Questions about Buddhism
|These are the most common questions about Buddhism.
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Q: Is Buddhism a religion or a philosophy?
A: This depends on how you define those terms.
An important factor is the idea of faith. Buddha Shakyamuni famously
cautioned his disciples: ‘Do not accept my teachings simply
because I am called Buddha’. Time and time again he reminded
his disciples not to accept his teachings out of blind faith, but
to test them as thoroughly as they would examine gold. It is only
on the basis of valid reasons and personal experience that we should
accept the teachings of anyone, including Buddha himself.
Having said this, faith is vital to Buddhist practice. The special
function of faith is to induce virtuous aspirations. Without faith
in a particular practice we shall have no wish to engage in it; and
without such a wish we shall not put any effort into the practice
and so we shall not accomplish any results. Faith is the root of all
virtuous attainments. If we have faith in Buddha we shall develop
the aspiration to become a Buddha, which will encourage us to practice
the Mahayana paths continuously and joyfully.
Q: What is Kadampa Buddhism? How does it differ from other types
A: Buddha’s teachings can be divided into the Hinayana, or Lesser
Vehicle, and the Mahayana, or Greater Vehicle. In the Hinayana teachings
Buddha explains how to attain liberation from suffering for oneself
alone, and in the Mahayana teachings he explains how to attain full
enlightenment, or Buddhahood, for the sake of others. Both traditions
flourished in Asia, at first in India and then gradually in other
surrounding countries, including Tibet. Now they are beginning to
flourish in the West.
Kadampa Buddhism is a Mahayana Buddhist school founded by the great
Indian Buddhist Master Atisha (AD 982-1054). It was first established
in Tibet, where it flourished for hundreds of years, and now it has
spread throughout the world. There are currently around 800 Kadampa
centres worldwide. Each centre practices Kadampa Buddhism in their
own language and within their own society.
Based on a special presentation of Buddha’s teachings known
as ‘Lamrim’, Kadampa Buddhism sets out the complete path
to enlightenment as explained by Buddha. Kadampa Buddhism is renowned
for its accessibility; people of all backgrounds can easily understand
and practice it.
Kadampa Buddhism follows a lineage of teachings as passed down from
Buddha Shakyamuni through various Teachers to Atisha, Je Tsongkhapa
and finally our present Spiritual Guide, Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
Q: What relevance does Buddhism have today?
A: Although Buddhism first appeared in India
over two and a half thousand years ago, it has a timeless and universal
relevance. Buddha explained that all our problems arise from confused
and negative states of mind. He taught methods for ridding the mind
of these destructive states and thereby realizing true happiness and
fulfilment. These methods just as effective today as they were in
Q: Do Buddhists pray and if so, to whom?
A: Buddhists pray to Buddhas. They believe
that Buddhas bestow blessings, transforming the minds of living beings
from negative to positive states. For this reason, prayers form an
important part of the Buddhist path to happiness. However, Buddhists
do not believe in a creator God.
For more answers to questions about
Buddhism see Introduction
to Buddhism, by Geshe Kelsang Gyatso.
If you would like to attend meditation classes near you and learn about Buddhism, visit the main website for Kadampa Buddhism which has details of Buddhist Centres around the world.
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