Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Misunderstood Religions, Religious Symbols II (Buddhism, Karma, Swastika)



Buddhism: To those that are not really all that familiar it is thought to be a polytheistic religion. Which is the worship of many gods over one. The truth is it is a non-theist or non religious since there are no gods. More than anything it is a system of thought and moral codes. Many use this as a guide to life rather than a system to worship gods.

There are those definitions however that would include Buddhism as a religion simply on the fact that today people have changed it to resemble one to fit what they have been taught their entire lives, that there should be a god. It is believed that the first westerners who tried to write about Buddhism objectively ended confusing it with Hinduism or combined it with their own beliefs.

Venerable Master Chin Kung of the Buddhist Educational College in Singapore, describes four different types of Buddhism, of which one is:
"... religious Buddhism. Originally, Buddhism was not a religion, but now it has become one. We can no longer deny that there is a 'Buddhist religion' because everywhere we look, Buddhism is displayed as a religion. Unlike the monasteries in the past which held eight-hour classes per day and provided another eight hours for self-cultivation, today's Buddhist 'temples' no longer uphold such a perseverance of the Buddha's Teachings. Today we mainly see people offering to the Buddha statues and praying for blessings and fortune. In this way, Buddhism has been wrongly changed into a religion."
Buddha did not teach about Reincarnation or rebirth. He was a Rationalist and these teachings were added later to his teachings. In a New Age way, some people do not take the  reincarnation literally, more in the context that committing the same mistakes over and over again causes you to be constantly caught in samsara or rebirth. It is overcoming the pollution of the mind and society that you free yourself from the same never ending problems and find happiness.

The Dalai Lama is considered by most people to be the head of Buddhism. This is untrue. The Dalai Lama is the spiritual and political leader of the people in Tibet. The Dalai Lama in order to thwart China which is trying to take Tibet back, has given up his political leadership to others, so Im unsure to his political power these days. China was trying to line up the next Dalai Lama to in their pocket, so he could in turn give Tibet back to China. Buddhism has many different sects with different beliefs and do not all honor him as their leader.

We all have seen the statues. I am sad to admit I own some of these statues. The Buddha is not a laughing fat guy. On the contrary Buddhists usually associate this is greed, and excess which is the exact opposite of what it teaches. There are sects that starve themselves to bring them closer to obtaining "Enlightenment", but there are none that over eat or worship it. It is believed that the depiction of the Laughing Buddha was welded together from the Chinese Monk Che’tz and the bodhisattva Maitreya. Che'tz (Big Bag Monk) was a widely loved monk who was obese and was known for carrying a big of 'knickknacks' over his shoulder. Maitreya whos name means 'The Loveable One' later came to be associated with Che'tz and was drawn to look like him. Eventually the welding of the two became the symbol of prosperity and good luck. One could take these obese statues as the ability to be obese and still be happy with life, with yourself.

Contrary to popular belief, Buddhists are allowed to desire things and own possessions. It is simply taught that these desires can lead to misery. His point was to bring to light the relationship between desire and suffering. It is not even necessarily literal suffering but the suffering of the mind. The sadness of losing your prized possession, girlfriend, etc. It is in overcoming our attachment to these things that we can become free. Each person can take this differently, hence the misconception.

Karma. Ahhh so many misconceptions. Where to begin? Karma means "action" or "deed". Many people believe this is an eye for an eye concept. That if you do something to someone then it will come back at you. "oh she has bad luck, bad Karma." This is simply not so. Karma is not some kind of cosmic retribution system. This thought probably comes from the modern religious beliefs, and with the new wave of the New Age religious revival has been changed to suit the western concept. Karma has to do with one moment conditioning future moments, basically the interdependent chain of cause and effect. This includes not only actions, but thoughts and words. Karma is your own doing, yours to control. Just as you may be mad one day, you may lash out or may not treat others as well as you should. That in turn could effect other people around you and ruin their day, or they may turn and do the same to the family or friends.
It is hate, delusion and desire that create Karma. If you have good vibes, and are happy then in turn you will influence others the same way. This ties into the rebirth section, as those who dont have 'bad Karma' become liberated and do not fall into the same hell on earth we tend to create for ourselves and are liberated from rebirth.

Symbol:  The Swastika  

I touched on this briefly in my first blog entry on misconceptions. I feel the need to elaborate a little further as I feel this symbol is the most misunderstood symbol due to the way it was represented in WWII. I cannot sit idly by and let this symbol be ruined by some the worst atrocities in human history.

The word Swastika actually comes from the word Svastika, which means lucky or auspicious object. Simply meaning it is written on people or property to signify good luck. The shape is a monogram formed by interlacing the letters of the words Su-asti- which  is written in Brahmi.

The Tibetan Swastika which is anti-clockwise originated from India and represents a graphic representation of eternity.
It was also found in civilizations like the Navajo, representing a legend that was used in healing rituals. The Nazis had to ruin everything as when the Navajos found out about the Nazis use of the symbol, they discontinued its use.
In China it was used as an alternate symbol of the sun.
Japan. It was used in the coat of arms of many clans.
Europe. It has been found in many ancient cultures for a variety of different reasons.

I will not go into the reasons the Nazis chose to use it Please fell free to do some more research.

Stay tuned for more misconceptions on the way.

 


sources: http://www.buddhisma2z.com/content.php?id=514
http://www.netplaces.com/buddhism/karma-and-worldview/popular-misconceptions-of-karma.htm
http://buddhism.about.com/od/basicbuddhistteachings/tp/buddhismunfaq.htm
http://my.telegraph.co.uk/markulyseas/markulyseas/961/hindu-swastika-confused-with-nazi-swastika/
http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/8-24-2004-58322.asp
http://www.luckymojo.com/swastika.html
http://conversion.buddhists.sg/common_misconceptions_about_buddhism
and other books in my collection. Feel free to message me if you have questions!

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