Questions and Answers about Buddhism

For any questions about Theravada Buddhism, one may ask questions by emailing The questions will be answered once a week on Zoom, or directly through email if one prefers.

March 7, 2023

Question #1

One of my main difficulties is a lot of fear. I tend to assume the worst. For instance, when I go outside a lot of dogs bark at me. When they are not on a leash, I get very afraid. I’m afraid they will bite me, so I turn around and walk the other way. In the past, a lot of things didn’t go well, and I tend to store up those memories and dwell on them. I can see how practicing meditation can help.


I would like to suggest that you practice meditation more to overcome your fear.

Fear is a state of the mind. If you practice meditation often you will see the constant rising and passing of different thoughts and different states of the mind, including fear. When fear arises, observe it, don’t run away from it, and keep observing it like any other object, until it becomes weak and fades away.  Then you can let your mind be aware of another object.

Use this method to be aware of any object that arises in your mind. If you can manage to face the objects in your meditation, then you will successfully manage the same objects in reality. What you experience during meditation and in real life is the same. This is the way to overcome your fear.

Question #2

I feel like I am not respected or understood where I live. I try to treat everyone with respect, but I have not been treated that way. I feel like a stranger in the place I have lived for a long time. I’ve had to deal with some disrespect since being here. My family is not from here. I think it would be better to be in a place where I belong, but I have not worked up the courage to leave. When you’re not from a place, I think a lot of things are harder. My parents want me to get a really good job. And that makes sense, but in this area, I think that will be hard. Do you have any advice from your own experience?


Please use meditation to strengthen your mind. When you exercise your body, your body will become stronger. Likewise, when you exercise your mind, your mind will be stronger. Meditation is about exercising your mind. When you meditate, meditation gives you a positive feeling and a positive outlook on life. Consequently, people around you will see the change in you and they will start respecting you. In order for this to happen you must first train your mind.

You said, your parents want you to get a really good job.  To me, a really good job means doing something you enjoy, and the financial reward is sufficient. It is more important to try to live a contented life with the salary you earn. The money you earn should be divided into 4 portions. Two portions are to be invested in your business, one portion is for your daily use, and one portion is for contribution back to society in some form of donation. Try to practice this and you will start to live a balanced, rewarding life.

Question #3

Most of my experience has been with samatha-bhavana. I’ve been trying to figure out how it’s different from vipassana-bhavana. I guess a simple answer is that the former has the goal of calming fabricated things, whereas the latter tries to understand things as they are. For me, I think samatha is more useful now. What is your understanding?


Samatha-bhavana is a calm meditation. It helps to temporarily suppress your defilements, but it will not be able to uproot all your defilements completely. Samatha can be thought of as placing a stone over the grass. Someday when you remove the stone, the grass will continue to grow. Similarly, so long as you practice Samatha your defilements will temporarily stop growing, but if you stop meditation your defilements will continue to grow as before.

 Vipassana-Bhavana, on the other hand,  is insight meditation. One is supposed to see things as they really are. In other words, one momentarily places their attention on the present object that arises at one of the six doors, namely: eyes, ears, nose, tongue, body, and mind. Whatever object arises at that door, one is supposed to be aware of it, one does not make a judgment about the object. Just be aware of it as it is, and let it go.  This is the way to uproot your defilements.