Is it a must for Buddhists to go to temple?
In Buddhism, discussion of the Dhamma has been considered a vital part for studying and understanding the Dhamma.
However this is rarely done today. In instances where most Buddhists congregate, such as temples on poya days, they idle away the time. If the excess time had been used for discussions based on the Dhamma, it would not only make up for the excess time, it would also benefit the upasaka (lay adherent) by expanding their knowledge in the Dhamma.
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Answers provided by Ven. Thalpavila Kusalangnana Thera
Q: Some believe that no matter from where you worship the Buddha the potency of merits that is acquired, is the same. Consequently is it a must for Buddhists to go to the temple?
A: The Temple is considered to be a place where the Triple Gem resides. The surroundings of a temple are formulated so that one can achieve calmness of mind. One’s mind that is flustered due to the day-to-day hustle and bustle of the workplace and home life will be calmed upon entering a temple.
The best place to pay homage to the triple gem and soothe ones mind is the temple. The temple is the one and only place where one can pay homage to the Sharirika dhatu (bodily elements), sacred Bo Tree used by the Buddha and statues of the Buddha erected in his name.
However, though going to the temple and paying homage to the Triple Gem is of utmost importance it can not be practised every day, when one is leading a hectic life. But this is no excuse to prevent oneself from worshipping the Triple Gem. Buddhists should go to a temple at least once every weekend and make it a point to worship the Triple Gem every day at home, at least once.
Unfortunately Buddhists are gradually losing their grasp on practices such as worshipping the Triple Gem, as one family. Today the Devils box - in other words the television - has taken that place. The television is responsible for the deterioration of most of our ethics. The responsibility of teaching children to worship the Triple Gem lies with the parents.
Q: Must one who observes the five precepts well without violating it, need to repeatedly observe Sil?
A: What is more important is not merely observing Sil but maintaining it without violating the precepts. No amount of observation would be of any use for those who do not adhere to the steps of training. It is like washing a piece of cloth while repeatedly soaking it in mud. However repeatedly observing Sil may be a source of reminiscence, of what sort of Sil we are supposed to adhere to.
This would be beneficial for the Buddhist to observe Sil without violating the precepts. Repeatedly observing Sil can be considered as Silanussathi meditation as well, it involves reminiscing Sil. Observing Sil repeatedly would also be exemplary for others around us.
Q: Should a person who does not have the calmness of mind to meditate, adopt giving alms and observing Sil, or should he or she strive to master the art of meditation?
A: The Buddha has said that - like the ocean that deepens in several levels, Nibbhana also has a strata. And the first stratum is Dhana (giving alms), middle is Sila and the deepest level is (Bhawana) meditation.
It would be a lie if one said that meditation could not be mastered by one who gives alms and observes Sil properly. Because giving alms weakens the defilement of avarice, by observing Sil one can suppress many other defilements.
Through meditation one can weaken, suppress and ultimately totally eradicate defilements. A person who gives alms and observes Sil will find it easier to concentrate while meditating.
However meditating is not as easy as giving alms or observing Sil. During the first stages of meditation an unexpected amount of unfavourable thoughts will cross ones mind.
The suppressed defilements will emerge and begin to trouble the meditating mind. A person who possesses a weak mind will give up at this stage, fearing for ones wellbeing and happiness. One who continuous to meditate in spite of hardships will later realize its boundless contentment.
The first man who ate rice for the first time may have thought that it was not that appetizing, but today we can not survive without rice. Meditation is no different. Mind refuses novelty, but one must learn to persevere and conquer.
Q: What are the benefits and objectives of wearing blessed thread (pirith nul)?
A: Pirith is the sacred word of the Buddha, the power contained in it is immeasurable. Water and thread are the substances that are best capable of harnessing the immense power generated by these sound waves.
A person who wears a thread in which this immense energy is instilled will surely constantly benefit by the goodness of it. These powers contained in the blessed thread will not expire after a few days. But it is advisable to obtain a new one when it gets dirty.
As people of other religions wear different items to symbolize their own religions, the Pirith nula has symbolic values for Buddhists. Since the right hand is considered more important its tied on the right hand.