Cultivating compassion and forgiveness

Question: “Quang Trí Thank you for your clear and concise answers on here. I practice and this serves as a great grounding whenever I get too heady. I struggle the most with compassion, forgiveness, anger, and trust. (raised in a religious cult by military-type household nearly ended my life) Also tolerance I know I cant go on without it but what are some other ways to cultivate a healthy mindset with these characteristics at the forefront? It is extremely hard for me and I want to be better. namaste”

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Can you briefly describe the difference between the types of buddhism?

Question: “Can you briefly describe the difference between the types of buddhism?”

There are two “types” or major schools of Buddhism: Mahayana and Theravada (or Hinayana).

Theravada is practiced in many Southeast Asian countries and of course around the world. Theravadans only practice the teachings and meditations that came directly from our historical Buddha Sakyamuni. In Theravada, the highest accomplishment is reaching Nirvana or Arahatship, but only for those that live a monastic life.

Mahayana has many schools under its umbrella like Vajrayana (Tibetan Buddhism), Zen and Pure Land. Unlike Theravada, Mahayana incorporates many other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas (saints) into its practice; giving people more ways to practice according to their suits and needs to reach enlightenment. In Mahayana, the highest accomplishment is reaching Buddhahood! In Mahayana, everyone – lay people and monastics, have the capability to become a Buddha.

Most Buddhist temples and centers in the West are either of Tibetan Buddhism, Chinese/Zen, or Thai.

Neither major school is better than the other. Both have the same ultimate aspiration: to eradicate suffering/dissatisfaction. It’s up the practitioner to find the school/tradition that suits their needs and beliefs.

Smile and be well!

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Law of Attraction

Question: “Hi, What are your thoughts on the Law of Attraction? I’ve done some research and noticed that it primarily focuses on Positive thinking and attracting the things you want in your life, instead of negative things. It seems as if it’s a change in attitude and how you see things. Its tricky because it also states that you must Ask(Fully know what you want), Believe(Have faith that you will get it) and Receive(Act as if you already have it and be thankful) What would you say about this?”

I would say that it sounds a lot like a Buddhist teaching! Buddhism is a mind-centered practice, right? So our objective in life is to seek and find happiness from within instead of external circumstances. We all know that one person who is always happy, energetic, positive and just loves everything about life – what’s the difference between them and most people? They see the beauty in life even when they are surrounded by chaos disappointment.

For example, if you allowed someone to verbally hurt you (they called you names or talked behind your back) or if you didn’t get your dream job that you for sure thought you had, does sobbing around, hating and being angry help you or anyone around you? No! If someone called you an ugly horse, does thatactually make you an ugly horse? Last time I checked, horses can’t get on Tumblr and ask questions! It’s all about your attitude and the way youchoose to look at and react to things.

I’m not saying that positively thinking on winning the lottery is going to make you win the lottery, but it will help you cope with the inevitable loss. We all have this intrinsic value, this Buddha Nature, though we can’t see it yet, we have to believe that it’s there, because we’re all bound to become Buddhas eventually. We practice Buddhism because we want to become a Buddha, we have that faith in ourselves that if we practice this moral and good life, our good actions will bring us good results.

Instead of the “law of attraction,” Buddhism would be the “law of the state of the mind.” With a positive mind, a positive outlook on life is seen and when bad things happen, it isn’t seen as bad, but simply life walking its course.

Smile and be well!

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Karma: Why are some people more fortunate than others?

Question: “Why do some people possess a personality with a higher sense of consciousness while others don’t? Why do some people seem to be born all good and know the right thing to do?”

Karma.

The actions of our past lives determine our present life, and the actions of our present life determine the causes for our next life. People who are wealthy in this life must of given many donations in their last life, so this life they were born in a very fortunate life. Others that are born in poverty, were probably greedy and selfish in their last life, so they are reaping the consequences.

It is an endless circle of cause and effect. Do good, get good. Do bad, get bad. No one or thing is controlling your karma. Only you control your karma. So it’s important to live a compassionate and generous life now so you can gain the positive consequences.

The effect of any positive or negative karma could happen in one of three ways: in this life, the very next life, or in one of the future lives after the next life. Because of that, some people might think, “Hell, if I’m not going to reap the benefits of or consequences now, I might as well do whatever I want!” Sure you can do that, but any negative thought, speech or action will further the “finish line” of enlightenment.

Even if you don’t get to benefit of any of the good you do in this life, your next life will be so much better! It’s a sad feeling that you “won’t know” your future life, but when the time comes for your enlightenment, you will be able to look back to all your future lives and see this life that you committed to devote your life to compassion, love and generosity. You will be thankful you didn’t choose a path that will lead you to an unfortunate rebirth and be set back farther.

Smile and be well!

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Is love and attachment negative in Buddhism?

Question: “Hi, I’ve been thinking a lot about the focus on attachment being negative in Buddhism. (Recently began trying to enlighten myself/others) I’ve hit a bit of a rump trying to find out where this attachment being detrimental sits in my life, because of my love toward family members i.e mother, or boyfriend. Are these feelings of extreme love wrong? Are they detrimental in my path? I feel as if I may be misinterpreting my strong love for unhealthy attachment, but I needed clarification. Thank you!”

Love and attachment are two very different things. Love is necessary for our and others’ happiness. Attachment is the greediness we have that assumes weneed what we want/love.

