Author Topic: is Buddhism really Buddhism?  (Read 12505 times)

thor

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is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« on: March 10, 2012, 02:55:23 PM »

I have an interesting question to put forward, and would be most interested to hear your replies:

Buddhism has its share of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Buddhism also has its division to different schools, lineages and traditions. Buddhism believes in reincarnation. And Buddhists believe that all lineages/schools etc can lead you to enlightenment. Therefore:

1) Is it fair to say that all schools and lineages of Buddhism would have its share of highly attained masters, which are in reality manifestations of enlightened beings?

2) Is it correct to say that an enlightened being can reincarnate in the Buddhist school/lineage of their choosing? ie previous life - Mahayana, next life - Hinayana and so on?

3) Is it therefore, correct to say that such enlightened masters may then also choose to reincarnate as teachers of other religions - christian, hindu and so on?

4) If that is the case, would it be possible for other religions to lead you to enlightenment? Is Buddhism a label that applies to a certain set of people, and another religion lets say Christianity, also a form of Buddhism for a different set of people? Could it be possible that Christianity and Hinduism are just a part of the 84,000 teachings that Shakyamuni Buddha laid down for the people of today?

5) And is Buddhism just a label for us, and in the reality of things, there is no separation between Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity as all have the power to lead you to the ultimate state?

Please share your thoughts....This is something I have thought of many times.

hope rainbow

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #1 on: March 10, 2012, 03:54:30 PM »
My thoughts on this:

1) Is it fair to say that all schools and lineages of Buddhism would have its share of highly attained masters, which are in reality manifestations of enlightened beings?

I say: YES, we can impute that intellectually.
BUT: what is the point of even thinking/talking about this if we are not looking at our own Guru as a Buddha?
And when we recognize the Buddha qualities in our Guru, it is more precious than millions of spiritual schools/religions.

2) Is it correct to say that an enlightened being can reincarnate in the Buddhist school/lineage of their choosing? ie previous life - Mahayana, next life - Hinayana and so on?

I say: YES.

3) Is it therefore, correct to say that such enlightened masters may then also choose to reincarnate as teachers of other religions - christian, hindu and so on?

I say: YES.

4) If that is the case, would it be possible for other religions to lead you to enlightenment? Is Buddhism a label that applies to a certain set of people, and another religion lets say Christianity, also a form of Buddhism for a different set of people? Could it be possible that Christianity and Hinduism are just a part of the 84,000 teachings that Shakyamuni Buddha laid down for the people of today?

I say: YES.
BUT: why making such a point... After all, if enlightened beings do incarnate within other spiritual schools/religions or create other spiritual schools/religions, then why make the link? Maybe the point is NOT to make the link... Maybe making the link is damaging?

5)
And is Buddhism just a label for us, and in the reality of things, there is no separation between Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity as all have the power to lead you to the ultimate state?

Buddhism has never been the goal, Buddhism is "only" a path.
Let's say Buddhism is a red Ferrari, Christianity is a White Maybach, Islam is a Green Rolls-Royce.
Where do they go?
When they reach, do we stay in the car or do we alight?
Once we have alighted, what difference does it make which car we came with?
And one more thing: as a Buddhist we recognize rebirth, a bit like a stop at the petrol station on the highway, an occasion to switch cars...

YET, I do not see why discussing this helps really...
I think the best thing we can do is practice our chosen spiritual path, the one that our karma has given us, for it is probably is the best one for us, now.

(Intellect can be an obstacle to one's practice too.)

negra orquida

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #2 on: March 10, 2012, 04:24:24 PM »
Hi thor, thanks for posing these questions.  I have also thought in a similar vein before.  I cannot answer your questions though but here is what I think of the religions which I am a little more familiar with i.e. Christianity, Islam and Hinduism...

