Monday, September 30, 2002


Even when life is hell, hell keeps me from killing myself.
I know I'll be jumping from the pan into the fire if I do,
from a shallower hell into a deeper one! reply
Movie Dharma Review : eXistenZ (

The time is now 4.20am- I just finished watching the show on my notebook. I scribbled down some interesting conversation from the movie. Thought of writing this before bed. (Don't feel like sleeping because I disappointed a friend badly. Guilt trip to the movies at home. Am sending this review to her- though she told me more than once she hates the word "existential"- which appears here a few times!)

"Set in the near-future, eXistenZ depicts a society in which game designers are worshipped as superstars and players can organically enter inside the games. At the centre of the story is Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh) whose latest games system eXistenZ taps so deeply into its users' fears and desires that it blurs the boundaries between reality and escapism." -From the back VCD sleeve. (eXistenZ won the Berlin Silver Bear Prize in 1999)

"eXistenZ" is a movie that screened shortly after "The Matrix". There are some parellel themes on the questioning of what is illusion and what is (virtual) reality. Here are some quotes which relate to this samsaric eXistenZ of ours. The dialogue that I find interesting happens to be very existential in nature.

Allegra: You have to play the game to find out why you're playing the game.
Zeph comments: Now that's a lot like life; that's life-like! Life is essentially meaningless- till a/the meaning is found.

Dasinator (Is that how it's spelt?): Who sent you?
Ted Pikul (Jude Law): It doesn't matter who sent us. We're here- that's all that matters.
Zeph comments: Thus the Buddha tells us not to hanker on the past (lives).

Allegra: Don't panic- it's just a game.
Zeph comments: Don't panic- life is just a game; an illusion too, of sorts.

Pikul (on speaking unlike his usual self in the game): That wasn't me- that was my game character.
Zeph comments: That wasn't me- that was my pre-programmed alter ego- my past karmic habitual forces reacting by default! Lame excuse!

Pikul (about the game environment): Everything is so dirty, absurd, grotesque!
Zeph comments: Pure mind; pureland. Even a game world is samsara as long as we are samsaric.

Pikul (about the game storyline): I think there is an element of psychosis involved here!
Allegra: Yes- that's a great sign.
Zeph comments: Congrats to waking up to the first noble truth!

Allegra (on ejecting from the game): So how does it feel? Your real life that you came back to?
Pikul: It feels completely unreal... I'm not sure. I'm not sure here at all. This feels like a game to me.
Zeph comments: Like Zhuangzi's story of waking up after dreaming he was a butterfly, after which he said he doesn't know whether he is now a butterfly dreaming it's a man!

Pikul: I don't want to be here!
Allegra: Come on Pikul! You've just got a bad case of first-time user anxiety.
Pikul: I don't like it here. I don't know what's going on. We're both stumbling around together in this unformed world with its rules and objectives largely unknown, seemingly inexplicable or possibly non-existent. We're always on the verge of being killed by forces we don't understand.
Allegra: Sounds like my game alright!
Pikul: If it's a game, it isn't going to be easy to market!
Allegra: But it is a game everybody's playing already.
Zeph comments: Existential blues for Pikul- feeling like a new-(re)born babe in the game which is still Samsara! Samsara is a game that doesn't need much hard marketing- we are all fools for it- playing it this very moment!

Security Guard (about to be shot by Pikul at end of movie): Tell me the truth- are we still in the game?
Zeph comments: Yes we are! To win this game, realize non-self and exit from life and death. This last liner from the movie set Pikul and Allegra frowning. I remember leaving the theatre after watching The Matrix wondering if I am in the Matrix too. I shrugged the question away. But of course I am in it! The Matrix, of... no prizes for getting it right... Samsara! reply
What Should Others Do?

Q: If we are here to save all living beings, what are all living beings here for?
A: To save each other! That is the best choice!
Q: What other choices do we have?
Q: Well... Other choices include-
1. To harm each other.
2. To harm each other sometimes and to save each other sometimes!
3. To do neither! reply

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Have Fun Making Mistakes

My toddler nephew Ryan, who is slightly over a year old, can't call me ("Gu" in Teochew dialect, which means uncle) properly, try as he might for quite some time. When he tries, he make a sound like "Bliii !" I see him making his lips go crooked, straining hard in concentration. But after the wrong sound comes out, he grins and giggles, and I laugh, giving him a pat on the head.

Why can't we have fun making mistakes? I don't mean to purposely make mistakes of course. As long as we have tried our best in each moment, that is enough. Even when we fail, we can simply have a hearty laugh at our silliness and try again. No need to feel bad at all! We give up on ourselves when we have not learnt to readily forgive ourselves. This is the first major lesson I learnt from my Bodhisattva nephew! reply

An addition to the NNN formula (see entry below titled "NNN") for writing, as inspired by Sophie is SSS- stands for "Short, Sharp & Sweet". You might wonder- some of these articles aren't very short. Well, they are concise! That's the real meaning of "short, sharp and sweet"! It so happens that the message in the particular article is longer; it doesn't mean it is long-winded simply because it looks long! Don't judge by appearances; but by substance! reply
Movie Dharma Review : The Matrix

See on news of the upcoming 2003 sequels to "The Matrix", "Matrix Reloaded" and "Matrix Revolutions". Here's another one of the numerous Dharma parellels discovered by Hong and me. There is a scene where Neo got ejected from being hooked up in the gooey substance in the Matrix. He was washed out, drained from the system. This made us relate to him being a stream-winner entering the stream! The yucky stuff was external defilements that were rid off, allowing his Buddha-nature to come forth! This is just an additional observation to some seven pages of other parellel observations I noted when the movie was first screened! I'll put it up online somewhere in time. Haha. reply
Movie Dharma Review : Groundhog Day

See for a fantastic review on one of the best movies ever made in our time- Groundhog Day. In the movie, Bill Murray finds himself caught in a time-warp where he wakes up each morning to to morning before on Groundhog Day (See the link on what this day is about). At first, he feels frustration at being "trapped" in what he saw to be a senseless cycle. But he gradually realises that he is still free each day to change his mind on how to life this "same" day anew with different choices. Towards the end, he realises that he wasn't really trapped at all!

This is interesting. Groundhog day is a micro version of rebirth! It is likened to being caught in the cycle of birth and death. We are in a certain sense trapped, yet free- to free ourselves, to attain True Happiness, instead of fretting and resigning to "fate". Every day then, is a fresh Groundhog day- a fresh chance to stop repeating, and to make up for the mistakes we made yesterday. reply
Pureland Vs Defiled Land

How can we deserve to see or be reborn in a Pureland,
if we physically exploit and defile this very land we live in?
To guarantee rebirth in Pureland,
begin purifying this land,
with our mental and physical efforts.
This has been a Green Dharma Message. reply
Mindfulness Bell Ringing

Invitation of the Bell to Sound

Listen, listen,
this wonderful sound brings me back to my true self.
Body, speech and mind in perfect oneness,
I send my heart along with the sound of the bell.
May the hearers awaken from unmindfulness
and transcend all anxiety and sorrow.
(in-breath) Listen, listen...
(out-breath) This wonderful sound brings me back to my true self.

This is a way to bring peace and quiet into being within yourself
so that you may transmit this peace to everyone around you.

-Thich Nhat Hanh
My handphone gave off a chime I never heard before on the stroke of midnight- the very first minute of my birthday a few days ago. I was bewildered for a while, before realising I set it on a reminder ring mode almost a year ago- to herald the passing of another year in my life, and the arrival of another. It reminded me of Thich Nhat Hanh's verse on the Mindfulness Bell, which is invited to sound every fiftteen minutes in Plum Village, to remind everyone to return to mindfulness of the moment. It's a nice coincidence that the gentle handphone alarm sounded like a bell too. If the Mindfulness Bell is to bring one to reflect on the micro-moment, the handphone bell brought me to reflect on all the moments I'd been through so far and to speculate on all the moments to come. But of course, all these happened in the same micro-moment of now. After I switched off the ringing, I chanted Amituofo ten times. From this moment onwards, may I be as aware of each moment as I can be. reply
Stock-Taking Life

Sophie: How's the spiritual stock-taking coming along, birthday boy? Wait till you hit __, then you will know what is major stock-taking!
Zephie: Stock-taking now is clearing physical and mental garbage from my life. Tomorrow I sort out what's leftover, and decide what stocks are missing.
I don't have to wait till I'm __ to do major stock-taking! Don't we all live in the end of our days? Taking the best care of every moment without losing sight of impending death is major stock-taking well done. reply
Home Sweet Home

Inspired by Lynn's SMS sent when she reaches home:

Om my love!
Ah my love!
Hum my love!

Om Sweet Hum!

Om Ah Hum!
"AH" is a dzogchen mantra.
"OM" and "HUM" are used to punctuate many mantras.
"OM AH HUM" is a chant to relax and open the mind, among other uses.

Monday, September 23, 2002

Be Semi-Retired Now!

