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Buddhists/Email interview with a High Schooler

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QUESTION: Hi Justin,
I am a high schooler doing a multigenre project about the portrayal of angels in different religions. I am really interested in Buddhism and wanted to do a "more in-depth" piece on it than the other religions that I am working with. I was hoping to write a journal/diary entry on the way that angels are thought about and affect the everyday life of a Buddhist. I already started the preliminary research but I realized that just looking through information would not be enough to allow myself to put my mind in "a different pair of shoes".

I read through some of your blog and originally found you at http://en.allexperts.com/q/Buddhists-948/2009/1/Buddhists-Guardian-Angels.htm. I have found your answers extremely helpful thus far and hope that you would be willing to help me further.

Very hopeful,
KDB

ANSWER: Hi Kelsye,

Thank you for communicating.  I am here to answer Buddhist questions.  Should you need more information, I will be happy to assist.

Regards,
Justin choo

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QUESTION: With what I have read so far, there are not any specific angels and they are reffered to as devas or dharmapalas. That they do not interfere in human affairs though do praise or "frown" upon deeds done by humans. The one name that I did find was Avolokiteshvara, and that she hears all of the cries of humanity. In Buddhism, how would you go about praying for her to hear you or would you?

ANSWER: Hi Kelsye,

First you need to have a better perspective into the practice of Buddhism by different groups of people and by the different "schools" of Buddhism.  In the most pristine form, the teachings of the Buddha have no rites and rituals.  It is solely about how to live a peaceful life without fear and superstitions, through the understanding of the real nature of existence and the world. The teachings are; to look inside us to find answers to life, and not looking outwards for salvation depending on a higher life form.  However, many followers of Buddhism for whatever reasons, choose to indulge in rites and rituals and to spend their time speculating and believing in the "supernatural" in the name of Buddhism.  

Be that as it may, to answer your question, Avalokitesvara originally was a Hindu deity.  Now it is regarded as a Bodhisatta by many Buddhists. "Avalokistevara" is sanskrit, and the Chinese term is "Kuanyin", meaning one who listens (to the sounds of sorrow)and helps those who suffer and call out for help.  "Kuanyin" is the Goddess of Mercy.  Those who believe in this, of course would pray to her for help.  Mahayana Buddhists, especially the Chinese Mahayanists, held very high regard to Kuanyin for her limitless and universal compassion.  

As a follower of the Theravada tradition, my view is that there good "angels" everywhere who may assist humans in time of need.  That would depend on the moral character of the person.  If this person is of good moral character, the more likely this person would be helped by them.  "Religious" labels have nothing to do with this. This is my understanding, following my analyses of the Buddha's teachings.  

Regards,
Justin Choo

   

    

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: In reference to your personal belief in good "angels", I'll phrase my question in a way that I think will make sense. As a comparison, do you believe that the "angels" in Buddhism are at all comparable to the angels in Christianity?

With the project and topic that I am doing, I have mini-projects for religions that contain angels. I was hoping to do a journal/diary entry for Buddhism and put myself in the shoes of someone who practiced it. In order to do this, and to do it for my project, I have to make the entry contain "angels". That is why I was asking about Avalokitesvara. Since there aren't really specific "angels" that I can refer to, I was trying to get a grasp on them as a whole. I know that that isn't an actual question but it is a "request" for your opinion and any information that you would be willing to share on the general topic.

Thankful for your time and effort,
Kelsye

Answer
Hi Kelsye,

To me, if anything that is not universally applicable or congruent, it cannot be the truth.  Take for example the depiction of "heaven".  Each culture and belief will depict its own short-sighted version,like the dress of these heavenly beings, the musical instruments they play, and the physical appearances.  I regard this sort of interpretation as being very ignorant to life and existence.

"Angels" as far as I am concerned, are beings in other realms of existence, who have certain abilities to either help us or harm us.  The equivalent of "angel" in Buddhist belief is "deva". Devas are heavenly beings in different realm of existence.  In Buddhist belief, there are many  realms of existence, some are "heavenly" where there are more peace and happiness, while others are "hellish" realms full of sufferings.  If one leads a wholesome life, chances are one will reborn in the happier realms, and vice versa.  I think this is really universal to all irrespective of belief or race.

Take care.
Justin Choo  

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Justin Choo

Expertise

All your questions will be answered, and you may not have to agree with the answers. Such is the beauty of Buddhism. I follow the Theravada tradition, and have been studying Buddhism for more than 50 years. As I am not a Buddhist scholar, I answer in simple language, and I prefer answering general questions rather than textual.

Experience

I was brought up in the 50's as a Buddhist. For the past 50 years I have read numerous books on Buddhism and listened to numerous talks on Buddhism by well-respected and learned monks and lay teachers. I have conducted Buddhist classes for parents of Sunday School children in a Theravada Buddhist Temple. My teacher was the late Chief Reverend, The Ven. K Sri Dhammananda of The Brickfields Buddhist Mahavihara, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. You can view the relevant website in memory of my revered late teacher @ http://www.ksridhammananda.com and my blog posting at http://blackandwhite999.blogspot.com/2008/08/my-revered-teacher.html

Organizations
I am a life member of the Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia.

Publications
YOU ARE INVITED TO VISIT MY BLOG @ http://lifeislikethat999.blogspot.com/ Published a book called "The Rainbow And The Treasure". It is a compilation of extracts from various sources to introduce Buddhism to beginners. (Currently out of print)

Education/Credentials
Bachelor of Commerce And Administration, Victoria University Of Wellington, NZ.(1974)

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