I'd like to think that Jesus, Prophet Muhammad, the Christian and Catholic saints, the Hindu Gods... etc they are some sort of Boddhisattvas.  Generally they taught the same things: do good, avoid bad, what to do to live a happy life and go to heaven, what happens if you don't and go to hell...  I've met a few genuine practicing Christians and Muslims... their explanation on how they live life the Christian / Muslim way share a lot of similarities with Buddhist teachings.  The qualities that the religion encourage their followers to develop are mostly the same as what we want to achieve with Buddhism.  Why the details are different between religions... I suppose its the respective Saints / God's skilful means to customise the teachings to suit the minds of the particular audience in that particular period. 

For example, the Christian / Muslim heaven and hell is encompassed in the 6 realms taught in Buddhism, but why don't they go a step further to explain what happens after that? Perhaps the preacher knew that his audience would not be able to accept the idea of future lives.

Even the rituals, tools, practices and beliefs of certain different religions have similarities: incense burning, offering food and alcohol, giving thanks before meals, prayers before bed, regarding relics as sacred, notion of holy objects, blessings, rosary beads, belief in spirits...

I think having a think about these kind of questions are useful if the result is to establish harmony between religions.  Otherwise, better to not think about them at all as it will not aid us in our practice.

My 2 cents... please do correct me if I have gone off tangent :)

Positive Change

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #3 on: March 11, 2012, 08:05:41 AM »
My thoughts on this:

1) Is it fair to say that all schools and lineages of Buddhism would have its share of highly attained masters, which are in reality manifestations of enlightened beings?

I say: YES, we can impute that intellectually.
BUT: what is the point of even thinking/talking about this if we are not looking at our own Guru as a Buddha?
And when we recognize the Buddha qualities in our Guru, it is more precious than millions of spiritual schools/religions.

2) Is it correct to say that an enlightened being can reincarnate in the Buddhist school/lineage of their choosing? ie previous life - Mahayana, next life - Hinayana and so on?

I say: YES.

3) Is it therefore, correct to say that such enlightened masters may then also choose to reincarnate as teachers of other religions - christian, hindu and so on?

I say: YES.

4) If that is the case, would it be possible for other religions to lead you to enlightenment? Is Buddhism a label that applies to a certain set of people, and another religion lets say Christianity, also a form of Buddhism for a different set of people? Could it be possible that Christianity and Hinduism are just a part of the 84,000 teachings that Shakyamuni Buddha laid down for the people of today?

I say: YES.
BUT: why making such a point... After all, if enlightened beings do incarnate within other spiritual schools/religions or create other spiritual schools/religions, then why make the link? Maybe the point is NOT to make the link... Maybe making the link is damaging?

5)
And is Buddhism just a label for us, and in the reality of things, there is no separation between Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity as all have the power to lead you to the ultimate state?

Buddhism has never been the goal, Buddhism is "only" a path.
Let's say Buddhism is a red Ferrari, Christianity is a White Maybach, Islam is a Green Rolls-Royce.
Where do they go?
When they reach, do we stay in the car or do we alight?
Once we have alighted, what difference does it make which car we came with?
And one more thing: as a Buddhist we recognize rebirth, a bit like a stop at the petrol station on the highway, an occasion to switch cars...

YET, I do not see why discussing this helps really...
I think the best thing we can do is practice our chosen spiritual path, the one that our karma has given us, for it is probably is the best one for us, now.

(Intellect can be an obstacle to one's practice too.)

I do love what you have said here HR especially the analogy to cars and pit stops. Cute and actually quite apt! I too believe it is all but various methods to achieving the ultimate goal. Some paths have their "limitations" but is not wrong. It is a means to getting from point to point. Sometimes we need a vehicle (to borrow HR's analogy) to get from point A to B. the vehicle is not in question... the vehicle may be slower or faster, drab or flashier, common or rare... is does not matter in the end as it gets us to our point.

However, the so called "pit stops" are the significant points whereby, certain vehicles will only get us to a point while others get us a little further. Neither is wrong nor right. It is all a question of what we can afford, can find or merely are exposed to. e.g predisposition by our karma.

