Just BE GOOD!
The Buddha’s advice is to :
Do Good, Avoid Evil, and Purify the Mind.
In practical everyday terms, this means the practice of Dana, Sila and Bhavana.
What is Dana?
This simply means ‘giving’, charity or helping others. This can be practiced in many different ways. You can do so through speech by using kind and encouraging words with others. Even giving something as simple as a smile can help another if it cheers them up and brightens their day.
You can always lend a hand to anyone who needs help. You can volunteer your efforts or your resources to the less fortunate. You can also share the Buddha’s Teachings to anyone who is interested in them. It is the greatest gift of all.
However, try to do all this without regret, discrimination or ulterior motives. Practice Dana with kindness, compassion and empathy.
What is Sila?
- Abstain from killing any living beings.
2. Abstain from taking what is not given.
3. Abstain from sexual misconduct.
4. Abstain from lying and false speech.
5. Abstain from the abusive consumption of intoxicants and drugs.
These Precepts are not commandments, but are rules that Buddhists take upon themselves to observe. They are observed not because of fear of punishment but because we realize that such actions harm others as well as ourselves.
For example, as we ourselves do not wish to be killed or harmed, we realize that all other beings also do not wish to be killed or harmed. Likewise as we do not wish to be victims of theft, adultery, lies and slander, we ourselves should avoid doing such acts to others.
The Buddha also strongly advocated avoiding intoxicants and drugs. This is because once you have come under the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs, you are capable of committing any acts that you would not have done otherwise.
Should you break the Precepts, the Buddhist way is to be fully aware that you have done so, try your best to make amends, and then resolve to try harder from then on.
Morality is the foundation which everything else rests upon. It thus might be a good idea to memorize the Five Precepts so that you can be mindful of them at all times.
One of our free distribution items is a colourful and attractive bookmark with the Five Precepts, which you can keep with you always as a gentle reminder.
And once the observing of the Five Precepts becomes an instinctive part of your behaviour, developing its positive aspects will come easily and naturally :
- The practice of Harmlessness and Compassion.
2. The practice of Kindness and Generosity.
3. The practice of Faithfulness and Responsibility.
4. The practice of Truthfulness and Pleasant Speech.
5. The practice of Self-control and Mindfulness.
What is Bhavana?
Bhavana means the practice of ‘Mind Cultivation‘ or simply meditation. Meditation can be said to purify the mind by making it easier to develop Generosity and Compassion, and then to finally acquire Wisdom.
Buddhist meditation is usually classified into two types – Vipassana or Insight meditation, and Samatha or Concentration meditation. There are many forms of Samatha meditation, and Metta or Loving-Kindness meditation is one of its more widely practiced forms. All these types of meditation have their benefits.
However, it is usually recognized that it is through the practice of Vipassana or Insight meditation that we can come to fully know ourselves. And that through this we will be able to better realize and understand the Buddha’s Teachings and to see things as they truly are.
Meditation can be said to be the highest form of Buddhist practice as the Buddha himself attained Enlightenment through meditation.
You do not need long meditation sessions to begin with. Even a short 10 to 20 minute session every day or every other day will do wonders. This is a good place to start learning Buddhist Meditation.
Do we need to worship the Buddha, go to temples regularly, or make offerings or sacrifices?
Buddhists do not worship the Buddha. We consider Him as our Teacher and we thus respect Him as such. Buddhists bowing to a statue of the Buddha is simply our way of showing respect. This is akin to saluting a country’s flag, or standing up while a national anthem is being played.
There is also no strict need to visit temples regularly. Many Buddhists however, do so to meet with fellow Buddhists or learn more about the Teachings. There is also no requirement at all to make offerings, and Buddhists certainly do not make any sacrifices whatsoever!
The Buddha said that the best way to respect Him is to practice what he had taught. This means a mindful and consistent practice, as opposed to visiting a temple once a week, and reverting to bad habits the rest of the time.
