Fo Guang Shan Xiang Yun Temple

1. Who founded Buddhism?
2. Who and/or what do Buddhists worship
3. Who is a Buddha?
4. Who is a Bodhisattva?
5. What is the sign found on the chest of many Buddha statues?
6. What is the dot on the forehead of many figures?
7. What are the fundamental concepts of Humanistic Buddhism?
8. Do Buddhists believe in a god?
9. Is there a Buddhist holy book?
10. Is one day in the week considered holy?
11. What are some of the Chinese Buddhist holidays and celebrations?
12. How does one initially become a Buddhist?
13. How do lay people address a monk or nun?
14. Why do the monks and nuns shave their heads?
15. What are the three circular marks on the heads of monks and nuns?
16. What is the style of clothing Fo Guang monks and nuns wear?
17. What gestures of reverence do Buddhists use?
18. When visiting the Temple are there any special rules to be obeyed?

Who founded buddhism?

Buddhism originated approximately 2,500 years ago in northern India (now Nepal) with the supreme enlightenment of and subsequent teachings by Sakyamuni Buddha. Born around 600 B.C.E. to King Suddodhana, ruler of the Sakya clan, Sakyamuni Buddha was originally named Prince Siddhartha Gautama. As a child, he led a pampered life of royal wealth sheltered from the world’s miseries.

When he was at last allowed to venture from the palace as a young man, he saw four sights: a decrepit old man, a person wrecked with disease, a corpse, and a monk. He thus learned of life’s inevitable sufferings (old age, sickness,
and death) and the transience of all worldly pleasure. He also saw that the wise monastic had found peace in spite of life’s ills.

Determined to find a way to be free from these troubles, Prince Siddhartha renounced his crown and family, and embarked on a journey to seek the truth. After years of spiritual exploration and growth, he attained supreme enlightenment and was thence known as Sakyamuni (meaning “sage of the Sakya” clan) Buddha.

Out of endless compassion, Sakyamuni Buddha shared his teachings so that others could also discover the Middle Path to end all sufferings. 

Who and /or what do buddhists worship?
Buddhist do not worship, but trust in and rely on what we call the Triple Gem. Veneration of this Triple Gem is central to Buddhist life. The Triple Gem is consists of:

  1. The Buddha as a great teacher and exemplar
  2. The Dharma, meaning the Buddha’s teachings as a guide to enlightenment and essential truth
  3. The Sangha, which refers to the
    Buddhist community, particularly monastics who teach the Dharma and guide one along the path to enlightenment. 

Who is a buddha?
A Buddha is not a god, but rather one who, through complete
wisdom and compassion, has attained full enlightenment and is thus beyond the
endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

A Buddha exemplifies the highest
form of morality and is the supreme teacher, showing people the way to relieve
suffering. The word “Buddha” is derived from the root “budh” meaning to awaken
and be aware or completely conscious.Seeking spiritual growth and awakening this
potential is what Buddhism is all about.

According to the Mahayana teachings,
there are many Buddhas. When Buddhists speak of “the” Buddha, however, they are
usually referring to Sakyamuni Buddha, the founder of Buddhism. 

Who is a bodhisattva?
“Bodhi” means enlightenment. “Sattva” means sentient being.
A Bodhisattva is one who is following the path to enlightenment. In doing so, a Bodhisattva altruistically chooses to put off his/her own final stage of enlightenment in order to completely alleviate the suffering of others.

He/she practices the virtues of generosity, morality, renunciation, wisdom, energy, patience, truthfulness, determination, and loving-kindness without self-interest.

It is believed that there are an infinite number of Bodhisattvas.
Mahayana Buddhists place particular emphasis on the importance of the Bodhisattva and the Bodhisattva Path as the way to realize one’s Buddha nature. 

What is the sign found on the chest of many buddha statues?
This is called a Sauvastika sign. This ancient sign is infused with a variety of symbolic meanings, particularly lightning, the sun, the power to overcome evil, and universality.

The arms of the Buddhist Sauvastika point in a counterclockwise direction and the sign is always in an upright “+” position. The Buddhist Sauvastika is NOT related to the Nazi swastika, which can be recognized by its arm pointing clockwise and the sign being tilted in an “x” position. The Buddhist Sauvastika does not carry any implication of hatred or destruction.


What is the dot on the forehead of many figures?
This is one of thirty-two special characteristics of a Buddha or one on the immediate threshold of becoming a Buddha.

The dot is sometimes likened to a cosmic eye from which emanates the light of wisdom, or a third eye signifying the Buddha’s or Bodhisattva’s supreme insight. It can also be shown as a curl of white hair in the center of the brow.

Long earlobes, another prominent trait, may have their origins in the ancient custom of Indian royalty wearing lobestretching earrings. As Sakyamuni Buddha was originally a royal prince, he most likely had worn such adornment. In both Chinese and Buddhist cultures, long earlobes are equated with longevity.

