Friday, January 31, 2003


Uen: Basically, life is boring- doing the same things over and over again.
Zeph: Nope- it is craving for new experiences that make routine boring. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
One Taste of Freedom

San: Dharma needs to be imbibed slowly to find its taste.
Sen: Chew the Dharma till it is beyond taste- then the essence has been savoured. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

Sunday, January 19, 2003

All is Vanity

Saw a book titled "All is Vanity" in a bookshop. I would like to extend that by saying that "All is vanity... if it is for passing happiness for oneself; and not lasting happiness (Enlightenment) for everyone." We are all vain in whatever we do, which we think will bring ourselves lasting happiness, which only passes. The mistake is in assuming True Happiness to be able to be found in the material and mental realm. The mistake is also in having selfishness, having the illusion of self, leading us to seek egocentric happiness in vain. As long as happiness circles around the self, it will not last. Lasting happiness is True Happiness and it possible only in Enlightenment where one realises non-self and is thus willing to selflessly help others realise happiness. Vanity is a result and symptom of continual wanting. True Happiness is making peace with here and now- it is the end of wanting (craving). Living for anything else, we live in vain. (What do you see in the picture? An ugly skull or a beautiful woman looking at herself... in vain?)JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Is Child-bearing Natural?

Knowing that I personally do not wish to have any children after marriage, Von, who is a non-Buddhist remarked that married folks should see child-bearing as natural. I replied that saying so is tricky. If child-bearing is considered natural, can we say for instance, that rebirth is natural? Given the fitting efforts and karmic conditions, one might conceive a child just as one might be reborn. The process is natural, yes, but it is not exactly natural when we speak in terms of the highest spiritual goals, which are to attain Enlightenment and to help others do the same. When one is very much bent on attaining Enlightenment and is given the choice, one usually cuts down actively building attachments to kin and things, especially new ones. Likewise, one who is determined to liberate himself sees rebirth as somewhat unnatural and that it is only natural to go against the stream of ignorance to be free from it. Saying rebirth as natural would be equivalent to saying practice to free ourselves from rebirth to be unnatural. Child-bearing is spiritually unnatural on the parental side in the sense that we usually conceive with attachment to sexual pleasure playing a big role. It is spiritually unnatural on the child'[s side as we are all reborn due to our craving for Samsara. Yes, other than disguised Bodhisattvas among us, we are all children of Samsara, born out of the three poisons, born with the three poisons, born by parents with the three poisons, born into this world with the three poisons. Yet it is with this precious human rebirth that we can eradicate the three poisons- be we parents or children.

Von added that we should give opportunities for beings to be reborn as humans to practice the Dharma. Obviously she does not understand the workings of karma- which will find its way despite ourselves and our preference. Whoever deserves the precious human rebirth will definitely receive it somehow. It's not a case of, "Sorry, no vacancy in the human realm on Earth!" Sometimes I hear the perspective of actively giving birth so that we can help bring up many wonderful Buddhist babies, while giving ourselves the golden opportunity to practise being bodhisattvas to the bodhisattva children we have, who continually "test" us. This is very noble indeed. But how far can we extend this nobility? To three children? Five? Ten? So far, I have not heard of anyone giving birth to a dozen children in order to "save" them. Should we all extend this noble action as far as we can?

We have to be honest to ourselves. Do we want children to extend our ego? Do we want children for company and future support? Do we really want children for children's sake? I am not saying this to discourage child-bearing, but to encourage honesty to ourselves and our children. It is also useful to note that the world is facing the problem of over-population. With faith that babies being born according to the law of karma (with us only being birth conditions), plus my personal belief that there are human realms beyond Earth, I do not worry about not actively being part of the process of creating "more" humans. Who knows, I might "accidentally" conceive a child!The main reason I do not wish to have children is because I already find myself a tricky sentient being to take care of. Hey! My hands are full already! But once again, to balance perspectives, it is praiseworthy to have children out of good intention for the children and not for selfish reasons. May you and your children lead spiritually fruitful lives which benefit each other and others, and their children and children's children. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

A friend remarked to me, when I was holding up an umbrella under shelter, that it is bad luck to do so, that it will result in people gossiping about you. I replied that that is obviously a superstition with no clear rationale of cause and effect. But on second thought, there might be some not so obvious rationale behind age-old superstitions, which must have arisen for some reason, silly or not. I joked that probably, the gossiping I might get is passers-by pointing fingers at me, calling me crazy to sport an open umbrella under a roof! JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
O Great Relief

O what great relief!
That life is utterly meaningless!