It’s absolutely fine to love, especially our loved ones. However, what makes this love “dangerous” or prone to attachment is our ignorance and lack of understanding of impermanence. We always make assumptions and hopes that our family will out-live anyone else, or that when we think we’ve found our soul mate that they’ll be around forever and never leave you. But in reality, our parents will grow old, get sick and die. Our soul mate might be our soul mate for 10, 20 or 30 years, but feelings and love changes, and the relationship might end. What happens at the end of all these examples? Hurt. Sadness. Depression. Anger. Hate.

As Buddhists, our main goal is to lessen and eradicate our attachments. It doesn’t have to be by getting rid of stuff/people. You don’t have to give away all your clothes, belongings, money, or stop seeing and talking to family and friends. No, no. It’s much simpler than that. We simply have to meditate on these things and reflect on them; visualize your things burning, getting lost, stop working, etc. and visualize on death, of your friends and family. After much practice, we’ll come to a powerful realization that everything is impermanent – everything will come to an end. It’s inevitable.

Why do we practice meditation on death and the end of things? Because when it does happen, our understanding of its end will be so much easier to live with. If we don’t want to hurt so much, have anger and maybe even hate when a loved one dies, then it’s important to meditate on death, so when the time comes, it’s an easier process for you and those around you.

Smile and be well!

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I want to convert my life and be a Buddhist but how?

Question: “I want to convert my life and be a Buddhist but how?”

You don’t.

“Converting” to Buddhism doesn’t make you a Buddhist, just like going to church doesn’t make you a Christian. It’s the practice and the way you live your life and treat others that makes you a Buddhist.

When Christians, Jews or Catholics come to Buddhist practice, they don’t practice to become Buddhists; they practice to become better practitioners of their own religion. Nothing about Buddhism is religious. Buddhism is mind-centered, not god-centered, so you can be anything and use Buddhist practices to make you a better person and live a better life.

Smile and be well!

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Buddhist Vocabulary

Question: “I have been studying buddhism for about 2 years now. Reading books, watching documentaries, and have been practicing meditation on my own for quite some time. The more I read the more I notice all these big non-English teachings that I should know about but can’t remember any of it no matter how hard I study it .. It stresses me out and i don’t know how to take it all in. I don’t know a spiritual teacher in person so I’m a bit lost. Thank you in advance, namaste!”

Buddhist philosophy can be extremely overwhelming. Buddhist vocabulary is even more overwhelming! Don’t stress out. Buddhism is a lifelong study and practice. Even senior and high ranking monks don’t know the full extent of Buddhist teachings! It’s impossible to take in the entirety of the teachings in one lifetime no matter how smart we are.

I’ve been studying Buddhism for over 7 years and I still see new words and terms I’ve never heard of before! Fortunately for me, I keep a notebook and take notes for every book I read, documentary I watch and Dharma teaching I attend. And a separate book dedicated only to Buddhist vocabulary and terms. Which is moderately complied in my Buddhist Glossary.

So don’t stress out. Take is easy and step-by-step. If you try to rush your studies or understandings, then you’ll never be successful. Buddhist practice is all about patience, without it you will fail.

Smile and be well!

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What is the best way to find my path to enlightenment?

Question: “What is the best way to find my path to enlightenment?”

By not looking for it.

Enlightenment is already here. We just have to clear the dust on the glass that’s blocking our view.

Understanding the Four Noble Truths and practicing the Eightfold Path is the rag that will help you clean the dirty glass for a clear view of reality and the Truth.

Smile and be well!

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Buddhism for non-Buddhists

Buddhism makes up the world’s fourth largest world religion and one of the oldest. Religion in general has been slowly decreasing in many countries around the world as society changes and technology advances, but Buddhism has been one of the strongest “religions” to stay around and develop in many countries in the West, especially Australia and Germany, and now in the United States and Canada. A major reason for this is because of Buddhism’s view on one’s life; that we are in control of our happiness and unhappiness, of our present and future conditions, and our own liberation. Another big reason is the absence of the belief in a creator deity; that a higher power controls our life, future, and happiness.

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Emptiness and Samsara

Question: “Having come from emptiness (no-where), returning to emptiness (no-where), why do we manifest in samsara?”

Emptiness isn’t exactly “no where.” It’s not nothing, zero, or empty. Emptiness simply means that the things we see everyday, the people, cars, houses, plants, etc., are not really JUST people, cars, houses, plants, etc. Emptiness is almost unexplainable beyond the superficial explanation I’m about to give, it is something we each individually discover on our own, in our own way. And everyone has their own interpretation.

When we look at a flower, we automatically think “flower” or “rose” or “tulips.” Looking at it from “emptiness” it isn’t just a flower, but also the components that make up that flower; the soil, the sun, water, air – all these put together make the flower and then when the flower is made, we call it “flower.” Our delusion and ignorance doesn’t let us see or think of anything besides “flower.”

Look around you, nothing is made up of its own. Nothing has come about without external causes to make that effect. A car is not a car without its engine or any of the other thousand components that allow it to run and take us from point A to point B. As humans, we are human and alive because of our organs, oxygen, and food. Not even a nail or a screw it made of its own. It’s made from a machine, that needs its own parts and screws, a person to operate and put together the machine who needed parents to exist, the machine is made from metal, that needed the earth and all the elements and time to create it. Everything comes from something. Seeing that is emptiness.

So we’re in this cyclic samsaric cycle because of our ignorance. Ignorance and desire are the made causes of our suffering and our obstacles in the way of liberation. Because we see things and people as this “oneness,” as this thing to last forever, and constantly desiring it and desiring more, that will keep us from escaping samsara. So with a disciplined meditation practice and constant learning, we can shorten the distance to the shore of enlightenment.

 

Smile and be well!

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