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Questions about Buddhism?

I’m thinking about becoming Buddhist, and I have a few questions about it. I know I will not become a full blown Buddhist, I just want to believe what they believe, meditate, and have an excuse to practice Tantra.
1. Do you have to agree with every one of their beliefs? I don’t think I will be able to free myself from all desires. I still desire a certain career, a better bass guitar, my dream home on the coast of Maine, etc.
2. Do you have to be vegetarian? I know they believe in not harming animals, but does this also go for food? I like chicken and ham too much. (I know, this sounds bad, seeing as I should not be attached to food if I want to become Buddhist.)
3. How many different forms of meditation are there?
4. They don’t believe in complete celibacy, right? You’re not supposed to desire sex, but I don’t think they believe it’s wrong.
5. Has Buddhism helped you in your daily lives?
6. Will meditation help clear my head all the time, or just when I’m meditating? I’m not quite attention deficit, but my head is always going crazy. I can never seem to pay attention completely, i.e. in school. I can’t read much without having to reread a sentence. Will meditation help this?
7. What is the buddhist practice that helps with insomnia? I read that there is one, and sometimes I can’t fall asleep for hours, due to my problem in question 6.
Thank you very much for your help.
The only thing I know about Tantra is what I learned from American Pie 2, so I may have been misinformed 🙂


  1. No, you don’t have to be a vegetarian and you don’t have to give up your regular life. Remember, there’s a billion plus Buddhists in this world and any number of them like a nice steak and fast cars, whatever. There’s as much diversity amongst Buddhist denominations as there is in any other religion. If you are a monk or a priest you would be expected to adhere to the “lifestyle”, but in most Buddhist denominations a lot less is expected from lay people.

  2. I am not a Buddhist (contrary to what people claim based on my screen-name), but I have studied Buddhism in a formal religious and in an academic setting.
    So, I would encourage you to seek out a teacher in your area, if you are sincerely interested. But here is a resource to get you started:
    Becoming a Buddhist: http://www.buddhanet.net/12-gqga.htm
    Basic teachings: http://www.buddhanet.net/2-gqga.htm
    Question 1: Learn the Four Noble Truths. The Buddha teaches that desire is the root of all suffering in the world, but he also taught that it can be overcome and happiness can be attained. And he provided the Path to overcoming suffering.
    Question 2: Vegetarianism: http://www.buddhanet.net/5-gqga.htm
    Question 3: The Buddha taught many different forms of meditation, each with a different purpose. Two of the most common are Mindfulness of Breathing and Loving-Kindness meditation.
    Question 4: As with many religions, celibacy is an important part of spiritual development. If you join a monastic order, it will likely be expected that you take and maintain a vow of celibacy. And as with other relgions, it depends on the school of Buddhism you are a part of. (You might want to read this article entitled “Why Celibacy: A Comparative Perspective (Catholic, Buddhist and Hindu). EDIT: forgot the link – http://puffin.creighton.edu/jesuit/dialogue/events/2003_celibacy.html
    Question 5: Many ways, but I will share one: Buddhism focuses on compassion, so it has helped me to cultivate a greater sense of care and concern for my fellow human, and for the world that I live in.
    I will warn you, since no one warned me – engaging in the study of Buddhism may shock you if you have been raised in a monotheistic belief system (Judaism, Christianity, or Islam), for a number of reasons.
    You might pick up any number of books, and I would suggest any by Thich Nhat Hanh (link to the Plum Village Meditation Center: http://www.plumvillage.org/ ) or the Llama Surya Das (like to the Dzogchen Center http://www.dzogchen.org/surya/ ) or His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
    If you want to know more, or need some help finding a teacher, let me know (contact info in profile).

