WatTampaInEnglish is the unofficial web site for Wat Tampa (Wat Mongkolratanaram)
Dogs are welcome at the Sunday Market but please don't bring them onto the deck where the food is served.
The Sunday Market is held every Sunday, come rain or shine, from about 8:30am until 2:30pm. Come join us for great food and a great view.
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What is Buddhism?
Buddhism may be defined and explained from various standpoints as follows:
Country of Origin: India
Date of Origin: Sixth Century BC (Buddhist Century)
The Founder: The Buddha (The Enlightened One - previously Prince Siddhattha of Gotama clan within the Sakya lineage.
Doctrinal Tenets: To avoid all evil, to do good, and to purify the mind
Type of Religion: Universal, spreading out to many countries of the world; Atheistic, regarding no divine being as the centre of the teaching
Main Divisions: Theravada and Mahayana
Unity of Diversity: The World Fellowship of Buddhist is the world organization for unity of all Buddhist throughout the world. It has one hundred twenty three regional centers in 37 countries (B.E. 2539 (1996)). The permanent headquarters of the World Fellowship of Buddhist is in Thailand.
This article is extracted from the Buddhist Questions and Answers pamphlet published by Wat Mongkolratanaram (Wat Tampa). WatTampaInEnglish is not the official Wat Mongkolratanaram web site and the content below should be considered unofficial.
What is the historical and geographical background of Buddhism?
Buddhism is Atheistic; it does not give significance to Divine beings. There are two major Schools in Buddhism: Theravada, the teachings as preserved by the elders, and Mahayana, the later development. The former is practiced in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma (Myanmar), Laos, and Cambodia. The later is more prevalent in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, and Tibet.
What are the purposes of the Buddha's preaching?
In the First Sermon, Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta (the Discourse of the Turning of the Wheel of Dhamma or Truth), the Buddha pointed out the Middle Way which gives vision, which gives knowledge, which is conducive to calmness, insight, enlightenment and Nibbana (the state of being free from all defilements and suffering).
In one of His discourses, the Buddha summarized His teaching with the words "Vimutti or Spiritual Freedom from all defilements and sufferings in the Ultimate."
When sending His first sixty disciples on their preaching tour, the Buddha said:
"I, now, monks, am free from all bonds of gods and men. And you too, monks, are free from all bonds of gods and men. Travel, monks, for the welfare of the many, for the happiness of the many, for helping the world, for the good, welfare, and happiness of gods and men."
From Buddha's words, above mentioned, we can say that Nibbana or Vimutti is the main purpose of the preachings of the Buddha. He encouraged His disciples to walk the Middle Way in order to eradicate all defilements and sufferings and then, out of compassion for all, lend a help hand to others.
In brief, Buddha taught people how to be happy and prosperous in a worldly as well as a spiritual sense. Those who follow His teachings can select their way of life practicable for themselves.
What is the status of Buddhism among world living religions?
World living religions can be classified according to their doctrinal tenets into various categories such as:
Buddhism belongs to the latter. It lays stress on virtuous quantities which every human being can develop. According to Buddhism, good knowledge and conduct (Vijja-carana) make a person excellent among divine and human beings. Good knowledge and release from all defilements and suffering (Vijja-vimutti) are Buddhistic ideas.
What is the meaning of the Buddhist flag?
The Buddhist flag, or the flag of Chabbannarangsi, as approved by the World Fellowship of Buddhists at its inaugural conference in B.E. 2493 (1950) consists of six colours. The first five colours are arranged vertically as follows: blue, yellow, red, white, and orange. The sixth colour, called in Pali “Pabhassara”, which means “brilliant” or “radiant”, cannot be depicted but is symbolized by the combination of the first five colors arranged horizontally in a narrow strip on the right.
This six-coloured flag was originally designed by Colonel Henry S. Olcott, an American Buddhist, and has been used by the Sri Lankan Buddhists ever since. However, it gained wider recognition when it became the official flag of the World Fellowship of Buddhists at its inception in B.E. 2493 (1950).
The design was based on the belief that wherever the Buddha went, he spread the light of wisdom and bliss to the people all around in six directions, namely, east, west, north, south, above and below. This light was later symbolized by the six colors in the Buddhist flag.
However, for Thai Buddhists, a yellow flag with the symbol of the Wheel of Dhamma (Dhammacakka) has been in general use since B.E. 2501 (1958) when it was officially proclaimed by the Thai Sangha Authorities.
What is the meaning of the Buddhist symbol?