I have no obligation
to be good, evil or pure,
to live or to die...
I get to choose whatever I want-
to go to hell or heaven,
or to stay where I am,
or to attain Nirvana.

All I need to remember is
my choices will have corresponding results.
In this great relief,
I am still not free from the law of cause and effect (karma),
but I can use cause and effect to win freedom from it.

Because life is utterly meaningless,
I choose whatever meaning I see worth pursuing.
Because life is utterly meaningless,
I can choose to be free from life, and death. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

It all seems so stupid,
it makes me want to give up!
But why should I give up,
when it all seems so stupid?

-Depeche Mode (Shame, from "Construction Time Again")

I SMS-ed the above to May, and the next time we bumped into each other, she remarked that I probably think too much. Knowing this remark to stem from the message, I replied that I don't think so. Life is a paradoxical existential crisis as described by those lyrics, and it is only those who contemplate deeply about these pardoxes, and either attempt or succeed to resolve them, who truly live. She paused for a few moments, and said, "I agree." JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

In the book "The Outsider" by Albert Camus, the protagonist was partly sentenced to death for his seemingly socially unfitting behaviour, when there was ethically nothing wrong with his refusal to behave "normally" like the rest of the crowd. He was somewhat deemed a murderer by "virtue" of his unconventionality and the circumstances which seem to point fingers at his apparent but non-existent guilt. It suggests that society easily morally outcasts those who do not behave like itself, despite the fact that the majority is not always right in ts judgement of the minority and its beliefs. For example, mych of the world believed that the Earth was flat, and punished those who believed otherwise for heretical thinking. And the so called heretics are naturally the usual suspects for crime and rebellion. But the majority was wrong- they were the real heretics in the name of Truth. These wrong persecuters of "heretics" still exist in our society today- they are the ones who mistaken the untruthful for the truth and thus base their sense of justice on injustice. The Buddha Himself, was surely considered a "heretic" to the prevalent religions in His time when He started teaching. I told May about the book and she was interested to borrow it.

Later on, at the dinner table in a restaurant, the rest were chatting about a Chinese expression "Bu1 Shi1 Ren1 Jian1 Yan1 Huo1", which roughly translates to "Does not partake of the smoke and fire of this world." This expression describes a person as one who seems otherworldly in his or her ways, not necessarily in a good or bad way. It can range from being cool yet aloof, to original but cold... May silently pointed at me and smiled. The rest didn't understand, but I remarked to her that she just sentenced me to death. It was true. For all at the table, I was the most unconventional- so much so that despite us all being practising Buddhists, I would be the prime suspect for murder should one of us get mysteriously killed. Haha... I shold have scared May but saying, "Now that you have pointed me out, I would have to kill you!" JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

The ignorant ask ignorant questions and insist on answers, thinking those who cannot answer them are ignorant- when the truth is otherwise. But there are also times when good questions are asked and not answered by the ignorant. How do we know who is wise and ignorant? By continually becoming more wise. There is no other way. It is always safer to think we are ignorant than wise. Because only the truly ignorant and the truly wise think they know enough. Because it is unlikely that we are the latter at the moment. This is one strong reason to practise humility. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

After making a choice,
we can always make a choice against it,
and a choice against the choice against it...

At no point are we not free to choose.
There are always at least two choices.
Even in the most dire of situations,
we are free to choose our state of mind.

This is your primary freedom that no one can steal from you,
unless you make a choice to give it up. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

When you are in doubt about matters like whether you should yearn for love or not, it means you want it. It also suggests you might need to experience it before you are willing to let go of your craving for it. But it doesn't necessarily means you should just jump the gun. Your doubt probably exists because you think that rationally, you should not crave for it. The suffering can arise from

a) Conflict between reason (rationality) and emotion (irrationality)
b) Conflict between true reason (truth) and your false reason (lack of wisdom)
c) Conflict between positive emotions (useful emotions such as compassion) and negative emotions

So what should you do? What can we do? Other than increase our understanding of true reason and increase our positive emotions- for it is only with perfected reason and emotion (wisdom and compassion) that all our conflicts end. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Regular Practice & Random Practice

