Is there any difference between Reincarnation and Rebirth?

The reality is the same for all of us. Even those who are neither Buddhists, nor Hindus, are reborn, whether they believe it or not. At least they cannot deny that they have been born, can they? So the difference between Rebirth in Buddhism, and Re-incarnation in Hinduism is a matter of concepts. Hindus believe in an immortal soul that is transferred from one existence to the next. Buddhists do not believe in an eternal soul, but they do believe in rebirth. There is no eternal essence that remains unchanged throughout life, and even after death.

How Can Rebirth Take Place if there is no Soul?

A fair question, and an important concept to grasp correctly. It may be easiest to understand with the help of a simile. Take a match and a candle. Light the match. Now hold the candle wick directly over the flame, but not actually touching it. Watch closely what happens. After a few seconds the wick will begin to smoulder, and a flame will ignite. A child might say that the flame jumped from the matchstick to the candle, because that is what seems to happen.

A scientist would describe the process differently. He would perhaps say that due to the heat in the match flame, the paraffin wax in the wick vaporised, reached its ignition temperature, and begin to react with the oxygen in the air. This rapid process of oxidation produced the flame in the candle. Nothing jumped from the matchstick to the candle, but the heat was the cause produced by the oxidation of the wood, that led to the result, which was the oxidation of the paraffin wax and the second flame.

Rebirth is similar to this process. A living being does many volitional activities, which are kamma. This is like the heat. The present human body is like the match-stick, the new fetus, which might be a non-human fetus, is like the candle. When the conditions are right, consciousness arises in the new fetus. No soul is transferred, but there is a causal relationship between the two existences. In the case of rebirth, unlike in the simile, consciousness in one existence must cease before it can arise in the second existence.

Please note that just as the flames may be entirely different colours, sizes, temperatures, etc., in the first fuel and the second fuel, the same is true of the form that life takes before and after rebirth. To give a simple example: a female mouse may be reborn as a male elephant, or a Caucasian male may be reborn as an Asian female. It all depends on the mental process that is driven by kamma. One does not always get what one wants, but one always gets what one deserves.

Where To Sir?

Rebirth into the heavenly realms is spontaneous, as there is no gestation or fetal stage. Celestial beings are reborn with their subtle bodies fully developed. In the analogy of the flame, it would be like a gas flame rather than a candle flame.

Yes, kamma is the overriding factor that determines where rebirth takes place, but prayer or aspiration plays a significant role too. To give another simile. Suppose one were to arrive at an airport with sufficient money in one’s pocket to stay at the best hotel in town. If the taxi driver asked, “Where to, sir?” one might say, “Oh! It doesn’t matter. Take me to the nearest hotel.” The nearest hotel might be a bit of a dump, whilst the best hotel might be the other side of town. Kamma is like the money in one’s pocket, while aspiration is like what one says to the taxi driver.

If one arrives with only $25 in one’s pocket, one will have to say, “Take me to the cheapest guest house” otherwise when one gets to the five-star hotel, the taxi driver will take the $25 and the concierge will not even let one into the foyer.

Spontaneous Rebirth

Gestation (or incubation) is only necessary in the human and animal realms, where beings are born in the womb or in eggs. In the case of rebirth in celestial realms, and also in the lower realms of hungry ghosts, demons, and in hell, rebirth takes place spontaneously with a fully formed body created by kamma.

Beings in the realms of form (rūpa loka) are reborn there by the power of deep absorption (jhāna) and since there is no sex there, it makes little sense to refer to them as male. This is also the case with the formless realms (arūpa loka), where there in only mind and no matter.

The same could perhaps be said regarding the human fetus that has not yet developed sexual characteristics. It begs the question, Why are some acted upon by testosterone while others are not? However, we are getting into deep waters here beyond my knowledge of biology. According to my understanding, the sex is already determined at conception due to that particular being’s kamma and aspiration. However, it is possible that sex is not determined by the kamma that causes rebirth, but only by supportive kammas that bear fruit afterwards.

The kamma that causes rebirth is like the seed, supportive kammas that function thereafter are like the soil, water, fertiliser, and sunlight. Obstructive or counteractive kammas may also intervene resulting in miscarriage, deformities, or abortion These are like fungal infections, insects, flood, fire, or vermin, that may prevent a seed from developing into a full-grown plant.

