A Brief Introduction to Buddhism

Buddhism is one of the major religions in the world today and dates back to over 2500 years ago in India. Two and a half millenia away, modern societies today still find relevance in Buddhism in answering the need for spiritual growth and a simple solution to our never-ending material marathon. (Additional information can be obtained from the internet or libraries under "Buddhism".) The main doctrine of Buddhism is recorded in the Sutras (what the Buddha taught), the Vinaya (the rules and regulations governing the conduct of the clergy) and the Sastra (the commentaries written by enlightened individuals for the understanding of the Sutras and Discipline).

The followers of Buddhism are encouraged not just to believe, but to actively practise and incorporate the Buddha's teachings into their daily lives. After attaining enlightenment, Buddha spent 45 years teaching what he discovered so that others can benefit to improve their lives spiritually (Sutras). As the monastic communities grew, there began to arise certain acts or behavior of the monastics which hindered their personal practises or undermined that of the monastic communities. As a result, the Buddha started laying down training rules so that those who left the home to lead the monastic life can use the training rules to aid themselves in their practises. These training rules were later grouped under the Buddhist discipline (Vinaya) during the First Buddhist Sangha council. The written Buddhist texts were in the classical language of that time which was not easily understood. Buddhists through their persistent studies and intense cultivation, had attained the enlightened stage, then wrote commentaries (Sastra) to interpret the Sutras and Discipline accurately in modern language. These commentaries made Buddhism much easier for most people to follow.

The Buddhist Institute of the Fa Yun Monastery follows the Mahayana tradition which spread to China, Korea and Japan, while the Theravada tradition is commonly found in Sri Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Kampuchea and Laos. Buddhism while relatively new to the United States, began gaining popularity as early as in the 1960's. Mahayana and Theravada became the two traditions adopted in modern times by Buddhists all over the world. While all religions have rules for their monastics, Buddhism's monastic rules serves not as a directive from the Buddha, but as a training rule to aid oneself towards enlightenment. Monastics, bhikkshus and bhikkshunis alike, undertake the training rule on their own accord, actively knowing that the training rules serves to help them not just in their meditation practises, but also in creating a conducive community environment for group practises while maintaining a symbiotic relationship with the lay community. This intricate relationship requires the monastics to depend on the lay person for his four basic requisites (Robes, Lodging, Food & Medicine) on one hand while on the other, they care for the lay person's spiritual needs, providing for their moral and spiritual teachings and role model. In Fa Yun Monastery, donations are converted by community officials to usable items such as the four requisites before the monastics can use them. Occasionally, contributions of equipments and tools are also received and these are allocated under community equipments for communal use. With this system in place, monastics can fully devote their time and efforts into their practises of the Buddha's teachings.