Regular meditation practice at a fixed time and place actually simulates situations of inconvenience, which are useful spiritually. What do I mean by this? For instance, because you are scheduled to have a meditation session on Friday evenings at a certain temple, you have to actively block out any other clashes of other activities- even if you are tempted by an attractive fun or social event, and make your way to the appointed place at the (self-)appointed time. This is what I meant by "situations of inconvenience." Learning to overcome each situation is the practising of self-discipline. This is very useful because the crucial moment of death will usually be an incredibly inconvenient time. In learning to overcome minor inconveniences, we prepare for the major ones, especially of sickness and death. In our dying moments, it can be very difficult or easy to muster our spirituality to let go of life- depending on how well-disciplined and used to inconvenience we are. In such matters of life and death, or rather, rebirth versus release, we are faced with the ultimate test of our life.

It is often an illusion of mastery and ease when those who do not practice regularly proclaim that they can meditate anywhere anytime they wish. It might be true while they are alive and well, but the catch is when they meditate as and when they wish, they are often not facing inconveniences; they are choosing convenient occasions instead. In not being used to making peace with inconveniences, death might not be adequately prepared for. By the above, I am not discounting the value of "convenient" practice versus "inconvenient" practice, but am encouraging regular practice in addition to irregular practice, especially since there are the possible side-effects of having only "inconvenient" regular practice becoming "used to routines" which are taken for granted. Worse still, one might be attached to the time and place to meditate such that it becomes convenient instead! In such cases, irregular practice at unfamiliar times and places becomes inconvenient instead! JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Stimulation of the Senses

Saw the following in a comic strip. The following are numbered according to the sequence of boxes in it-

1. A pig by himself feels bored. (low)
2. A machine arm extends to stimuate him physically and he feels slightly high, as he yearns for more and higher highs.
3. More arms extend to stimulate him and he gets super high, till he gets tired of it and yearns for his original state.
4. All the arms retract and he realises the state without any yearning for any high is a high too. But this realisation is short-lived due to habitual craving.
5. Note below box 4.- See box 1 again! (The cycle from 1-4 repeats.)

What a brilliant depiction of the entire substance and cycle of samsaric highs and lows! JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

Wednesday, January 15, 2003

A "Love Letter" to a Friend

Dear Xin,

To sum up Aster's view on love stuff, which I want to share with you, I am now writing on her behalf...

Aster is single, almost middle-aged, and sometimes finds herself craving for company in the form of a lover. On the other hand, she sometimes encounters friends who lament about being married, who are envious of her being a swinging single. She realised that just as singles sometimes crave to be married, the married sometimes crave to be single. Our feelings tend to alternate, our hearts fickle... in a seemingly endless cycle of attachment and aversion, of love and hatred. Being in love does not mean being in love all the time. Love in life alternates in wanting and not wanting. Such is the nature of us "Samsarans." True Happiness is breaking free from letting our desires control our happiness. True Happiness is neither guaranteed in singlehood or marriage; it is only guaranteed in letting go of wanting. This we have to understand, whether we wish to stay single, get married or "see how it goes."

True Happiness cannot be in having found love- for the dream of being in the bliss of love forever is an illusion, as nothing is permanent- it is only constant attachment to the idea that love brings constant happiness. This constant attachment is the cause of great suffering in due time instead. When one experiences the bliss of love most of the time (while being "naturally" attached to it), the moment of departure will be proportionately painful- be you are the one dying or the one watching your loved one die. It is unrealistic for unspiritual people to think they can have their cake and eat it- when they think they can be deeply in love and let it go easily when the final moment comes. If one can let go so easily, one wouldn't have clung on to love so strongly throughout; one would not even have chosen to be attached in love in the first place.

All we have now is this moment to relish, to live in. Aster realised how silly it was to wish the moment was other that what it presented. Why fret being single when single? Why fret being married when married? If the situation can be changed to what your heart desires, do it. If not, enjoy this moment without lament. Live happily in each moment, moment to moment. This is your life- now. Don't let it slip away. Any fantasy of another fantasy moment with a fantasy person is giving up happiness in this moment. So she resolved to be happily alone when alone, and happily with company when with friends... to be happy wherever whenever (hey Shakira haha) she was.

