Friday, January 29, 2010

The Significance Of Rituals In A Buddhists Funeral

by Danny Wong

(Editor's Note - This is a guest post. For more information, check out Mr. Wong's site below or Eastern Philosophy And Meditation.)

Buddhism is one of the most popular religions practised extensively across the globe. The basic principles of the religion are based on the teachings of Lord Buddha. Buddhism teaches compassion and universal love for mankind and awareness of the Ultimate Truth.

Buddhist funeral rites are also based upon these fundamental principles of the religion. There are certain mandatory rites that need to be adhered to during the funeral of a dead person. These rites are meant to ensure that the departed soul is raised to a higher stage. The good energies of the dead are invoked to pray and wish the best for the dead person's next life beyond this birth.

The first task in funeral rituals is that of giving the body a traditional wash. Then comes the stage of chanting of religious texts by the monks, thereby guiding the soul towards the path of spiritual liberation. The teachings of the Buddha, which speak of the value of goodness and compassion in life, are read aloud. Meanwhile, the body is made ready for the final rites. The deceased is normally provided with some money put in his casket by the family. This is done to pay for the dead person's journey across the mythical River of Three Hells.

Then the casket is exhibited to the family and friends to enable them to pay their final respects by putting it at the altar. The relatives and friends offer condolences to the dead person's family, while the attendees pray for his soul. The priests carrying out the rites keep chanting the sutras along with the proceedings. After the chanting is over, people present at the ceremony bow at the altar. As the visitors start leaving, the family members give a gift to each other to show gratitude for sharing their sorrow.

Once these rituals are over, the family members can decide to cremate or bury the deceased based on their family beliefs. These rites are meant to allow the family to overcome their sorrow by offering prayers that will elevate the deceased to a higher pedestal of enlightenment and knowledge.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

Weekly Meditation - Kindness & Compassion

"Whether one believes in a religion or not, and whether one believes in rebirth or not, there isn't anyone who doesn't appreciate kindness and compassion." -- Kindness, Clarity, and Insight: The Fourteenth Dalai Lama, His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso

Little reminders of how to demonstrate your principles and philosophies in everyday life are important to keeping us on the right path.

A common thread among most of the world's religions and philosophies is kindness and compassion toward others.

This quote by His Holiness the Dalai Lama reminds me that kindness and compassion are not just to be shared with people like me, but all people. Whether people believe what I believe, agree with my opinions, or share the same likes and dislikes as me is irrelevant. What is common to all people is an appreciation of kindness and compassion directed toward them.

This week, my practice will be to concentrate on kindness and compassion toward everyone I work with, live with, and communicate with. It might be tough (especially being nice to those I work with :) but it will make their day and my day just a little bit brighter.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism

Buddhism's Four Noble Truths define the causes of human suffering and trouble:

  1. Dukkha, The Nature Of Suffering

  2. Samudaya, Desire; Suffering's Origin

  3. Nirodha, Ending Of Suffering and Frustration

  4. Mārga, "The Way" Leading Out Of Suffering (The Noble Eightfold Path)

The basis for mankind's difficulties is essentially defined as the nature of Suffering:

"This is the noble truth of the origin of suffering: it is this craving which leads to renewed existence, accompanied by delight and lust, seeking delight here and there, that is, craving for sensual pleasures, craving for existence, craving for extermination."

According to the Pali Tipitaka, the Four Noble Truths were the first teaching of Gautama Buddha after attaining Nirvana.

The Buddha preached a way of life more than a new religion. He achieved enlightenment through meditation and meditation, which was the basis of his teachings.

Buddhism leans on "experiential" knowledge of Truth. It stresses that you need to be transformed by a direct experience of Truth or God and the way to this is meditation. The Buddha became enlightened through meditation and so Buddhism religion stresses this aspect. Meditation has many benefits in day to day life and you will increase your well being by taking up this practice.

Understanding the Four Noble Truth's leads not only to an understanding of Bhuddhism, but opens the doors to more deeper, more effective, and more meaningful meditations and reflections on God and Truth.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Eastern Philosophy, Materialism, Monism, and Consumerism

One of the key aspects of Eastern Philosophy is personal experience, not belief or faith in any certain principles.

One of the main appeals that Eastern philosophies and spirituality have for the intelligent and spiritually-minded Westerner is their more "mystical", "esoteric", and Monastic understanding of reality. For searchers after truth previously only allowed the sterile choice between Skeptical Materialism on the one hand, and dogmatic religious (theistic) Dualism on the other, this is a welcome choice.

Eastern monism has thus come to represent a third alternative for those who find Materialism and Monotheistic dualism options that are two shallow and limiting.

Historically, metaphysics in the Western (or Western and Middle Eastern) world has tended to maintain a tension between religion and secularism - between monotheistic religions like Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Bahai'ism on the one hand, and philosophical and humanistic materialism and scientism in the modern world on the other. The philosophical and metaphysical distinction between dualism and materialism that has so much shaped Western thinking goes back to the ancient Greeks, Pythagoreanism and Platonism representing the dualist position, Atomism and Epicureanism the Materialistic, and Aristotleanism and Stoicism as a sort of holistic or quasi-holistic "third way" between the two. To some extent this is also the case in China as well, although not to so great an extreme.