  3. Hi, I’m not Buddhist, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night. (just joking, it’s from an advertisement). Anyways, Buddhists do not mind for someone to take what they believe from Buddhism and to benefit from it. They would not require that you embrace every aspect if you don’t want to. Buddhism allows you to remain another religion and practice Buddhist meditations, if you feel that your spiritual life can be so benefitted. I met a Buddhist monk who specifically said that. Also, by the way, this Buddhist monk I met was actually married! So there is a lot of variation among Buddhists. Celibacy may be required for some monks, but not for the lay people. Having children and a good marriage can be part of a good moral life.
    Buddhism does not require that you give up all your desires. It works on trying to minimize what is called trishna in Sanskrit, or Tanha in Pali. Trishna or Tanha is a very intense craving. It is a destructive kind of desire. All people must have desires of some kind, but they do not have to have trishna/tanha. Even the Buddha had desires. For example, he desired that suffering be relieved from all sentient beings. He desired to awake in the morning to teach the Dharma, and so on. But his desires were pure and good, and they were not the intense craving that causes one to not think clearly.
    You do not have to be a vegetarian. If you want to, of course, you may be, and many Buddhists are, but also there are many Buddhists who are not.
    And as far as your concern with your current desires for ham and chicken, you don’t need to be so hard on yourself I think. Buddhism may help you to get over certain desires if they are harmful, but the main thing is that you start wherever you are and just become better.
    I am aware of a few forms of Buddhist meditation, but there are probably thousands. I know of an Insight Meditation, and/or Vipassana (I can’t remember if Vipassana is Insight Meditation or another). Just type that in and you’ll find some things about it. There is a breathing meditation, where you just concentrate on the breath and continually bring your attention back to the breath. This one-pointed attention is helpful in training the mind. You learn to control the mind, instead of just letting it wander all over. So in some meditations, you are concentrating on one point – such as the breath, or walking, or even eating.
    In other meditations, you just watch the mind as it goes from place to place, becoming aware of the mind. It is like you are watching it as a 3rd party. There are other meditations where you analyze a subject, such as one of the teachings of the Buddha, such as the 4 Noble Truths, or the Eightfold Path.
    Buddhism has helped me tremendously in my daily life, and if I would practice it more, it would help me even more, I feel certain. I like the Buddhist chants on loving-kindness. They help me to think of others besides myself and see things in a more loving way.
    Meditation should help you all the time, not just during the meditation. At first, you may feel frustrated that you are able to calm the mind during meditation, and then it goes back after you’re done. But the goal of meditation is to enhance all your moments, not just the ones spent in meditation. If you stick with it, you will be very pleased I imagine.