So yes Buddhism is Buddhism in what it represents but it does not mean it is "better" than others. We as Buddhist believe in our path (or car) and others do too. Nothing wrong with that. So long as our cars are headed the right direction on the highway all is well. Some reach quicker than others, some in more comfort, some requiring more effort and some just cruising on by...  and some even just literally stuck at the pit stops!

DSFriend

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #4 on: March 11, 2012, 02:07:09 PM »
Dear Thor

Comparative religious studies is quite an evolved study nowadays. However, I'm not even sure where your question falls under.

It is only correct to study the religion in question as a whole and compare it as how it's being presented. If we mix and match any religion then it's not really what it is anymore thus have not much basis to withstand a "fair and logical" debate. This may be harmful for the faith in question.

I do believe that there are attained beings in other faiths however, it is the Buddhist path which leads one to full Enlightenment.

I do not agree that there is no separation between Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity or any other faith. What I believe is that these three major faiths share certain aspects of good moral teachings but is far from anywhere being even a subset of each other in any way. For example,  Christianity teaches good morals but does not present teachings on becoming enlightened. It emphasizes on salvation via the grace of a saviour. In short, if Christianity's goal is NOT about gaining enlightenment, how can its followers be enlightened?

Furthermore, Buddhism is more than just moral teachings (check out what the Lamrim has to say about this) which is where it totally breaks away from any other faiths.

jeremyg

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #5 on: March 11, 2012, 03:07:46 PM »
To me all buddhism is the same. All religion is the same. The core principle of religion is to make people better people. So why should we segregate based on religion, it goes against what religion is on about. So all forms of buddhism will lead to enlightenment. In the end we are all after the same thing, to get out of samsara.

And I have no doubt that enlightened masters have emanated all over the world, and are teaching the dharma in the most unconventional ways. I have a personal theory that Buddha Shakyamuni, the first Buddha, was already an enlightened being. He just created a story that would influence the people on planet Earth. Our earth has only existed for about 3000 years with life. So Buddha, and the Dharma must have been around way before. Therefore enlightened beings are just emanating in ways to help us in samsara. So why should buddhism be divided if it is for the same purpose. The only reason there are different sects, and schools is to cater to the needs of the students. Some people may only practice if a school has a certain style etc. But for me they are teaching the same thing.

Aurore

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #6 on: March 11, 2012, 07:53:30 PM »
I do not agree that there is no separation between Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity or any other faith. What I believe is that these three major faiths share certain aspects of good moral teachings but is far from anywhere being even a subset of each other in any way. For example,  Christianity teaches good morals but does not present teachings on becoming enlightened. It emphasizes on salvation via the grace of a saviour. In short, if Christianity's goal is NOT about gaining enlightenment, how can its followers be enlightened?

Christians says, only those who embraces God and Lord Jesus will go to Heaven. Likewise, does this mean a person like Mother Theresa cannot be enlightened because she does not follow the Buddhist path?
To me, with or without religion, one who practices true compassion should be able to achieve enlightenment because that is the law of karma anyway.

A question to ponder on within this same subject matter:-
As per Thor's question 3: the Buddhist do see Jesus as a Boddhisattva. Kali is believed to be an emanation of Palden Lhamo and Mother Mary is Kuan Yin. If this is true, why would a Boddhisattvas choose to emanate as higher beings of other religion and also world gods?

Can I safely conclude that different religion is for different minds. Perhaps other religion is like a stepping stone to start a spiritual journey and accumulative merits so that in future lives, they will have more merits to engage in deep Buddhist practice and study the lamrim. Meeting the dharma is rare. Studying and learning the Dharma is something so difficult to come along. Meanwhile, till that is possible, other religions are out there to help people from creating harm to others using various methods.