When one is retired, does one really have nothing truly wothwhile to do? Or is there something that one should seriously do, especially if one hasn't began yet? I'm taking about spiritual cultivation. Some retirees cannot seem to stand the idea of not working, and rush back to work though they can "enjoy" their golden sunset years. I think this is sad. It seems like a case of not being able or willing to face oneself spiritually nakedly. It seems like a refusal or failing to realise that there is a higher purpose in life other than to keep busy and feel purposeful in a mundane way.

How will you spend your last years? Aha! Trick question. We do not know when our last years are due to the unpredictability of life. So what should we do? Live in a semi-retired mode now! By retirement here, I take it to mean renunciation from greed, hatred and ignorance and being caught up in busy worldly matters, so as to be able to find time for in-depth spiritual cultivation. But how can we sever ourselves from worldly matters now when we have to work and survive? We can't- unless we are doing Dharma work or are studying in a Buddhist institute. That is why I used the term "semi-retired mode." Once again, not in the conventional sense. Semi-retired in the sense that we are ready to let everything go instantly when we have to! Death can strike any time! Being in this mode while not forsaking our full worldly responsibilities to work, family and all, a certain freedom is already achieved now! reply
Two Bodhi Leaves have Fallen

Sandy: Recently, a Bodhi leaf fell in front of me when I was doing prayers to an open-air Buddha. This is the second time in my life. Like the very first time it happened, I am unemployed and very ill. Would anyone be able to share a little about Bodhi leaves that had fallen in their lives?

Zeph: Hi Sandy, this is what I think. Falling Bodhi leaves are just like any other falling leaves- the natural law of impermanence at work. But what makes a falling Bodhi leaf more special is that it should serve to AWAKEN us to the truth of change (impermanence), since the Buddha awakened under the Bodhi tree, since "Bodhi" means "awakening".

But please don't understand this only negatively. Since you are ill, it does not imply you will fall like the leaf due to impermanence. It can also mean you will get well. Change can happens both ways- for better or for worse. You did get well after the first time a Bodhi leaf fell before you when you were ill- things changed for the better, did they not? This second time round, will things change for the better? There is perhaps no guarantee- but what is guaranteed is that there will be change to your situation. May you be strong and brave to actively make any decisions to change your situation for the better. And may you be strong and brave spiritually to accept any inevitable changes that may come.

What does impermanence teach us? Not to simply be unattached to life and what is precious in life, but to treasure the transiency of life in each and every moment, which will not return- to make the most of NOW.

Sometimes it is funny that we keep praying to the Buddha for good health, forgetting this simple truth that no matter how good our health will be, it will come to pass one day. How can the Buddha keep us alive forever, as long as we have our own unresolved life and death karma to deal with by ourselves? Let us pray instead, that the Buddha guides us to learn whatever we should in the moment, be we in good or not so good health. Perhaps the falling Bodhi leaf is already a teaching from Him? Why not?

So much said, maybe the falling leaf had no particular meaning. It might just be a falling leaf :-]

May you be well and happy :-]
May you have a speedy recovery. reply
Taking the Bodhisattva Vow

To take the Bodhisattva Vow
is to set the resolution
to minimise the harming of all sentient beings in any way
and to maximise the helping of all sentient beings in every way possible.

It might sound like an impossible task, but it is not.
In any moment, you can only do so much- to help all beings.
So just do as much as you can in each moment,
while trying your best to increase your ability to do more in future moments.

If you feel that you should take the Bodhisattva Vow,
there is no reason you should not at least TRY to.
Be a Bodhisattva on trial and see how it goes!
You can go on trying as long as you need,
before you truly take the Bodhisattva Vow!

And what do you know?
Even this trying your best during your trial-and-error
is already the beginning of your Bodhisattva career,
only without the Vow!
This is likened to not needing marriage vows to pronounce love and commitment!

The ritual of taking the Vow solemnises, formalises.
Go through it to verify your willingness to commit.
But commitment does not have to begin only from there.
It can begin now!
TRY to be a Bodhisattva! reply
What Kind of Taxi Driver are You?

We are taxi-drivers of life.
We have to work to stay alive.
We have to clock the time and mileage to make a living.

We can choose to fret the job
and be guilty of driving our passengers slowly in a roundabout way,
to clock the time and mileage to make the dough.
We bluff our way through day in and out,
making enemies of strangers (who lose their patience),
spreading ill-will.
It's a lose-lose situation for the driver and passengers.

Or we can choose to work happily
and drive our passengers briskly in the shortest way possible,
to clock the same time and mileage to make the same dough,
while ferrying more passengers than the unhappy driver (since we drive briskly).
We make an honest living,
making friends of strangers (who are happy with our service),
spreading good-will.
It's a win-win situation for the driver and passengers.

What kind of taxi-driver are you?
In life, you are not just the driver;
you are the passenger in the driver seat.
You create the cause and experience the effect.
You drive yourself.
You drive your life.
How are you driving?
Where is it getting you to?
Are you on the freeway to Enlightenment or the highway to hell? reply
Let Go & Get Free

Dharma practice is about learning to let go.
True freedom is to be truly free of everything mental and physical.
It is the relinquishment of mind and matter, form and formlessness.
It is the letting go of entire worlds, transcendence of the universe itself.
How do you let go of the physical?
By letting go of the mental- since mind rules over matter.
When you let go of your Greed, Hatred and Ignorance in your mind,
what can tempt, disgust or delude you in the world?
Once you are totally unbound, space and time cannot hold you.
To be able to truly save the universe, you have to be free of the universe itself.
To be able to free the imprisoned, you have to be free of the prison. reply

Sunday, September 22, 2002

One Thought at a Time

According to the Buddha, you can only have one thought at a time, even though each thought-moment is fleetingly fast- fast enough to trick you into thinking you are capable of having two thoughts simltaneously. This can be verified through watching the rising and falling of your thoughts in Vipassana (insight) meditation. The speed of thought is about 76 times faster than the speed of light! The Buddha never taught two, or three-pointedness meditation; He only taught one-pointedness meditation. We can only concentrate at one point at a time effectively- just as a magnifying glass can only focus sunlight to a single point. If we can have two thoughts at a time, the significance of the Pureland teaching of chanting single-mindedly with an unscattered mind becomes meaningless. It would mean we can entertain thoughts of attachment while chanting Amituofo and yet still be reborn in Pureland! What practice do we need then? Chanting, like meditation, should be a practice to concentrate the mind, so as to sharpen it to be penetrative enough to see the reality of the Three Universal Characteristics.

It is not efficient in terms of time and effort to "multi-task", to chant and work or listen at the same time. For example, while you think that you are simultaneously chanting-listening to someone speak in each moment, what's happening is that you are chanting in one moment and listening in the next. You are dividing your concentration by half for each task! This does not do "justice" to the chanting or listening- as each task is only performed half-heartedly. Just when you think you are being hardworking, you are actually lowering your efficiency by more than half for each task- as there will be losses of concentration due to straying off of the mind!

Then is multi-tasking really possible? Yes- but not in the sense of having two thoughts at the same time. Think of a hand holding a ball as a task. This is one task. Think of another hand holding another one too. This is task two. Some tasks such as these can be done together without the need to concentrate with much effort. Not fantastic enough as an example of multi-tasking? Someone throws in the third ball... and you begin juggling. This is still one thought at a time at work. Juggling is a series of hand-eye coordination steps, and the mind functions one thought at a time to ensure the balls are kept in the air such that one ball can only be held at a time in any one hand.

At this point, you might ask- if such a complicated action as juggling can be done, why can't we practise chanting and something else at the same time? The answer has already been given- spiritual practice should be done nothing less than wholeheartedly. This is the true meaning of Right Effort, and in terms of meditation and chanting, Right Mindfulness and Right Concentration too. Unless we are doing something mechanical, such as walking in an "auto-pilot mode", chanting should not be coupled with tasks such as listening- since listening should be an active process of receiving, processing and returning information! ((It is okay to listen to one's own chanting during chanting, but not so to something else.) reply
In the Nick of Time

Here's something related to the entry on "Reverse Psychology on Seeking Birth in Pureland". About two weeks ago, I was meditating when I found myself keep falling asleep. The first few time I kind of let it be... meaning that once I wake up, I carry on meditating without any self-blame or any other hassle. But as time got nearer to the end of the session, I got a little panicky. Running through my mind was the thought, "Darn it, I'd better meditate properly! Time's running out!" And surprisingly, every time I jolted out of the subsequent micro-sleep periods, I become incredibly refreshed and entered a calm and clear concentrated state of mind within seconds. (However, I got complacent and fell asleep again later!)