Other Buddha characteristics include: a Sauvastika on the chest, three folds on the neck, long arms, curly hair which forms a top knot and a Dharma wheel on the palm of the hand and/or the soles of the feet.


What are the fundamental concepts of humanistic buddhism?
Humanistic Buddhism is the integration of our spiritual practice into all aspects of our daily lives.
Humanistic Buddhism has the following six characteristics:

  1. Humanism
  2. Altruism
  3. Emphasis on daily life as spiritual practice
  4. Joyfulness
  5. Timeliness
  6. Universality

It is difficult for people to see the relevance of Buddhism in their modern daily lives and how it adapts to the trends of the present age.

Although Buddhism speaks of the past, present and future, it particularly highlights the universal welfare of beings of this world; and although Buddhism speaks of all beings of the ten-dharma worlds, it reserves the most emphasis for humans.

Through training and spiritual growth, we can obtain enlightenment. Therefore, we should cherish our lives and integrate the Buddhist practices in our daily routine.

Some people perceive Buddhism as a religion removed from humanity. This perception of Buddhism is characterized by isolation, retreat to forests, self-concern, and individualism, therefore, losing its humanistic quality. It has reached the point that many who are interested in entering the gate dare not do so. They hesitate as they peer in and wander about outside.

Humanistic Buddhism encompasses all of the Buddhist teachings from the time of the Buddha to the present. The goal of Humanistic Buddhism is the Bodhisattva way, which means to be an energetic, enlightened, and endearing person who strives to help all sentient beings liberate themselves.

The hope is to transform our planet into a pure land of peace and bliss. Instead of committing all of our energies in pursuing something in the future, why don’t we direct our efforts toward purifying our minds and bodies in the present moment?

Humanistic Buddhism must focus more on issues of the world rather than on how to leave the world behind; on caring for the living, rather than the dead; on benefiting others, rather than benefiting oneself and on universal salvation, rather than cultivation for only oneself.

The five points that help us in applying Humanistic Buddhism in our daily lives are:

  1. To practice the five basic moral ethics (precepts) and ten virtues.
  2. To develop the four boundless vows of kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.
  3. To apply the six paramitas and the four great bodhisattva virtues: generosity, amiable speech, conduct beneficial to others, and cooperation.
  4. To understand cause, condition, effect, and consequence.
  5. To encompass the teachings of Ch’an, Pure Land, and the Middle Path.

Do buddhists believe in a god?
If by “God” one means a creator of the universe or a being guiding ultimate human fate, then Buddhist do not believe in such.

Buddhism emphasizes the concept of condition and causation where everything in this world comes into being according to different sets of causes and conditions. Plants and flowers grow. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter constitute the yearly cycle of four seasons. Human beings go through the process of birth, old age, illness, and death.

All of these demonstrate the changes
brought about by conditional causation. Thus, all phenomena in this world cannot exist without their corresponding causes and the required conditions. Furthermore, one of the central Buddhist’s tenets is essentially that each person is his own master.

If by “God”, however, one means one of any number of heavenly beings, then Buddhists do believe. In Buddhist cosmology there are six realms of existence: devas, asuras, humans, animals, hungry ghosts, and hell beings. (Buddhas have transcended these six realms.)

Of the six, devas and asuras are most like deities. While their respective realms may be described as “heavens,” they do not exist beyond time and space. The primary difference between devas and asuras is that devas are peaceful while asuras are competitive and jealous. 

Is there a buddhist holy book?

There are numerous Buddhist scriptures. They are traditionally
divided into three “baskets” or categories called the “Tripitaka”:

  • The Sutras (teaching of Sakyamuni Buddha)
  • The Vinaya (rules for monastic life)
  • The Abhidharma (Buddhist philosophy and psychology).

Monasteries usually have a sutra library available for self-study. The traditional scriptures were originally written in Pali or Sanskrit a few hundred years after Sakyamuni Buddha entered Nirvana. 

Is one day in the week considered holy?
Every day is sacred to Buddhists. While regular weekly congregation “services” are usually conducted, new and full moons are occasions for gathering and group repentance at the temple. 

What are some of the chinese buddhist holidays and celebrations?

  • Sakyamuni Buddha’s Birthday (Wesak Day) – April 8th
  • Avalokitesvara (Guan Yin) Bodhisattva’s Birthday – Feb. 19th
  • Avalokitesvara (Guan Yin) Bodhisattva’s Enlightenment Day – June 19th
  • Ullambana Festival (Buddha’s Joyful Day) – July 15th
  • Ksitigarbha (Earth Store) Bodhisattva’s Birthday – July 30th
  • Bhaisajyaguru (Medicine) Buddha’s Birthday – September 30th
  • Amitabha Buddha’s Birthday – November 17th
  • Sakyamuni Buddha’s Enlightenment Day – December 8th

These are all dates from the chinese lunar calendar. 