Sometimes I think you are in a win-win situation when it comes to love, though you are likely to disagree. You are on the path to Enlightenment, of relinquishment of all attachments. And you have the privilege of not being currently attached to anyone! Does this not make your spiritual path easier? Not being attached makes your practice harder only when you are attached to wanting to be attached! Not being attached also means you do not have someone you are committed to to relinquish (which can be very tricky due to attachment on both sides and other complicated feelings). Because of the above, you have a win-win situation! Then again, you do not need to have to be attached. All it takes is the desire to have something that you don't have at the moment. That is already attachment. The strongest attachments are to things you do not have yet. This desire to acquire.

In my chat with Aster, I concluded by posing a koan (a paradoxical Zen riddle used as a tool for attaining enlightenment upon its resolution), which she did not answer. A good koan is a realistic koan which relates to real life. Here it is... Now that you know you should try your best to relish the moment whatever it brings (meaning you open yourself to "all possibilities"), should you consciously open up your social circle to meet more guys? As you are very busy, not consciously opening up your social circle will hardly increase your chances of meeting potential boyfriends. In not opening up, you are as good as consciously ending your chances (narrowing "all possibilities" to "less possibilities")? Thus is the paradox- you should treasure the moment as it is; yet you have to make the effort to seek love if you wish to find love. But in the seeking, you are no longer treasuring the moment as it is- you are wanting otherwise. We talk about sui1 yuan2 (letting conditions be natural), but love does not always karmically arrive without some conscious effort. What should you do? My answer to this confounding koan is simple- it all boils down to whether you want love or not. I also have another equally simple answer- all this speculation is pointless. The fail-proof way to attract love is to be a loving person to everyone, even strangers. People love loving people; the unloving are more "unlovable." If someone is attracted to you in the moment because of your loving-ness (lovingkindness/ compassion...), relish the moment of being loved and make the next decision from there...

Relish the moment, yes. Relish being loved. Relish my love, my friend. Relish our friendship in the moment [ok ok I know you do :-] As you read this now, know that this is the only real moment. I write this lengthy letter of love and friendship because of love for you my friend. I have been all along offering you all I can except that which separates lovers from friends. It saddens me a little when you feel sad you have "no one". But what is love? What is friendship? I ask again... what is the difference? Is the difference that important? Can it be forgotten? Done away with? Even if there is a whole world of difference to you, make the best of this moment!

What fools we be for love! Maybe great perfect Bodhisattva equanimous love of all starts somewhere from imperfect loving of one person other than ourself? May we grow great in our selfless love. Whatever your decision is on love matters, whenever you have love-blues, I will support you best I can :-]

Metta, Zeph JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Principle of Universal Importance

The Anthropic Principle says that the universe centres around man in the sense that it is naturally shaped such that it allows man to exist- which is why we can be here now talking about this principle. This seems to make sense at first thought. But does it really? Yes and no. Man inevitably dies. With the death of a man, does the principle still hold true for him? Or do we say it ends with him- for him? This principle is only saying the obvious- though it conjures the illusion that man is special and central in the universe. The Anthropic Pinciple is simply the law of karma- the universe of causes and conditions will support the survival of the individual according to his just deserts- till he does not "deserve" to live anymore. In this sense, the universe does indeed "revolve" around this individual. However, through careful thought, you will realise that the universe in reality "revolves" around each and every thing and being. There is simply no other way for things and beings to exist if the universe does not allows it. For example, we can say the conditions of the universe revolves around a sapling to condition or "allow" it to grow into a great tree- before it gets chopped to be timber. I can call this the flora principle! Likewise, there is the canine principle, which revolves around dogs, and the feline principle, which revolves around cats... you get the idea! What does this imply? It means that contrary to the single belief of the Anthropic Principle, that man is central in the universe as an observer and participant, other things and beings are of just as much central importance in the universe- or the universe would not have "taken the equal amount of trouble" to bring them into existence and sustain their existence. Everything in the universe are participants in the universe we share. The fact that any particular thing or being exists means the entire universe is naturally "taking care" of it in the moment. Thus, we have to uphold what is natural- speak up for animal rights, preserve the rainforests, etc...

Because everything and everyone is central in the universe, there is no specific centre. How can this be? Here is a slightly abstract yet exact example to let you get the idea. Imagine the Earth as a perfect sphere. Any point you stand, your feet point straight at its central core. All creatures and things great and small are likewise centrally bound passionlessly by gravity to the same core, with no particular like or dislike by the great Earth. Now expand this concept in all directions to cover the whole universe to see the big picture. The universe is like a macro Earth system, a gargantuan but single tightly cohesive unit of intricate interdependence, with equal "respect" for everything in it. The "respect" is not a particular slant of preference towards any particular thing or being but in a (w)holistic (complete and singular) way. Because the universe is holistic in nature, it is just. It does not side the doom or teeming of any lifeform- it only plays out in the moment, effects created by causes and conditions set by the particular lifeform in the past. This non-sentient nature of the universe means we should be all the more mindful of the repercussions of our actions to the universe and ourselves, who are part of the universe.