I can relate this to one's last moments. In the nick of time, if one knows that he is running out of time, he might snap into a state of clarity. But this has to do with habit too. It will be much easier and more automatic for a regular meditator. I write this to refute the idea that it is always very hard to have a good state of mind while dying. The reverse can be true; the nearer to death the easier it is! But the more inconsistent your regular practice is, the harder it will be! reply
Prepare Now for Later

Although last minute things should be avoided,
they should be prepared for.
Afterall, the most important event in our life is a last minute thing which cannot be avoided-
how well we die-
which is closely connected to
how well we live here and now! reply
Unchanging Change

Zeph: Since everything is changing such that we cannot take steady refuge in anything,
we can only take refuge in the acceptance of change-
this is taking refuge in the truth of Anicca (constant change of mind and matter).
This truth is the quintessence of the Three Universal Characteristics, of the Dharma.
Uen: Isn't it comforting to know that everything changes?
When the time comes for you to go,
there is nothing permanent for you to cling to.
Just walk away in ease with no worries :> reply

My new formula for writing- NNN- stands for (e)Nlightening aNd (e)Ntertaining. Haha. reply

SMS Dialogue earlier-

Sophie: Time check- 10.50am. Happy Birthday! You have another 13 hours 10 minutes to celebrate your birthday. And another 364 days to celebrate your __th year. haha.
Zephie: Just woke up. Resolution- sleep normally. Nay! Wee hour writing is the best! Blogged 18 articles last night! You guest-star here and there! haha.
Sophie: Birthday celebrated in a haze and daze of sleepiness. haha. Well up and at it! Time's a wasting!
Zephie: Everyday is re-birth-day. Every moment is re-birth-moment. Every moment is good for waking up! haha. reply

Zephie: I am going for a series of personal counselling sessions to help unravel the hidden depths of my personality iceberg and to vanquish my inner demons!
Sophie: Don't go with your preconceived ideas! Keep an open mind.
Zephie: Of course! I dislike liars- even if it is me. How to seek truth if we lie to ourselves? What's the point of counselling if it is a rationalisation session? Haha... an open mind also means the possibility that the counsellor mis-diagnoses! In the end, it is always self-reflection that will save oneself. It is the First Noble Truth of acknowledging the reality of a problem when there is one. If we listen to shrinks all the time, we are at their mercy! If one sees psychiatrists, it might be worse! Medication and all... that can alter your moods! On the other hand, no shrink can help one who refuses to see a real problem as one! It is like the Buddha showing us the path to Enlightenment- shrinks can only point the way- we have to walk it! reply
About Mr Tortise

Zeph: How's Mr Tortise? Help me chant Three Refuges for them! And Amituofo too!
Zhen: Mr and Mrs Tortises (4!) have actually been my pets for a long time. I find myself lacking time to take good care of them. Still considering whether to liberate them.
Zeph: I think it is better to keep them from the hazards of the wild since they are used to being reared. Chant regularly before them and give them Metta (Loving-Kindness)!
Zhen: Metta + me put in more effort to clean and feed them... hope that will convince Mum to keep them. Ha... :p Must buck up and take good care of them. I will chant for them.
Zeph: Sadhu! May tortise family and your family be one big happy family! reply
Reverse Psychology for Seeking Birth in Pureland

Usually, we imagine it will be difficult to let go of our attachments on our deathbed, even when we aspire to seek birth in Pureland. I propose considering the situation the other way round. We should realise here and now that clinging as much as we might during our last moments, there is nothing that we can hold on to from our present life as we pass away; our karmic energy is our only possible check-out luggage. Knowing this clearly, we should not be spending a iota of mental energy trying to grasp the ungraspable. If we see this clear enough, we should gladly and easily put all our attention to chanting Amitabha Buddha's name to seek birth in Pureland instead.

Vice versa is true; there are loads of stuff readily for us to cling on to while we are alive. In this sense, it is harder to put all our attention to chanting Amitabha Buddha's name to seek birth in Pureland now while alive and kicking, and not dying! This is what I mean by reverse psychology for seeking birth in Pureland- the harder it is to let go now while alive should logically be equal to the easier it will be to let go when dying! Of course, this is no excuse to forgo everyday practice! Disclaimer: Forgo regular practice at own risk of not being born in Pureland! reply

Saturday, September 21, 2002

Reply 1 : Birthday Boy's Blues

Email Exchange-

Uen: Zeph, Don't just pay lip service to practise. In your earlier article One Good Glimpse you correctly pointed out that meditation practise was the way to enlightenment. And yet when I asked you yesterday how often you practise. I get the idea that regular meditation practise is not part of your routine. It is time to wake up, Birthday Boy! Put your money where your mouth is. Words are easy but practising what you preach is more important. And in this case the ultimate challenge and reward.

Zeph: Wo! This got cc-ed to Hong and Lynn... I liao already! (It's over for me!) Haha. ok la I know! And gimme pressure when I slack ok? That's what spiritual friends are for right? Hehe

Uen: Haha. I know. It was done deliberately. They are closer to you and see you more often, it was a pressuring tactic so they can also remind you ; )

Zeph: Wicked but kind- thanks. Haha

Zeph: (later, after 2 hours of meditation at Awareness Place Meditation Centre) I am quite happy with my meditation today! Hehe reply
Debunking the Myth of Randomness

Was thinking of writing a final entry for the night but had no topic in mind. I wanted a random topic, so I went to and keyed in the word "random", where I came across something interesting...

This following paragraph is from

The true random numbers are generated using atmospheric noise which for many purposes is better than the pseudo-random numbers typically generated by computer programs. If you want to know more, read the introduction to randomness and random numbers or go back to the main page.
I find this amusing because this webpage seems to scientifically objectively generate randomness when it does not! It assumes atmospheric noise as random, when it is an exact science! Exact in the sense that even noise occurs accordingly as specific effects subject to the coming together of other specific natural causes and conditions, which are in turn subject to other causes and conditions. Randomness does not exist in the universe! Even the results of rolling dice can be calculated from the die shape, weight distribution, the way it was thrown, the energy is was thrown with... Okay, calculation of the results might be near impossible- it seems as if the whole universe is involved in such a simple act, but the idea is there- there is nothing that occurs by chance in the physical world of mechanics.

How does this relate to us? A lot! If the physical world, which is very complex, does not operate by chance, we have every reason to believe that neither does the mental and moral world, which is much more complex. In fact, the more complex something is while having the ability to be stable means there are proper laws at work. Cause and effect on the physical plane is called the law of casuality. On the mental plane, we call it Karma! And yes... since the physical and mental laws of cause and effect operate simultaneously in this world, in this space-time continumn, they inevitably interact. Thus, physical events, such as windfalls or strokes of misfortune that happen to us are not accidents, but the operating of the law of karma. Vice versa, we can generate mental intentions to create, say, a paradise on Earth, and indeed effect it upon the physical world through collective green efforts.
For fun, here's a sequence of numbers randomly generated from the website above-


What does it mean? Given the fact that it is not by chance that you deserve to see this very string of numbers? What can you do with it? Buy lottery numbers? Haha... Do drop me a mail if it appears to have significance to you! No convoluted theories please! reply

Something I wrote on 17/8/02. Some parts are no longer relevant!

Went to see "Unfaithful" alone last Thursday.
Felt a little strange- like a secret rendezvous with a stranger on the silver screen in the dark.
No one else knowing I'm here watching an affair in action seems to be an affair in action!

I needed to see it somehow.
Needed to see how someone becomes unfaithful to her significant other.
Needed to reflect on whether I might ever be unfaithful.
(I'm not married though)

The conclusion I have is that
it is so easy, so "natural" to unmindfully become unfaithful.
As easily as how it easily leads to so much suffering.
A lie that can lead to the chain-breaking of all other precepts!

I have never been unfaithful and do not intend to be.
In fact, I am thinking of not ever possibly becoming unfaithful
by not ever being faithful to one person by committment of love.
Not so that I can flirt,
but so that I can befriend many,
without ever feeling answerable to one person,
without ever fearing one person's jealousy.

I want to have faith that this can be done.
"Reach out, touch faith- Your own personal Jesus."
So sings Depeche Mode in their One Night in Paris concert DVD on this notebook now.
I want to be my own personal Jesus, personal Messiah, saviour.
But I also wish to be others' personal Jesus, Bodhisattva, best I can-
should they need one.

Before we can have faith in anyone,
we need to have faith in ourselves-
to trust that we are worthy of the Bodhisattvas' kindness.
Do not ever be unfaithful then-
to yourself, someone, or the Bodhisattvas-
for it would be a matter of letting the whole universe down.

Out of 5 stars, I give "Unfaithful" * * * * 1/2 reply

Ky: If I am having my period, can I visit a temple... and also pray for it? Especially when it feels uncomfortable? Is it disrespectful?
Zeph: No problem :-] But maybe what's more important is that you do not feel uncomfortable in any way doing so. It might be difficult to feel respectful when you are uncomfortable mentally and/or physically. Remember! Mind over matter! May you be well and happy. reply
Why I am Not Sleeping!

Well... it's because I want to write the following-

If you are reading this blog at wee hours when you should be in bed, you can...

1. Meditate- you get to rest and practise Dharma at the same time!
2. Read Dharma Books or the rest of the Dharma blogs below.
3. Write a Dharma blog by hitting this reply link!
Here's a topic on what you can write on if you can't think of one-
"Why I am Not Sleeping!"

Haha- no prizes for guessing why this blog is entitled as it is!
Meaning in an Empty Relationship

It's weird... when wanting to be in a love relationship is often wanting someone to acknowledge ourself, wanting someone to take us to be the most important person to him or her in the world. It is trying to use emptiness to affirm something to be unempty when it is just emptiness too.