KhedrubGyatso

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #7 on: March 13, 2012, 05:08:38 AM »
I think a lot of the comments here have gone off course a bit. I like Dsfriend's comments as they are balanced and qualified.

As DSF said, the similiarities we hear and talk about amongst all religions are those that pertains to humanitarian values or ethics. However when it comes to the goals and philosophical tenets , there are big differences. For example, Buddhism don't believe in a creator god whilst the other religions do.

 I would like to take an excerpt from what Aurore said here ,
' Christians says only those who embraces God and Lord Jesus will go to Heaven. Likewise, does this mean a person like Mother Theresa cannot be enlightened because she does not follow the Buddhist path?
To me, with or without religion, one who practices true compassion should be able to achieve enlightenment because that is the law of karma anyway.

Aurore's assertions are too simplistic. We do not know Mother Theresa's spiritual practice other than her humanitarian work. M Theresa had been quoted saying  she has doubts about Christian god. From Buddhist view, doing virtuous deeds alone does not buy one a ticket to enlightenment. Without undergoing proper guidance especially under a qualified Spiritual Guide, it is too easy to assume oneself or others  has developed true compassion . The cause of enlightenment is the mind of bodhi or bodhicitta. This in turn is the result of having generated a special compassion which encompasses all living beings. One cannot develop this highest compassion without having acquired some special wisdom that can see into past, present and future lives, the working of karma and belief in the existence of 6 realms.   I have not read anywhere that  Mother Theresa had such special knowledge or that her humanitarian efforts extended to all living beings apart from the work she is well known for.
No, unless we practice the complete Buddhist path as revealed in the Lamrim,  the state of enlightenment as we Buddhists truly understand it , is not attainable by those from other faiths. 
Yes, Buddhism is uniquely Buddhism. That is why we don't go for refuge to any other beings - universal god, creator god ,mother of all gods etc or otherwise.
If enlightenment  is possible just by being kind and doing good deeds, why would Buddha spend 40 years teaching profound and vast Dharma ?

vajraD

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #8 on: March 13, 2012, 08:21:45 AM »
Personally I find that all religion is the same but I’m more incline to the Buddhist way of approach.

The difference would be the approach, method and application. If lets say I have make an appointment to meet up this person in “B” Shopping Mall in another 3 hours. Alto we both of us are in “A” Mall. I decide to drive and the next person decides to take the bus or walk the destination is still the same. If the person also decide to drive then alto we are both driving but we may not used the same road. Some rods are bumpy and some have heavy traffic. No matter what we will still come to the destination.

pgdharma

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #9 on: March 14, 2012, 02:01:04 PM »
All major religion teaches us good morality and human ethics. However, in Buddhism, besides that we need to cultivate the compassion and wisdom within us as the ultimate goal is enlightenment.

I believe that enlightened beings can emanate in different forms at different times and different places to teach the dharma according to the different minds. So I think it is correct to say that Jesus or Prophet Mohamed are emanations of enlightened beings who appeared at a particular time to teach specific people according to their minds and their needs. Maybe this is just the beginning for them to start their spiritual journey which may lead them to Buddhism in their future lives and eventually lead them to enlightenment. The ultimate goal is enlightenment, some methods take longer and some faster. The bottom line is to reach our destination, enlightenment, irrespective of which vehicle, method or approach we take to reach our destination.

Big Uncle

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #10 on: March 15, 2012, 04:21:41 AM »
This is an interesting post here and I believe some of the questions had been raised before. Here are my thoughts:-

1) Is it fair to say that all schools and lineages of Buddhism would have its share of highly attained masters, which are in reality manifestations of enlightened beings?

- Yes, I believe that all authentic schools of Buddhism would have its fair share of attained masters who are qualified and able to guide others. However, I do not believe that all attained masters are necessarily emanations of Buddhas. There are masters who have achieved great attainments through the merit of their own spiritual practice. However, there are quite a few masters who are also great emanations of enlightened beings too. So, it doesn't really matter if they are emanations or not but whether they are qualified to teach and guide others or not.