Let me call my above elaborated theory to the Anthropic Principle the "Principle of Universal Importance." This principle also speaks of interbeing (interdependence) as the fact that the universe allows all that exists to exist means co-existence is possible between man and nature, and man and man of different natures. Yet thus co-existence does not always imply harmony. On closer look, much global disharmomy between man and man and man and nature is caused by man. (Other sentient beings have their own conflicts too.) Man can both actively create and resolve conflicts. Only with the understanding of the Principle of Universal Importance (which is just my fancy term for "Dependent Origination" as taught by the Buddha, or "Interbeing" as coined by Thich Nhat Hanh) will man see the need for universal peace. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Sooner or Later

A colleague caught chicken pox, and another suggested that those who havn't got it before might wish to visit him to get it over with. There is the prevalent belief that everyone will get it once, like it or not, and just once, as the body naturally becomes immune to it subsequently. I find this funny- because it's totally different from saying, for example, that in this life, we will get to die once and just once. It is not an absolute law like that at all. Chicken pox is transmitted through its contagious air-bound (I think) virus. This is the play of cause and effect. If you do not come close to someone infected for your entire life, you won't catch it even if you live to a ripe old age. But given countless lives, our ill karma probably caught up with us countless lives before- with chicken pox and other ailments! As long as we are in Samsara, we will be caught with birth, ageing, illness and death... again and again. True sickness is then, not being sick in Samsara, but to not get out of it.

This catching chicken pox thingie reminds me of this theory of "chance" (in Buddhism, there is no such thing as "chance"; everything occurs as a result of intricate interdependent web of cause and effect) that says that if a hundred monkeys were given enough typewriters and time, one of them will inevitably bang out a Shakespearean play by chance. That is, given ENOUGH time. Yes. Given enough time, probably anything and everything that can happen will, due to causes and conditions constantly changing and latching onto each other, resulting in countless effects. Given enough time, we will all become Buddhas. Of course, enough effort is a crucial criterion for that to happen. Time is just a factor. This is no hundred-monkey "by chance" hit the jackpot case- if you keep monkeying around endlessly, you will never make it. Given forever, we forever have chance to attain Enlightenment. But if you take forever, you forever won't. Wanting out of samsara fast to save oneself is wisdom. And wanting out of samsara fast enough to save others is compassion. Which do you have? The first, the latter, both or none? JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
The End of the World

The world's end can never be reached
by means of traveling through the world,
Yet without reaching the world's end
there is no release from suffering.

Therefore, truly, the world-knower, the wise one,
gone to the world's end, fulfiller of the holy life,
having known the world's end, at peace,
longs not for this world or another.

-The Buddha, "The Connected Discourses of the Buddha"

You can travel all the way around the world,
but where does it get you to?

-Pet Shop Boys, "Love Comes Quickly" (Actually)

There is no physical end of the world as long as the phenomena of mind and matter is not relinquished. In letting go of both,
we become free from the world, ending worldly suffering. Yet at the same time, we can remain in the world out of compassion. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

Dharma Master Cheng Yen said, "A chipped cup still looks intact if viewed from another angle." Hmmm... does that mean we should be careful when seeing someone or something, to see if there is another side of the picture to see the complete picture? Or does it mean to see the good in the bad and the bad in the good? Or does it mean what you see is all a matter of perspective? Hmmm... well, here is what I have to say- "A partly chipped cup is a partly intact cup." JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

Monday, January 13, 2003


I discovered an interesting phenomenon. It is near impossible for the most people to feel lust towards handsome Buddha images and beautiful Bodhisattva images. This is because they are "designed" to be spiritually awe-inspiring, not physically "lust-inspiring." Their beauty is that to the extent of being majestic, magnificent; instead of "gorgeous" in the street sense of the word. This very interesting- true beauty does not spur lust; it puts it at rest. Whenever I see someone who has this similar effect (eg. the picture above- I don't know her, but this particular pose has that effect to some extent), I'm reminded of the truth that the truly physically beautiful are so because of their true spiritual beauty. It's the real definition of "cool"! I have seen many friends who in certain instances look incredibly magnificent- these are glimpses of the brilliant Buddha-Nature within. On the other hand, great spiritual beauty is sometimes not shown physically- external changes can take time to catch up internal changes! It would be a great misgiving of mine if you were to take the message of this article to mean it is okay to judge by appearance, for nothing is further from the truth. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