What do I mean? Learnt something in sutta class... something I already knew, but never thought of that way... We are just a bunch of five aggregates (form, feeling, perception, volition and consciousness) which are empty of any self. And so is the person we love the same! Thus, the only meaningful love relationship is a spiritual one where each person helps each other to realise each other and "oneself's" emptiness of self! Any ego-boosting of "self" or any dependency on another "self" makes it a worldly love relationship! reply
Another Email Joke

Replied to fellow Buddhist who forgot to attach files he should:

Congrats! You have no attachments!
Oops! You have merely forgotten your attachments for now!
I see them coming back!
(Send them over!) reply

To light a candle is to cast a shadow.

-Anonymous Zen Saying

What is meant by non-duality, Mahatmi? It means that light and shade, long and short, black and white, can only be experienced in relation to each other; light is not independent of shade, nor black of white. There are no opposites, only relationships. In the same way, nirvana and the ordinary world of suffering are not two things but related to each other. There is no nirvana except where the world of suffering is; there is no world of suffering apart from nirvana. For existence is not mutually exclusive.

-Lankavatara Sutra (Leng4 Qie2 Jing1)

This relates to the Heart Sutra entry below. Form and emptiness are one and not different. Samsara and Nirvana are not ultimately not conflicting and do not exist independently in order to have meaning. This realisation of ultimate non-duality is why Buddhas who have attained Nirvana can re-manifest as Bodhisattvas with great ease in Samsara. This is possible only when there is no attachment to either Nirvana or Samsara. This reminds me of the following quote I read in a book by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu. Not sure if it is attributed to the Buddha, but it does sum up the essence of the Buddha's teachings in terms of liberation. It has the same meaning as the literal translation of the Heart Sutra mantra-

"Nothing whatsoever, should be clung to." reply
Don't Wobble

Do everything
that you have to,
that you want to,
whether you like it or not,
no matter when or where,
mindfully, sharply, gladly, nicely.
There is no smarter way to Enlightenment.

This reminds me of Zen Master Yunmen's admonition,
which must have somehow inspired the above-
When walking, just walk.
When sitting, just sit.
Above all, don't wobble!
The Resolution Solution

This birthday thingie today set me thinking about setting spiritual resolutions and about how they can easily be ineffective once one loses mindfulness of them throughout the year. The idea struck me that it might work better if a bunch of spiritual friends, after "celebrating" the birthday of one of the gang, do the simple "ritual" of witnessing the birthday boy or girl's setting of resolutions. They should do likewise for each other's birthdays ... and help each other periodically, say every one or two months, to review, remind and renew each other's set resolutions- or even set "upgraded" ones! In other words, everyone in the spiritual circle makes the Bodhisattva resolution of being each other's resolution Bodhisattva! This simple exercise does seem to neatly sum up the essence of the value of spiritual friendship, doesn't it? Let me suggest this idea to my friends tomorrow! reply
Reality of Unreality

To attain True Happiness,
you have to truly
and accept
the reality
of the unreality
(emptiness in terms of Anicca & Anatta)
of everything.

We call this
or liberation,
or Nirvana,
or emancipation...
you get the idea! reply
The Meaning of Life

Life is meaningless-
which is why the only meaningful thing to do
is to get out of life... and death.
This is the Arahant ideal of saving yourself.

When you help all beings do the same,
the meaningfulness of your life is multiplied infinitely,
and it becomes the Bodhisattva ideal towards Buddhahood. reply
The Job!

Sophie: Have you ever had your palm read before? Do you have a career line?
I was wondering if Dharma work is a career :p
Zephie: It is the ultimate! The Buddha's only job! reply
Pride & Prejudice

Uen: Only at the feet of the Buddha am I completely humble, without pride and pretensions.
Zeph: But that should be before everybody! Prejudice!
Uen: That is my failing, but also my beginning to try to extend it to all beings.
Zeph: Sadhu! reply
Birthday Boy's Blues

It's about an hour an a half past my birthday...
the first tendency is to think of celebration,
but the second tendency is to ask what is there to celebrate about.

I then reflect...
and it is always the same conclusion...
I don't think I progressed fast enough in the past year
to save myself,
so as to save others
from suffering.

My birthdays
have the solemnness of a wake.
A wake where I wake up,
from lying too dead too long
in my spiritual life.

In this sense,
this is not exactly a happy birthday.
But I wish myself still,
"Happy Birthday! Next time!"
May my next birthday be happy indeed,
without this annual lamenting,
without these blues so blue. reply
Great Responsibility

One amazing thing happens when one practises insight meditation well enough-
one sees crystal clearly that the mind directs one's matter (body) in terms of speech and action...
and realises he is TOTALLY responsible for his thoughts, word and deed,
TOTALLY the creator of his own karma in every second.
He sees that he is not at the mercy of external factors such as people or environment.
He makes no more excuses for "bad behaviour"!

In Spiderman, Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker that
"With great power comes great responsibility."

Stonepeace says,
"With great mindfulness comes great responsibility and great power!"reply
Are You Loving a Stranger?

Something that happened a fortnight ago-
this is a good zen-like lesson on the importance of continual communication in relationships
and Anatta (non-self or the constantly changing and thus unreal "self")
Sid was seeing Lo home one night...

Sid: (with arms wide open)
Lo: (pushes him off gently)
Sid: Didn't you remind me to remind you that we should hug every time we meet?
Lo: But you seem like a stranger! I can't hug a stranger.
Sid: What do you mean? We'd been together for years!
This reminds me that Freud, the founder of Modern Psychology once said,
"I do not know what women want!"
Lo: Don't you see? We havn't been seeing each other or communicating for about a week already.
So I don't "know" you well enough at the moment! reply

Thursday, September 19, 2002

Mindfully Careful

Tok: Interesting site zeph... just one question, what do u think is the diff between mindful and careful? Let me give it a shot, mindfulness is a technique that the Buddha taught. A person practicing mindfulness watches the raising and falling of the 5 aggregates. The aim is to see the real nature of all phenomenon, which is the 3 universal char. The person is an "active-listener". It is very different from being careful or even being thoughtful, both of which, by themselves lacks right thoughs and right views.

I find the word mindfulness being mis use in situations. Placing your shoes and slippers neatly at a meditation retreat is not mindful, its thoughtful. crossing the road safely is abt being careful, not mindful. tell me what you think..

Zeph: Haha... I agree with you! But to be careful, we have to be mindful too. Let's just say mindfulness is maximum carefulness with our mind!reply
Beginning with One Good Glimpse

"The Buddha used 84,000 skillful means (teachings)
only to lead us to see the 3 Universal Characteristics in their total reality
which leads to nothing less than ultimate liberation, total Enlightenment and true happiness."

Once you have a good glimpse (not complete realisation) of the reality of the 3 Universal Characteristics (Impermanence of Mind & Matter, Dissatisfaction of Mind & Matter, Insubstantiality or Non-Self of Mind & Matter) through proper insight meditation or equivalent spiritual practice, your life changes forever. This is a turning point- with which your whole life pivots. Not only do you enter the Dharma, it is as if the Dharma has entered you, making learning and practising the Dharma a matter of fact and greater ease. If you are honest to yourself, you will not need convincing that your life has indeed changed forever after you had glimpsed at the 3 Universal Characteristics. When you doubt, you have not yet seen them. When you see these Universal Characteristics, you are seeing the essence of the Universe itself. Only then do you truly enter the gates of the Dharma and start walking the path to Enlightenment. Sometimes this is called entering the stream- it is the end of the belief that you have a self in terms of mind and /or matter, the end of doubt in the Triple Gem's ability to lead to Enlightenment and the end of belief in the ability of attachment to rites, rituals and precepts to lead to Enlightenment. Insight means Wisdom. We need some crucial minimal wisdom to begin to realise ultimate wisdom in its totality. This is likened to needing some Right Understanding, as in the Noble Eightfold Path, in the first place, to be able to practise the other 7 aspects of the path... leading to the perfection of Right Understanding which is Enlightenment itself. Any other way of learning and practising the Dharma which does not lead to at least a good glimpse of the 3 Universal Characteristics is a waste of time.

There are times you come across fellow Buddhists who are new to the Dharma, but who seem to have a good grasp of the essence of the Dharma through direct glimpsing of the 3 Universal Characteristics in meditation or meditation equivalent practice. They seem to be at ease with even the deepest sutras and are able to instinctively live their life according to the Dharma. On the other hand, there are fellow Buddhists who have learnt the Dharma in bits and pieces for years, going around in circles, attending a talk here, reading a book there, getting advice from different friends with different views... sometimes even mixing up Buddhist culture and ritual with the essential teachings. Usually, these Buddhists are the ones who do not truly see the importance of meditation- which is an indispensable aspect of the Noble Eighfold Path, which they think they are already walking in its entirety. Even the Buddha had to meditate! And He even does so after Enlightenment! These Buddhists usually only agree with the 3 Universal Characteristics in theory. They have not even entered the stream; merely frolicking water by the side of the stream. Why keep thinking that stream-entry is difficult? Realise instead, that it is the bare minimum attainment- the first solid step towards Enlightenment- and take this step. Without taking this step, of what use is this life spiritually? We should not have spiritual procrastination since the human birth, which is ideal for spiritual cultivation, which is difficult to attain, has already been attained.

