forum post that never made it to the forum

(the previous blog entry "Dialogues in the Lift" was posted on the NUS BS forum
and the thread got abit of interesting discussion… wanted to steer it away from too heated material with this post, but later found it too long. but i spent like 2 hours typing it leh… so as not to waste it, i’m posting it here…)
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finally, just wanna say that my original intent in posting that exchange was to:

(1) say how i feel dialogues with people with serious misconceptions of Buddhism happen every other day. How prepared are we to deal with these dialogues? How often do we run away? If we put effort into learning what we do not know and sharing what we know, the seeds that we plant would ripen, someday… wouldn’t it?

(2) with kindness and patience we can deal with people who abuse us and misunderstand us… sometimes we can put out the fire, well and good… sometimes we feel unsatisfied (like myself during the conversation)… but is that when Upekkha kicks in, and we see with equanimity that at least we’ve done a little bit on the path to the next Buddha? With Mudita we rejoice that some Metta and Karuna, love and compassion have been attempted in ourselves and in our conversation partner.

and with some luck the forum touched on topics like charismatic churches and the fading of Asian heritage under Western onslaught.

unlearned as I am as seen in my faltering attempts in the conversation, after 1 1/2 fruitful years in NUS BS i think in response to what jeanette had said about the list of misconceptions we should be ready to clarify with others, these seem to be stressed here in NUS BS camps and dharma circles:

(1) Three refuges and Five precepts probably properly defines a Buddhist, not just because you are born one… but the triple gems and the precepts seem to be topics of deeper complexity, as Cindee has said, than at first glance: (a) the significance of taking refuge in the triple gems probably cannot be appreciate with a sentence or two (b) the observance of precepts and what they actually are, as seen in the latest posts on this forum, have delicate details. So how? Such a basic thing needs so much study…

(2) The central tenets of Buddhism are the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path, no matter which tradition. But if expounding these Nobles require several books and days of contemplation, how do we deliver the significance of this to the on-the-street Buddhist who thinks it’s so simple?

(3) Meditation is (almost) everything in Buddhist practice. Hah. But what’s meditation? What do you do in Meditation? What are the different types od meditation? What do they achieve? I really had ZERO idea of the central position meditation occupies before i came into NUS BS.

(4) There are three major categories/traditions in Buddhism, and this is the main culprit for all that misunderstanding, confusion and labelling of superstition and idolatry we get… All the terms Bodhisattva and Arahant and all the deity-like names… Heaven for the joss-stick Buddhist, but not for us…. Am I able to explain them as my friends come across them?

(5) last but not least, WHO IS THE BUDDHA? pretty tired of hearing that He was a Chinese… Are we able to recount major events in His life?

in addition, some other stuff i found important in dialogues with friends:

karma, mechanisms of action, other causes of events, and rebirth. very hard to find a good speaker or a good book that satisfies people.
– counselling concepts from a Buddhist perspective: how to perk people up, put things in a brighter perspective, persuade people not to take negative attitudes and inspire the heart. Relevant topics include the three poisons and the ten perfections.
– the three marks of existence: undoubtedly the most intriguing topics that we cannot escape from, and must be ready to explain. the five aggregates must therefore be pulled into discussion.

hmm seems abit too much… and every single one of the topics need deeper appreciation than just one dharma talk or one book. so how?

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