28.11.10

Buddhism....What it is and is not!



Some of you have asked me about Buddhism and would like to know more about it.  First of all, I am by no means an expert!  I can recommend several good books on the subject and I can tell you that there are several Buddhist centers in Pittsburgh.  I will give you the book references and a link to the centers at the end of this article.

I can tell you that there are a lot of myths and stereotypes out there about Buddhism.  I recently had a coworker ask me if I was going to start wearing pink robes and shave my head!

Lets talk about some myths:

1.  Buddhism isn't a religion per se, its a philosophy or a way of living.
2. Buddhist do NOT pray to the Buddha. Buddha was a teacher, not a god. In fact, Buddhists do not believe in a monotheistic deity.
3. Buddhist's do not run around in pink robes and shave their heads.  Buddhist monks, who have chosen to give up their possessions to follow the path to enlightenment wear orange robes and shave their head to symbolize giving up vanity and a need for possessions much like a nun or monk in Catholicism wears a brown robe or a habit. Lay Buddhists dress just like you and me. 
4. Meditation is NOT going into a trance.  Meditation is a tool to gain insight into ones own self.
5. Buddhism is NOT a cult.  Buddhist are very accepting of other religions.  In fact, Buddhists do not believe that you must give up your religion to become a Buddhist.

Facts:

1.There are over 400 million practicing Buddhists in the world.
2. Buddhism originated in India and widely practiced in China, Japan, Thailand, and Burma and is the fourth most practiced religion in the United States.  It has seen a 170% growth in the US in the last ten years.
 3. Many aspects of meditation are being currently used in modern psycho-therapeutic practices.
4. There is more than one "type" of Buddhism. There is Zen, Mahayana, Theravada, and Tibetan.  Think of it as sort of like Catholic, Baptist, Lutheran, etc.   They are all christian, but they have different interpretations of the teachings of Christ. The different types of Buddhism have somewhat different interpretations of the Buddha's teachings but all follow a very similar structure and goal.
5. Buddhism originated in 563 BC and predates Christianity. It originated in what is now northern India.
6 Buddhist believe that you are what you think.  If you think negatively then your life will be negative.
7. You cannot approach Buddhism from a western religion point of view,  it is like comparing apples and oranges!   Think outside of the box!!!

The resource listing below contains links to a few of the centers around Pittsburgh.  The Pgh. Buddhist center is open to the general public and offers mediation sessions on Weds at six.  The Bhantes  (or Monks) there are very willing to show you how to meditate and will work with you if you show an interest.

The books I have listed are great because they are written in plain English.  Even if you are just looking to practice mediation for stress relief, they are a good starting point.  The Tibetan book talks more about the fundamentals and structure of Buddhism and gives a great overall synopsis of what it means to be a Buddhist. The last link is to a youtube page.  Yuttadhammo is an ordained Buddhist monk who has his own you tube site that teaches all about Buddhism and answers many questions that you might have.  He is a great teacher and very accessible!



Resources:

Pgh Buddhist Center

Pgh Zen Center

Tibetan Shop and Meditation Center

Free Copy of Mindfulness in Plain English

Mindfulness in Plain English

Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism

You tube Bhante Yuttadhammo's "Ask a Monk" series

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