Time to Move On

Kamma is the driving force that keeps us revolving in the cycle of rebirth (saṃsāra). Kamma is the Almighty creator. The Buddha fully understood the law of kamma and taught us how it works, but predicting its results is even more difficult than predicting the weather. The Buddha warned that to try to reason out the specific causes or results of kamma would lead to insanity. However, what we can do is understand the basic principles of kamma. Then we will avoid unwholesome kamma, cultivate wholesome kamma, and try to gain liberation from kamma.


The Holy Quest

After his enlightenment the Buddha uttered the following spontaneous verse:

Through many births I wandered,
Seeking, but not finding, the builder of this house.
Painful is repeated existence.
Oh housebuilder, you are seen now.
You shall build no house again.
All your rafters are broken,
Your ridgepole is shattered.
To dissolution goes my mind.
Achieved is the destruction of craving.
(Dhammapada, verses 153,4)

The Buddha-to-be, or bodhisatta, began his quest for enlightenment at some far distant point in time. He eventually reached a stage of spiritual maturity when there was no turning back, and enlightenment was certain. Ninety-one aeons ago he was reborn as a youth called Sumedha. His multi-millionaire parents died while he was young. He reflected, “They have died taking nothing with them. It is better to give it all away before one dies, then at least I will take that wholesome kamma with me when I die.” Thus he renounced all his fabulous wealth and became a wanderer. Then he met the Buddha Dipaṅkara, who predicted that Sumedha would become a Buddha named Gotama in the distant future.

The bodhisatta continued to seek enlightenment throughout many existences. When his spiritual virtues were fully ripe he was reborn as Siddhartha Gotama, made the final renunciation of his wealth to seek enlightenment, and gained it after six years of struggle.

The simile of the house-builder refers to the house of selfhood, which is built by kamma, and protected by the rafters of mental defilements, held together by the ridge-pole of ignorance. With the destruction of ignorance, the other defilements and craving for existence were destroyed, as he attained to nibbāna.

First, we should understand that nibbāna is not a place or realm of existence like heaven, and the Buddha didn’t ‘enter’ nibbāna, neither when he gained enlightenment, nor when he died. Throughout his life, he could abide in the attainment of nibbāna whenever he wished, and all noble disciples can do this too. Nibbāna just means cessation or letting go.

When you just let go of something, you cease to suffer, there and then. Unenlightened people can experience a ‘mini-nibbāna’ every time they suppress the urge to defend themselves from some perceived attack. When we don’t suppress that urge, the ego rises up and we instigate another cycle of suffering.

If you can understand that this so-called ego is entirely mind-made, illusory, and has no substance, then you will see that the house is empty. There is no one at home. No soul, no self, no spirit, no person, no me, no you. Just mind and matter arising and passing away, and creating illusions. So where could a Buddha or Arahant go after death? If a fire ceases to burn because the fuel is used up, the flames go out. It makes no sense to ask, “Where did the flame go?” It didn’t go anywhere, it just went out.

However, it is difficult to see this. Usually, the ego does rise up, so we keep on making kamma, which means intentional actions by body, speech, and mind. This is the driving force that accumulates momentum throughout life, and throws us into this or that existence after death. Wholesome kamma leads to happiness, unwholesome kamma leads to misery. When we die, it is just the last conscious moment that determines the arising of the next existence, so it is wise to cultivate good mental habits and to remove bad ones, since we can die at any moment.

How do you know what is right?

Good question. Short answer is, you don’t, at least not to begin with. The Pali words for the eight factors of the noble path all begin with sammā- e.g. sammā-diṭṭhi (right view), sammā-saṅkappo (right thought). However, sammā doesn’t just mean right.

How do we usually translate “Sammāsambuddho?” You never see it translated as the Rightly Enlightened Buddha, do you? The usual translation is the Fully or Perfectly Enlightened Buddha.

So our view has to be gradually straightened and corrected until it is not just right, but perfect and without any blemish. This action of straightening our views is one of the ten wholesome deeds.