How does one initially become a buddhist?
Any person can be a Buddhist. One does not have to be “born” into Buddhism nor does one’s parents have to be Buddhists. One can be from any race, country, socio-economic background, gender, etc. People wishing to identify themselves as Buddhists typically participate in a ceremony known as taking refuge in the Triple Gem. This is the simple act of reciting the refuge verse three times before a monastic. The refuge verse expresses an individual’s confidence in the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha as a means to alleviate suffering and attain buddha nature humanistic buddhism enlightenment.

In accepting the path of the Triple Gem, one also agrees to observe the Five Precepts or rules that engender good conduct:

  1. To refrain from killing
  2. To refrain from taking what is not given.
  3. To refrain from sexual misconduct
  4. To refrain from telling lies
  5. To refrain from taking intoxicants. 

How do lay people address a monk or nun?
The monk or nun is addressed using the term “master,” “venerable,” or “reverend” followed by their Dharma name (i.e. the name given to each monk or nun upon ordination).

In Chinese, the Dharma name is followed by the term “fa shi” which means “teacher (shi) of the Dharma (fa).”

Chinese frequently call monks and nuns “shi fu,” again showing respect for their revered status as teachers. 

Why do the monks and nuns shave their heads?
Shaving the head signifies renunciation and
detachment from worldly pleasures. From the traditional Buddhist viewpoint, hair
represents impurity. Removing it is symbolic of getting rid of
defilement.

What are the three circular marks on the heads of monks and nuns?
During the Fo Guang
monastic ordination, three pieces of burning incense are placed on their heads,
thus producing permanent circular scars. These marks represent:

  1. The Triple Gem – the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha
  2. The three vows of ridding oneself of bad habits and thought,
    cultivation of good, and having the wisdom to help release others from suffering
  3. Morality, concentration, and wisdom

What is the style of clothing fo guang monks and nuns wear?
Fo Guang monastics wear identical
robes of a style common to the Tang Dynasty period (618-906). Long sleeves
covering the hands are part of the traditional design.

Fully ordained monk or
nuns usually wear yellow, ochre-colored robes. This earth tone hue derives from
the Buddha’s directive that they wear clothing assembled from clean, but
discarded rags.

The gray “work suit” tunic and pants are worn separately when
doing chores.

For special occasions, daily chanting, and other prescribed
occasions, an additional ceremonial robe is draped over the left shoulder.
Depending upon rank and occasion, the ceremonial dress may be brown draped over
a black robe, orange over black, orange over brown or vermilion over orange. The
draped robe is often sewn in a “patchwork” manner, which also harkens back to
the rag origins of monastic attire.

Fo Guang monastic feet, ankles, and calves
are completely covered, reflecting Master Hsing Yun’s interest in going beyond
the stereotypical image of a barefooted monk from the woods. The special
open-sided shoes worn by monks and nuns are called luo han xie” in Chinese,
meaning “shoes of an Arhat” (an Arhat is one perfected through the teaching of a
Buddha).

While items of personal adornment are taboo, monastics are permitted to
wear prayer beads, wristwatches, and eyeglasses.

What gestures of reverence do buddhists use?
Buddhists show their respect and veneration
in a variety of ways. Particular gestures vary throughout the world depending
upon cultural context and local custom.

The symbolic means of reverence most
frequently used by Fo Guang Buddhists are:

  1. Palms pressed together at chest
    level
  2. Greeting and thanking others with the phrase “o mi tofo” which is
    the Chinese pronunciation for Amitabha Buddha’s name
  3. Waving hello and
    goodbye with the lotus mudra (thumb and middle finger together to form the lotus
    bud with other fingers raised as petals and leaves). This is, in effect, a way
    of giving a lotus to others in recognition of their potential to become a
    Buddha
  4. Removing shoes and/or hat before entering the shrine
  5. Entering shrines through the side door openings only; the central opening is
    formally reserved for the Master, monks, and nuns. (Chinese temples are
    frequently constructed with triple entrances to various halls.)
  6. Bowing to
    the Buddha and Bodhisattva images, monks, nuns, and others. This action helps to
    remove self-centeredness and symbolizes one’s humility and respect. It is also a
    means by which one becomes open to the state of mind which an image or person
    represents. Doing so facilitates the development of those virtuous qualities in
    one’s own life. Bowing is usually done either once or three times in succession.
    Three is particularly auspicious number
  7. Prostrating before an image has the similar significance as bowing, only more so.

When visiting the temple are there any special rules to be obeyed?
Yes

  1. Wear proper attire (not too revealing)
  2. Do not take photographs or videos inside the buildings
  3. Do not smoke or drink alcohol inside the Temple or on the grounds
  4. Do not eat food or drink inside the Temple except in the dinning hall
  5. Do not bring any meat or seafood inside the Temple
  6. No unruly behavior
  7. Children must be kept under parental supervision at all times