The Buddhist symbol is in the form of a wheel with eight spokes representing the Noble Eightfold Path, which means the way leading to the cessation of suffering. This path consists of the following:
Right View, Right Motives, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Means of Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, Right Concentration.
This symbol is called “Dhammacakka” or the Wheel of Dhamma and has been adopted as the seal of the World Fellowship of Buddhists.
What are the differences between the two major Schools of Buddhism, i.e. Theravada and Mahayana?
Theravada means the School which maintains the original teaching of the Buddha. Its root can be traced back to the First Council which was held soon after the Buddha’s passing away; hence it is considered the oldest School. Mahayana came much later, roughly speaking, about 600 years after the Buddha’s time. Vajarayana or Tantrayana developed from the Mahayana approximately 400 years after the beginning of the Mahayana.
Geographically, Theravada is more prevalent in Sri Lanka, Burma (Myanmar), Thailand, Cambodia and Laos while Mahayana is prevalent in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Nepal and Tibet.
Theoretically both Schools share the fundamental teachings of the Four Noble Truths, etc. but Mahayana developed many more Sutras as elaboration of the original teaching. Among the important Mahayana Sutras are Saddharmapundarika-Sutra, Vimalakirtinirdesa-Sutta, Bhaisajyaguru-Sutra, etc. However, the Vinaya (monastic disciplines) of both Schools remain very similar. The difference in practices is primarily due to different sociological and geographical contexts.
How and what should the Buddhist believe?
The Buddha is the Enlightened One who discovered the Supreme Truth. He did not force anyone to believe in His teaching with blind faith. The reasonableness of the Dhamma, the Buddha’s teaching, lies in the fact that it welcomes any critical examination at all stages of the path to enlightenment. To understand the nature of all phenomena, insight wisdom must be operative throughout.
And then the Buddha had further instructed the Kalamas to consider everything by themselves carefully. He said
Is it true that Buddhism are taught to be tolerant of other opinions, beliefs, customs or behaviour different from their own?
Yes, Buddhists are taught to be broadminded but not to believe in anything easily before investigation or proper consideration. Moreover, Buddhists are taught to diffuse the Four Divine States of Mind: loving-kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity towards all sentient beings who may be of different nationalities, religions or environments.
Could we live happily without believing in any religion?
Yes, we can. If happiness means physical well-being, then a person can be happy without believing in any particular religion. A human being consists of two major aspects: body and mind. To have a fully developed and happy life, one needs to nourish both body and mind. In this case religion can provide the guidance and the path to develop the mind and spirit along with the body.
Is there any particular form of practice in Buddhism?
According to Buddhism, everyone is free to consider and investigate Buddhist teaching before acceptance. Even after acceptance one is free to select any particular part of the teaching to put into practice.
The Buddha has given various practical formats suitable to the people of different tastes and tendencies.
1. Avoidance all evils, fulfillment of good and purification one’s own mind.
2. Generosity, morality and mind development (development of tranquillity and insight.)
3. Morality, concentration and wisdom. (A brief form of the noble path leading to the cessation of suffering.)
What are the results of the practice of the Five Precepts?
The Five Precepts are not laws but self-training rules that lead to moral practices and right behaviour. Since one does not live alone, living in society requires self-awareness, self-control, adaptability, non-violent attitude and good-will.
The Five Precepts are to abstain from killing, stealing, sexual misconduct, false speech, and intoxicants which carelessness. One should be kind, honest and mindful. Then our society will reach the goal that persons can live together peacefully and in mutual trust.
How should one live the Buddhist way of life?
To live the Buddhist way of life one should avoid doing evil, perform wholesome acts and purify one’s own mind.
The “don’t and do” moral principles of the Buddhist way of life are as follows:
1. To abstain from killing, and develop loving-kindness and compassion to all living beings.
2. To abstain from stealing, and develop right means of livelihood.
3. To abstain from sexual misconduct, and develop restraint of the senses.
4. To abstain from lying, and develop truthful speech.
5. To abstain from intoxicants, and develop restraint and mindfulness.
The more one can observe the above Five Precepts and Five Virtues, the more happy and peaceful life one will achieve.
Furthermore, trying to purify one’s own mind from greed, hatred, and delusion step-by-step in daily life is the ideal way for all Buddhists.
Is there any Buddhist teachings that monks should have a role of serving society in addition to teaching Dhamma?