Most people, including many so-called Buddhists, have more wrong views than right ones. When we gain sincere and well-placed confidence in the enlightenment of the Buddha, we get rid of the gross forms of wrong views such as those denying the law of cause and effect, and gain mundane right view, but we have not attained nibbāna yet. Self-view is one kind of serious wrong view that must be eliminated before we can realise nibbāna.

Self-view is the belief in a permanent self, soul, person, or being who inhabits the body, and motivates it.

“I think, therefore I am. I think?” “No you’re not, you’re magnetic ink. The folded sheets of paper clatter through the great computer …”

Before I became a Buddhist, I used to listen to the Moody Blues Greatest Hits album, from which these lyrics come. The very rapid, and almost incessant mental process perpetuates the illusion of a permanent self or person. That is why most people find it very difficult to be silent, and to do nothing.

When we meditate, the mind gradually becomes still, then we can see this profound truth of emptiness, or egolessness, and gain a deeper realisation of right view. When the mind is truly empty of self — selfishness, egoism, pride, arrogance, conceit — then you will clearly discern right from wrong.

The Buddha never tried to convert anybody to his viewpoint, because he didn’t have one. He knew what was right, and helped others to see it too. When you see the truth clearly for yourself you will gain confidence in the Buddha. If I insult your intelligence by trying to tell you what to believe, why should you listen to me?

The Four Kinds of Nutriment

All conditioned phenomena arise due to one of four causes. These are known as the four foods, or four nutriments:

1. Physical food.
2. Climate.
3. Mind or consciousness.
4. Kamma (including, but not confined to kamma in past lives).

Physical food is essential for life and strength. Good healthy food eaten in moderation gives us health, beauty, long-life, and strength. Too much rich food can cause poor health, while insufficient or poor quality food can also cause disease.

Climate is another factor. In cold climates we need heating, in hot climates we need air-conditioning. Extremes of cold and heat can also cause diseases or death.

Mind or consciousness is important too. Too much anger, lust, fear, or worry is not good for one’s well-being. How we stimulate the mind affects our happiness. We need wisdom to avoid stimulating the mind in unskilful ways.

Then there is kamma. We do not know what we did in the past, and can do nothing about it now. It will give its result when the conditions are ripe, and if it was powerful bad kamma, we will have to suffer. If we are enjoying good results, we can be happy, but we must plant good seeds for the future while enjoying the fruits of the past.

Pain and Disease

Pain and disease comes from having a body. We have to accept it the way it is. When we were young, we had lots of energy and recovered quickly from diseases, as we get older the body decays and finally perishes. The Buddha’s chief supporter, Anāthapiṇḍika, was in agony on his death-bed, even though he had done heaps of powerful wholesome kamma during his lifetime. However, when Venerable Sāriputta taught him the method of insight meditation he was able to transcend the pain and attained bliss as he lay dying.

Actually all pain is mental, not physical. If you are unconscious, you cannot feel any pain. When we talk about physical pain, we mean the unpleasant feeling that arises through physical contact. Mental pain is the unpleasant feeling arising through mental contact.

If one meditates seriously, it is possible to separate mind and matter and observe even severe physical pain and discomfort with equanimity. It is not easy to sit in meditation at first. The beginner may claim to be in agony after only twenty minutes of sitting still, whereas an experienced meditator can sit still for two hours or more without difficulty. It is not that they have no pain, but they do not magnify it with fear and aversion. When mindfulness and concentration are strong enough, pain is not a problem.

Healing Through Insight Meditation

Ardent meditators with strong faith in the Dhamma have overcome serious medical conditions such as cancer, eczema, tuberculosis, gall stones, etc. Even the average person can soon learn to overcome mild ailments such as colds, headaches, high blood-pressure, etc., and minor mental disorders such as stuttering, acute anxiety, compulsive obsessions, phobias, and depression.

We do not claim that meditation is a cure for all ills. Medication and therapy should also be used, but the concentrated mind has powerful healing qualities.

Severe mental disorders cannot usually be overcome, because the unfortunate victim’s mind is just too weak and distracted.

The Way of Inquiry – The First Discourse

Not my first discourse, I hasten to add, but the Buddha’s first discourse.

