Teaching devotees the proper way to worship

By ADRIAN CHAN, The Star, May 3, 2015

PETALING JAYA, Selagor -- Its origins began about 2,500 years ago, yet the core teachings of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha live on.

<< Devotion in motion: symbols such as this ‘Buddhapada’ from the Gupta period (320-550 AD) are used as objects of veneration by devotees.

However, certain practices have changed somewhat and Vijaya Samarawickrama, who is a patron of the Sasana Abhiwudhi Wardhana Society, said he had spent years trying to break the misconception behind the act of “praying”.

“The Buddha is not God. He was a man who attained enlightenment,” he said.

Fondly known as Uncle Vijaya, the 70-year-old pointed out that there were no Buddha statues in the first 300 years of Buddhism.

“Early Buddhists were very spiritual. They were attracted by a teaching which they believed would lead to the end of suffering,” he said.

Evidence of Buddhist art from that time depicted symbols such as a wheel, an empty throne, a bodhi tree, footprints or a riderless horse.

“Buddhists then were reluctant to make a statue of the great teacher.”

When Buddha gained enlightenment, he transcended all forms of physical existence and as such, was impossible to be represented physically, Uncle Vijaya said.

“The impetus for making a statue of the Buddha was started by a Hellenistic movement,” he added.

Uncle Vijaya believed elements of the worship were brought over from Greece with a need to represent the Buddha in human form.

Archaeological findings pinpoint the earliest anthropomorphic representations of Buddha with distinct European facial features to the Gandhara Valley, dating back to 200 BC.

The tradition has since been carried down to become part of Buddhism today, which led to many devotees asking: Has Buddhism become a religion of idol worship?

Uncle Vijaya said blindly bowing down to a “block of stone” was wrong.

“We must understand the representation behind the Buddha’s image,” he said, stressing that disciples of the Buddha were not “idol worshipers” and likening Buddha statues to the country’s flag.

“It could be regarded as just another piece of cloth. But when the flag is raised, I know I must stand still to show respect to my country,” he said.

“Similarly, when a devotee pays respect to the image of the Buddha, he is revering the teachings laid down by the great teacher.”

Founder of Nalanda Buddhist Society Dr Tan Ho Soon echoed these sentiments.

Followers may remember the great teacher by paying reverence to objects in three categories which are saririka (his bodily remains), paribhojika (possessions left behind by the Buddha and places he visited) or udesika (indicative reminders such as the dhamma wheel or an image of the Buddha).

“However, the Buddha did not teach us to pray to him,” he said, adding that Buddhists had aspirations to achieve goals.

“After setting the goals, it must be followed by the Right Effort,” he said, pointing out that the Right Effort was part of the Noble Eightfold Paths taught by Buddha.

Objects and places suited for veneration, according to him, served to evoke calmness and to enhance the faith of Buddhists.

Dr Tan, who has led many Buddhist pilgrimage trips to India, said the “connection” experienced by devotees during their visits were totally different.

He said the “essence“ of Buddha’s teachings was good enough for spiritually-attuned devotees.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv