K. Sri Dhammananda
Quang dịch Việt
Source-Nguồn: budsas.org, buddhanet.net, samanta.vn
Part Five - A Religion For Real Human Progress
Chapter 13 - Nature, Value And Choice Of Religious Beliefs
Man and Religion
Man is the only living being in this world who has discovered religion and performs worship and prayer.
Man developed religion in order to satisfy his desire to understand the life within him and the world outside him. The earliest religions had animistic origins, and they arose out of man's fear of the unknown and his desire to placate the forces which he thought inhabited inanimate objects. Over time these religions underwent changes, being shaped by the geographical, historical, socio-economic, political and intellectual environment existing at that time.
Many of these religions have become organized and are flourishing to this day, backed by a strong following of devotees. Many people are drawn to organized religions because of the pomp and ceremony, while there are some who prefer to practice their own personal religion, inwardly venerating their religious teachers and applying moral principles in their daily life. Because of the importance of practice, every religion claims to be a way of life, not merely a faith. In view of their various origins and paths of development which religions undergo, it is hardly surprising that the religions of man should differ in their approach, the understanding and interpretation of their followers, their goal and how it can be achieved, and their concept of reward and punishment for deeds performed.
In terms of approach, religious practices may be based on faith, fear, rationality or harmlessness: Faith forms the basis of many religious practises which were developed to overcome man's fear and to meet his needs. A religion of miraculous or mystical powers exploits that fear which arises from ignorance and makes promises of material gain based on greed. A religion of devotion is based on emotion and the fear of the supernatural which, it is so believed, can be appeased through rites and rituals. A religion of faith is based on the desire for gaining confidence in the face of the uncertainty of human life and destiny.
Some religious practices grew as a result of the development of man's knowledge, experience and wisdom. The rational approach to religion had been adopted in this case, incorporating the principles of human value and natural or universal laws. It is based on humanism and concentrates on the cultivation of humane qualities. A religion of cause and effect or kamma is based on the principle of self-help and assumes that the individual alone is responsible for his own happiness and suffering as well as salvation. A religion of wisdom is based on the application of reason and seeks to understand life and the reality of worldly conditions through analytical knowledge.
Harmlessness and goodwill are common elements found in religion. A religion of peace is based on the principle of causing no harm to oneself as well as others, and its followers are to cultivate a harmonious, liberal and peaceful life. A religion of goodwill or loving-kindness is based on the sacrifice and service for the welfare and happiness of others.
Religions differ according to the understanding capacity of their followers and the interpretation which religious authorities give to the religious doctrines and practices. In some religions, codes, while in others they only provide advice on the need and the way to follow these codes. Every religion will offer reasons to explain the existing human problems and inequalities and the way to remedy the situation. By way of explanation, some religions claim that man has to face these problems because he is on trial in this world. When such an explanation is given, another may ask, 'For what purpose? How can a man be judged on the basis of just one life when human beings generally differ in their experiences of physical, intellectual, social, economic and environmental factors and conditions?'
Every religion has its own concept of what is regarded to be the goal of spiritual life. For some religions, eternal life in heaven or paradise with the Lord is the final goal. For some the ultimate aim in life is the union of universal consciousness, because it is believed that life is a unit of consciousness and it must return to the same original consciousness. Some religions believe that the ending of suffering or repeated birth and death is the final goal. For others, even heavenly bliss or union with Brahma (creator) is secondary to the uncertainty of existence, no matter, whatever form it takes. And there are even some who believe that the present life itself is more than enough to experience the aim of life.
To attain the desired goal, every religion offers a method. Some religions ask their followers to surrender to God or depend on God for everything. Others call for stringent asceticism as the means of purging oneself of all evil through self mortification. Some others recommend the performance of animal sacrifices and many kinds of rites and rituals as well as the recital of mantras for their purification to gain the final goal. There is yet another which upholds diverse methods and devotions, intellectual realization of truth, and concentration of the mind through meditation.
Each religion has a different concept of punishment for evil deeds. According to some religions, man is doomed forever by God for his transgressions in this one life. Some others say that action and reaction(cause and effect)operate due to natural laws and the effect of a deed will only be experienced for a certain period. Some religions maintain that this life is only one of so many, and a person will always have chance to reform himself in stages until he finally evolves to attain the goal of Supreme Bliss.
Given such a wide variety of approaches, interpretations and goals of different religions adopted by mankind, it is useful for people not to hold dogmatic views about their religion but to be open to and tolerant of other religious views.
The Buddha said: 'One must not accept my teachings from reverence, but first try them as gold is tried by fire.'
After emphasizing the importance of maintaining an open mind towards religious doctrines, it is useful to remember that a religion should be practised for the welfare , freedom and happiness of all living beings. That is, religious principles should be used positively to improve the quality of life of all beings. Yet today, humankind is corrupted and has gone astray from basic religious principles. Immoral and evil practices have become common among many people, and religious-minded people experience difficulties trying to maintain certain religious principles in modern life. At the same time, the standard of basic religious principles is also lowered to pander to the demands of polluted and selfish minds. Man should not violate universal moral codes to suit his own greed or indulgence; rather man should try to adjust himself according to these codes taught by religion. Religious precepts have been introduced by enlightened religious teachers who have realized the noble way of life which leads to peace and happiness. Those who violate these precepts transgress the universal laws, which, according to Buddhism will bring bad effects through the working of moral causation.
This does not mean, on the other hand, that a person should slavishly follow what is found in his religion, regardless of its applicability to modern times. Religious laws and precepts should enable people to lead a meaningful life, and are not to be used to bind them to archaic practices and superstitious rituals and beliefs. A person who upholds the basic religious principles should give credit to human intelligence and live respectably with human dignity. There must be some changes in our religious activities to correspond to our education and the nature of our changing society, without at the same time sacrificing the noble universal principles. But it is recognized that making changes to any religious practices is always difficult because many conservative people are opposed to changes, even if they are for the better. Such conservative views are like a stagnant pool of water, while fresh ideas are like the waterfall where the water is constantly being renewed and is, therefore, usable.
Distortion of Religion
Despite the value of religion in moral upliftment, it is also true to say that religion is a fertile soil for the development of superstitions and devotional hypocrisy, wrapped under the cloak of religiosity. Many people use religion to escape from the realities of life and put on the garb of religion and religious symbols. They may even pray very often in places of worship, yet they are not sincerely religious minded and have not understood what religion stands for. When a religion has been debased by ignorance, greed for power and selfishness, people quickly point an accusing finger and say that religion is irrational. But 'Religion'(the ritualistic external practice of any teaching)must be distinguished from the teaching itself. Before one criticizes, one must study the original teachings of the founder and see it there is anything intrinsically wrong with it.
Religion advise people to do good and be good, but they are not interested in acting thus. Instead they prefer to cling to the other practices which have no real religious values. Had they tried to culture their minds by eradicating jealousy, pride, cruelty and selfishness, at least they would have found the correct way to practise a religion. Unfortunately, they develop jealousy, pride, cruelty and selfishness instead of eradicating them. Many people pretend to be religious, but commit the greatest atrocities in the name of religion. They fight, discriminate and create unrest for the sake of religion, losing sight of its lofty purpose. From the increase in the performance of various so-called religious activities, we may get the impression that religion is progressing, but the opposite is really the case since very little mental purity and understanding are actually being practised.
Practising a religion is nothing than the development of one's inner awareness, goodwill and understanding. Problems would have to be faced squarely by relying on one's spiritual strength. Running away from one's problems in the name of spiritualism is not courageous, much less to be regarded as spiritual. Under today's chaotic conditions, men and women are rapidly sliding downhill to their own destruction. They irony is that they imagine they are progressing towards a glorious civilization that is yet to be realized.
In the midst of this confusion, imaginary and plastic religious concepts are propagated to create more temptation and confusion in man's mind. Religion is being misused for personal gain and power. Certain immoral practices, such as free sex, have been encouraged by some irresponsible religious groups to introduce their religion among youths. By arousing lustful feelings, these groups hope to seduce boys and girls into following their religion. Today religion has degenerated into a cheap commodity in the religious market giving scant regard to moral values and what they stand for. Some missionaries claim that the practice of morals, ethics and precepts are not important as long as a person has faith and prays to God, which is believed to be sufficient to grant him salvation. Having witnessed how some religious authorities have misled and blindfolded their followers in Europe, Karl Marx made a caustic remark: 'Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the feelings of a heartless world, just as it is the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.'
Man needs a religion not for the reason of giving him a dream for his next life or providing him with some dogmatic ideas to follow, in such a way that he surrenders his human intelligence and becomes a nuisance to his fellow beings. A religion should be a reliable and reasonable method for people to live 'here and now' as cultured, understanding beings, while setting a good example for others to follow. Many religions turn man's thoughts away from himself towards a supreme being, but Buddhism directs man's search for peace inward to the potentialities that lie hidden within himself. 'Dhamma'(meaning, to hold on)is not something a person searches outside himself, because in the final analysis, man is Dhammaand Dhammais man. Therefore, true religion, which is Dhamma,is not something outside us that we acquire, but the cultivation and realization of wisdom, compassion and purity that we develop within ourselves.
If any religion has the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Path, then it can be regarded as a proper religion.
It is a very difficult for a man to find out why there are so many different religions, and which religion is the true one. Followers of every religion are trying to show the superiority of their religion. Diversity has created some uniformity, but in matters of religion, men took upon each other with jealousy, hatred and disdain. The most respected religious practices in one religion are deemed ridiculous to others. To introduce their divine and peaceful messages some people have to resorted to weapons and wars. Have they polluted the good name of religion? It seems that certain religions are responsible for dividing instead of uniting mankind.
To find a true and proper religion, we must weigh with an unbiased mind what exactly is a false religion. False religion or philosophies include: materialism which denies survival after death; amoralism which denies good and evil; any religion which asserts that man is miraculously saved or doomed; theistic evolution which holds that everything is preordained and everyone is destined to attain eventual salvation through mere faith.
Buddhism is free from unsatisfactory and uncertain foundations. Buddhism is realistic and verifiable. Its Truths have been verified by the Buddha, verified by His disciples, and always remain open to be verified by anyone who wishes to do so. And today, the Teachings of the Buddha, are being verified by the most severe methods of scientific investigation.
The Buddha advises that any form of religion is proper if it contains the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path. This clearly shows that the Buddha did not want to form a particular religion. What He wanted was to reveal the Ultimate Truth of our life and the world. Although the Buddha expounded the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold Noble Path, this method is not the property of Buddhists alone. This is universal Truth.
Most people find it necessary to put forth arguments to 'prove' the validity of the religion that they are following. Some claim that their religion is the oldest and therefore contains the truth. Others claim that their religion is the latest or newest and therefore contains the truth. Some claim that their religion has the most followers and therefore contains the truth. Yet none of these arguments are valid to establish the truth of a religion. One can judge the value of a religion by using only common sense and understanding.
Some religious traditions require man to be subservient to a greater power than himself, a power which controls his creation, his actions and his final deliverance. The Buddha did not accept such powers. Rather, He assigned to man that very power by asserting that each man is his own creator, responsible for his own salvation. That is why it is said that 'There is none so godless as the Buddha and yet none so godlike'. The religion of the Buddhists gives man a great sense of dignity; at the same time it also gives him great responsibility. A Buddhist cannot put the blame on an external power when evil befalls him. But he can face misfortune with equanimity because he knows that he has the power to extricate himself from all misery.
One of the reason why Buddhism appeals to intellectuals and those with a good education, is that the Buddha expressly discouraged His followers from accepting anything they heard(even if it came from Himself)without first testing its validity. The teachings of the Buddha have remained and survived precisely because many intellectuals have challenged every aspect of the teachings and have concluded that the Buddha had always spoken the undeniable Truth. While other religionists are trying to 'reassess' their founder's teachings in the light of modern knowledge about the Universe, the Buddha's teaching are being verified by scientists.
Without a spiritual background man has no moral responsibility: man without moral responsibility poses a danger to society.
Buddhism has been an admirable lighthouse for guiding many a devotee to the salvation of eternal bliss. Buddhism is especially needed in the world today which is riddled with racial, economic and ideological misunderstandings. These misunderstandings can never be effectively cleared until the spirit of benevolent tolerance is extended towards others. This spirit can be best cultivated under the guidance of Buddhism which inculcates an ethical moral co-operation for universal good.
We know that it is easy to learn vice without a master, whereas virtue requires a tutor. There is a very great need for the teaching of virtue by precepts and examples.
Without a spiritual background, man has no moral responsibility; man without moral responsibility poses danger to society.
In the Buddha's Teaching, it is said that the spiritual development of man is more important than the development of material welfare. History has taught us that we cannot expect to gain both worldly happiness and everlasting Happiness at the same time.
The lives of most people are generally regulated by spiritual values and moral principles which only religion can effectively provide. The governmental interference in the lives of people is made comparatively unnecessary if men and women can be made to realize the value of devotion and can practise the ideals of truth, justice and service.