That seems like an appropriate place to start. If you are reading this thread then I assume that you wish to know more about the teaching of the Buddha. I will be do my best to reply to any questions that you may have, as long as they are respectful and sincere.


The bodhisatta, Prince Siddhattha Gotama, renounced his palace at the age of 29 after seeing four signs: an old man, a sick man, a dead man, and a monk. Seeing that all living beings were trapped by old age, sickness, and death, he resolved to find an escape from this predicament. His noble quest began with the practice of self-mortification because it was believed at the time to be the way to liberation. He practised with five other ascetics as his companions. After six years of strenuous austerities, he realised that this was not the right path, and resumed taking adequate food and rest. Because of this, his five companions thought he had given up the quest, so they left him.

After regaining his strength and health the bodhisatta meditated the whole night and discovered the path leading to enlightnement. By the morning he had eradicated all craving and ignorance, and he gained Buddhahood with the rising of the dawn. Reflecting on the Dhamma that he had realised, he was at first disinclined to teach it, as it went against the current of human desires, and was difficult to understand. Nevertheless, he reasoned that some “with little dust in their eyes” would understand it, so he resolved to teach it.

Realising that his two former meditation teachers had already passed away, he went to Saranath to teach it to the five ascetics who had been his companions in the quest for liberation. When he told them that he had found liberation, at first they did not believe him, because they thought he had given up the path of striving. However, by reminding them of his lifelong honesty, he won them around and they agreed to listen to him. So he gave his first discourse, which is called the Dhammacakkappavattana Sutta – the setting in motion of the wheel of the truth.

This first discourse deals with the Middle Way, and the Four Noble Truths including the Eightfold Noble Path. It is very concise. By the end of the discourse only one of the five ascetics, Kondañña, understood it properly and realised nibbana, the other four had to practise meditation as instructed by the Buddha for some time before realising nibbana. Because he was so quick to understand this concise discourse, Kondañña became known as “Kondañña the Wise.”

The Middle Way

The Buddha began by stating that the way to liberation was the middle way, avoiding the two extremes of sensual indulgence and self-mortification. This middle way comprised eight factors: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

He didn’t explain it in detail, he just stated it in brief.

The Four Noble Truths

Then he stated the Four Noble Truths that he had realised:

1. The truth of suffering (dukkha): birth is suffering, aging is suffering, sickness is suffering, death is suffering, association with the unloved is suffering, separation from the loved is suffering, not getting what one wants is suffering, in brief the five aggregates of attachment are suffering.

2. The truth of the cause of suffering is the craving that causes repeated becoming, and takes delight now here now there, namely sensual craving, craving for existence, and craving for non-existence.

3. The truth of the cessation of suffering is the complete cessation and abandonment of this craving, and liberation from it without any remainder.

4. The truth of the way to attain the end of suffering, which is the noble eightfold path: right view, right thought, right speech, right action, right livelihood, right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

That, very briefly, is the essence of the first discourse. The Buddha went on to explain that until he had thoroughly realised these four noble truths he did not claim to be fully enlightened. Merely knowing these four truths intellectually is not enough, we have to thoroughly understand them to gain liberation.

What is Genuine Vipassanā Meditation?

There are many discourses on meditation, but the Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta is perhaps the most important one. Sati means “mindfulness” or “awareness,” and upaṭṭhāna means setting up or “establishing.” So the discourse is about the setting up of mindfulness.

There are four foundations of mindfulness: 1) Body, 2) Feelings, 3) Thoughts, and 4) Mental phenomena.

Mindfulness of the Body

Mindfulness of respiration (ānāpānassati) is just one of several meditation objects in the section on mindfulness of the body. One can also contemplate the four postures of standing, walking, sitting, or lying down, or all daily activities such as moving the limbs, looking here and there, eating, drinking, etc.

The Mahāsi meditation method analyses the body in terms of the four elements: earth (solidity), water (fluidity), fire (temperature), and air (motion). In sitting one contemplates the element of motion in the rising and falling movements of the abdomen; in walking meditation one observes the element of motion in the movements of the feet.

