A practising Buddhist should not be fearful of an Islamic State

When I was young, I used to hate the loud speaker prayer noise. I probably automatically and sub-consciously adopt the general energy/chi of the Chinese communities grudgingly complaining about the noise.

By Kuo Yong Kooi
Yong kooi is a Yoga and Qi Gong instructor residing in Melbourne as a permanent resident of Australia.

Mahayana and Theravada Buddhism

The contemprorary mainstream Mahayana “joss-stick” Chinese Buddhist is so flexible that it absorbed Confusionism, Taoism and materialism in its practices.  Please note this is not to criticise practising mahayana monks, nuns and believers who adopt and practice the basic Buddhist five precepts seriously.

I remember as a child observing my grandmother, mother and other Chinese in the village where I grew up, practices involved pleasing and offering the gods so that we can be wealthy. As long as the “empat ekor nombor” is correct there will be more devotions and offerings to the gods in the future.

In traditional Theravada (Sri lanka, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Burma) Buddhism, there is an emphasis on the basic five precepts which has a lot in common with all other major religions. The emphasis is “I undertake the training not to” kill, steal,lie, practice sexual misconduct and taking intoxicants. Although these are rules laid down by the Buddha, Buddhists do not have a top to bottom church to enforce thses rules. Those who are devout Buddhists should uphold these rules for their own peace of mind/spiritual wellbeing.

If we compare and adopt these basic five precepts with Islamic rules, “haram on pork” is not a problem; we should be having mainly vegetarian meals so as not to encourage killing of animals in general. If we steal, lie and have sexual misconduct, our conscience will not be clear and that will affect our quest to find more peace of mind.

The Buddha specifically stated alcohol and drugs in the category of intoxicants cause heedlessness. As for modern science there has been lots of scientific studies to prove that drugs and alcohol do have long term effects on the brain. So an Islamic state that closes lots of alcohol venues will do a lot of social good.

In the Western and developing countries that uphold the so-called concept of “freedom” to use drugs and alcohol, social and wellbeing issues of it’s society is highly affected. Lots of hospital injuries are inundated with drug and alcohol related injuries both of violence and accidents. Medical resources are highly diverted to treat drug, alcohol and cigarrette related illnesses. Mental illness issues are also related to abuse of drugs and alcohol.

Gambling was not specifically mentioned in the category of intoxicants; however an addiction to gambling ruins your life and your relationships with your family and friends. If you are a casual gambler like a lot of Chinese who adopt the habit of playing mahjong to kill time, as a practising Buddhist, you are basically wasting your time. The Buddha advices his diciples to practice diligently for life is uncertain and short.

If you want to further your spiritual practice in Buddhism, the Buddha advices his diciples to practice eight precepts which extends to no meals after high noon (12 midday), no high and luxurious beds and no bodily beautifications like make up, wearing jewellery, entertainments like going to shows and listening to music. These extra precepts are to encourage practitioners to live a more meditative and simpler life style.

In most monasteries in the Theravada tradition you are only allow to drink juices or water after lunch, which basically “puasa” after midday. Most Buddhists are encouraged to spend some time in the monasteries once in a while. It’s compulsory for the Thai and Burmese tradition to send their kids to the monastery once as a young boy and later before marriage to get some training. Unfortunately only for boys in Thailand; but I believe it is cultural, the historic Buddha did ordain women as nuns at a time when women were the ownership of their husbands or their fathers. That is definately radical in the Buddha’s time.

The blissful moment of Azan

When I was young, I used to hate the loud speaker prayer noise. I probably automatically and sub-consciously adopt the general energy/chi of the Chinese communities grudgingly complaining about the noise. Not until I did some temporary Buddhist monk training in Southern Burma in 1997 were there are some practising muslims in minority in Burma. After having practiced five to six months five times a day sitting meditation in the monastery, my mind experienced a lot of peace.

There were many early morning hours when I was awake and meditating in my hut as the Muslim call for prayer begans. I experienced tremendous peace, more blissful than the normal peace that I experienced daily. It was an uplifting one and it complements meditation. From those days on, my mind has turned into liking and looking forward to early morning prayers noise/sound. I do not know the meaning of the words and I am sure the Malaysian prayers are more soothing and sound nicer than the Burmese muslim one, but somehow the peace in my mind blends in harmonously with that sound of call for prayers.

If we have been busy and tired, we can easily get frustrated and angry at anything around us. That is the nature of the mind. The Buddha’s teaching is about embarking on an inward journey into our mind and trying to understand the nature of our minds. If we are not experiencing peace in ourselves, there is always something to blame. The teachings ask us to rearrange our perspective internally for if we arrange the world outside to suit our desires and wants, then we are deluded and full of “self”. The perspective of “that prayer sound is horrible” was instilled onto me by the society around me as a child, but after experiencing lots of days of peaceful moments internally, the perspective changed.

So if you feel frustrated and angry at those call for prayer sounds, please ask yourselves have you been practising diligently like our muslim counterparts? If we have been to karaoke singing and drinking into the late hours of the evening, I assure you those call for prayer sounds will be horrible in the early hours of the morning. But if we have been meditating diligently and seriously embarking into a simpler spiritual lifestyle, the call for prayer sounds can be an incentive for us to wake up and practice more to search for more peace in our hearts.