There are many pseudonyms (pen-names) used in here- to uphold the "privacy policy" of strangers and friends. But they are also appropriately used in another sense- we are changing all the time- into different persons... so much so that using changing pseudonyms seem to be the fair thing to do- so that we do not mentally and unfairly pigeon-hole dynamically evolving persons into fixed personality types. It is as if we constantly put on and off countless different defiled masks... which mask the universal Buddha-Nature within. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
The Real Demons

In Buddhism, the relentless efforts of the evil one (Mara) to seduce one into perpetuating the three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance are rendered fruitless the moment we overcome our own three posions. While the imagery of Mara might be terrifying at times, let us realise that he is the personification of your very own three poisons, which are the real demons. Mara cannot be more powerful than the extent you let the three poisons control you. And he will survive as long as you let the poisons stay in your heart. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Win Factor

Watching "Fear Factor" on TV now. The challenge is to walk a long window ledge on one of the top storeys of a building. The first contestant had a good time, and was so confident that she kept booing the second contestant when he was on his dare, to scare him to making a slip (yes, there is a safety line). It struck me that that was poor sportmanship. A real winner is one who cheers his competitors. One really wins when one even helped others to win oneself- whether there is an actual victory is secondary. And if one really wins, isn't the victory so much more sweet and real? Note that I'm only talking about sports and similar competition here- in battles of good versus evil, don't let or help evil win! Instead, win evil over by transforming it into good! A good sportsman is like a good practising Buddhist- he does not bring hatred into sports. (By the way, she didn't win in the end.) JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
The Way

The perfect way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully without disguise.

-Master Sosan (Shinjin-no-Mei - On Believing the Mind)

The twentieth patriarch had said:

"I do not seek the way,
and I do not do the opposite either.

I do not prostrate myself before the Buddha,
but I do not despise him either.

I do not remain seated [meditating] for very long,
but I am not mindless either.

I do not limit myself to a single meal,
but I do not stuff myself either.

I am not satisfied with everything,
but I am not covetous.

When the heart is stripped of all desire,
that is the way."

-The Great Way Is Generous So It Is Neither Difficult Nor Easy

Sunday, January 12, 2003

Buddhist Charity "Vs" Dharma Education

I see much of the local Buddhist community doing charity work instead of propagation of direct and systematic Dharma education work. Dharma work in terms of education is not as easy to do as general charity work, but we mustn't forget that the giving of the Dharma is the highest charity- "The gift of Truth excels all other gifts." Yes you can say that doing general charity is part and parcel of Dharma practice, but the Dharma is much more than practising charity, which is mainly doing good and avoiding evil. There is still the purification of the mind to be taught and practised. General charity alone will not purify the mind- it is only compassion at work without the highest wisdom- which is to be realised by purifying the mind. If even Buddhist temples and leaders miss this point and practise only charity, who will be the ones to propagate the complete Dharma which leads to the liberation of all beings? This is not to discourage charitiable works by Buddhist organisations, but a question of priority. In the mean time, it is perfectly alright for the Buddhist individual to do charity for charity's sake, though he too should not miss the ultimate aim of the Dharma.

While it is true that many beings need the gift of basic charity such as food and medicine before they can learn and practise the Dharma, giving someone all the non-Dharma charity in the world will not lead to Enlightenment. We should focus on non-Dharma charity only when we have learnt to integrate it well with Dharma propagation. The Buddha is the perfect example of one who is able to integrate the duo. Even so, the Buddha was focused on teaching the Dharma more than doing general charity. It is Dharma charity that will save all beings eventually, not general charity. There are many categories of the Dharma. By "Dharma" here and above, I refer to the teachings of the Buddha which lead to nothing less than liberation; not just general betterment in this present or future life with no clear advancement towards Enlightenment. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
All Your Eggs in One Basket

Some excerpts from one of my favourite Pet Shop Boys song, "Paninaro ’95"-

"... Now you've gone, I'm all alone
My heart is broken and I don't wanna go home
You know it's all over, you're out of luck
You feel so low you wanna self-destruct
I needed you and you loved me too
but now I don't know what I'm gonna do
But life moves on, I'm talking history
and now I've got to find someone who'll dance with me...

