Buddhism or Dhamma-Vinaya: Just Labels?

Below is a note I wrote back in mid 2011.  Reposted here for sharing.

Decided to put this as a note instead of a comment to a note [1] written by “Ehi Passiko”.  Last year (2010), I conducted a meditation retreat for this Jewish family with Jewish and Catholic members in their family house in Turin, Italy.

One recurring question that came up was how they can practise Buddhism while continuing their Jewish tradition.  I shared with them that it is not the Buddhist way to convert people wholesale, rather whatever aspects of our life that leads to greed, hatred and delusion should be given up.

For them, the Jewish tradition is more than a religion, it is a culture in its own.  It is akin to asking a Chinese to stop
being a Chinese because he wants to be a Buddhist.  hmmm … that may well explain why Chinese cultures and festives are practiced where possible without conflict within Buddhist communities and temples.

Having said that, if we assume that the Buddha was not into labels etc, we would be quite wrong.  The Buddha set down certain rules for the Sangha to maintain the distinction with the other ascetics.  While many concerns discipline pertaining to the practice, others concerned outer forms so that lay disciples would not confuse them with others.

If the teachings are taught, adopted by other religions, and practiced up to stream entry, sotapanna or even Arahant-hood, then there is no fear, for Ven. Susima [2] despite entering the order for the wrong reasons, upon penetrating into the truth, naturally gave up the wrong ways.  He would not continue what he and his counterparts had intended, to use the Dharma to get lay support but continue their own practices.

If other religions adopt the teachings and practices without attributing it to the Buddha’s discovery of it, and do not reach fruition, then a few things may happen.  Say a person with a god centric religion practices part of the Dharma, but maintains their holy scriptures.  If we say that labels are not important, then it is quite ok for Buddhists to then go to Churches to pray to God, interpreting God in a certain way in line with the Noble Eightfold Path.  In fact that is what some Jews, Catholics and Christians are doing.  But if they do not revise or review their scriptures, later generations may slowly get confused over the two, assuming that they are the same or end up assimilating the Dharma into theirs.  The trick is whether later generations will be interpreting their scriptures in line with the Noble Eightfold Path or the Noble Eightfold Path (and the Dharma) in line with their God-centric teachings.

Such two way assimilation has occurred in India, China and most countries where Buddhism is adopted as a major religion.  In some cases, such as India, Buddhism got so assimilated that it became indistinguishable, Buddha even became a manifestation of the Hindhu God.  The Buddhist teachings became more and more interpreted in line with Atman-centric, Brahman-centric teachings than in line with what the Buddhat taught.

In China, some would likewise argue that the one to two millenium of exchanges has integrated Buddhism, Confucianism and Taoism.  While the three are sometimes practiced unanimously in Chinese temples, the monastic tradition in China maintained a certain level of purity in the teachings while adopting localised changes to the facade and expressions of the teachings in terms of the language of the text, chanting, robes, etc.  This allows us today to bridge the Northern tradition with the Southern tradition through the teachings and discern that which is core Dharma practices or cultural practices.  I’m not an authority in Thai Buddhism to comment, but I wonder how much of Thai-Buddhist amulets are due to integration with indigenious religion or hindhu-brahministic practices or vajrayana practices.

Will dropping Buddhist labels lead to harmony and peace?  Take a look at countries and regions world wide that do not have Buddhist lables but has singular predominant religion in place.  I do not see much of harmony and peace.  Perhaps dropping all labels and practising the Noble Eightfold Path is key.  But will others drop their labels and do so?

I’ll keep my robes and label as a monk for the time being and practise the Noble Eightfold path.

Footnote: There is the teaching on the “Simile of the Raft”, where one should not cling onto the Dharma even as one do not cling onto the raft after crossing the river.  While we are unenlightened, we need the Dharma-Vinaya and the labels that points to and describes it.  If we discard it before we attain enlightenment, it would be like discarding the raft before crossing the river. *



Bodhi Big Walk 2012

Come join us for the Bodhi Big Walk this 3rd June 2012.

Why are we having this Bodhi Big Walk?

Buddhist Library is celebrating 30 years of Dhamma sharing in Singapore. In this past 30 years, the Buddhist Library, led by Bhante Dhammaratana, has brought the Dhamma to the Singapore Buddhist community and also touched the lives of many from all walks of life.

This Big Walk is a way for us to invite our friends and family to join us on our Spiritual Journey, from 30 years ago to today, and to the future, striving on in the Path towards Enlightenment!

The Final Fruit goes not to the swift, but to those who keep on walking!

Is There Destiny? Are Our Life Pre-Destined or Planned?


Someone asked me recently

I would like to ask, do in Buddhist believe in Destiny?
Do our life are destined or planned?
Maybe for example are you destined to be a Monk?
Or some people are destined to be a great man, or certain people are destined to just suffer for his whole life?


Buddhist do not believe in Destiny / Fate, at least not in a fixed one, nor do we believe that our life is totally random, nor determined by some divine being or power.

