All religions have said theirs is the best, this is even same for Buddhism, there are differences in many factions, each claims that theirs is the best respectively. For those who are just newly exposed to the Buddhism, what kind of attitude they should hold in order for them to get the real benefit from the Dhamma?
Buddha’s teachings are “Dhamma” and “Vinaya” “Dhamma” refers to the laws of nature as well as a method towards enlightenment and realization of the laws of nature. Dhamma is teaching that is based on the reality, it teaches us how to eliminate the world’s suffering according to the laws of nature. “Vinaya” include various sets of precepts, a framework for code of conduct set up for the disciples of the Buddha. For lay people, there are five precepts, for monastics, there are ten precepts, 227 precepts, and many more minor precepts. Following this framework, one can get protection, there will then be a stable foothold for one to practice the Dhamma.
Since the field of Dhamma covered beyond the detection of the naked, the teaching of Kamma and Cycle of Rebirth in Buddhism can be comprehended only by those who experiment and verify it in their personal experience. For those who have not done so, it will remain something mysterious and abstruse and therefore in the preliminary stage, one can only believe in it. In this respect, it will be similar to other religions.
Other religions are built on the basis of believing, for example, belief in a creator, that there is an omniscient and benevolent God. It is believed that you just have to worship him, believe in him and he will be able to protect you. No matter how much evil deed you have committed, he can eliminate all your sin, so that you find happiness, and protect your afterlife. This religion is based on pure faith.
But Buddhism is not about pure faith, but about the reality of nature. Buddha gave an experimental method called samatha and vipassanā meditations. If we complete these experiments, we can see the truth, realities. But before the experiment become successful, you need a certain degree of confidence. At least you have to trust that this experiment may be right. As you can see a treasure map, you trust that this map may be right, and so you follow them until you find a treasure. Once you get this treasure, your life would be free from all sufferings. In this respect, to a certain extent, we need to have some degree of faith in the Buddha’s teachings. We can experiment and confirm it later through our own personal experience. Buddha assured us that as long we complete the experiment taught by Him, we can understand the ultimate realities of life, and therefore we will have a kind of wisdom called “Insight or wisdom acquired through direct penetration into realities” “Insight or Meditation Insight” is wisdom acquired and comprehended through the practice of meditation. This is the aspect that we do not see in other religions.
Some faith uses some mysterious ways to justify itself. For example, you feel an amazing power pushing you. In a daze, you feel very comfortable. This mystical phenomenon, in fact, exists in all religions. It is like some temple mediums who could walk barefoot on red-hot coals and yet nothing had happened.
Some said that he believed there was the Creator. When he fell out of love and prayed in the church, at his saddest inconsolable moment, a light filling down from his head. His heart suddenly felt cool and calm. He believed that The Creator was comforting him. In fact, many meditators had a similar or more mysterious experience. This is not sufficient evidence to prove the existence of the Creator.
If there were a Creator, he is Almighty and merciful, why is the world still filled with so many disasters, unrest and chaotic events every day? If it is his well intention to create some disasters and sufferings to educate the people, you may ask: “Why must it be me? Why made me suffer in order to educate others? Why not just be simple and create a world full of happiness and without suffering?” Therefore, in Buddhism, we are unable to accept the existence of the Creator. There are too many paradoxes in the world for the existence of the Creator. When there is not enough evidence, they can only believe it.
Many religions hinder their followers from reading other religious books or disallow them to have exposure to teachings of other religions. Once someone wanted me to listen to the gospel, in the process, he wanted only I listened to him but he refused to listen to me.
He thought what I was talking about was the devil speech, it would hinder his faith. How could he listen to it? Buddhists are not like that ! We can frankly have exposure to any religious teachings. Buddhism begins from the basic faith, but it is not an absolute faith .
According to the Buddhist scriptures, only through “Meditation Insight”, those who experiment and verify The Four Noble Truths and Nibbāna in personal experience can have the unshakeable and irreversible faith. This means, at the very least, one has to be a Sotāpanna (the attainment of the first stage of sainthood) to have the irreversible faith. If one wants to attain strong faith, one has to at least practice and attain the wisdom of dependent origination, to be able to see the past, present and future lives, comprehend the relationship between the cause and effect and the cycle of rebirths. Buddha did not demand anyone to have unshakeable faith because this is not possible or reliable. Unshakeable faith doesn’t arise out of demands but out of self realization.
Our faith must be from “the confidence of belief” to “the confidence of knowing” Other religions are not like that. Their approach is not much difference from that of the mediums. They cannot point out a direction, so that you can know thoroughly the basis and the principles of the teachings. For instance, they said if you do something, you will get punishment, but they are not able to give you a proper mechanism how it actually works. Their only principle is: There is a controller who is in charge of delivering reward and punishment to the good and the evil ones.
But the Buddha’s teachings are the laws of nature. This law of nature is something that we can understand, we can personally verify and confirm its operation. Buddha’s teachings can be investigated and verified. The Buddha declared in “the Kālāma Sutta” as follow: “Do not believe just by repeated reciting; by religious traditions; by legends, by scriptures; by logical conjecture; by inference; by agreement through pondering views; by preference to a faith after some consideration; by seeing the seeming capability of one who propagates it, and by the thought, “This contemplative is our teacher”.
However, when you personally know: “These things are unwholesome, these things are blamable, these things are censured by the wise, if undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and suffering” Then you should abandon them. …… However, when you personally know: “These are wholesome, are not blamable, are praised by the wise, if undertaken and observed, these will lead to joy and happiness, then you should practice them.”~ Aṅguttara Nikāya, Vol.1, 188-193 P.T.S Ed.