  4. First of all, Buddhism is a very wide classification of religion, just as Christianity is. (Just as Christianity contains Catholocism, Lutheranism, Baptists, etc., Buddhism covers Theravada, Kadampa, Zen, etc.). So, the beliefs and practices have some differences depending on what school you are referring to. With that said, there tends to be a lot more interchange, freedom, and respect amongst the different buddhists regardless of their school.
    As for “an excuse to practice Tantra”, ha! 🙂 Tantra is very misunderstood, and believe me, I don’t think it is what you think it is. 😉
    On to your specific points:
    1) If you consider yourself a follower of a specific sect, then yes you would follow each of their teachings and follow their beliefs–otherwise, this would just be hypocrisy. However, if it helps, it dosn’t hurt me or most other buddhists to just consider buddhism as a philosophy if it helps that way to make you happier. The main desire of buddhists is to reduce the suffering of all beings, so we are less likely to let definitions and such get in the way if they are only going to hinder you on the path to enlightenment.
    I understand that you don’t think you can free yourself from all desires (or attachments in buddhist speak), and if you could then you would be enlightened already! Don’t sweat it. Buddhism can teach you with patience on how to reduce and ultimately remove attachment, but I wouldn’t worry about shaving your head and becoming an ascetic (which the buddha, his name be praised, wouldn’t ask anyway as he taught the middle way–no extremes in either direction).
    2) No, you do not have to be a vegetarian, this is a common misconception. I happen to be a vegetarian but that is by choice, and is in my pursuit of reducing suffering. Meat was a common staple of tibetan buddhists in their homeland. The only teaching was that an animal would not be slaughtered for you–therefore, you don’t want to go around eating steamed lobsters and such. But, if an animal is already dead, you can not change that… be thankful that it’s life energy can help preserve you, and help you walk the path. As for the food attachment, again, don’t feel guilt. Learn to recognize attachments for what they are (which it appears you are already cognizant to some degree of what they are), and begin to walk the path. Guilt would mean you were suffering to some degree, we don’t want that!
    3. Wow… lot’s of forms of meditation. But really, these things really are a lifetime of practice. For starters though, check out some of the resources on http://www.buddhanet.net (one of my favorite buddhist resources on the web) at http://www.buddhanet.net/ftp10.htm) For starters, hit the basics, and learn the methods of clearing your mind and relaxing. Clearing your mind of thoughts is a lot harder than it might first appear!
    4. Again there are differences between the different branches. However, there is the big difference between the monastics (monks and nuns) and the layperson. I don’t think you are considering becoming a monk or nun, so I don’t think you have to worry about celibacy anytime soon. There is the concept of not engaging in “sexual misconduct”, but this is interpretated in many ways depending on who you ask. The bottom line is, meditate and contemplate, and learn for yourself if your sexual practices represent an attachment. I know I say that a lot of this is left open to you to contemplate, but that is a major part of buddhism: the process of wisdom, and direct realization of reality. The short answer to your question though, is that no, they do not believe that sex is wrong.
    5. Absolutely! However, let me stress that I think the majority of religions can be beneficial. And, I believe that different religions may be more suitable for one person, while a different religion might be more suitable for another. Religions (in my opinion), are tools that help us reach spiritual enlightenment. The more you contemplate the teachings of most religions, the more you find that they reveal the same truth. The fighting, disagreements, wars, etc… usually occur when the followers wander from the path of their own teachings.
    Take the following quote that I love: “As evidence of the truth of all this, consider how many men of different faiths have wrought marvels and achieved sainthood through the power of their God or gods, all attained through fervent prayer and contemplation. What is that God but another name for the Centre, those gods but other names for the Transformers? Names are unimportant. Have you not met Buddhists groping in the outer darkness and Mussulmans or Christians whose faces shine with Truth? Just as many Mongols here regard Manjusri as a god, rather than the personification of Divine Wisdom, so do Christians mistake the Divine Forces for angels, the Centre for God; yet what does it matter? All prayers, rites and methods of concentration which open up the inner man must bring forth the inner Light, whereon their purpose is achieved. I am a Vajrayanist only because I conceive, rightly or wrongly, that the Vajrayana Sages have mapped the road more completely and better understood the methods of harnessing the Transformers than people of most other sects and faiths. I have met Christian missionaries at Kokonor who are laughable in their ignorance; I have also met two missionaries of the Heavenly Lord (Catholic) Sect who are fully Enlightened Bodhisattvas! Let those Buddhists who are still lost in darkness kneel before them in all humility. (Words of Nêng Hai, The Lost World of Chinese Buddhism, John Blofeld – taken from Adventures with the Buddha, Jeffery Paine)”
    I am blessed to walk this planet at a time when the Buddha’s teachings are known to this world. It has made my life all the better, and best of all, it has helped teach me the way to help others as well, regardless of their faith or religion. I am not trying to sell Buddhism to anyone, as I only want what is best for them that will reduce their suffering and help them on the path to enlightenment. I highly recommend researching Buddhism further and learning more. But most importantly, the concept, the idea, just isn’t important–it doesn’t matter whether you call yourself a Buddhist or not. What is important is just how you practice, that is, how you live.
    And please don’t hesitate to continue asking questions!