This is not to ask you to be attached to the idea of attainment of stream-entry- but to urge you to just go ahead and take the real first step. Anyway, stream-entry, like any other spiritual attainments, is an attainment of no attainment. If one is bent on attaining it out of craving, one cannot do so. The word "attainment" tends to lead one to think there is something to get; but in spiritual practice, we do not get anything; we only need to let go of our craving and delusions more and more in order to be more and more free. It is likened to the process of clearing dark clouds of defilements which obscure the bright full moon of our Buddha-Nature hidden behind. There is no need to "attain" or get the moon; just rid the clouds and there it is. The moment one is a Sotapanna, he will not be attached to the fact that he is one- because he knows it is a non-attainment. Since he has had a glimpse of the 3 Universal Characteristics, he is also convinced that his "self" does not really exist- although he still needs to practise further to realise non-self totally as at least an Arahant (even if he is on the Bodhisattva path to be a Buddha). Afterall, this is only the first step to Enlightenment. Thus, a true stream-winner does not make a fuss out of being one- since he knows there is no "one" who is truly a stream-winner. In the spirit of the Diamond Sutra, a stream-winner is not a stream-winner, which is why he is a stream-winner:

"The Lord asked: What do you think, Subhuti, does it occur to the Streamwinner, 'by me has the fruit of a Streamwinner been attained'? Subhuti replied: No indeed, O Lord. And why? Because, O Lord, he has not won any dharma. Therefore is he called a Stream-winner. No sight-object has been won, no sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, or objects of mind. That is why he is called a 'Streamwinner'. If, O Lord, it would occur to a Streamwinner, 'by me has a Streamwinner's fruit been attained', then that would be in him a seizing on a self, seizing on a being, seizing on a soul, seizing on a person."

So much said, what are you waiting for? Truly begin walking the path to Enlightenment now- by truly taking the first step. reply
God Loves You - Buddha Loves God

Hi D,

I'm sure Jesus loves me. On the other hand, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas loves all too- even those in hell :-] Their love include Jesus and "God", whom we call Maha Brahma (See last section of Kevatta Sutta, "Conversations with the Gods": I have confidence in the infinitely compassionate.

I believe we create and re-create ourselves in every moment- no one makes us. Why did God create, if there was one? If He is already perfect and complete, why?

May you be well and happy. Please see to know what's so wonderful about Buddhism :-]


----- Original Message -----
From: "D"
Sent: Friday, September 13, 2002 9:02 AM
Subject: God Loves You

> I am in no way wiser than you guys..And i am not sure about ultimate emptiness kinda stuff..

> But what I know is, The Lord, God who created Everything, Loves you more than anything else in the world and knows your every name and thoughts. In spite how we all don't give a crap about Him and deny him.. Jesus Loves You too..more than any living creature can ever imagine..

Juz dropping a line, me no troublemaker..sorry..

God Bless You, ur Friends, and Families!!

D :) reply

Wednesday, September 18, 2002

An "Un-Daily" Diary

I was thinking... am I so undisciplined that I can't keep a daily-updated diary? It's been 6 days since the last entry! On hindsight, not really. Afterall, a diary has to reflect real life. If I don't feel like writing for a certain day, or if I can't find the time, well, that's it! That's the way it goes. I think it is common assumption that a good diary has to be as the word "diary" seem to imply- written on a daily basis. Well, that's not the way I define it now. A good diary is an honest one- that has blanks when there are blanks, that fills in the blanks when they should be filled in. What's important is that the significant thoughts and events are recorded... not necessarily on time, but in good time- in time that is true, not real time! See the subtle difference? This reminds me of the quote of the day by Alfred Hitchcock I saw at Library@Esplanade on Saturday, "Drama is life with its dull parts cut out." Here you are then! My "dramatic" diary which spares you the unnecessary monotony of mundane life! Haha... does it sound like an elaborate excuse for my lack of discipline? You decide! (By the way, this was written and blogged not at 1.35pm on 9/19. It is now 12.18am on 9/20!)reply

Thursday, September 12, 2002

Theory on Sharing of Merit

Theoretically, when we try to dedicate our merit to someone who has already passed away, and who is already reborn into another life, with a new identity, this person cannot receive the merits. This is probably because we cling to the certain being in a certain form, which is no longer relevant to the person in reality.

What can we do then, in order to let our merit reach this person? We can instead dedicate merit to all beings, one of whom is naturally the being you wish to dedicate merit to. You might think there is not enough merit to go around for all beings. But is this true? The motivation of wishing one's accrued merit to benefit all in the first place magnifies the merit! Thus, paraodxically, the more merit you share with more beings, the more merit the being who was the initial cause for the merit making and dedication gets, in comparison to dedicating merit to him alone. This works whether he is already reborn or not. This is the power of generousity, of sharing goodness. reply
The Humble Shall See the Truth

A: I am always right. No one corrects me these days.
Z: You right because no one corrects you? Or are you so wrong to think you are always right, that no one wishes to speak against you anymore? If you are always right, you are a Buddha already. We hide the Truth from ourselves by ourselves. Maybe your self-righteousness and over-confidence about the Truth is shielding you from the Truth. No one hides the Truth from us- we cause it to be hidden by our attitudes, one of which is arrogance. A true Truthseeker begins by convincing himself that he is more often wrong than right, that he needs corrections from many people. In this way, he unshields himself from the Truth and gets closer to it. It is thus an essential quality that all earnest Dharma practitioners should be humble. After all, only the Buddha has no need to be humble. But even so, He does not put on any airs, radiating only Compassion to all, be they humble or proud. reply
Dharma Flower

Uen: The Dharma is beautiful. It unfolds like a blooming lotus. May I see the heart of this beautiful flower.
Zeph: The heart of the Dharma is Prajna Paramita (The Perfection of Wisdom) as in the Heart Sutra! With it perfected, all the other five of the Six Paramitas are perfected and Buddhahood is attained! Buddhahood attained is the realisation of the Buddha-Nature, which is the heart of this flower. Wonderful! Your beautiful analogy reminds me of "The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra" (Lotus Sutra:, in which the Buddha expounds on the universality of Buddha-Nature within us, the wonderful potential to blossom into the perfect lotus-like purity of the Buddha! reply
The More the "Merit-ier" (Merrier)

Derrick: Can merit be multiplied by the numbers of Dharma or good emails we forward?
Zeph: Why not? Karma works everywhere! Cyberspace is not virtual samsara; it is part of it! Real! So the law of cause and effect still works online! If you forward an email thoughtfully to many friends with the motivation of sharing the gift of Truth, you can get good karma multiplied by the number of people you CC! But if you spam everyone in your address book carelessly, without consideration of whether they will appreciate such a mail, you are likewise multiplying your negative karma just as easily by leaps and bounds!
Derrick: This seems to make the accumulation of merit easy in this internet age! Good karma creation at the speed of broadband at the click of a button!
Zeph: Is it so? It depends. Good karma by way of email- might be a case of easy come, easy go. Too many cooks spoil the soup! Everything in moderation! The Middle Path! A person sharing the Dharma skillfully offers the right dosages at the right time to the right people in the right way. Email is not necessarily the best way and is definitely not the only way! reply
White Hair

Sophie: Sob... Sob... found a strand of white hair. This will probably be the first of many.
Zeph: Don't worry- it's not the first... we'd been there, got that, too many times for too many lives already. Maybe if we truly dread old age enough, along with the suffering of (re)birth and (re)death, and set a firm resolution to break free of the cycle of life and death, we'll end our sad sob story once and for all! reply
Instant Karma's Gonna Get You!

A Lunchbreak SMS Dialogue Yesterday

Uen: WHAM! BAM! CRASH! car accident. First time. I passenger
Zeph: Wow you must be alive and kicking to be able to msg. And you must write an article on it! Any casualties?
Uen: No casualty except car. Maybe I'll write a short sms for friends.
Zeph: There are no accidents- only the exact unfolding of karma. This make accidents more frightening than ever. It means for every close shave we have with death- we almost killed ourselves by ourselves! Be it out of unmindfulness (still karmic cause and effect at play) or serious heavy karmic payback.
Uen: Death can be just around the corner. Are you ready? Or will you be sorry? reply
Selflessness Vs Selfishness

All happiness in the world arises from the wish for others' happiness.


All the unhappiness in the world arises from the wish for the illusory self's happiness.
How can oneself be happy when one does not have a self?
Happiness then, must come from the realisation of non-self,
and its functioning of selflessness, as in opposition to selfishness.
This means the practice of compassion for the happiness of others.

-zeph reply
Motivation & Consequences

If my acts mirror the intentions of my mind,
no matter where I go,
respect and honour will be offered me,
the fruit and recompense of merit.

-HH the 14th DL

Even if your intentions or motivation is good, out of compassion,
you should ensure that their results or consequences, born of wisdom, are good.
Too many people are attached to the importance of motivation over its consequences-
as if it is only the thought that counts,
when the good results are just as important if we genuinely wish to be helpful to others.

-zeph reply
The Mindful Charioteer

He who holds back arisen anger as one checks a whirling chariot,
him I call a charioteer;
other folks only hold the reins.

-The Buddha (Dhammapada)

It is the whirling chariot that needs the charioteer the most-
to hold it back there and then.
It is the steady chariot that needs the charioteer just as much-
as long as there is the horse with latent anger,
ready to send the chariot whirling any time.

-zeph reply
Test for Gold

O monks, just like examining gold in order to know it's quality,
you should put my words to the test.

-The Buddha

Words above by the Buddha tested and examined as if for gold...
passed with flying colours!

-zeph reply

Despite occasional startling "accuracies" of astrological stereotyping of Virgoan character traits, I believe in Anatta (Non-Self: Truth of the Constantly Changing Mind & Body) more than Horoscope- that's why I'm Buddhist! reply
Ad 2 for!

Thanks to u oso. for discovering such a website. i always have wanted to publicise some of my diary entries. so this blog site comes in time. -10 reply
Karma Komplexities

J: A kills B. Is that karma?
Z: It is fresh creation of an evil karmic seed for A while the receiving of evil karmic fruit for B.
J: If B had killed A in a previous life, I would understand it as karmic retribution.
Z: It need not be that B killed A in a previous life. However A must have done something evil enough to deserve murder- either in this life or one of his previous lives. It just happens that B is the means or condition through which A's evil karma ripened.
J: But when B killed A in a previous life, what was A's karma that caused him to be killed?
Z: If B did kill A in a previous life, A must have done something evil enough to deserve murder in that previous life or prior.
J: B was producing a "cause" in killing A. Why did A has to die?
Z: No- A created the cause (seed) in being killed. B was only the condition through which the seed ripened and bore fruit. reply

Wednesday, September 11, 2002

The Heart of the Heart Sutra

Chanted the (Prajna Paramita) Heart Sutra ( in Chinese seven times at the temple yesterday with colleagues as our weekly group practice. I had an illuminating new discovery... The sutra is about seeing the ultimate emptiness of everything, including the Dharma. It culminates in the mantra "Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha", which means "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail!" This is interesting because it sums up the teaching of ultimate Wisdom as the going beyond of emptiness (and form), the letting go of emptiness itself! This is true total liberation! It is because Bodhisattvas can let go of attachment to both form and emptiness that they are able to stay at ease in Samsara to help all beings, without being tainted by it, "producing the continual thought (of Bodhicitta) without abiding anywhere". ("Ying1 Wu2 Suo3 Zhu4 Er1 Shen1 Qi1 Xin1"- From the Diamond Sutra, the next greater summary of the essence of 21 years of teaching- some 600 scrolls of Perfection of Wisdom teachings by the Buddha.)

Suddenly, the following verses make a lot of sense, "Therefore know that Prajna Paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) is a Great Spiritual Mantra, a Great Bright Mantra, a Supreme Mantra, an Unequalled Mantra. It can remove all suffering; it is genuine and not false." Indeed! What can be more powerful than liberation from realising emptiness plus letting emptiness go!

If the Heart Sutra is the heart of the Perfection of Wisdom teachings, the heart of the Heart Sutra then, is not really Emptiness, as it is so often mistaken. The heart of the Heart Sutra is beyond emptiness and form- in other words, truly beyond everything! It is the indescribable essence of the highest Enlightenment. So indescribable is it that it is not described in the sutra; there is instead a powerful mantra which is a direct instruction to the experience of Enlightenment! This brings us back to the beginning of this Sutra, "When Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was practicing the profound Prajna Paramita, he illuminated the Five Skandhas (Five Aggregates of Form, Feeling, Perception, Mental Formations and Consciousness) and saw that they are all empty, and he crossed beyond all suffering and difficulty." This is another direct instruction on how to "cross beyond" to where the mantra describes (See above bolded mantra again)!

Bro.Richard commented similarly during a Sutta discussion class. I remember being stunned. Never saw this incredible sutra in this light before! This is a personal breakthrough for me- this "enigmatic" Sutra, especially its ending, is finally demystified! Wonderful!
I am very happy to learn about your emptiness-realisation & or letting-go's breakthrough yesterday while chanting the heart sutra. Form is no different from emptiness & emptiness is no different from form. Form is emptiness & emptiness is form... So the Buddha says Dharma, is not Dharma, so it is named Dharma.

Since about ten over years ago, I had been chanting the heart sutra without knowing or understanding what it is talking about, though it is only about 260 words. Then I switched over to the Diamond Sutra thinking this must be better as it contains more than 5 thousands words. It was getting "worse"! Then, I almost gave up & eventually went for retreat-meditation (vipassana). As time goes by, one day, when I chanted the Heart Sutra, suddenly I found my heart was smiling. I was full of joy with tears. Then later on, I went on to chant the Diamond Sutra, gradually rock-solid-peacefulness emerges in my heart/mind. BUT still I have to walk the path as I begin to understand!

-David reply
Hell is...

"Hell is other people." -Jean Paul Satre (One of the founder of Existentialism

"Paranoia is Hell-
the deeply gnawing suspicion that others are out to get you;
when it is you getting yourself, relatively or ultimately." -Zeph

The demons tormenting one in hell are as real as the people giving you hell in life now.
But they are only as real as you choose to see them to be.
Everything is mind-made.
Everything starts resolving from the mind.

See them as wrathful Bodhisattvas training your patience, exhausting your ill karma,
and their demonic-ness disappear.
It doesn't even matter whether they are really demons or not.

But of course, stand up to the demons when they do you wrong,
when the situations permit.
For they might be neither demons nor bodhisattvas,
but ignorant sentient beings like us,
creating hell of a lot of bad karma,
creating future hell for themselves,
for creating hell for you.

They will get their just deserts,
just like the hell you go through now are yours! reply

Tuesday, September 10, 2002

911 : 1 Year On

I'm taking a train to KL at the time of your memorial service (, but could I please add this thought:

As we pause to remember those who died on September 11, 2001, let us also think about the much larger number who, according to United Nations statistics, die every single day of the year from the twin terrors of malnutrition and dirty water. For details, see the websites of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization ( and the United Nations Environment Programme ( -George Jacobs
In Samsara, any tragedy is not the only tragedy.
In Samsara, everybody needs Compassion.
In Samsara, when there is enough Compassion,
it ceases to be Samsara;
it becomes Pureland.

-zeph reply
To Give In to Habit

SMS message from Lynn 2 days ago:
"Remember not to break your resolution- to sleep by 1.30am.
To give in to habit is reason to stay in Samsara."

Oops. Look at the time below.

May I add...
To give in to habit is reason to stay awake.
To give in to habit is reason to stay in cyberspace.
To give in to habit is to be unrepentant!

Hit the sack now! reply
84000 = 3

All 84,000 skillful means of the Buddha's teachings
are to lead you
to realise only the 3 Universal Characteristics.

1. Everything changes. (Anicca)
2. And because everything changes, there is no self. (Anatta)
3. And because we do not see the above, we suffer. (Dukkha)

The Dharma can be as "complicated" as all the 84000 teachings altogether,
and it can be as simple as 1,2,3. reply
End of the World

An article in "The Straits Times" reads,
"Big crunch likely when the world ends...billions of years later."
A modern scientific discovery;
A truth proclaimed by the Buddha more than 2.5 millenia ago.

But what does it matter...
when is the end of the world?
When the truth is that
we are always living in the end of days,
of this life.

Only the deludedly suicidal and spiritually mature
know when is their last day!

What do you know?
What are you going to do about your unknowing? reply
Tom, Dick & Harry- Who is the True Truthseeker?

Inspired by a late-night tele-conversation with Juan:

Tom, to himself:

Sometimes only you need to know what is right.
Others, such as Dick and Harry, might not be able to accept the truth.
Instead of arguing out of disgust,
have compassion that they cannot see the truth yet,
that as far as they are concerned, it is instead, a lie.

Dick, to himself:

Sometimes only you need to know what is right.
Others, such as Tom and Harry, might not be able to accept the truth.
Instead of arguing out of disgust,
have compassion that they cannot see the truth yet,
that as far as they are concerned, it is instead, a lie.

Harry, to himself:

Sometimes only you need to know what is right.
Others, such as Tom and Dick, might not be able to accept the truth.
Instead of arguing out of disgust,
have compassion that they cannot see the truth yet,
that as far as they are concerned, it is instead, a lie.
Are you just like any Tom, Dick or Harry?
What makes you so sure you are sure? -zeph reply
Living Half A Life

I kept coming to Toa Payoh at at least 10pm... to take bus 105 home after work. You can understand how wonderfully fresh the view from the same bus-stop seemed when I came went there one early afternoon. For the first time, I see the neighbourhood painted in colours, instead of mere shadowy shades and streetlamp yellow. Upon boarding the bus, due to the seats being mostly occupied, I had to sit on the right side instead of the left, where I usually do. The fleeting window-seat view was a brand new live film show to me. Only after more than a year am I seeing this side of the "story"!

It hit me that I had been somewhat living half a life- at least this is so when it came to Toa Payoh. I had been missing it in colour. And I had been missing its "right" view. Intriguing discovery! Makes me wonder what other halves, or quarters, of fifths... of my life am I missing.