Less frequently taught methods analyse the body in terms of its 32 repulsive components: head hair, body hair, nails, teeth, skin, etc., or compare it to corpses in various stages of decay.

Mindfulness of Feelings

“How, monks, does a monk dwell contemplating feelings? Here, monk, a monk, when feeling a pleasant feeling he knows, ‘I feel a pleasant feeling.’ When feeling a painful feeling he knows, ‘I feel a painful feeling.’ When feeling a neutral feeling he knows, ‘I feel a neutral feeling.’ When feeling a pleasant sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel a pleasant sensual feeling.’ When feeling a pleasant non-sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel a pleasant non-sensual feeling.’ When feeling an unpleasant sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel an unpleasant sensual feeling.’ When feeling an unpleasant non-sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel an unpleasant non-sensual feeling.’ When feeling a neutral sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel a neutral sensual feeling.’ When feeling a neutral non-sensual feeling he knows, ‘I feel a neutral non-sensual feeling.’”

Mindfulness of Thoughts

A meditator must also be mindful of thoughts (cittānupassana satipaṭṭhāna). Knowing a lustful thought as a lustful thought, an angry thought as an angry thought, etc. Before being able to do this effectively, one should first establish mindfulness on the body and on feelings.

Mindfulness of Mental Objects

The five hindrances — sensual desire, ill-will, laziness, restlessness, and doubt — are one aspect of mindfulness of mental objects. Positive states such as energy, joy, tranquillity, bliss, equanimity should also be contemplated and known whenever they occur.

What is Insight?

Insight is the wisdom that arises when concentration and mindfulness have been firmly established on one or more of the four foundations of mindfulness. When one is able to observe mental and physical phenomena with equanimity, one can see them as they truly are (yathābhūta ñāṇadassana), revealing the three universal characteristics of impermanence (anicca), unsatisfactoriness (dukkha), and not-self (anatta).

Until one reaches this relatively high stage, one is not really practising insight meditation, but just establishing mindfulness. However, if you wish to call it “insight meditation” because that is your final goal, then that’s fine too, even though no insight has yet been gained.

A Discussion on Patience

In his discourse on the Vammika Sutta, the Venerable Mahāsi Sayādaw relates the following incident that took place in Thanbyuzayat, a town within Moulmein District, and was published in one of the Daily Newspapers.

Four or five elders from that town were chatting on a religious topic. It is customary in Burma among knowledgeable elderly people to meet whenever there is any social or religious function such as a memorial service for the deceased. They usually discuss religious topics while the reception is going on with light refreshments such as green tea and some delicacies like pickled tea-leaf (laphet). Sometimes, heated discussions take place, and the participants disagree on controversial points. On this occasion, the elders became indignant and assaulted one another ending up with them being interviewed by police officers. The news editor who reported the story, remarked that the elders concerned had been placed in police custody, but “a redeeming feature” was that the topic of discussion happened to be on patience (khantī).

The editor hit the nail right on the head. Intolerance is the worst thing when discussing the topic of patience, which needs to be exercised as advised by the Buddha. Indignation resembles the toad that swells up. It gives a great deal of trouble and therefore really needs to be discarded.


Exorcising Evil Spirits

If you’re having a lot of difficulties in your family life, it will help to perform an Exorcism Ceremony to drive out all of the Evil Spirits.

If you want, you can invite a Buddhist monk or several monks to perform this ceremony for you, but its not difficult to do it yourself as long as you are courageous, and sincerely committed to doing it thoroughly. Don’t miss out any step.

First of all, take refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha using the following Pāḷi formula:

  • Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (I go for refuge to the Buddha)
    Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (I go for refuge to the Dhamma)
    Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (I go for refuge to the Saṅgha)
  • Dutiyampi Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (For the second time …
    Dutiyampi Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
    Dutiyampi Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
  • Tatiyampi Buddhaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi. (For the third time …
    Tatiyampi Dhammaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.
    Tatiyampi Saṅghaṃ saraṇaṃ gacchāmi.

Then, undertake to observe the five precepts, which are generally observed by all Buddhists. You don’t have to be a committed Buddhist to take the three refuges and precepts, the benefits of observing these universal virtues are available to anyone, whatever their beliefs. You can do it all only in English if you’re not familiar with Pāḷi, but the Evil Spirits may pay more attention if it is done in Pāḷi, which was the language used by the Buddha.

