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Question
Since there are no Gods, what are their beliefs on how we exist and how things came to be?

What do they worship at temples or at home?

What are Buddhist teachings like?

What is your interpretation of their lifestyle?

Answer
Dear Kendra

Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions.

"Since there are no Gods, what are their beliefs on how we exist and how things came to be?"

Buddhists actually do not debate nor search for the cause of creation. We basically and simply believe we were created according to natural laws. But even that is not that important to us.

What is most important is how we live our current lives. Whether Big Bang or God, we are still responsible for our choices, for our beliefs and for our actions. Those actions will lead to karma that we will have to pay. Therefore, our responsibility is not searching for the creation of life, but the proper use of the life we already have.

"What do they worship at temples or at home?"

In Buddhism we are supposed to worship 3 things:

Buddha - The actual person who was born and taught us the way to end suffering
Dhamma - The truth/ the teachings of the Buddha and all absolute universal truths
Sangha - The successful followers of the Lord Buddha. The enlightened ones.

This can be done anywhere: Home or Temple.

People might use statues, pictures, amulets or whatever to depict the object of their faith. However, like all religions, some people get lost in these depictions.

"What are Buddhist teachings like?"

I hope I am interpreting this question correctly as What does Buddhism teach?

Understanding cause and effect

Buddhism teaches us to find the cause of our problems. Once we find that cause, we can take steps to destroying it. Once the cause is destroyed, our problem will never return. If we have one less problem that will not return, is that not happiness?

Learning about yourself

The more we know about ourselves, the more we will be able to commit to actions, speech and thoughts that will truly benefit our lives and bless us with true happiness. True happiness comes from the inside out. We must learn about ourselves. Through learning about ourselves, we begin to understand others.

Compassion and forgiveness

Compassion and forgiveness are key concepts in Buddhism. However, to give compassion or forgiveness without right view is to merely create a higher sense of ego. To forgive, we must first recollect an instance when we have committed the same type of action. We must first understand the motives justifying our actions and the effects of our actions. Without understanding why we have committed an action, we will not be able to allow others to do the same. Through understanding our own actions, we will be compassionate and forgiving towards others as a result.

For example, if someone cuts in front of you in line at a bank, this might make you angry. You might try and calm yourself down by telling yourself that this person:

(a)   Didn’t see you
(b)   Is in a hurry
(c)   Is having a bad day

If you try to have compassion or give forgiveness, it will only be given based on a condition. The danger of having compassion or giving forgiveness in this manner is that it is conditional. If compassion or forgiveness is based on a condition, it will only stand as long as the condition stands. Therefore, if you find out later that they:

(a)   Did see you
(b)   Were not in a hurry
(c)   Were not having a bad day

You would no longer be able to forgive or have compassion for this person. This is because your forgiveness and compassion was born out of a condition.

In order to truly feel compassion or give forgiveness, you must first understand the action. Begin by internalizing. Ask yourself: Have I ever done this? (cut in line, taken someone’s place, …) If not, ask yourself a second question: Have I ever done something like this?(made others wait, been inconsiderate of others,…) Once you find a situation in which you have done it, you will understand firsthand why you did it. You will have empirical knowledge as to the cause and effect of your actions. You will be able to see both sides of the situation. Through this understanding you will understand why others do it. Then you will be able to generate true forgiveness and true compassion. In addition you will be able to make better decisions and be more aware of the effects of your actions.

True freedom - Living life without conditions

So much of our lives are based on conditions. Conditions, just as everything in the world, are subject to Annicam (change, impermanence). Therefore, if our lives are based on conditions that change, when that change comes, we will experience suffering. We often hear others and (most importantly) ourselves say:

“I would be happier if I had … (BMW, new bike, new girlfriend, more money…)”
-   We assume that we would be happier if we had a new BMW. But we forget about what comes with it – security issues, gas prices, expensive maintenance, driving people around and/or people wanting to borrow your car.

“I wouldn’t be so mad if he/she did …. Instead of …”
-   We think we would not be so mad if others changed their actions or speech, however, even when they say things differently or act differently, we still get mad. This is because the anger stems from perceptions inside of us, not from the actions of others.

“I am so lonely, if only I had someone …”
-   We think that our loneliness will be gone if only we had someone. However, even when we have someone, we still feel lonely, regardless of whether they are close by or not. This is because the loneliness comes from inside.
All these statements are based on conditions. Once the condition changes, our satisfaction and happiness also change. Therefore, learning to live without setting impermanent conditions is the way to a happy life.

"What is your interpretation of their lifestyle?"

I do not understand this question.




I hope I have answered your questions. If not, feel free to ask a follow up.

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Anandapanyo Bhikkhu

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I can answer questions about Buddhist practice, Buddhist understanding and how to apply Buddhism to daily life. I can help analyze Buddhist sayings and teachings. In addition, I can help with questions Buddhism stories, fables and Vinaya(rules). I have meditated for over 10 years and can help you start with meditation. In addition, I can help provide insight into what to do when you feel that you have hit a wall with your meditation. My main area of expertise is how to think in accordance with Sammaditthi (the right view - and number 1 in the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path. If I cannot answer your question, I have many able teachers with over 20 years experience to help me, so chances are I will be able to find an answer for you.

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I have been practicing Buddhism since I was born, but as a serious practice since 2003. I started studying under various famous Thai Theravada masters. Finally, I met and studied under Phra Acariya Thoon Khippapanyo who has recently passed away on Nov 11, 2008 and is widely accepted as a great Arahant (fully enlightened) teacher of our time. In addition, I have personally read and studied much of the Buddhist scriptures and popular literature available. I have recently undertaken the ordination vows and have become a Buddhist monk in the theravada forest monk tradition. I reside at a temple with many dedicated practitioners and great teachers. I have been practicing training my mind to be aligned with right view (sammaditthi) for over 10 years. I have also been meditating for over 10 years. In my time spent with Acariya Thoon, I learned many things and was able to incorporate them into my life. In addition to practicing Buddhism within temples and my home, I used to own two restaurants and managed commercial real estate. I had to deal with many different and problems. I learned how to use Buddhism to fix my problems, both externally (my environment) and internally (within me).

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Electrical Engineering Degree from the University of California Santa Barbara MBA from San Francisco State

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