When you personally know that Buddhism teaching truly helps you to purify yourself, brings happiness and benefit to you, only then you accept it. How to know it personally? “Wisdom from Hearing”, wisdom which come solely from hearing, one will not personally know. “Wisdom from contemplation,” wisdom that is based on contemplation can only achieve a certain degree of knowing, but still insufficient. ” Wisdom as Insight,” verified through meditation, one will know this personally. Just like you do not need to believe there is the sun, the moon and the stars in the sky, you personally know the existence of the sun, the moon and the stars in the sky. And you know this, even people bribe you with tens of millions of dollars, wanting you not to know this, it is impossible.
The teachings of the Buddha allows anyone to investigate truths, rather than accepting them through blind faith. Whatever our teacher teaches us, if I do not understand or have doubts, I can ask. We can retain the freedom of thought in the entire learning process. This freedom of thought cannot be found in other religions. This idea of freedom of thought were given to us in “Kālāma Scripture”. Not only allowed, but encouraged to have this freedom of thought. This is because if there is no freedom of thought, your mind is brainwashed, you will not be able to freely explore, to investigate, then you will not be able to clearly grasp the Dhamma. Only by working to discover truths with the freedom of mind, will one be able to fully develop the wisdom.
Buddhism does allow people to make comparison. Some people think that they are good but do not allow others to compare themselves with others. This situation is like: I sell flowers in my store. I claim that my flowers are the most beautiful in the world. But you can only see the flowers from my store. You are not allowed to see flowers from others’ stores. It becomes a very strange logic.
You have to display your flowers, so that customers are free to see the flowers from other stores and your store too before deciding to conclude that your flowers are the most beautiful. Then, you are qualified to say that your flowers are the most beautiful! Without understanding and comparing, purely based on blind faith, one concludes that something is the best. This is unreasonable.
Buddha’s teachings are able to enhance our lives, let us find happiness. Never for the sake of religion or for the afterlife can one kill, become terrorists to wage holy wars. Such act is not approved in Buddhism.
After learning of the Dhamma, one can clearly see that our hearts brighten up, we will not fall into unwholesome deed, because the Buddha taught us that our mind must not be polluted for pollution is the cause of suffering. For those believers of religions that are based purely on faith, for the sake of their faith and the creator, they can kill other people, wage a holy war. In that process they died for it while others also died; they suffered, so did others. They believed this was right, this was good, as their faith had given them a supposedly divine reason. Such argument can never hold true in Buddhism. No one can wage a holy war in the name of Buddhism, because Buddha’s teachings deny such possibility. Nowadays, Buddhism has many sects. In order to simplify and expedite the preaching of the Dhamma, sometimes they take the methodology of other religions which is to completely believe without direct experience. In this respect, it has gradually deviated from the original teachings and adopted the heretic components.
In any case, almost all Buddhist sects uphold the Three Refuges and the Five Precepts. But it seems there are some sects that allow drinking, which is against the Five Precepts. Is this situation good or bad? Like adding a little more water in the coffee, or mixing with some tea. We cannot say that there is no coffee in the cup, just that the coffee is mixed with something else. Comparing this coffee and that coffee, which is better? Everyone hold different views, some people may think that coffee mixed with tea tastes better, some people may feel more refreshing after drinking it. For that, we have nothing to say.
For example, could the prescription mixed with something else heal your disease, we do not know. You cannot say that it cannot, because it contains the ingredient, it may be helpful to cure the disease, but will it really give the best results, we do not know. For us, if there is genuine prescription, it certainly can cure the patient, we do not need to mix it with other drugs. Prescription from the Buddha, we feel assured to use it. It is the safest to follow and practice honestly the original Dhamma without any impurities in it. According to our understanding, the original Dhamma and Vinaya preached by the Buddha are sufficient to ensure our liberation. Whether it is for those who are on the bodhisatta path to Buddhahood or people who want to become Paccekabuddha, or want to become Arahant, the original teachings are the most reliable.
Buddhism is pragmatic, but Buddhist pragmatism covers metaphsical field and is therefore verifiable only through practice. The field of mind is yet to be covered by science nowadays, but the spirit of Buddhism, the learning attitudes and the methods taught, in fact is in consistence with the spirit of science; being neutral, truth-seeking, pragmatic and repeatable verification. The truth discovered by Buddha is far from the apprehension of today’s science.
For those believers who are new to Buddhism, they should adopt a learning attitude “let me do an experiment,” and bring oneself to the experiment. Do not busy oneself with the right or wrong in others. Do not use Dhamma to debate with others or to judge others, to see who can do it who cannot. We should maintain the correct attitude to learn. In order to truly benefit from the Dhamma, one has to work from within, work hard and learn with confidence, change oneself. It is the most difficult task to correct oneself. Once this task is completed, you can start preaching to others in the future. If we do not benefit from the Dhamma, yet we wish to go around propagating the teachings to others, it is will not be effective.
As whether the other sects are good or not, which is better… this is not within the range of our discussion because it will lead to a lot of controversy, as a result of which we may get into fierce arguments. At that moment, our mind will be polluted. That do not really benefit anyone. We only emphasize the important point, how we should freely choose, experiment and verify in the Buddha’s teachings.
We feel safe and reliable in the Buddha’s original teachings. For as long we practice in accordance to the Dhamma, we can really see the inner purification. Do not wait until the afterlife. In this life, my life shall become happier. My enduring power to withstand tests, challenges and crisis in life will be greatly enhanced. I shall clearly see that my life improves and gets uplifted. I think this is good. Our life will be liberated, we will get out of the cycle of rebirths in the saṁsāra.