitely be respect. Everyone should be able to transcend all of the unwholesome relationships surrounding us.

In addition to this, Pra Sandy made several points which did not quite fit in the context of the questions. I will include them below:

  • Try to stop thinking. You can’t, right? You don’t control your mind. It is something you utilize, like your eyes, ears, nose, and touch. You don’t consider any of those your “self”. Well, then what is your self? It is your intent.
  • People cannot flee their government to become Buddhist monks and nuns. Buddhist monasteries only accept individuals with clean records (haven’t committed any crimes) and no debt.
  • The earth is an ultimate reality. No matter what you do, the earth will not be any different. It doesn’t have emotions or prejudices or unwholesome states. Buddhism actually encourages people to think of themselves as their body, rather than their mind. The human body is made up of ultimate realities, like water and earth. After you die, the ultimate realities of your body will remain.
  • (In response to my mentioning the Mahayana deities which populated the temple) These aren’t really individuals as much as external symbols. If you think about a feeling or word for long enough, your mind may produce an image that you associate with it. Theravada Buddhism deals more with the pure concepts, while Mahayana Buddhism deals more with those symbols. (I then mentioned an imposing statue standing above the table we were seated at) That is Yama. He is a kind of judge of your life. He weighs up all your good and bad deeds, after you die. People interpret him as a challenge. He can be many places at once, which is why there is another statue of him over there (Pra Sandy pointed to a similar statue across the room). His hand is held like that to indicate that he wants the soul to stop. If you did enough good during your life, then you will be able to defeat Yama and pass him.

In addition to those statements, he showed me several infographics.

This is a list of things which are important in purifying your mind:

This one shows how you process information:

Thank you for reading this somewhat disheveled post,

Audrey Cole

A Visit to a Buddhist Temple

Dear reader of World Religion Weekly,

Last week, my grandmother and I had coffee with a fascinating professor of anthropology from Linnfield College. I will publish a post about that encounter soon, once we sort through the details of her interview. In addition to going through some of the effects of religion from an anthropological standpoint, she also put me in contact with a Buddhist monk, to whom she frequently refers curious students of anthropology.

Sadly, I am leaving Oregon before the Saturday service, which he conducts in English. Yes, I specifically mention that it is in English. The temple where he teaches is part of the World Buddhist Preaching Association of U. S. A. They bring in priests, monks, nuns, and others from all over the world (Thailand, China, Manchuria, and Taiwan were given as examples). The monk I was put in contact with is from Thailand, and he is one of the few with training in the English language. Most of the services cater to the local immigrant community. The majority of the services are conducted in Chinese, with a few in Thai, Vietnamese, English, and a few other languages. This is pretty evident on their notification board.

The monk warned me that, if I did not speak Chinese, I probably should wait until Saturday. However, I decided to risk it, just to get a glimpse of the temple. Inside my mind, I already had half-formed, worried plans involving a translating app on my phone. Luckily, I did not have to employ them.

As my grandmother and I entered the temple, a man at the front desk gave me a small wave while speaking English on the telephone. I breathed a sigh of relief. I examined the lobby. One glass case held beautiful jewelry for sale, which seemed like a sensible way to help support a temple. Next to it was an enormous book case labeled: Free Books.

These books about Buddhism were printed in Vietnamese, Chinese, and English. I spent a few minutes selecting a few that looked relevant to me, noting the instructions on the back.

My grandmother and I wandered into a gleaming room beyond the lobby.

I busied myself, attempting to read the numerous plaques next to each of the images. The four large, gold figures are spirits of the North, South, East, and West. They are important to Mahavana Buddhism.

The scenes depicted behind them are scenes meant to represent certain disciples of Buddhism. They have exaggerated features and actions which are meant to convey their personalities and even teachings to the viewer.

At this point, the man at the front desk seemed to done with his phone call. We introduced ourselves, and he rightly guessed that this was our first time in the temple. He showed us through the first room again, elaborating on the history of the elaborately carved black stone  and the nature of the figures throughout the room. The plump, gold figure seated at the other side of the room is the Happy Buddha. He shows the happiness and spiritual richness that await the followers of Buddhism.

