Thursday, 25 February 2010

Clarification to misleading remarks Pastor Rony Tan made on Buddhism

I like to thank Rony Tan for his public apology to the Buddhist community for the insensitive things he said. However, as a Buddhist I am still concerned. Due to the hype surrounding this incident, many people have watched the video clips where Rony Tan belittled Buddhism. Numerous remarks made against Buddhism were misleading and untrue. If not corrected, this could lead to greater confusion in the general public regarding what Buddhists really believe.

Tok Meng Haw

2 comments:

Guanyu 道 said...

Clarification to misleading remarks Pastor Rony Tan made on Buddhism

I like to thank Rony Tan for his public apology to the Buddhist community for the insensitive things he said. However, as a Buddhist I am still concerned. Due to the hype surrounding this incident, many people have watched the video clips where Rony Tan belittled Buddhism. Numerous remarks made against Buddhism were misleading and untrue. If not corrected, this could lead to greater confusion in the general public regarding what Buddhists really believe.

This article is an attempt to clarify numerous misconceptions made by Pastor Rony and his two interviewees in the video clips.

Misconception 1: Pastor Tan interviewed an ex-monk

According to the Joseph Wee’s testimony, he joined the Buddhist monastic order for a period of only two weeks. If this is true, he was a novice and not a real monk. Monkhood is a serious commitment that requires years of dedication and training in order to develop deep understanding of the Buddha’s teachings. A novice who wants to become a monk actually has to go through a second ordination.

Misconception 2: Pastor Tan commented about Buddhist chanting: “One could chant oo-ee-oo-ah-ah-tik-tank-wala-**bing-bang, it doesn’t mean anything”*

Traditional Buddhist chanting is usually in Pali, Sanskrit, Tibetan or classical Chinese. Buddhist chanting have specific meanings. Some chants remind us of the Buddha’s teachings of avoiding evil, doing of good and purification of our minds, while others are to reaffirm our faith. Many Buddhist organisations today have English and Chinese translations of these chants so that the faithful understand what they are chanting.

Misconception 3: Pastor Tan and Joseph Wee commented that Buddhists want to be more powerful than God

Buddhism does not subscribe to the concept of God found in the Abrahamic religions. Nor is it the Buddhist goal to be a powerful god. The goal in Buddhism is Enlightenment – to be free from greed, hatred and ignorance, which are spiritual defilements that cause the world much suffering.

Misconception 4: Pastor Yan’s comments on the Buddhist concept of Karma

The Buddhist concept of Karma does not equate to fatalism. Buddhists do not passively accept it when bad things happens to them. Karma means “intentional action”. While Buddhists believe many of the things we experience are due to past Karma, we are also reminded that we are active participants in influencing our present and future situations through our present actions.

Misconception 5: Pastor Tan commented that since we could not remember our past life, we cannot learn from our mistakes

Through honest contemplation of our present state and correct understanding of how Karma works, we can know what we have done in our past-lives. Similarly, by looking at our current actions, speech and thoughts, we can know what we can expect in the future. As an ancient Buddhist saying goes, “If you want to know about your past lives, just look at your present. If you want to know about your future, look at your present too!”

Misconception 6: Pastor Tan comments on the status of women in Buddhism

Having read hundreds of sutras from the Pali Canon (Buddhist scriptures), I’ve not come across any statement by where the Buddha considers women to be of a lesser birth than men, or that rebirth as a women is result of bad deeds performed in past lives as men. In fact, the Buddha said that women, like men, have the capacity for Enlightenment and founded the monastic order of nuns, thus allowing women to actively participate as seriously as men in practising the Buddha’s teachings. All these took place before the Greeks introduced democracy to their society, which incidentally, did not allow women to vote.

Guanyu 道 said...

Misconception 7: Pastor Tan commented that sounds made by gongs and bells is like music to him

The use of gongs and bells are not meaningless rituals. They have specific functions in Chinese Buddhism. They are used as aids to guide devotees to chant at the same pace, as well as for signalling to devotees when to bow and rise in unison.

Misconception 8: Joseph Wee (the “ex-monk”) commented that he and other monks do not know what Nirvana (or Nibbana in Pali) was

“Nirvana” literally means putting out the flame. In this context, it means putting out the flame of greed, hatred and delusion. The Buddha described Nirvana as the “deathless”, “sublime”, “peaceful”, “purity” and “freedom”. The Buddha clearly said that practicing the Noble Eightfold Path leads one to Nirvana.

Misconception 9: Pastor Rony commented that the Buddha’s last words were “I am still finding the way”

Prince Siddhartha Gautama attained Enlightenment at the age of 35. From this point onwards, he was known as the Buddha, the Awakened One. He dedicated the rest of his life to showing others the way to Enlightenment and many of his disciples attained Enlightenment as well. The Buddha’s last words were that of a dedicated teacher urging his unenlightened disciples to not be complacent, but to work hard. The Buddha’s last words were “Subjected to change are all conditioned things. Strive on with diligence.”

Tok Meng Haw