Buddhism Society

Buddhism is founded by Siddhārtha Gautama, whose name means ‘wish fulfilled’. After he gained enlightenment, he was called the Buddha, or tathāgata (in the Buddhist scripture). We talked to Chuan Ze Jun from the Buddhism society about the essentials of the Buddhist faith.

Buddhism seeks to explain and end suffering and the Buddha left the palace to live a homeless life, in order to find the answer to end suffering. According to the Buddha, we suffer due to birth, aging, sickness and death. He identified craving as the root source of suffering. Seeking pleasure to cover suffering is only a momentary solution. Without realising it, we suffer in the process of seeking happiness and pleasure; we are blinded by our delusion.

According to the Buddha, an end to suffering can be achieved by attaining Nibbana (or Nirvana in Sanskrit), the state where one is free from suffering, the ultimate bliss. Chuan says that it is difficult to explain this feeling as it can only be experienced by oneself, ‘just like it is hard to describe the taste of the sweetness of an apple and sugar to someone who hasn’t tried them before, it is the same when trying to explain Nibbana. Achieving Nibbana is tough, but fortunately, we could experience the joy of bliss at this very moment by meditating.’

Buddhism is essentially a practical religion, encouraging people to be critical, to seek the truth. The Buddha encourages people to think by themselves, and even question the very things he said and Buddhists believe that he gives people an insight into how to live life and the reality of life. Chuan describes Buddhism as a complicated religion which people should try to explore, ‘One of the characteristics of the Dhamma (the teaching of the Buddha) is ehipassiko, meaning inviting one to come and see. Therefore I would encourage you to explore the religion by yourself.’

**Fighting misconceptions:**

Ze Jun Chuan says that one of the biggest misunderstandings is about the very purpose of Buddhism. It is not simply about praying and wishing. Buddhists believe that the Buddha does not just ask for prayer but for followers to abandon rites and rituals that do not bring benefits or purposes. Buddhism is not about praying to deities or the Buddha himself, but rather it is a teaching about how to end suffering. Consequently there is a debate on whether Buddhism is a religion or a philosophical study, but Chuan says that he is not bothered by the discussion, preferring to focus on the positive results he has experienced from following Buddhism.

**Religion: beneficial or harmful?**

Chuan feels that religion is generally a positive force, encouraging peace and harmony, and preaching moral values which are sometimes lacking. Although it is often argued that religion causes more harm than good, Chuan says, ‘I think that the religion is not at fault, but it is the people themselves are to be blamed. Morphine is used as an effective painkiller. Without it, so many people would have to suffer when undergoing operations or when they are sick. However, misusing it leads to devastating results. Drug addicts use morphine to intoxicate themselves, which could be fatal. Is morphine to be blamed? I certainly do think that the users are to be blamed rather than the drug itself.’

He emphasised the importance of tolerance, ‘I believe that we need to be sensitive to the other beliefs, and most importantly, accept the differences. There are differences among the major religions. Take eating for example. Certain sects in the Mahayana Buddhism follow a strict vegetarian routine. Muslims do not consume non-halal food, for example pork. Hindus treat the cow as a sacred animal. Debating on the right method of lifestyle will only lead to a series of never ending discussions. For example, there had been a long debate between the Theravada Buddhism and the Chinese Buddhism on the issue of meat eating. Buddhism is becoming more divided among each other due to the differences in belief, and it is sad to see how Buddhists are becoming disunited even though we have the same teacher. The Buddha only taught us one thing, a very simple thing, which is how to achieve Nibbana. Yet, we are making life more difficult for ourselves by debating on useless issues, just to satisfy our own egos.’


– **Membership:** Around ten active members

– **Events:** Weekly meditation sessions on Mondays are conducted by a Theravada Monk (venerable Luangpor Khemadhammo) from the Forest Hermitage.

– **Aims:** The Buddhist society aims to promote meditation as their activity as it helps them in daily life, calming the mind and improving focus in daily activities.


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