2) Is it correct to say that an enlightened being can reincarnate in the Buddhist school/lineage of their choosing? ie previous life - Mahayana, next life - Hinayana and so on?

-Yes, they can emanate back and forth. Lama Zopa's previous life was a great Nyingma meditator and one of Kyabje Trijang Rinpoche's previous life was recognized as the Karmapa and he held the seat of the Karma Kagyu and was well-respected. However, most Tulkus choose to return as custodians of their previous life's lineage so the special teachings could be preserved and propagated.

3) Is it therefore, correct to say that such enlightened masters may then also choose to reincarnate as teachers of other religions - christian, hindu and so on?

- It is possible for enlightened masters to emanate out as teachers of other faiths. They would emanate for the sole purpose of leading that group of people towards finding a path. I believe that Mother Teresa was definitely an emanation as she has helped so many poverty-stricken Indians. She continues to inspire people till this day although she has passed away. I am not clairvoyant but that seems to me, the actions of a Bodhisattva.

4) If that is the case, would it be possible for other religions to lead you to enlightenment? Is Buddhism a label that applies to a certain set of people, and another religion lets say Christianity, also a form of Buddhism for a different set of people? Could it be possible that Christianity and Hinduism are just a part of the 84,000 teachings that Shakyamuni Buddha laid down for the people of today?

- Yes, all religions preaches the virtue of moral conduct. However, it leads you halfway but does not bring you all the way towards enlightenment. Buddhism is specially designed with its many levels of mental capacity in mind to help bring you towards enlightenment. That doesn't mean all Buddhists will reach enlightenment in this lifetime or those of other religions cannot reach enlightenment. Everybody has an equal chance but it is faster and quicker if you knew the path or you knew someone who could lead you there. That's the major difference. On the other hand, Christianity and Hinduism are not a part of Buddha's teachings. They do share certain similarities but they are very different religions and with different founders.

5) And is Buddhism just a label for us, and in the reality of things, there is no separation between Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity as all have the power to lead you to the ultimate state?

-Yes, i believe you are right. Religion is just a label after all. Calling oneself a Buddhist and performing its superficial rituals does not bring you closer towards enlightenment than a Christian or a Hindu. However, in Buddhism, there is a greater amount of teachings that point the way our mind works and teachings that guide us step-by-step towards enlightenment. It is up to us to follow it without getting caught up with the labels and rituals.

yontenjamyang

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #11 on: March 15, 2012, 10:15:39 AM »
Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes. Everything in samsara are labels of the mind.

Yes the saints, prophets and gurus are bodhisattvas. The main difference are the goals of that particular labelled religion that is suitable to the practitioner. All religion brings beings to path of happiness but the destinations are different. Some to kindergarden, some to primary, some to high school and some to college and then yet some to post graduate school. Atheist and people who study and "practice" on their own are self schooled! No hope to graduate...sorry to say that!

But all this are labels only right? Religions catalogs these labels. The teachers are the drivers, the teachings is the vehicle and the  the senior practitioners are the follow passenger. Each vehicle goes to the same direction but stop at different destinations.

Klein

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #12 on: March 15, 2012, 04:14:19 PM »
Yes, Yes, Yes and Yes. Everything in samsara are labels of the mind.

Yes the saints, prophets and gurus are bodhisattvas. The main difference are the goals of that particular labelled religion that is suitable to the practitioner. All religion brings beings to path of happiness but the destinations are different. Some to kindergarden, some to primary, some to high school and some to college and then yet some to post graduate school. Atheist and people who study and "practice" on their own are self schooled! No hope to graduate...sorry to say that!

But all this are labels only right? Religions catalogs these labels. The teachers are the drivers, the teachings is the vehicle and the  the senior practitioners are the follow passenger. Each vehicle goes to the same direction but stop at different destinations.