... You, you were my lover
You were my hope, you were my dreams, my life
my passion, my love, my sex and my money
my violence, religion, injustice and death..."

This is what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket and lose it. First of all, don't have too many unnecessary eggs. Second, don't have just one basket- but don't have too many either. If you want only one "basket", it has to be refuge in the Triple Gem. No other "basket" is reliable and lasting! It is the crucial basket. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Path to Perfection

It all boils down to practice-
only practice makes perfect-
nothing else can. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Reply 1 : Sweeping Leaves

The leaves you sweep represent the defilements in your mind.

If you are impatient,
sweeping endless leaves day after day
will sweep away your impatience.

If you are patient,
sweeping endless leaves day after day
is not a problem.
It is something that has to be done anyway!

No excuses not to sweep! JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Beautiful Ugliness

In seeing a good portrayal of ugliness,
it becomes beautiful,
and you transcend the duality of beauty and ugliness,
by seeing it as it is.

This is truly appreciating art.
This is the way of the enlightened artist and art connoisseur. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Hope for the “Hopeless”

I am constantly shocked whenever fellow Buddhists proclaim with exasperation about certain folks they have come across, to be “hopeless”. They would rant on and on about how they have tried their best to help the persons in question, but to no avail. I think they have forgotten in the instant, that the Buddha taught us that all beings can attain perfect Enlightenment due to our inherent Buddha-Nature (Buddha seed). It can be detrimental to the person you are trying to help when you express exasperation before others. What message goes across? That you are a lousy helper? Or that the “help-ee” is a lousy person that everyone should give up helping? All they should say, is that they had run out of skillful means for the time being- due to personal lack of wisdom! JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
An Ill Couple

Two of Lynn’s good friends, a married couple, were down with high fever at about the same time. They were so seriously down that they had to get Lynn to escort them to consult a Chinese physician. This incident kind of shook me to my senses with regards to the illusion that two people living together will definitely be able to take good care of each other. At the end of the day, we are still living out our own personal karma, even if it is closely entwined collectively with those we love, and hate.

At the end of the day, our salvation is "self-vation", a matter of self-reliance- even if it means using our efforts to get others to help. Two spiritually unwell people can only take care of each other as well as they are well- that is why we go to the Enlightened beings and their teachings as the highest refuge, as they are the spiritually perfect with teachings of spiritual perfection. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

Saturday, January 11, 2003

Breaking Wind

Was in a cab when the driver broke wind silently… unless it was me unmindfully! Just as silently, I rolled down my window a little to discreetly let the stench out. I wasn’t sure if he knew I did that. But it doesn’t matter. I can understand the need to, yup, fart, suddenly- what’s more is that it would be somewhat strange to pull over and step out for a moment on the highway just to break wind! And I can understand if he was too embarrassed to apologise- so he behaved as if nothing happened. These things sometimes happen “unwittingly” in the sense that we might not think it would smell at all when we let out just a little gas!

What is the moral of this incident? Well, kindness can sometimes be expressed silently. I did not blame him for the "accident" and he was probably glad for that. I was being kind both to him and myself- I let him “off” and I let myself “off” by letting the air out. Sometimes there is just absolutely no need for words. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Diamond Sutra Story with Twist in the Tail

A monk came to an old woman's home to ask for food. She said, "I've just prepared this blueberrry pie and tea. If you can answer a question about the Diamond Sutra, I'll give it to you. The monk said, "Dear lady, I study the Diamond Sutra all day long. Of course I can answer any question! The old the lady asked, "Are you eating this bueberry pie with the mind of the past,the mind of the present or the mind of the future?

The monk could not think of any answer so he pulled out his book and began reading. Ater an hour,the old lady took pity on him and said, "You foolish monk! You are eating this pie with your mouth! Please partake of some pie and tea!" -Tranquil Standing Mountain JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

K: Tell you an open secret... I have been reading your writings and always think to myself : finally here's one balanced person with superb knowledge of the Buddhadharma and abundance of creative brain juice! Just like how you articulate the thoughts, your literary skill and your application of Buddhist principles in daily life.. and with such a refined sense of humor. So, even if I can't last long here, at least, I have no regrets, for I have met THE Zeph. Just some frank personal opinions, not meant to lift u up sky high.... by the way, I am convinced you are already enlightened...therefore, have compassion on me ...helpppppppp...... : )

Z: Thanks for the support! No la I am not enlightened. Let us all save each other!

