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Hi Justin Choo, I'm really interested in Buddhism and have a few questions:

1.   What are the main differences between the kinds of Buddhism practiced throughout Asia?
2.   Why is it so important to escape samsara?
3.   What comes after nirvana? How does nirvana fit into the cyclical nature of many eastern religions if it is a sort of goal?
4.   Is Buddhism a religion or a way of life?
5.   Buddhism stresses that suffering comes from attachment. Are there any exceptions to this?

Answer
Good evening Alice,

1. What are the main differences between the kinds of Buddhism practiced throughout Asia?
Usually Buddhism is generally classified into 3 schools.  Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana or Tibetan Buddhism.  The fundamental teachings of the Buddha are similar in these 3 schools or traditions.  Theravada is supposed to be more orthodox in that it regards the Buddhist text called the Tipitaka as the pristine teachings of the Buddha.  Mahayana nowadays are mostly referred to the Chinese version of Buddhism, with its Chinese rites and rituals.  It has other suttas (discourses) which the Theravada school does not recognize. Tibetan Buddhism as the name suggests is wholly Tibetan version of Buddhism, which incorporates very ritualistic practices of the Tibetan culture. Theravada practices also differ in rites and rituals depending on the nationalities, namely, Sri Lankan, Myanmar or Thai.  

2. Why is it so important to escape samsara?
"Samsara" means "continuous flow of life and death".  If one is perpetually in this samsara, one will forever have to go through this repeated cycle of birth and death.  

3. What comes after nirvana? How does nirvana fit into the cyclical nature of many eastern religions if it is a sort of goal?
Nirvana or nibbana is not an easy subject to understand.  Actually only when one experiences the state of nibbanic bliss, one will never fully understand what nibbana is.  The conventional explanation is to describe it in the negative. Nibbana is not a place. It has no birth and death.  Nibbana means no craving.  No more greed,hatred,and delusion. Nothing comes after Nibbana.  Nibbana is opposed to samsara, that is why there is no more cyclical flow.      

4. Is Buddhism a religion or a way of life?
It is the truth of life.  It helps one to see the real nature of existence, which is impermanent, unsatisfactory and just a phenomenon.  

5. Buddhism stresses that suffering comes from attachment. Are there any exceptions to this?
When we are attached forever to a specific thing, we are bound to experience sorrow.  This is because everything is subject to change, and when change occurs condition also changes, which bring us different feelings, be they happiness or sadness.  Ultimately one will never experience lasting happiness and contentment if one is attached to worldly things.  This is because all worldly things are subject to disintegration in the end.  There is no exception to this fact.

Hope this helps.

Regards,
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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