In Chinese thought the metaphysical tension seems to be between Materialism and Monism, the result being a Holistic understanding of reality not as a hierarchy or a duality, but as the complementary play of the bipolar forces of yin and yang. Although China assimilated foreign religions and ideologies like Buddhism, Marxism, and most recently Consumerism, she has shown little inclination or interest in the theistic religions of other lands, perhaps because their rigidly dualistic nature is at variance with the intrinsic Chinese tendency to holism.

Since the Beatles' flirtation with Hindu Gurus like Mahareshi Yogi and Prabhupada in the late '60s, the presence and popularity of Indian spiritual teachers or Gurus has made a small but significant contribution to the religious consciousness of the West.

Lets hope that continues!

Monday, April 06, 2009

A Pure Body Is The Foundation Of Meditation

Meditation is the underlying key to what is embodied by Eastern Philosophy. And the key to meditation is a pure body.

Our bodies are physical mechanisms – however the mind and the body are thoroughly interconnected. You cannot distinguish between the mind and the body. You cannot say that this is where the body ends and the mind begins. Hence whatever affects the body will also affect the mind – for better or for worse.

With the body being a physical mechanism, it is affected by the food that we eat. As such, we should take care as to what food we ingest as it will affect the body as well as the mind.

Osho Rajneesh talks about 3 guidelines as regards food:

1) One is that we should not overeat, as that will make us feel lethargic. When we overeat then all the energy of the body is directed to digesting the food and there is little energy left for other activities.

2) A second point that he makes is that the food should not be intoxicating. Intake of large amounts of alcohol will result in putting the cells of the body to sleep and this will also have an effect on the mind.

3) A third point that he makes is that the food should not be over stimulating. This is a particularly difficult step for me to take as I am used to drinking large amounts of coffee every day. However it would be best for me as well as for you to limit the amount of caffeinated drinks.

This is as regards food. However we should also take a moderate amount of exercise everyday.

Osho says that each cell in the body expands as we take exercise and makes us fell alive. There is no need to overdo it. We should not take an excess of rest or an excess of exercise. But a moderate amount of daily exercise will clear the blockages in the body and help us meditate better.

For people who are old or invalid, Osho suggests that we turn this into a meditation. Lie down on the bed and imagine that you are taking exercise such as jogging or climbing a mountain. If you imagination is strong you will find that your cells get a workout even though you are lying flat on your back. It is the same as having a frightening dream. When you dream, our heart beat changes and we may begin to be short of breath as we get caught up in the frightening dream. So also when we imagine that we are taking exercise our cells of the body expand and are invigorated.

Osho Rajneesh says that the purification of the body is the first step to meditation. Other steps are purification of the mind and purification of the emotions or feelings. This will allow us to move to the center and we will then be able to tackle the other issues related to gaining samadhi.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Confucius and "The Great Learning"

Though he lived in times when there was constant warfare between neighboring states, Confucius began as a public teacher, and his house became a gathering place for young people who wished to learn from the lessons of the past. One of his overriding concerns was with opening up education to all, emphasizing character building rather than vocational training.

While his goal was to bring peace and order to states, his words had little effect during his lifetime. His ideas subsequently became the foundation for most of the concern for humanity found in subsequent Chinese philosophy. Unfortunately, his name has often been used as a cloak for despotic rule, by a false analogy between a dictator and the head of a family.

"The path for learning greatness is to illuminate the goodness in man, to bring out what is best in people, and to achieve the highest excellence. Once the true point of departure on this path is found, thought becomes clear. A calm imperturbability yields the tranquility needed for careful deliberation. That deliberation will achieve the desired goal."

Things have their roots and their branches. Affairs have their ends and their beginnings. To know what is first and what is last will lead near to what is taught in The Great Learning.

Confucius lived from about 551 BCE to 479 BCE. He was born with the family name K'ung. Through the respect he gained for his teachings, he began to be referred to as Grand Master K'ung — K'ung Fu-tzu. He said that at the age of fifteen he bent his mind to learning, and he continued to express a deep admiration for learning throughout his life. Confucius married at 19, his son being born a year later. Subsequently he had two daughters, one of whom died when she was quite young.

From The Great Learning:

"The ancients wishing to exhibit goodness throughout the kingdom, first ordered well their own states. To order well their own states, they first brought order into their families. To bring order into their families, they first cultivated their persons. Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first rectified their hearts. To rectify their hearts, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things."

"The investigation of things rounded out knowledge. Their knowledge being rounded out, their thoughts were sincere. Their thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being cultivated, order was brought into their families. Their families being in order, their states were rightly governed. Their states being rightly governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy."

You can read more about Confucius and other Easter Philosophies at: Eastern Philosophy and Meditation