ZhiYi: Just read this. Can't help but smile- these pieces truly are more digestible, absorbable and connectable. Keep it up - err . . coming.

U: I like the blog website though...

Purplestar: I have been reading your article and was very touched by your efforts to create a new breakthrough online diary to enhance readers to give a thought of our daily happenings in in life. The thoughts after digest helps me to be SUI YUAN (let unchangeable situations be) in the positive manner. The cream that I really learn is how to forgive others with an open mind. It really help me to be calm in handling matters. However, at times I have to take many tablets to digest your dairy. Kindly put a note on the Dharma terms you use so as to save time for people like me still attending the kindergarden class in Dharma reading. Zeph, the contents are really good enough to be published. To me, the diary actually brings out the three poisons in life and methods to be detached from these toxins on the way to enlightenment. Really hope to see your 366 articles in town for reading. Cheers!!!

Z: Thanks! I will put bracketed short glossaries after difficult terms.

SehNee: (on publishing this stuff) Go for it. I don't think it's crappy ... i think it would be good. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Reply 1 : The First Taxi

V: "The first taxi" is a lousy example on our perception being relative. When we think someone has cut queue while we've waited hideously long for an unhired/un-oncalled taxi, we are talking about who came first. It's got nichts to do with the queue being in front or behind. It's basic civilised behaviour to let someone who was there earlier than us have the coming taxi. That's what I'd do whether or not I'm standing in front or behind that person. As long as she/he is there first, the taxi is theirs.It's COMMONSENSE!Already I'm appalled with the people here for the lack of this basic courtesy! It's happened to me one time too often. Especially annoying when I've stood under the hot sun for more than half hour.

Z: I understand your frustration from the encounters. However, notice that the article had the words "we tend to think he cut queue- be it intentionally or not." There are many cases when people "cut queue" without noticing they are doing so. There are also times when we come out of a building and head straight for the kerb in front, not realising there are many people behind where we stand. There can be so many that you can't even see clearly where is the "last"- does it mean you will walk all the way to the "end"? (This is especially true for busy roads like Orchard.) Or should we just head for a proper queue as in a taxi stand?
Double-Ended, Double Started

Was eating sweets from a stick of Mentos on and off when I reached the last sweet in the paper tube. For a few seconds, I found myself struggling to squeeze it out of the tube- as there was no "leverage", with it being the last sweet. Then I realised my foolishness in clinging to the illusion that there is a proper one-way "exit" for the sweet. Why did I have to see the sweet as being the last in the tube? I turned it around and voila! It had become the first sweet. I only had to give it a slight push, with the "leverage" of the tubing, to pop it out! Sometimes, things are not single-ended but double, especially when things like front and back, left and right, and up and down are relative truths. When "stuck" in a situation, reverse the situation by seeing a close-ended situation as an open-ended one- think out of the box. In fact, the box is usually an illlusion- there might be none at all!JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Really Love & Hate

I think a problem with parental love is that sometimes parents really love and really hate. What do I mean by that? Sometimes parents love their children to the extent of clinging- this is really loving (in contrast to truly loving unconditionally). And at other times, they sometimes hate their children to the extent of inflicting physical punishment- this is really hating. But parents being parents, in most cases, despite having a real love-hate relationship with their children, the love is more, though unfortunate- since it is of the clinging nature- it can be so apparently unconditional... till the day the children break their hearts. In Samsara, even the unenlightened love closest to true love is afterall, not enlightened love. I write this not to discredit the greatness of parental love, but to warn of the greatness of the suffering we can give our parents when we are unfilial. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply
Spiritual Mumbo Jumbo

I was at a fair where all kinds of new age methods for well-being were publicised. With all due respect to many of these methods which sometimes work very well, some of them, in my opinion, is mumbo jumbo in the sense that it is not close enough to be truly spiritual. It is only toying with mind and matter and not transcending them for real Enlightenment. Even psychic power is just playing with mind and matter. But it's okay afterall, if it all leads directly or indirectly to the path to Enlightenment. JoinMailingList4LatestUpdates/Reply

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