Destroying Superstition within Buddhism

When laypeople go to the temple, they think that the more incense they burn, the more merit they will have. Thatís wrong. Left-home people say that burning paper money gives the deceased money to bribe the wardens of the hells. Thatís a vile tactic.

I feel that Chinese Buddhism contains a lot of superstition. The irrational ideas and practices that cause people to lose faith in Buddhism should be reformed. If sweeping changes arenít made, I can hardly imagine what will become of Buddhism in the future.

For instance, when people go to the temple, they equate the amount of incense they burn with the amount of merit they will earn. Thatís wrong. We offer incense to the Buddha to show our respect. Itís enough to sincerely offer one stick of incense. Why offer so many sticks? If our mind isnít sincere, then no matter how many sticks we offer, there wonít be a response.

Itís not that Buddha like the smell of incense. If they did, they would be no different from ordinary people. We have to change this trend; otherwise, people will think that Buddhas crave the smell of incense, and the lofty name of Buddhism will be ruined. That would be a great offense!

Ordinary people are doing the right thing when they bow before the Buddhas, but they donít know the real meaning behind it. They only pray to the Buddhas for protection, a good position, good fortune, peace, a son or daughter, fame, and profit. The things they seek show that they are selfish and only want to benefit themselves. They donít think about benefiting people or helping the world.

Although the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas respond to all prayers and do not disappoint any living being, it is not right to be insatiably greedy. When I see this kind of situation, I have many feelings. I wish to change peopleís views about bowing to the Buddhas. I want to teach them that they should bow to the Buddhas to show their faith and to pray for world peace. Their prayers should be proper, noble, and bright. They should pray for others, not for themselves. Thatís how true Buddhists should behave.

Some left-home people advocate the benefits of burning paper money, saying that it provides the deceased with money to bribe the wardens of the hells to reduce their sentences. Thinking that monks donít lie, some people believe those Dharma Masters who tell them the more paper money they burn, the better. What they donít know is that those monks make a hidden profit. Those monks maintain a silent conspiracy of cheating people out of their money. What vile tactics! I want to change the custom of burning paper money. I want to overthrow superstition; I donít want Buddhism to receive undeserved criticism. Buddhism does not have advocate burning paper money.

A talk given by Venerable Master Hua on October 15, 1982