Virtue is necessary to attain salvation, but virtue alone is not enough. Virtue must be combined with wisdom. Virtue and wisdom are like the pair of wings of a bird. Wisdom can also be compared to the eyes of a man; virtue, to his feet. Virtue can be likened to a vehicle that brings man up to the gate of salvation. But wisdom is the actually key that opens the gate. Virtue is a part of the technique of skillful and noble living. Without any ethical discipline, there cannot be a purification of the defilements of sentient existence.
Buddhism is not mere mumbo-jumbo, a myth told to entertain the human mind or to satisfy the human emotion, but a liberal and noble method for those who sincerely want to understand and experience the reality of life.
The reality or validity of belief in God is based on man's understanding capacity and the maturity of the mind.
The Development of the God-idea
To trace the origin and development of the God-idea, one must go back to the time when civilization was still in its infancy and modern science was still unknown. Primitive people, out of fear of and admiration towards natural phenomena, had believed in different spirits and gods. They used their belief in spirit and gods to form religions of their own. According to their respective circumstances and understanding capacity different people worshipped different gods and founded different faiths.
At the beginning of the God-idea, people worshipped many gods--gods of trees, streams, lightning, storm, winds, the sun and all other terrestrial phenomena. These gods were related to each and every act of nature. Then gradually man began to attribute to these gods, sex and form as well as the physical and mental characteristics of human beings. Human attributes were given to the gods: love, hate, jealousy, fear, pride, envy and other emotions found among human beings. From all these gods, there slowly grew a realization that the phenomena of the universe were not many but were One. This understanding gave rise to the monotheistic god of recent ages.
In the process of development, the God-idea went through a variety of changing social and intellectual climates. It was regarded by different men in different ways. Some idealized god as the King of Heaven and Earth; they had a conception of god as a person. Others thought of god as an abstract principle. Some raised the ideal of Supreme deity to the highest heaven, while others brought it down to the lowest depths of the earth. Some pictured god in a paradise, while others made an idol and worshipped it. Some want so far as to say that there is no salvation without god?no matter how much good you do, you will not receive the fruits of your actions unless you act out of a faith in god. The Atheists said, 'No' and went on to affirm that god did not really exist at all. The Skeptics or Agnostics said, 'We do not or we cannot know.' The Positivists say that the God-idea was a meaningless problem since the idea of the term god 'was not clear'. Thus there grew a variety of ideas and beliefs and names for the God-idea: pantheism, idolatry, belief in a formless god, and belief in many gods and goddesses.
Even the monotheistic god of recent times has gone through a variety of changes as it passed through different nations and people. The Hindu god is quite different from gods of other faiths. Thus numerous religions came into existence: each one differed greatly from the other in the end, and each one says that 'God is One'.
The God-idea and Creation
As each religion came into existence and developed around the God-idea, religion developed its own particular explanation of creation. Thus the God-idea became associated with various myths. People used the God-idea as a vehicle for their explanation of the existence of man and the nature of the universe.
Today, intelligent men, who have carefully reviewed all the available facts, have come to the conclusion that, like the God-idea, the creation of myths must be regarded as an evolution of the human imagination which began with the misunderstanding of the phenomena of nature. These misunderstandings were rooted in the fear and ignorance of primitive man. Even today, man still retains his primitive interpretations of creation. In the light of recent, scientific thinking, the theological definition of god is vague and hence has no place in the contemporary creation theories or myths.
If man is created by an external source, then he must belong to that source and not to himself. According to Buddhism, man is responsible for everything he does. Thus Buddhists have no reason to believe that man came into existence in the human form through any external sources. They believe that man is here today because of his own action. He is neither punished nor rewarded by anyone but himself according to his own good and bad action. In the process of evolution, the human being came into existence. However, there are no Buddha-words to support the belief that the world was created by anybody. The scientific discovery of gradual development of the world-system conforms with the Buddha's Teachings.
Human Weakness and the Concept of God
Both the concept of God and its associated creation myths have been protected and defended by believers who need these ideas to justify their existence and usefulness to human society. All the believers claim to have received their respective scriptures as Revelation; in other words, they all profess to come directly from the one God. Each God-religion claims that it stands for Universal Peace and Universal Brotherhood and other such high ideals.