  1. Pāṇātipātā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. ( I undertake the precept to refrain from killing living beings.)
  2. Adinnādānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. (I undertake the precept to refrain from taking that which is not given.)
  3. Kāmesu micchācārā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. (I undertake the precept to refrain from sexual misconduct.)
  4. Musāvādā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. (I undertake the precept to refrain from false speech.)
  5. Surāmeraya-majja-pamādaṭṭhānā veramaṇī sikkhāpadaṃ samādiyāmi. (I undertake the precept to refrain from intoxicants.)

Now, go into every room of your house, including the loft and the basement, opening every cupboard, and read out the list of names of the Evil Spirits on the linked image. You may know some more names that I don’t, so add those to the list, but I have added all the names that I know.

Whenever you find any Evil Spirits, you don’t need to be afraid because you already took refuge in the Fully Enlightened Buddha, and every Evil Spirit is terrified of the Buddha, his teaching the Dhamma, and his ordained disciples the Saṅgha. Just order the Evil Spirits into the toilet and leave them there while you collect all of the other Evil Spirits from every room in the house — and don’t forget the garage.

Finally, take a few deep breaths and go into the toilet or bathroom where you have kept all of the Evil Spirits. Now, grab hold of each one in turn by the neck, and open its mouth, using force or a mole wrench if necessary. Don’t worry, they dare not bite someone who took refuge in the Buddha! Now tip them upside down and shove their necks down into the toilet bowl. When you have dealt with every last one, flush the toilet and they will all be removed from your house.

Don’t ever invite them back into your house again, and all of the worst problems that you had before will gradually be resolved. If any Evil Spirits do get back into your house, just repeat the process until they stop coming back.

Here is the list of their names


P.S. White Spirit is OK. Leave that one in the cupboard if you find it.

Idiot Compassion

Spoiling with too much Kindness

Parents and grandparents who are too kind to children spoil their character. Doing whatever one wants, and being given everything that one asks for, is not the way for children to learn and grow up. They should be taught the values of contentment, gratitude, respect, and frugality from a young age. As my mother once said, when I asked for another apple: “Apples don’t grow on trees.” Well, we know that what she meant was: “The money to buy apples does not grow on trees.”

The current generation of computer and Internet users expect everything to be tailored to suit their demands.  Software developers cannot possibly satisfy everyone. Even free software or nearly free software is not good enough for them. If something is not to their liking, instead of simply requesting improvements, or asking for temporary solutions, they make demands such as: “This software is unusable, until this feature is added, I will go back to using my old software.” Of course, such threats are empty. If their old software was perfect, why are they trying out something else?

The problem lies between the keyboard and the chair. Negativity breeds dissatisfaction, and obstructs the learning process.

Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity

Repeated complaining rewires your brain to make future complaining more likely. Over time, you find it’s easier to be negative than to be positive, regardless of what’s happening around you. Complaining becomes your default behavior, which changes how people perceive you.

And here’s the kicker: complaining damages other areas of your brain as well. Research from Stanford University has shown that complaining shrinks the hippocampus — an area of the brain that’s critical to problem solving and intelligent thought. Damage to the hippocampus is scary, especially when you consider that it’s one of the primary brain areas destroyed by Alzheimer’s. (Travis Bradberry)

Vivaldi’s Horrible Bookmarking System

“The one thing stopping me from using Vivaldi as my main browser is the horrible bookmarking system that I simply can’t and don’t want to use, coupled with the fact that I can’t import my existing bookmarks although the latter wouldn’t make me use Vivaldi as my main browser, without the simple system as well.” (Alviv)

The above complaint is typical. A new user does not know how to import bookmarks, nor how to add them via the icon in the address bar or keyboard shortcut. Rather than asking how it can be done, he/she just complains.  After a couple of users respond with sarcasm, a moderator edits their replies, fixes the thread title, and locks the thread. This is idiot compassion at work. The fault lies with the new user, who failed to ask before complaining, and threatened not to use the software unless the perceived, but non-existent, faults were fixed.