Am I living the essential aspects of my life fully enough? Is my Dharma practice missing any crucial aspect? Am I applying the Buddha's teachings in all aspects of my life? Friendship, family, work and play... Dharma practice is a lifetime 24/7 "job"- not a weekend hobby at the temple; definitely not for mere recreation after office hours! The first anniversary of 9-11 is coming... Do you find yourself praying for world peace, when there is war at home? How can we save the world with the Dharma if there is a heated war with Dad, and a cold war with Mum? How complete our Dharma life is not how much Dharma you know, but how much you put it into practice. reply
No Coincidence

"Suppose that this great earth were totally covered with water, and a man were to toss a yoke with a single hole there. A wind from the east would push it west, a wind from the west would push it east. A wind from the north would push it south, a wind from the south would push it north. And suppose a blind sea-turtle were there. It would come to the surface once every one hundred years. Now what do you think: would that blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole? It would be a sheer coincidence, lord, that the blind sea-turtle, coming to the surface once every one hundred years, would stick his neck into the yoke with a single hole.

It's likewise a sheer coincidence that one obtains the human state. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, arises in the world. It's likewise a sheer coincidence that a doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world. Now, this human state has been obtained. A Tathagata, worthy & rightly self-awakened, has arisen in the world. A doctrine & discipline expounded by a Tathagata appears in the world. Therefore your duty is the contemplation: 'This is dissatisfaction ('Dukkha')...This is the origination of dissatisfaction...This is the cessation of dissatisfaction...This is the path of practice leading to the cessation of dissatisfaction." -SN/Chiggala Sutta
Nope- not really a coincidence. All incidents occur due to cause and effect. We would be leaving our rebirth to "chance" if we do not practise the Dharma. Then, any human rebirth attained would seemed to be a sheer "coincidence", sheer "luck". But Lady Luck is just karma at play; nothing random at all. Are you the blind turtle? Not me! I'm keeping my eyes open! Aim for the yoke! Look for it! Look up! Wake up! What are the chances of human rebirth if you leave everything to chance? -zeph reply
Reply 1 : The Secret of the Buddha's Smile

The immortality of Smile,
For who but a Divinity,
Could mingle minds to that degree,
And melt them into Ecstasy...

-DodoZen reply
Ad 1 for!

"Do read more insightful bites from the website. Truly entertaining AND enlightening..." -10

About Zeph's doubts of publishing this blog successfully offline:
"Self-doubt must first be overcome, then everything good will work." -P

"You wrote excellent messages that are always worth tons of revision. Cheers!" -David reply
Open-Diary for Letting Go

David: Meditation, if it is a purification process, is like reading a very personal self-reflection diary. To make (cyberspace) a place a pureland for mankind, we may need open-diaries for the "letting-go" of attachments.

Zeph: Well, it can be a tool, but not a must. Open-diaries can be like public confession/ repentance booths. But letting go is just letting go- we don't really need to do something to let something go... though sometimes it seems to help. Ideally, it should be a case of "Just Do It!"... or it would be somewhat passing the baton of the object of attachment on and on- isn't it? reply

Monday, September 09, 2002

What is the Dharma?

David: Dharma is Law of Nature!
Zeph: Yes indeed! And to go against nature is unnatural!
Senseless and self-defeating!
It is like trying to stop the sun shining or the rain from falling.
So when we practise the Dharma,
it is not supposed to be something special-
it is only trying to be as natural as possible, as close to nature or Truth as possible. reply
Dirty Laundry

Inspired by accounts of inter-departmental office politics here, there and everywhere:

When you air dirty laundry of what you should not,
you become another piece of the dirty laundry.
When you wash your dirty linen in public,
you become public dirty linen.
A case of the pot calling the kettle black.

Let us speak to clean dirty laundry,
not to simply hold out dirty laundry.

What is the difference, you may ask?
Since sometimes laundry has to be aired to be cleared.

The answer is in your intention.
Do you speak of laundry only to air them,
or do you speak of it to seek a cleaning solution?
And do you speak of laundry with disgust,
or do you speak of it with compassion?
Gee Thanks :-]

I have printed your on line diary for reading and is a total of 22 pages. It contents is good enough to form BOOK 1 of your diary. Internet archiving is also a form of modern book which could reached a wider range of readers. With your unique view and the fluency in expressing your thoughts, you have a breakthrough in creating an online diary to benefit the readers at the moment of thought. Really enjoy reading your diary. I will be the one to buy a book of this nature if it is compiled. It is very refreshing after reading.

Zeph, Keep it up and benefit all your frens.

From Lighthut
Thank you so much for your encouagement :-] See this email up online!
Written Forever

"What you write in ink in small black letters
may be completely lost, through the action of a simple drop of water.
But what is written in your mind, stays there for eternity."

-6th Dalai Lama Tsangyang Gyatso

"What you blog in in your blogger
may be completely lost in the reaches of cyberspace... but... "


Everything blogged lasts forever- locked in your mind.
Be careful of what you blog! It may cause a mental block!
Everything you write, read, say and do starts from your mind.
It is mentally written before it is physically or virtually written (blogged)!

Sunday, September 08, 2002

About "About A Boy"

It is highly suggestive in the movie, that life becomes hollow and meaningless if individuals were to live like islands, like Will Freeman (what a name!) (played by Hugh Grant), disconnected from each other. The movie begins with him disagreeing with John Donne's quote that "No man is an island.", saying that some men are islands, only needing to visit the mainland once in a while- in his case, for socialising and shopping! Will thought he was a happy swinging bachelor, till he realised his spiritual emptiness from not relating deeply to others, from living a shallow self-indulgent life that did not extend his worldly happiness to others. Towards the end of the show, he begins to realise the meaning of selfless love through friendship with a boy.

How does the Dharma relate to this? "Meaning" is derived- from something or someone. As everything is interdependent, nothing means anything in itself, by itself. Compassion, for example, has no meaning when there are no beings to help, just as there is no true meaningfulness to Wisdom when it is not utilised or applied beyond itself. In fact, Wisdom in action is Compassion, and Compassion is the guide principle of Wisdom. With either out of the picture, either loses its meaning.

Incidentally, the Buddha uttered the following on living like islands.

"Be ye islands unto yourselves,
be ye a refuge to yourselves!
Take no other refuge!
The Dharma be your island,
the Dharma be your refuge!
Take no other refuge."

-Mahaparinibbana Sutta

This is the only right way to live like islands!
Living with the Dharma, Compassion and Wisdom will be there!
World Without Nouns ; Verbland Pureland


Your diary is marvellous: we share countless same thoughts,
only that you have expressed them into living words.
I especially like "there is no river, only rivering".
I once had a dream where I live in world where there are no nouns, only verbs!
I hope you will publish your thoughts: you will be famous.

Verbland Pureland! Thanks for your encouragement! But i doubt anyone will buy a compiled book of these entries :-[

Saturday, September 07, 2002

To Give Up or Not

"It all seems so stupid, it makes me want to give up.
But why should I give up, if it all seems so stupid?"

-Depeche Mode ('Shame' from 'Construction Time Again')

Sounds like an angst-ridden existential question.
The first line is about wanting to give up.
The second about whether it is necessary.

The answer? The Middle Path of the Bodhisattva.
There is no urgent need to relinquish the world,
there is instead the urgent need to renounce suffering by ridding our defilements
and helping the world do the same.

Inspired by Lynn:

About decision-making about the path of action on samsaric matters...

When you are enlightened,
you have no choice-
for there is only 1 Truth.

When you are not,
you will have choices to struggle with-
for there are 84,000 delusions to deal with.

How easily do you make your choices today?
Life is Meaningless

Oh! What relief it is...
to realise that
life is utterly meaningless.

There is absolutely no obligation to do anything.
This means we are totally free already.
What's left...
is for us to fully realise this Truth!

(Haha... this is trickier than it sounds.)

Everything when seen for the very first time, is magic.
Zen mind, beginner's mind.
Beginner's mind, magical world!

Mindful living is living every moment anew.
The magic of mindfulness
is that it makes Enlightenment possible,
that it makes everything magic!
The Spiritual Artist

The path of the spiritual artist is not to create art,
but to realise that everything already is fine, perfect as it is- art.

Realising this is Enlightenment.
The path to Enlightenment is learning to see more as art,
learning to create less art.

The perfect artist does not create;
the artist who creates is imperfect.

The spiritual artistic process becomes one of silencing the mind of likes and dislikes,
a meditation of watching,
of realising insight into the true nature of all things.
Samsara Song

Be careful when you sing a song of broken love, a song of Samsara.
Just when you think you are relieving yourself of Samsara,
you might begin romancing it.
When the song sticks,
your broken love is replaced by a new love...
and you're it-

Q: What watches the five aggregates?
A: The five aggregates.

Q: What minds the mind?
A: The mind minds itself, giving rise to mindfulness.

There is no waterfall; there is only waterfalling.
Waterfalls do not exist.
When you think you see a waterfall,
what is see is just water falling.

Likewise, there is no river; only rivering.
No writer here or reader here too;
only writing and reading.

There are no solid changes;
there is only fluid changing.
There are no shapes; only shape-shifting.
There is nothing morphed; only morphing.
The world is not the world.
The world is always worlding.