However great the ideals of the religious might be, the history of the world shows that the religions up to the present day have also helped in spreading superstitions. Some have stood against science and the advancement of knowledge, leading to ill-feelings, murders and wars. In this respect, the God-religions have failed in their attempt to enlighten mankind. For example, in certain countries when people pray for mercy, their hands are stained with the blood of the morbid sacrifices of innocent animals and sometimes, even fellow human beings. These poor and helpless creatures were slaughtered at the desecrated altars of imaginary and imperceptible gods. It has taken a long time for people to understand the futility of such cruel practices in the name of religion. The time has come for them to realize that the path of real purification is through love and understanding.
Dr. G. Dharmasiri in his book 'Buddhist critique of the Christian Concept of God' has mentioned, 'I see that though the notion of God contains sublime moral strands, it also has certain implications that are extremely dangerous to the humans as well as to the other beings on this planet.
'One major threat to humanity is the blindfold called 'authority' imposed on the humans by the concept of God. All theistic religions consider authority as ultimate and sacred. It was this danger that the Buddha was pointing at in the Kalama Sutta. At the moment, human individuality and freedom are seriously threatened by various forms of authorities. Various 'authorities' have been trying to make 'you' a follower. On top of all our 'traditional' authorities, a new form of authority has emerged in the name of 'science'. And lately, the mushrooming new religions and the menace of the Gurus(as typified by Jim Jones), have become live threats to the individual's human freedom and dignity. The Buddha's eternal plea is for you to become a Buddha, and He showed, in a clearly rational way, that each and every one of us has the perfect potentiality and capacity to attain that ideal.'
God-religions offer no salvation without God. Thus a man might conceivably have climbed to the highest pinnacle of virtue, and he might have led a righteous way of life, and he might even have climbed to the highest level of holiness, yet he is to be condemned to eternal hell just because he did not believe in the existence of God. On the other hand, a man might have sinned deeply and yet, having made a late repentance, he can be forgiven and therefore 'saved'. From the Buddhist point of view, there is no justification in this kind of doctrine.
Despite the apparent contradictions of the God-religions, it is not deemed advisable to preach a Godless doctrine since the belief in god has also done a tremendous service to mankind, especially in places where the god concept is desirable. This belief in god has helped mankind to control his animal nature. And much help has been granted to others in the name of god. At the same time, man feels insecure without the belief in god. He finds protection and inspiration when that belief is in his mind. The reality or validity of such a belief is based on man's understanding capacity and spiritual maturity.
However, religion should also concern our practical life. It is to be used as a guide to regulate our conduct in the world. Religion tells us what to do and what not to do. If we do not follow a religion sincerely, mere religious labels or belief in god do not serve us in our daily life.
On the other hand, if the followers of various religions are going to quarrel and to condemn other beliefs and practices -- especially to prove or disprove the existence of God -- and if they are going to harbor anger towards other religions because of their different religious views, then they are creating enormous disharmony amongst the various religious communities. Whatever religious difference we have, it is our duty to practise tolerance, patience and understanding. It is our duty to respect the other man's religious belief even if we cannot accommodate it; tolerance is necessary for the sake of harmonious and peaceful living.
However, it does not serve any purpose to introduce this concept of god to those who are not ready to appreciate it. To some people this belief is not important to lead a righteous life. There are many who lead a noble life without such belief while amongst believers there are many who violate the peace and happiness of innocent people.
Buddhists can also co-operate with those who hold this concept of god, if they use this concept for the peace, happiness and welfare of mankind but not with those who abuse this concept by threatening people in order to introduce this belief just for their own benefit and with ulterior motives.
For more than 2,500 years, all over the world, Buddhists have practised and introduced Buddhism very peacefully without the necessity of sustaining the concept of a creator of God. And they will continue to sustain this religion in the same manner without disturbing the followers of other religions.
Therefore, with due respect to other religionists, it must be mentioned that any attempt to introduce this concept into Buddhism is unnecessary. Let Buddhists maintain their belief since it is harmless to others and, let the basic Teachings of the Buddha remain.
From time immemorial, Buddhists have led a peaceful religious life without incorporating the particular concept of God. They should be capable of sustaining their particular religion without the necessity, at this juncture, of someone trying to force something down their throats against their will. Having full confidence in their Buddha Dhamma, Buddhists should be permitted to work and seek their own salvation without any undue interference from other sources. Others can uphold their beliefs and concepts, Buddhist will uphold theirs, without any rancor. We do not challenge others in regard to their religious persuasions, we expect reciprocal treatment in regard to our own beliefs and practices.