What is the significance of the Buddhist offerings?
Traditionally, joss or incense sticks, candles, and flowers are three of the common offerings. Informed Buddhists will know that these items are not really ‘offerings’, but are actually just symbolic reminders.
For example. joss sticks or incense remind us of the ‘fragrance’ of the Buddha’s Teachings which pervade the world. Candles represent His Teachings which light our way in darkness. And flowers remind us that our lives are impermanent, like the flowers we ‘offer’.
Flowers when in bloom are beautiful and sweet smelling, but will fade and whither after only a few days. Similarly, all of us will eventually grow old and die. Therefore, the flowers remind us that we should use as much of our time as possible to do good for others, and to practice the Buddha’s Teachings.
So what basically is kamma?
Kamma literally means ‘intentional action‘, and this refers to the Buddhist belief in the Principle of Cause and Effect. We believe that every intentional act will give rise to a corresponding result, in either the present life or in a future one.
The results of kamma should thus not be seen as rewards or punishments for acts done, but simply the results or outcome of any such intentional acts. Positive actions will eventually result in positive consequences, and negative actions will eventually result in negative consequences.
Using an ordinary common-sense example of Cause and Effect, take a person who smokes, drinks and eats excessively without doing any regular exercise. As a result of his actions, this person will have a high likelihood of having a stroke or heart disease and ultimately go through much suffering. On the other hand, a person who watches his diet and takes good care of his body will usually be able to have a healthy life, even in old age.
Therefore, a person who has done much good and thus accumulated much positive kamma will likely enjoy a happy life and gravitate towards a Human, or even a Heavenly realm of existence in the next rebirth. Conversely, someone who has done many bad deeds and accumulated much negative kamma may have a life plagued with difficulties, and then also be reborn in a Lower realm of existence.
Kamma can also be viewed as seeds. You have the choice of the seeds you wish to grow. Therefore sow as many good seeds as you possibly can!
More on kamma and rebirth in our More Questions page.
The importance of Kamma :
Kamma is the only possession we really own,
and which we take with us from life to life.
Every intentional act of body,
speech and mind is like a seed planted;
that will grow when conditions are right.
Thus as you sow, you shall reap.
What if we have already done many bad things? Can we ask the Buddha to forgive us?
The Buddha is considered our Teacher and not someone that we pray to for forgiveness. Buddhists do not believe in any external agencies that we must ask forgiveness from, or worship for salvation.
If Buddhists were to ask for forgiveness, it would be to the person that we wronged, and not to a third party or external agency. If it were not possible to be forgiven by the person we wronged or to make amends, then we should let the matter go, learn from it and forgive ourselves, of course provided that we are sincere about it.
The Buddha teaches us that we are each responsible for our own actions, and that we are each capable of shaping our own destinies. We should thus consider carefully before doing anything wrong, and instead try to do right at all times.
If you are unsure whether an action is right or wrong, you can apply this simple rule of thumb as taught by the Buddha : if the action harms either yourself or another, or both; then avoid doing that action. If not, then go right on ahead!
Abraham Lincoln :
“When I do good, I feel good.
When I do bad, I feel bad.
That’s my religion.”
What then can we do to overcome the negative kamma from any bad deeds that we may have done?
According to the principle of Cause and Effect, negative kamma cannot simply be erased by positive kamma. Any act intentionally done will have its consequences in either the near or far future.
The Buddha used the analogy of salt in a river to advise us on how to diminish the effects of negative kamma. He said that while a tablespoon of salt will make a cup of water very salty, this same tablespoon of salt will have practically no effect on the taste of a river.
Simply put, dilute any negative kamma you may have by accumulating more positive kamma.
And positive kamma is accumulated by the practice of Dana, Sila and Bhavana.
The Buddha :
“Do not disregard merit saying it will not come to me.
By each drop of water is a water-jar filled.
Similarly the wise man gathering little by little,
fills himself with good.”