Our life is a combination of past actions and present conditions, and how we think, speak and act now affects our life moving forward.

Am I destined to be a monk? Hmmm … conditions led to me becoming a monk, but it is in a way not fixed. But the inclinations were stronger than most people I guess.

No one is destined to suffer, but we do sometimes get stuck in mindsets or wallow in our own misery, refusing to snap out of it. If that duration is long enough, it may last several days, weeks or even years.

From the view point of a stranger looking at such a person in a year, it may seem like he is ‘destined’ to suffer for that one year. But one can change. How easy it is depends on how willing we are to give up mindsets, cravings and attachments that are hurting or harming us.

So for some, it may seem to be ‘destined’ while for others not so.

But there are also external conditions, such as when a person is born in a war torn country. The external situation is not necessarily due to him, but affects him directly, sometimes fatally. In such a case, the general suffering or happiness level is somewhat ‘fixed’, unless something drastic happen in a large scale.

But even then, a person with a positive and wholesome mindset can be relatively ‘happier’ than one who is negative or pessimistic.

As Buddhists, we should try to help improve those factors for others and try not to make it worse.

Hope this clarifies.

Dhamma Series @ The Buddhist Library – Bhante Yogavacara Rahula

The Buddhist Library’s 30th Anniversary sharing the Dharmma series

5th Guest Speaker: Bhante Yogavacara Rahula

  1. Saturday 19 May 7:30pm Why Meditate?
  2. Tuesday 22 May 7:30pm Calm-Abiding Meditation – The Way to Achieve Concentration
  3. Sunday 27 May 10:30am Insight Meditation – The Direct Path to Realisation  (Puja @ 10am)
  4. Tuesday 29 May 7:30pm Meditation in Daily Life


Eight Schools of Thought ~ A Dharma Teaching Series by Venerable Fa Guang @ pmt

Eight Schools of Thought ~ A Dharma Teaching Series by Venerable Fa Guang @ Poh Ming Tse

6 June ~ 27 June Every Wednesday.

A brief overview of the 8 schools of thought based on the reading of “The Essentials Of The Eight Traditions" by Gyonen

The Essentials of the Eight Schools gives a concise account of the history and doctrines of the eight principal Buddhist schools in existence in Japan at the time of the author, i.e. the six schools which were introduced to Japan during the Nara Period and the two schools introduced by Saicho and Kukai during the Heian Period. This work may thus be described as an introduction to Japanese Buddhism.

The eight traditions / schools

  1. Kusha
  2. Jojitsu
  3. Ritsu
  4. Hosso
  5. Sanron
  6. Tendai
  7. Kegon
  8. Singon (Main study of the class)
  9. Zen
  10. Jodo

You will bring back with you some Japanese languages and terms at the end of the class.

About Venerable Shi Fa Guang

Venerable Fa Guang was born in Malacca. He is ordained under Master Miao Hua and trained under him in the Chinese Mahayana tradition for many years. Presently, he is residing in Minato-ku, Tokyo and is pursuing his PhD in Buddhism (focusing on the Brahmanet Bodhisattva vows) at Komazawa University.

When he returns to Malaysia and Singapore, he shares his Dharma experience with the Buddhist communities through insightful talks, rousing their inquisitive minds.

He is well-versed in many languages (English, Chinese, Japanese, Teochew, Hokkien etc.). Venerable is able to present the profound Buddha's teachings in ways which people of all walks of life can easily relate to.

Wild Elephants Gather to Mourn Death of Elephant Whisperer

In Buddhism, we see that all sentient beings are capable of thought and emotions.  In some faiths and religion, they believe that only human beings have a soul.  Buddhists do not share such a belief in a soul that is persisting, unchanging and has an independent existence, whether in human beings or in animals.

In Buddhism, we use the word “有情” for sentient beings, literally “with feelings / emotions”.  All sentient beings have feelings, fear pain and want happiness.  In this life, we may be born as a human being with greater intellect, in other lives, we may be born in other states or realms.  Amidst the facade, we all have Buddha Nature, the potential to become totally free, free of defilements, free of worries, stress, anxieties and suffering.  Free of limitations and boundaries to truly love, care and help others.

Recognising this potential in every sentient beings, it drives our outlook and mindset in life.  It shapes our attitude towards fellow sentient beings.

Time and again, animals have proven to have emotions and exhibited loyalty and devotion to each other, and in the following case, to a human being.


For 12 hours, two herds of wild South African elephants slowly made their way through the Zululand bush until they reached the house of late author Lawrence Anthony, the conservationist who saved their lives.The formerly violent, rogue elephants, destined to be shot a few years ago as pests, were rescued and rehabilitated by Anthony, who had grown up in the bush and was known as the “Elephant Whisperer.”

While animals do not have the facial expression to express emotions the way we humans do, it does not mean that they do not have emotions or that they do not feel.  Read on in the link above to find out how these herds of wild elephants and a man has an exchange of ‘words’ from the heart.