am i a buddhist?

Many people declare themselves to be ‘Buddhists’ when in actual fact they do not know what being Buddhists really means. Many students ( I was once like that too ), when required to fill forms state their religion as “Buddhism” or “Agama Buddha” although they have no idea at all what the essential Teachings of the Buddha (Dhamma) is all about …. let alone understanding and practicing the Dhamma.
Today, we see so many different ‘Brands’ of “Buddhists” . Let us look at them and do some reflection.

The ‘Burning’ “Buddhist”

You see quite a number of such “Buddhists” …. they burn bundles of joss sticks, joss paper and other paper paraphernalia at home, in Buddhist Associations and even Buddhist Temples. Poor Mother Earth ! She is choking and suffering and our environment gets more and more polluted. Talk about wise, wholesome and good Karmic actions ! When will such “Buddhists” ever learn that the ‘gods will not be appeased ’ ( and we don’t get peace within and without ) through a ‘combustion reaction ’? We need to conquer the Devils of Greed, Hatred and Delusion.

The ‘Wesak’ “Buddhist”

These ‘once a year’ “Wesak Buddhists” throng Buddhist Associations and Temples on Wesak Day carrying out so many deluded practices. They perform many meaningless rituals, have their fortunes read, their amulets and talismans blessed, rush for free Dana food ( the “Hungry Ghost” Realm is very real ! ) and “Holy Water”. They make supplication to the Buddha, asking for all sorts of favors with promises to do certain things if their material wishes are granted. Poor Buddha ! He must be very tired listening to the “bargains’ of these “Wesak Buddhists”.

The ‘Intellectual’ “Buddhist”

I have come across many friends who are like “Walking Encyclopedias” when it comes to ‘intellectual Dhamma’. They devour one Dhamma book after another , listen to many Dhamma Speakers and Tapes but alas all these remain at the intellectual level. The Dhamma is not practiced and actualized . Such intellectual Buddhists still cling on to their negative traits and habits. Talk about the practice of Dana … ha, now we understand partly why so many Buddhist Organizations lack Volunteer workers for Dhammaduta work. We have too many “intellectual Buddhists’ walking around !

The ‘Ceremonies’ “Buddhist”

We can see such Buddhists in some Buddhist Temples and Associations. They are caught up in lots of devotional rites, rituals and ceremonies the whole year long. So much of their time and energies are sapped indulging in unnecessary rites and rituals. When will they ever learn, understand, practice and realize the Sublime Teachings of the Buddha ? Unless and until they do, the defilements will remain or even multiply. We do not deny the role of a certain degree of devotional Buddhism but beware …rites and rituals can bind us more and more to the Wheel of Samsara.

The ‘Social’ “Buddhist”

There are Buddhists who are particularly active when it comes to socializing and fun activities. Of course, we need good Buddhist Fellowships, excursions, tours and other healthy recreational activities. But beware ! Our primary aim in being a Buddhist is to learn and practice the Dhamma , to seek and realize Enlightenment. ‘Social’ Buddhists sometimes frequent Buddhist Temples, Buddhist Societies and Associations with ulterior motives. They may be looking for potential life partners or have a hidden business or political agenda. The Dhamma takes backstage.

The ‘Deity’ “Buddhist”

It is interesting to note that many Chinese “Buddhists” regard the Buddha as another of their gods or deities. If you visit their homes, you can find the image of the Buddha placed at their shrine altar together with a host of other gods . ‘Deity’ “Buddhists” perhaps believe in this : ‘ The more gods, the better ( and merrier ) ….more protection and security ! ’ Will they ever learn the meaning of true Refuge in the Triple Gem ? I know of a ‘long-time Buddhist’ ( also an ex-Committee Member of a Buddhist Organization ) who was so afraid of removing his many gods from his shrine altar at home. He believes misfortune can strike him if he does so !

The ‘Emergency times’ “Buddhist”

Such Buddhists only pray to the Buddha or Kuan Yin in times of trouble, problems and conflicts. They pray for immediate solutions to their problems of health, poor business, love relationships, academic studies etc. etc. At other times, when they are relatively trouble-free, they will be too busy chasing material wealth and indulging in sensual pursuits. For such Buddhists, there is no time and place for Dhamma. I remember some time ago, there was a “Buddhist” man who came to our Buddhist Association with a very lost and stressed-up look. He wanted to learn Meditation to solve immediately his big problem …. insomnia and business loss. I suggested that he joined our Dhamma Study Class first. He did but it did not last . He was not patient and just wanted to solve his ‘emergency’ problem.

The ‘Preaching’ “Buddhist”

The Buddha once said, “ Others faults are easy to see but one’s own faults one hides like a fowler in disguise.” “Preaching” Buddhists do a lot of talking, suggesting, ordering and commanding. They project themselves as the “Know-All” in Dhamma but they themselves do little when it comes to real Dhammaduta work and Dana. Such Buddhists can be quite intelligent and creative but alas they don’t really practice the Dhamma. Talking and suggesting is one thing but wise pro-active action is another. Intelligence and Wisdom can be worlds apart.

The ‘Cultish’ “Buddhist”

Such Buddhists can be found everywhere. They can be filled with delusion, ego and conceit. Instead of spending their time practicing good Dana, Sila and Bhavana, they waste much time and energy chasing after “cultivated monks/nuns”, futile arguing over hair-splitting Dhamma points, attempting to convert others to their “cultish” brand of Buddhism and hero-worshipping and tending to their “enlightened leaders or teachers’. ( Let us not forget that our real Teacher is the Dhamma. The Buddha says, “He who sees the Dhamma sees Me.” )


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November 2007
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