  5. Religion will only help to lead you for being good and moral, except those religions that go underground.
    Do you speak mandarin? well, if you do, it will be more easy for you to understand… the story and the meaning inside buddha…
    believe or become a buddhist not meaning that you have to let go your career, avoid to create a next generation… but everything has a line, and you shouldn’t cross over the line..
    be a vegetarian or not, is depends on how you believe and how far you want to go… they will not force you to be a vegetarian if you don’t want to.. but, just remember that you will pay back to them, those life you killed or eaten by you in the future maybe pay back in a different way and so..
    have you heard ‘Tian Dao’ … wat they teaching inside is very good, and they lead you and guild you in sincere, and they will try their best to help you to solve your problems, mentally.. but their rules are more tough.. haha.. more things you have to learn and follow.. haha
    well, my suggestion for you is, be yourself and let your religion lead you… beside that, you also can try Yoga, it will help you to clear your mind and version of life..
    Never think or ask for the return when you doing something good or helping people, so as if you believe buddha, you pray with your sincere heart, but not request for help in your daily live.. maybe it will help you in the way you never know.. so be appreciate in everything, maybe something goes bad, but if you know how to appreciate, you may think maybe the thing will become worst stil, and the God, Buddha help you in the way you didn’t know..
    For my experience, i believe in Tian Dao, i almost crash into car accident for several times, but this is not lucky, i think something that just woke me up or help me up before i crash into others vehicles..

  6. 1. No. Buddhism is teachings. One of his teachings is to question everything even his own teachings and dont take anything as a fact. By the way what does all those things you want to do have to do wiht buddhism?
    2. No you do not have to be a vergetarian. When you are a monk yes. Buddhist no.
    3. No clue. =]
    4. right. If you become monk then you are wrong.
    5. All the time man, all the time. I cant have a better life. I think the thing that mostly helped me was that we believe in Karma.
    I think you have the monk life mixed up with the buddhist life. You do not have to shave your head.

  7. Hi,
    Wow. Thats a lot of questions.
    1. Buddha taught that one must question and test all of his teachings before following them. That is the crux. Don’t base your belief on mere following. Learning Buddhism is learning to give up bit by bit.
    2. Haha. I love chicken and ham to. You dont need to be vegetarian to be a Buddhist although it is greatly encouraged. As always in Buddhism, take one step at the time.
    3. Meditation is about training awareness. You can meditate when washing the dishes, or even walking.
    4. Complete celibacy is necessary for monkhood but for the layperson, its about responsible sex.
    5. Definitely. It has trained me in being more compassionate and more aware of whats going on around me. I’ve learnt to slowly get rid of attachment too. Like attachment to anger.
    6. Meditation will train your focus. You will clear your head eventually when you understand the purpose of meditation. But yes, it makes you calmer and more focused.
    7. If I might this question linked with my answer in 6, you will gain help with insomnia when you learn to let go of things in your head.
    8. Haha. Tantra in American Pie is really, Hindu Tantra. Buddhist Tantra is a totally different genre altogether.
    Hope you find happiness.

  8. zenhighway is correct.
    Buddhism is a path of practice and spiritual development leading to Insight into the true nature of life. Buddhist practices such as meditation are means of changing oneself in order to develop the qualities of awareness, kindness, and wisdom. The experience developed within the Buddhist tradition over thousands of years has created an incomparable resource for all those who wish to follow a path – a path which ultimately culminates in Enlightenment or Buddhahood.
    1. What is the essence of the Buddha’s teachings?
    Simply speaking, this is to avoid harming others and to help them as much as possible. Another way of expressing this is, Abandon negative action; create perfect virtue; subdue your own mind. This is the teaching of the Buddha. By abandoning negative actions (killing, etc.) and destructive motivations (anger, attachment, close-mindedness, etc.), we stop harming ourselves and others. By creating perfect virtue, we develop beneficial attitudes, like impartial love and compassion, and do actions motivated by these thoughts. By subduing our mind, we cut away all false projections, thus making ourselves calm and peaceful by understanding reality.
    The essence of Buddha’s teachings is also contained in the three principles of the path: definite emergence, the dedicated heart and wisdom realizing emptiness. Initially, we seek definitely to emerge from the confusion of our problems and their causes. Then, we see that other people also have problems, and with love and compassion, we dedicate our heart to becoming a Buddha so that we are capable of helping others extensively. In order to do this, we develop the wisdom understanding the real nature of ourselves and other phenomena.
    5.self- experiencing revelation
    6 & 7. need guidance from a buddhist teacher.


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