I will put in the information given to me later where it is relevant, though this will make the experience a bit anachronistic for you, dear reader. I think that the immediate explanations will be worth it, though.

We then moved beyond that room, to the less sumptuous room behind it. Tables with “Happy Birthday!” tablecloths draped over them stood alongside another bookshelf of free books and a few images of either the Buddha, the Bodhisattvas, and/or disciples of the Budhha.

The man explained that this was where they ate their post-service meal.

Then he showed us to a set of stairs leading to an open door. he said that we could enter, if we took off our shoes. My grandmother and I quickly scraped off our shoes. The man returned to the front desk, as we entered a new chamber.

It was breath-taking and fairly unexpected. Overwhelmed with awe, I spent a moment just absorbing the majestic, golden beauty. My grandmother and I only spoke in maybe three sentences to each other, each whispered.

Beneath the windows, gold plates beautifically displayed even more disciples of the Buddha.

With bare feet, I padded over the to left side. One thing stopped me in my tracks.

This had to do with I Ching, I later learned. It is a kind of fortune-telling. A person throws the sticks on the ground. Each stick has two different sides, like a coin. Someone tallies up the “heads” and “tails” sticks. Depending on what you get, you open a certain drawer, which holds a fortune.

I next came to cabinet full of books used for prayer and chanting. Most of these were in Chinese, based off the lettering on their spines.

This table is used if individuals want to pray to their ancestors or other deceased personages. People can leave offerings of food and burn incense to aid in this. I don’t think that this is strictly a Buddhist practice, but many Asian cultures hold high respect for ancestors. I then wandered back towards the center of the room.

This individual is a deity who, the priest explained, is neither male nor female but, at the same time, is both male and female. Gender is one of the mortal things which are ultimately meaningless on a deeper level.

The majority of the room was taken up with prayer stations. Individuals kneel on the cushions and chant from books, which are propped up by chopsticks.

This large pack of water bottles seemed out of place, seated among gold renderings of deities. However, it was there for a purpose. During service individuals chant, which is a very holy activity. The water is thought to gather a purifying influence from this.

During the service, bowl-like cymbals and drums aid the chanting.

Now I moved to the right portion of the temple. This table is dedicated to asking for things which currently affect you. Again, individuals can burn incense and leave food offerings to assist in this.

Like many of the prayer books I’ve seen, Buddhist chanting books contain both the original Chinese, phonetic rendering of the Chinese in the Latin alphabet, and an English translation.

Before leaving, I spent a moment regarding this enormous bell. I assume it must be deafening when rung.

These are pictures of monks, nuns, and other religious leaders who work with  the World Buddhist Preaching Association of U. S. A. Yes, in the top left, a man is being balanced on the tips of swords. Yes, in the top right, those are martial arts master Buddhist monks.

We then met up with the man from the front desk again. This is where he explained most of the things that confused me in the worship hall. Find out what happens next in the Interview section of Buddhism.

Thank you for reading,

Audrey Cole

The Pali Canon (Tipitaka)

Dear readers of World Religion Weekly,

This is the ultimate doctrinal holy book of Theravada Buddhism. It is incredibly long (thousands of pages), so I will not be able to read it in its entirety. However, I will link in the sections that I do read.

This book is believed to contain the word of Buddha, or at least the spirit of those words. Monks of the highest order who had it perfectly memorized passed it down orally, for hundreds of years, before it was committed to text.

You can find a large portion of the Pali C

anon here on a Theravada Buddhist website, or  here on a website which claims to have it in its entirety.

If you are interested in more Buddhist literature, check here.

Thank you for reading,

Audrey Cole

Theravada Buddhism

“Access to Insight.” Access to Insight. N.p., 20 Dec. 2015. Web. 23 July 2017.

I think that, in my research in Buddhism, I will focus on Theravada Buddhism (The School of the Elders). It is the eldest form of Buddhism, and, if I go into the other schools, it would serve as a pretty good jumping-off point for understanding other forms.

This website has a lot of amazing information on Theravada Buddhism, which I will try to read.

Thank you for reading,

Audrey Cole