The history of Buddhism tells us that when the Buddha convened his first group of 60 disciples before sending them on the missionary work, He instructed them to go separately on a journey for the gain of the many, for happiness of the many, and for helping the world. This shows that the Buddha advised his disciples to serve society. The serving should be done appropriately to the status of the monk. To put the teaching into practice, to make oneself an example, and to teach the people are the main functions of Buddhist monks. Usually monasteries are the centres of communities and social welfare. In case of various disasters, monks will extend their helping hands to the people as much as possible. To serve society in the way of charity or other social work is also allowed for monks, providing it does not contradict the monastic rule.
Is it justified for a Buddhist to believe he could be a real Buddhist only through meditation, and to discard all concerns about serving society?
To be a real Buddhist is just to take the Triple Gem as one’s guide, that is to say, if anyone puts his or her faith in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha, he or she is regarded as a Buddhist. This is according to the answer of the Buddha to Prince Mahanama’s question about being a Buddhist.
There is an advice for progress in practice called the Basis of Merit Making as taught by the Buddha as follows:
1. Charity or generosity (Dana),
2. Morality (Sila), and
3. Development of Meditation which is of two kinds, namely: tranquillity of the mind and spiritual insight. (Bhavana)
From the above mentioned principle it is clear that charity and serving society in the way of giving a helping hand and other spiritual practices are regarded as the additional (practices) of being a Buddhist.
Why do monks wear patched robes?
Buddhist monks are homeless and do not have any valuable personal belongings. Originally they had to collect discarded pieces of cloth wherever they could be found, and wash and sew them together. Then the robe was dipped in natural dye from bark or the pith of a tree. The robes were mostly brownish in color. The different shades of the color did not signify the strictness of the wearers at the time of the Buddha, nor do they today.
Venerable Ananda, the Buddha’s cousin and personal attendant, designed the robe at the request of the Buddha. The pattern of the robe was taken from the pattern of the paddy fields in the Magadha Kingdom. It was accepted by the Buddha and had become standardized since then.
In Thailand, usually the darker robed monks tend to be forest monks. However, there are some monks living in the city who also prefer wearing darker brown robes.
The reason why the Buddha accepted a patched robe was to distinguish monks’ robes from lay people’s clothing and to discourage thieves.
Why do monks go on alms rounds in the morning?
In order to appreciate this act, one needs to have a background understanding of Buddhist society, Buddhist society consists of four groups of people: monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. Monks and nuns have left household life and have gone forth to spend time fully in the study and practice of Buddhist teaching. Once they are well fortified with study and practice, they are expected to teach the lay people and provide them with spiritual comfort and guidance.
Lay people, on the other hand, are householders who are still engaged in worldly activities. It is expected that able Buddhists should support the ordained ones by providing them with material requisites such as clothing, food and medicine. Buddhist societies are expected to work out with this compromise division of responsibilities.
When the monks go for alms round, from the monk’s point of view, they are to make available the opportunity for the lay people to make offering to the ordained ones who are the “field of merit”, worthy of offering. Also by taking care of the material needs of the ordained ones is a way to reinsure the stability of Buddhism and its institute on the one hand and also to uplift the lay peoples’ own practice on the other.
How is universal loving-kindness taught in Buddhism?
Loving-kindness (Metta) means extending goodwill or benevolence which is opposite to ill-will. Buddhism teaches that loving-kindness should be diffused to all sentient beings, be they human or non-human. If the world follows the teaching of diffusion of universal loving-kindness, conflicts may be solved not by confrontation but through peaceful means.
What is the Buddha's teachings about caste and colour?
There is no division of caste and color in Buddhism. In some countries, the caste system is a very important social structure. However, Buddhism is free from caste, racial and gender prejudices. Everyone has equal spiritual potential to attain enlightenment.
The Buddha explained that a man’s virtues or vices depend on his deeds, not his birth or wealth. One who comes to be ordained in Buddhism has equal rights such as the right to vote in meetings. The only difference is the order of seniority which goes according to the precedence in ordination.
Buddhism lays stress on human equality by pointing to the importance of knowledge and good conduct. Lord Buddha taught that one who is endowed with knowledge and good conduct is excellent among divine and human beings.
What is the real meaning of "merit making"?
Literally speaking, the word ‘merit’ is translated from Pali Punna a which means "purification": To make merit is to cleanse greed, hatred and delusion from one’s mind. The Buddha taught His followers to make merit by means of charity (Dana), morality (Sila) and spiritual development (Bhavana). When we know the real meaning of "merit making" in Buddhism as described above we can decide for ourselves that there are many ways and means to make merit. At any moment in one’s daily life, even while sitting comfortably on a chair, trying to cleanse greed, hatred, delusion or other mental defilements from one’s mind is also reckoned as making merit.