I agree with yontenjamyang. There are differences in the destination of each religion. However, the similarity is achieving happiness and inner peace by being selfless or compassionate. That's why we Buddhists identify the prophets and saints as Bodhisattvas. The prophets and saints were selfless just like our Bodhisattvas.

Whatever the differences may be, I believe it's important to be committed to one of the religions in order to realise real spiritual results. These religions are methods with proven track records. I've not heard of any Enlightened person who follows a mixture of different religions. So the key here is to choose one and practise all the way.

tsangpakarpo

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #13 on: March 18, 2012, 01:57:51 PM »
Here's my share

1) Is it fair to say that all schools and lineages of Buddhism would have its share of highly attained masters, which are in reality manifestations of enlightened beings?
Yes, I personally believe all schools and lineages of Buddhism have its share of attained masters. In fact I would like to add that all religions have its share of attained masters! Emanations of enlightened beings are all over the universe. Because of their compassionate nature, the manifest as anyone/anything to bring the Dharma to us.

2) Is it correct to say that an enlightened being can reincarnate in the Buddhist school/lineage of their choosing? ie previous life - Mahayana, next life - Hinayana and so on?
Again, enlightened beings can manifest as anyone/anything. Wherever there is a need, they will be there to guide. We have heard of so many stories of animals saving us humans and so on. I personally believe these are also enlightened beings who chose to manifest as animals to help the people they saved.

3) Is it therefore, correct to say that such enlightened masters may then also choose to reincarnate as teachers of other religions - christian, hindu and so on?
A simple, YES!

4) If that is the case, would it be possible for other religions to lead you to enlightenment? Is Buddhism a label that applies to a certain set of people, and another religion lets say Christianity, also a form of Buddhism for a different set of people? Could it be possible that Christianity and Hinduism are just a part of the 84,000 teachings that Shakyamuni Buddha laid down for the people of today?
Anyone can gain enlightenment anywhere as long as their motivation is towards that. It is just a matter of time (this life/next life/etc). There are different ways as there are different timing. Some ways are faster, some are slower. Whatever is it, the Buddha once said that there will come a time where we all will become Buddhas. And yes I believe the 84,000 ways are part of that.

5) And is Buddhism just a label for us, and in the reality of things, there is no separation between Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity as all have the power to lead you to the ultimate state?
I would say Buddhism is the quickest path to the ultimate state. But then again, other religions are no different. 84,000 ways for many different people!

vajrastorm

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Re: is Buddhism really Buddhism?
« Reply #14 on: March 20, 2012, 07:40:01 AM »
A very interesting thread indeed. I would like to zero in on Question 5 - " Is Buddhism just a label for us, and in the reality of things there is no separation between Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, as all have the power to lead you to the ultimate state?"

Buddhism is the only religion that provides us with a distinctive path to the ultimate state and in this case, the Ultimate State is total liberation from suffering or Complete Enlightenment(as is shown us in the Lamrim).Also in the Lamrim, we are reminded that there are Four Seals that make Buddhism Buddhism and not any other religion. AS Dzongsar Rinpoche shows us , in his book " What Makes You not a Buddhist",only if we accept and believe all four, can we call ourselves Buddhists. These Four Seals are:

(i)All contaminated compounded phenomena are impermanent.
(ii)All existence (all emotions) are in the nature of suffering.
(iii)All compounded phenomena have no inherent existence.
(iv)Nirvana is peace (Nirvana is beyond concepts).

Also, as DS Friend says,Buddhism is about more than moral teachings concerning doing good and avoiding evil. In the Mahayana/Bodhisattva path, there are three aspects of ethics. These are:
the ethic of abstention from wrongdoing, the ethic of collecting virtue and the ethic of working to benefit others. For the Buddhist, the Refuge vow which they take (to become Buddhists) is the vow that involves mainly abandonment of non-harming or non-virtuous actions(ten in all - 3 of body, 4 of speech and 3 of mind).