Buddhist chanting is definitely not meaningless. During chanting we recite the teachings of the Buddha and try to remind ourselves to follow accordingly. It is the same as Christians reciting the Bible - in order to understand the teachings of Jesus and follow them.
Misconception 2: Pastor Rony said, “The teaching is this, everybody is potentially a god … and you can be above God and be even more powerful than God.”
Buddhists do not believe in God. So there is no such concept in Buddhism claiming that we can be above God or more powerful than God. Instead, we believe that everybody has the potential to be awakened and bring an end to suffering.
Misconception 3: Pastor Rony’s interviewee (a former monk) didn’t know what Nirvana was, and said that his fellow monks didn’t know either, implying that Buddhists don’t know what they’re talking about when they refer to Nirvana.
If blind men cannot see the Sun, is it the fault of the Sun, or the fault of their own blindness? Likewise, if Joseph Wee and his former Buddhist companions do not understand what is Nirvana, is it the fault of Buddhism, or the fault of their own ignorance? Nirvana simply means "extiniguished". What is extinguished are the fires of craving, anger and ignorance, which are the causes of suffering as taught by the Buddha. When the causes of suffering are completely snuffed out, one reaches the end of suffering; a state of true happiness that is called Nirvana. As such, the Buddha said "Nirvana is the highest bliss".
Misconception 4: Pastor Rony said, “If something bad [happens], they say it’s because of your karma … If somebody falls sick, oh it’s because of your karma. It’s so easy to explain… It seems that you cannot do anything about the bad things that are happening.”
That is a wrong view rejected in Buddhism. According to Buddhist teachings Karma is but one of the 4 causes that cause things to happen the way that they have. And with regards to Karma, it is definitely not fixed and cannot be changed. If that was so then there would be no point in practicing the Buddhist teachings at all since we are all doomed to our fates. But the truth is quite the opposite. While it is true that we cannot change what we have done before in the past, we can certainly change what we are doing in the present for the better, which will influence our current lot and change our future destiny in a positive way.
Misconception 5: Pastor Rony claimed that Buddhism had simply ‘repackaged’ the doctrine of reincarnation as ‘rebirth’.
These are 2 different concepts altogether. Reincarnation is the concept of an immortal soul in us that moves from body to body during the process of birth and death. Buddhists reject the concept of an immortal soul. What we have instead are inconstant mental factors or a flowing mindstream that arises and dissolves during birth and death, in accordance to the causes and conditions that fuel it.
See my previous article http://waynedhamma.blogspot.com/2007/05/rebirth-without-soul.html for a more detailed explanation.
Misconception 6: Pastor Rony said, “How could you ever learn from your past life when you do not know what you were or who you were; whether you were a prince or a ****roach, you also don’t know… Surely there isn’t any past life because when you were born as a baby, you started with a new slate with no recollection whatsoever… There is no such thing as a previous life, or to be reborn into the next life.”
Such logic is flawed. If you cannot recall what you did yesterday, does that mean yesterday does not exist? Similarly, just because most people cannot recall their previous existences, we also cannot say that previous lives do not exist. The fact is that there are many documented cases of people (non-Buddhists) who can remember their past lives accurately and their stories can be verified by historical records. I myself was able to remember my past existence in Ayuttaya as a soldier during my Vipassana retreat in Wat Ampawan. Of course others can say I'm bias since I'm Buddhist, but surely they cannot dismiss the testimonies of those non-Buddhists who know nothing about Rebirth. To read more of those stories, one can go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Past_life_regression
Misconception 7: Pastor Rony said, “Ladies should be very offended [by the doctrine of rebirth]… One of the Buddhist persons who argued with me many years ago, he said, ‘…You are such an unbeliever, he said, next life ah, … you’ll be born as a woman!’ So you ladies, don’t believe in reincarnation.”
Buddhism is one of the first religions in the world to promote sexual equality. The Buddha clearly stated that women are just as capable as men in terms of the potential to reach enlightenment. He was the first religious leader to allow women to pursue the holy life in its fullness - as Bhikkuni or ordained nuns, despite strong cultural objection at that time. As such, the Sangha (Buddhist Community) is always made up of 4 pillars - Monks (Bhikku), Nuns (Bhikkuni), Laymen (Upasaka) and Laywomen (Upasika). And the Buddha also promoted equality among the different races, castes and even among humans and non-human beings. So there is totally no ground to accuse Buddhism as being sexist. Sexism comes from the Asian cultures that adopt Buddhism, not from Buddhism itself.
Misconception 8: Pastor Rony said, “The Buddha when he was about to die, said, 'I'm still searching for the Way', whereas Jesus comes and said, 'I'm the Way'.”