In this paper, I have decided to reflect on the beliefs of Buddhism, specifically on one of the oldest surviving branch of Buddhism, which is Theravada. In this reflection paper, I will be discussing how I became a Buddhist, my basic knowledge of Buddhism, the etiquette of being in a temple, what my parents have taught me from a young age. Additionally, I will express my own opinions, views and personal experience specifically on Karma and the 5 Precepts.
Originally, I was born in Thailand and growing up in Cambodia for the first five years of my life their, therefore it is clear that I would naturally follow the beliefs of Theravada Buddhism. Furthermore, I also come from a family of Buddhist, which is why I chose to talk about Beliefs of Buddhism. Out of respect for the religion, I follow the teachings and what my parents have taught me however, I don’t really take it as seriously in comparison to my parents. Living abroad, I’ve had western influences, which is why I’m not really a dedicated Buddhist. I have spent most of my life travelling around the world, starting from Thailand, to Cambodia, then to Australia and finally London. I didn’t really grow up in Cambodia so my understanding of Theravada Buddhism is very limited.
As a child, my parents taught me the basics of being a Buddhist for example what was expected of me as a Buddhist, what is wrong and right, what I shouldn’t do. For example, as Buddhists at temples we had to bow down to the statues and the monks 3 times with hands placed together palm to palm, it would be wrong of women/girls to touch the monks as only men would be allowed to, there’s a certain dress code (a piece of white clothing, legs should be covered up) to temples also a certain way of sitting. Also, we had to know the correct type of words when carrying out a conversation with a Monk.
Being a Buddhist for my whole life, I didn’t really know how Buddhism came about, the teachings etc. The Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, Samsara, Nirvana and the Triple Gems were all very new to me. It was actually the first time I’ve ever heard of them. The topic that I could relate most to was Karma, it seemed the most familiar to me. Again, I’m always constantly reminded of karma with my parents. “Do good, receive good in your life and next life. Do bad, receive badness whether it be in this life or next.” Something along those lines, my parents are always telling me this. As a result, I try to do a lot of good things such as charity work, giving out money to the poor on the streets, being respectful to elders and parents in particular. They influence me to believe that the way I treat them in this life is the way my future children will treat me, they also mention how God is always watching what you’re doing. This is one of aspect of Buddhism, which I take quite seriously, because I do believe in karma. There are many personal family problems that have taken place and it does scare me because from what I’ve seen it does connect with Karma.
The discussion of the 5 precepts was another feature of Theravada Buddhism, which I could relate to. I roughly know the 5 ground rules of being a good Buddhist. I do agree that it is bad to kill human beings, steal things, and cheat on your partner. In my opinion, breaking rules 1,2,3,5 is fine as long as they don’t have major consequences. As a Buddhist I do kill living beings such as insects and ants, I take my sister’s clothes without asking, I also believe that everyone has gotten involved in a conversation where they have lied/exaggerated or spoken about someone else behind their backs and lastly, in this century everyone must have tasted alcohol at least once in their lives, even my parents and they have stronger Buddhist beliefs than me. From my life experiences, I would say it depends on the situation you find yourself in. I personally find it hard to stick to them because these days it is east to get influenced by the environment you’re in. My aims in life aren’t based on these rules; hence I don’t really find myself sticking to them. Even though I do break these rules, I still believe I am a good Buddhist.
For Monks and Nun’s on the other hand, it is necessary for them to follow the last five rules. In Buddhism, I was taught that they used to be common people but the fact that they have sacrificed everything to become monks they should take the rules very seriously and follow a very strict life.
From some of the Monks I’ve seen in Cambodia, I can tell it is very difficult for them to stick to these rules too For me, I get distracted so easily and it is very easy for me to get influenced by modern technology. Today, I would see some Monks with smartphones, using them as iPods; some would have access to Facebook etc. some would even receive money privately or get involved in violence. I find this so disappointing, as it makes me doubt in everything I have believed but also I view monks so differently after seeing and hearing stories about how some Monks have been behaving.
To conclude, it is clear that my beliefs in Theravada Buddhism mainly comes from the influence of my parents and the fact that I am from a country where the majority of the population is a follower of Buddhism. Writing this paper, I’ve also come to realize that, even though I don’t take it very seriously, I still have strong opinions on certain issues such as Karma and the 5 precepts.