Everything is changing, changing...
leaving no trace of self.
Realise this and be free...
of the world, of your self.
This is true freedom!
For there is nothing else to be free of!
Beauty, Ugliness & Art

In seeing a good portrayal of ugliness, it becomes a beautiful portrayal of ugliness.

In this way, the duality ugliness and beauty are reconciled and transcended smultaneously. These concepts lose their meaning and what you see is what you get. When we see things as they are and are able to appreciate without labelling, without giving rise either attachment or aversion, art becomes a spiritual experience.
Photography, Art & Enlightenment

Still playing with Uen's digicam. She said okay to borrowing it for one more week. I said hooray and she commented i was like a little boy with a toy haha. I am indeed playing with it like a toy, experimenting, using it like a third eye, zooming in and out on intricate details and landscapes. It's like an eye-consciousness cum sight-mindfulness increasing device. Whenever i have it with me, i pay more attention to what i see, and learn to appreciate things as they are more, as i go snapping away.

Photography is not really about creating art; it is about noticing and freezing art which is around us all the time. It is an exercise of mindfulness. A photograph is a freeze-frame of transience- an attempt to capture a moment in time for reflection, an attempt to make the impermament more permanent... though photos yellow too. The more it seems pointless to snap anything anymore is the more equanimous the photographer has become- no longer having attachment or aversion to certain things. The enlightened see all as art, which i define as something "okay in itself or with something else." Sound strange? Enlightenment is the art of seeing all as art. When that is achieved, the concept of art is let go of.

(The difference between a digicam and a normal cam to me is that i can snap away without concern of cost or mistakes- since stored pics can be deleted and downloaded to my notebook as i like it. It can thus be more easily played with like a toy! Will get one soon.)
Romancing the Buddha

I think there is nothing more romantic than the true story of how the Buddha-to-be, Prince Siddhartha, renounced his beloved and kingdom, for the love of all beings. Surely, this is a story infinitely more romantic and touching than a love story between any 2 people. And the beautiful part is that the Buddha's true love for His family did not die. Not only was it perfected, it was extended equally to all other beings great and small without the slightest decrease. His is the ultimate romantic story- a romance of all romances- romantic in every sense of the word.
The Tragedy of the Commons

(As coined in by 19th century mathematician William Forster Lloyd)

The "Tragedy of the Commons" states that any shared resource (a "commons") will inevitably be destroyed by overuse.

Take a town pasture, for example. For each animal a herdsman adds to the common pasture, he recieves all proceeds from the sale of the animal- a positive benefit of +1.
But the negative impact of adding an animal- its contribution to overgrazing- is shared by all, so the impact on the individual herdsman is less than -1.

The only sensible course for each herdsman is to add another animal to the herd. And another, and another- preferably before someone else does. And since each rational herdsman will reach the same conclusion, the commons is doomed.

-Don't Make Me Think- A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability (Steve Krug)
Why am I Stating this Tragedy?

I think this is a terrific example of how individual karma (action) affects collective karma, which in turn affects individual karma. It illustrates clearly how individual selfishness will destroy oneself while harming others and how collective selfishness destroys everyone even much faster! This tragedy shows why being compassionate to others is being compassionate to oneself and vice versa. We share one great commons called the universe. In fact, we, the commoners ARE not separate from the commons, being intricately interdependent. The environment around us is around us, but have it ever occured to you that you are part of your neighbours' environment?

I hereby propose a "new tragedy" that is actually an aged old one...I call it-

Tragedy of Most Commoners' Ignorance of the Tragedy of the Commons

Think about it.....
let's not be just another ignorant commoner in the great scheme of life-
especially when we are practising Buddhists.
Sin of Stereo-Typing

"To generalize is to be an idiot."

-William Blake

At the end of the day, we are individuals, not the general public; though we are part of it.
A paradox- no one really thinks he is part of the general public; everyone thinks he is special.
Whatever it is, it is important to deal with people and matters on a case by case basis.
And because things change, we even have to adapt on a moment to moment basis!
When we generalise and stereotype things, we are escaping into the convenience of self-delusion.
The Buddhas and Bodhisattvas help each sentient being differently with myriad skillful means-
they are perfect models of perfect customer service!
Trapped By Words

I have a friend who has near perfect language skills. She is incredibly exact in her choice of words due to the meanings they imply. But her insistence on being exact overflows to her peers- leading to occasional debates about what each really meant during conversations. That's the problem with words, isn't it? When I say "Sand", a more romantic person might picture sand in an hour glass or on a vast expanse of beach, while a more tech-savvy guy might picture sand-based silicon chips!

I think that she missed the point of the use of language. Language in the end can never be used in a 100% exact way- since the same word has as many meanings as the number of people in this world. And what's more, the most important things cannot be conveyed by language; only self-experience works- be it the experience of Nausea or Nirvana!

She missed the point of language being only an approximate tool for communication. Instead of clinging to words so tightly in the realm of either black or white in concord with the dictionary, she should relax and and learn to see the greyness of words. Only then can she fit more comfortably with the rest of the world. Words should be used only to go beyond them. Yes, you'd heard this analogy many times already- words, even those uttered by the Buddha Himself in sutras, are but fingers pointing to the moon, which represents the Truth. They are mere guides to the destination, not the destination itself. I remember this quote from somewhere, "The map is not the territory."

For my friend, hers is a case of the overuse of language in an absolute way. It reminds me that the overuse of anything leads to the abuse of it- beginning with mental attachment, which causes physical attachment. Yes, cigarettes, alcohol and drugs... and words too! The bare-nakedness and relatively wordlessness of Zen makes so much sense when i reread what i just wrote here!
Same Language

"After all, when you come right down to it,
how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?"

-Russell Hoban

"You know what Hoban meant?
Or is his language too Zen for you? Haha"

Last Day

Email Dialogue:

Zeph: I am sometimes as sure that today is my last day as you are sure it is not. Who is the fool?
Spencer: We are both fools. Today is cetainly your last day, and my last day, until tommorrow.
Tired of Eating

SMS Dialogue:

Sophie: Ever get tired of the need to eat? I do. Wish we didn't have to eat for survival; eat only when we want to.
Zeph: I wish i didn't have to eat, shit, sleep, bathe, wear clothes... haha
Sophie: Haha. At least I'm not so extreme. At least that is 1 less craving I have :p
Zeph: When in Samsara, do as Samsarans have to do
Sophie: That's not true. If we do so, we should indulge ourselves!
Zeph: I meant for survival! So that we can exit Samsara! Incidentally, my wish is not extreme; it is possible- in the bliss of Nirvana, having gone beyond mind and matter!

Friday, September 06, 2002

Super Dharma Missionary

A personal favourite Dharma dialogue exchange-

Punna, a disciple of the Buddha decided to go and live in an area notorious for violence. The Buddha's conversation with Punna illustrates his uncompromising conviction about the power of metta (Loving-Kindness). Punna told the Buddha he was going to live in Sunaparanta:

The Buddha said to Punna: The people of Sunaparanta are violent. What will you do if they insult you?
Punna replied: I will say, how good these people are. They don't throw clods of earth at me.
Buddha: What if they hit you with clods of earth?
Punna: I will say: How good they are since they don't beat me with sticks.
Buddha: What if they beat you with sticks?
Punna: I will say: How good they are since they don't stab me with a knife.
Buddha: What if they stab you with a knife?
Punna: I will say: How good they are since they don't kill me.
Buddha: What if they kill you?
Punna: I will say that, due to Dharma practice, I don't have illusions about the nature of the body.
The Buddha: Good, good, Punna. You will be able to live in this violent district.

Some of us might think Punna was a fool. But he did succeed in persuading some 500 people to follow the Dharma! He is no fool! He obviously knew what he was doing. Wow! My hero. Another account stated that he remarked that if he were to die, he would regard it as a noble worthy death.
Hit the Refresh Button

When surfing a weblog like this, or a live online news web, it pays to hit the refresh button once in a while- in case the page has been updated. Imagine logging on to early in the morning thru cable and never hitting the refresh button even once throughout the rest of the day. It'll be ridiculous, self-defeating to go online for latest news updates in the first place.

Why am i sprouting such simple web common sense? Have you hit the refresh button lately when dealing with people and matters? People change, even if only subtly. But the subtle changes can make a great difference. Ask any broker monitoring stocks and shares online and you will know. We are reborn every second with our changes in attitude- not unlike thousands of weblogs around the world being updated this very second. It is only fair to hit the refresh button on people and matters- to yourself and them. Don't choose to be blind and stare at the static webpages of your life! Learn to let go... of past prejudices- because they were formed in the past. Everything's dynamic! Moment to moment everything changes- for better or worse. Enough said... hit the refresh button now- maybe a new entry just came in! haha
Praying for Well-Being

The point is not to pray so that we can become well when we become sick,
so that we can live long,
or so that we can be reborn in a good realm in case we do not get well.

We pray so that we can live well and long enough to prepare to go beyond life and death now.
But of course, prayer without effort is useless;
and with the right efforts put in, even prayer might not be necessary.

Hopefully Somewhat Enlightening & Entertaining Thoughts... Stuff discovered on the path to the natural unshakable peacefulness of a stone...