Merely to believe that there is someone to wash away our sins without suppressing our evil state of mind, is not in accordance with the Teachings of the Buddha.
Very often we come across cases of people who change their religion at the last moment when they are about to die. By embracing another religion, some people are under the mistaken belief that they can 'wash away their sins' and gain an easy passage to heaven. They also hope to ensure themselves a simple and better burial. For people who have been living a whole life-time with a particular religion, to suddenly embrace a religion which is totally new and unfamiliar and to expect an immediate salvation through their new faith is indeed very far-fetched. This is only a dream. Some people are even known to have been converted into another faith when they are in a state of unconsciousness and in come cases, even posthumously. Those who are over zealous and crazy about converting others into their faith, have misled uneducated people into believing that theirs is the one and only faith with an easy method or short-cut to heaven. If people are led to believe that there is someone sitting somewhere up there who can wash away all the sins committed during a life-time, then this belief will only encourage others to commit evil.
According to the Teachings of the Buddha there is no such belief that there is someone who can wash away sins. It is only when people sincerely realize that what they are doing are wrong and after having realized this, try to mend their ways and do good that they can suppress or counter the bad reactions that would accrue to them for the evil they had committed.
It has become a common sight in many hospitals to see purveyors of some religions hovering around the patients promising them 'life after death'. This is exploiting the basic ignorance and psychological fear of the patients. If they really want to help, then they must be able to work the 'miracles' they so proudly claim lies in their holy books. If they can work miracles, we will not need hospitals. Buddhists must never become victims to these people. They must learn the basic teachings of their noble religion which tells them that all suffering is the basic lot of mankind. The only way to end suffering is by purifying the mind. The individual creates his own suffering and it is he alone who can end it. One cannot hope to eradicate the consequences of one's evil actions simply by changing one's religious label at the door-step of death.
A dying man's destiny in his next life depends on the last thoughts which appear to him according to the good and bad kamma he had accumulated during his current lifetime, irrespective of what type of religious label he prefers to do himself at the last moment.
Paradise is open not only to the followers of a particular religion, but it is open to each and every person who leads a righteous and noble way of life.
There is no difficulty at all for Buddhists to go to heaven if they really want to. But there are some people who go from house to house trying to convert other religionists into their faith and promising them the heaven they carry in their bags. They claim that they are the only blessed people who can go to heaven; they also claim that they have the exclusive authority to send others to the same goal. They introduce their religion like a patent medicine and this has become a nuisance to the public today. Many innocent people who lack the knowledge of their own religion, have become victims of these paradise sellers.
If Buddhists can understand the value of the Noble Teachings of the Buddha, they will not be misled by such people. These paradise sellers are also trying to mislead the people by saying that this world which is created by god, is going to end very soon. Those who want to have a wonderful everlasting life in heaven must accept their particular religion before the end of the world comes, otherwise people would miss this golden opportunity and would have to suffer in eternal hell.
This threat of the end of the world, had been going on for hundreds of years. The wonder of it all is that there are still people today who believe in such a treat which is irrational and imaginary. Some people get converted after hearing such preaching, without using their common sense.
In Buddhism, there is no personal judge either to condemn or to reward but only the working of an impersonal moral causation and natural law.
Why wicked people enjoy while good people suffer
Some people ask, 'If good begets good and bad begets bad why should many good people suffer and some wicked people prosper in this world? ' The answer to this question, according to the Buddhist point of view, is that although some are good by nature, they have not accumulated enough good merits in their previous birth to compensate for the bad effects of unwholesome kamma in this present life; somewhere in their past there must have been some defect. On the other hand, some are wicked by nature and yet are able to enjoy this life for a short period of due to some strong good kamma that they accumulated in their previous birth.
For example, there are certain people who by nature have inherited a strong constitution and as a result enjoy perfect health. Their physical power of resistance is strong and hence they are not prone to illnesses. Although they do not take special precautions to lead a hygienic life, they are able to remain strong and healthy. On the other hand, there are others who take various tonics and vitamin?enriched foods to fortify themselves, but in spite of their efforts to become strong and healthy, their health do not show any improvement.
Whatever good and bad deeds people commit within this life-time, they will definitely experience the reaction within this life or hereafter. It is impossible to escape from their results simply by praying, but by cultivating the mind and leading a noble life.
Buddhists are encouraged to do good deeds not for the sake of gaining a place in heaven. They are expected to do good in order to eradicate their selfishness and to experience peace and happiness.