Constructive Criticism

Since everything is imperfect, everything can also be improved, given time, money, patience, and resourcefulness. Good people respond well to constructive criticism. Even bad people do sometimes. Almost no one likes harsh criticism that is unjustifiable, unfair, untrue, or simply the expression of someone’s negativity.

Did the Buddha Criticise Anyone?

It is true that the Buddha never slandered or abused anyone. He was completely free from jealousy and ill-will. However, he certainly did say some things that were displeasing to others. When he started teaching the Dhamma, the Brahmins were well-established as the “Church” of the day. They held that the Brahmins or priests were a superior caste to workers, farmers, merchants, and nobles. The Buddha ridiculed them in many ways, both in private with his loyal disciples and in public when non-believers were present. They lost most of their support, and conspired to discredit the Buddha by hiring a prostitute to pretend she had had an affair with him, then hiring some thugs to murder her.

The Buddha also criticised evil-doers among his own followers and constantly admonished his loyal disciples not to be heedless. He said, “Ānanda, I will not treat you [gently] as a potter treats an unbaked pot. I will instruct and admonish you repeatedly [robustly if necessary]. The sound core will stand the test.”

A basic assumption in Buddhism is that living beings are imperfect. They have defects rooted in greed, ill-will, and delusion. A Buddha, or Fully Awakened One, is a human being who began his career as a Bodhisatta many aeons ago, and cultivated spiritual perfections to achieve Buddhahood.

When Siddhattha Gotama was born, he was still an unenlightened Bodhisatta. Although already free from the vast majority of human defects shared by ordinary folk, he was still not a Buddha. He left the comfort of his palace, and meditated strenuously for six years to achieve perfection. Thereafter, he became a Buddha, and spent the remainder of his life teaching to others the meditation method that he had discovered for himself under the Bodhi tree.

Those who have faith in the Buddha’s teaching may become lay disciples, monks, or nuns. They become trainees who willingly undertake the discipline prescribed by the Buddha to train the mind, leading the practitioner towards perfection.

The Buddha would encourage his disciples with kindness and admonish them with harshness when necessary to remove their faults. If they did not respond to instruction, he would stop speaking to them. For a disciple this was the ultimate punishment. It is a spiritual death to refuse admonishment from one’s teachers and fellow monks or nuns. (See the Kesi Sutta).

Why are Buddhists Killing the Rohingya People?

Virtuous Buddhists observe the five precepts, avoiding killing even snakes and scorpions. It is impossible that they would kill defenceless women and children.

  1. Not all Buddhists are virtuous. Soldiers, especially, are not famous for abstaining from killing.
  2. Buddhists who are normally virtuous sometimes kill in self-defence, e.g. if being attacked or robbed. It is still an unwholesome deed, but less serious. No court should convict them of murder.
  3. Unmindful and uneducated Buddhists who have been stirred up by hate-preaching monks, or by an angry mob, may kill others for no legitimate reason. Their crime is one of murder, and a racially motivated or religiously motivated hate crime at that. It is worse than killing in warfare, or a crime of passion, or even one motivated by greed, e.g. if disturbed by the owner when robbing his house. It is premeditated, first-degree murder. The hate-preachers are extremely blameworthy here. Monks should be preaching about tolerance and reconciliation, but note that “Idiot Compassion” is also wrong. The wrong-doers deserve to be punished by due process of the law.
  4. Killing for revenge is not killing in self-defence. If someone murders a murderer who killed their own relative, it is still murder in the eyes of the law. One would get a lighter sentence due to mitigating circumstances. However, due process should be followed. If the murderer escapes justice in this life, he or she will still face it in the next, so a Buddhist should be long-sighted, not short-sighted, as told in the life of Dīghayu in the Jātaka story.
  5.  Mob rule and vigilante groups only happen when the rule of law is weak, and the judiciary and police are corrupt. This is the situation in Rakhine state. The Rohingya population have long been subjected to injustice, denied citizenship, education, medical care, and other basic human rights.
  6. Every country needs to deal with illegal immigration in a way that is just and not inhumane. Where no evidence of legal immigration can be shown, migrants and their families should be deported to their country of origin.