Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Message to Fellow Buddhists

After the retreat, I may still have my personal flaws and problems and delusions, etc etc, but it sealed my conviction that the Buddha's words and teachings are correct. After Venerable Master Hsuan Hua and now Lama Zopa Rinpoche, I have had the fortune of meeting true masters - Masters who are beyond all doubts Enlightened Beings, walking on this earth together with us. And we, normal humans could potentially achieve the same status. Don't just beleive me. You have to check it up yourself. This is also the advice given by the Buddha himself, i.e. to check up his words whether true or not. And not just accept it as truth. Only Buddhism talks about such thing. The Buddha is never afraid of telling people to go check his teachings and NO NEED to ask his followers to go propagate his teachings. He knows the truth of Dharma will stand the test of time and the truth of Supreme Enlightenment will propagate itself. By teachings I mean all the 3 teachings embodied in the main traditions of Buddhism, i.e. Therevada, Mahayana and Vajrayana. So, how then do I prove the Buddha's words were true?

The prove of Buddhism is in Buddha's Supreme Enlightenment. Buddhism is different from other religion in that it is not specifically based on one particular book, nor even baskets of books. The teachings of Buddha is any teaching/method that systematically bring one towards Supreme Enlightenment. So, in this interpretation even "other religions" can be considered as the Buddha Dharma. But the huge difference is in the method and time taken to achieve the final goal, i.e. Nirvana. Since the Buddha's time, thousands of people have achieved some form of Enlightement, be it Arhatship, Boddhisattvahood and even Buddhahood. Most of the time, people I know who converted to other religions often cited Buddhism as empty or without the "glorious salvation of their lord" or the "promise of resurrection". I find actually these persons donot know enough of Buddhism. They donot know enough of the Buddha's great teachings.

Buddhism is not just going to temples and putting some joss-sticks or lighting some candles and praying for this and that. This type of behaviour is really more suitable for other religions. In Buddhism we believe more in self-purification for the purpose of ultimately liberating all sentient beings. By liberating we mean, causing the same purification in others and hence, helping others achieving the same Enlightenment. Even if you donot achieve the Supreme Enlightenment of the Buddha, by sincere and proper practice of meditation, you will be able to gain some little, little Enlightements, i.e. lower levels of achievements. And there are many many thousands of Buddhists who have achieved that. And as long as you are on that track, you will be surely on the way to Supreme Buddhahood one day. So, there is no reason whatsoever in giving up Buddhism!

Other religions engage in a lot of active "spreading of the gospel" and they have a lot of support system especially if you are having emotional, health or social problems. These systems provide so much emotional and friendship that you feel like "saved" in the end. That is why a lot of Buddhists who were sick (or near death) or having social or family problems converts and turn to other religions for help. This kind of support system is good in a sense, which is not that apparent within most Buddhist organisations. That is why Khenrinpoche Lama Lhundrup adviced Buddhists to set up support cells within Buddhist groups, to provide needed suppport to their own members or friends. But the Buddha really provided more than this feel good temporary relieve.

I have participated in other religious functions many many times and often music is used to pump up your spiritual adrenaline. When you feel HIGH, you feel like you have entered some sort of estacy and bliss. You dance and move in praise of your Lord. I am not saying there is something wrong in this kind of "feel good stuff", in fact it may be a good thing to experience temporal bliss now and then, to remind you of the final BLISS. Moreover, such singing and dancing are usually acts of devotion. However, in Buddhism such indulgence in HIGH experiences is of not much use in your path towards Enlightenment. In fact it can be a hindrance. You can become so attached to such "happy moves" and "high spirits" that when you are unwilling to let go of such experiences. When the "high experience" ends, you experience much misery and unable to cope with your normal miserable life. Also when you die, there is a chance you may be reborn as a wandering spirit, i.e. smiling ghost. Happy... but nevertheless still a ghost. Still very much trapped within the cycle of birth and death. Behind such happiness, actually there is much sorrow! When you are still trapped like a bird in a cage, how much happiness can you enjoy? How much freedom do you have?

Of course, such happiness also exists within Buddhism if you want to, but this is not the approach of any of the traditions of Buddhism. Buddha exhorts you to engage in practices that bring REAL JOY, REAL HAPPINESS. He asks you to always remember the ultimate happiness - liberation from cycle of birth and death. When you become a Buddha yourself, you can experience all the bliss and happiness you ever wanted!

As Buddhists, we must remember that this is the main essence or message of the Buddha! As Buddhists, this is what we must know and not be easily swayed.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Part 12: Going back home and picture gallery

On the last day of retreat, it lasted till the next day. By the time Rinpoche finishes giving blessings to each and everyone, it was nearly 4am. We slept only for a couple of hours. But I think most of us could hardly sleep anyway. Everyone was still excited - not because of it being the last day. Rather it was the long marathon teaching by Rinpoche and ended with the giving of precepts and refuge. There was new found joy in suddenl;y getting new brothers and sisters of this extensive FPMT family. And we were happy also for the meditative effects of Maitreya sadhana had on our minds. I think it made everyone think more of kindness and compassion. By the time we got to bed, it was 4am, but still some people were still lighting lamps and candles at the Maitreya statue outside in the cold night. They slept later. Nevertheless there are people who could not sleep and they are those who will be leaving the home life on NEw Year's Day. One guy from France in my room was shuffling in and out of the room. I could sense his uneasiness. Later I found him in the monk's robes and then only I knew. The Root Institute spiritual coordinator told us that we could go witness the ordination ceremony because Rinpoche had allowed us to. It would be early in the morning before Rinpoche leaves Root Institute.
When the ceremony started with Rinpochge inside the gompa, I went in the gompa too for a short while. Then I had to hurry to Bodhgaya market to get some stuff I need before I leave India. I hurrried there and got back as soon as I could not sure whether I had the chance to still see Rinpoche leave Root. I was fortunate, because when I got back, Rinpoche was still inside the gompa. It was way past 9am on 1 Jan 2007. It was only about 11 am that Rinpoche left Root Institute after blessingand receiving kata from the long queue of Buddhists/admirers. I gave kata twice - the additional one being for my mrs. I showed Rinpoche the picture my mrs and I took with Khenrinpoche. He was happy. And while waiting for Rinpoche in the long line, we saw a dog who stayed at the center and William from LDC commented that the dog was said to be a monk in a previous life. He must have done something wrong, but because of his connnection with the dharma, he was still able to be born at a place where there is dharma. Nevertheless, being a dog he now could not understand the precious dharma. That kind of underscores the importance of the precious human rebirth. DON'T SCOUNDER AWAY YOUR LIFE AS A HUMAN BEING!
Immediately after Rinpoche left, I had to leave too with Chung Han and Mr and Mrs MK Sen and their LDC group. I hitch-hike on their 4WD to the Gaya airport. I was reluctant to leave, considering all the pleasant experience with Rinpoche and the Sangha here. But then, ... "non-attachment, non attachment"! ha!ha!ha!
At the airport manned by Indian military personnel, we were checked so throughly (and so manually because there was no computer systems) that we felt like we were terrorists suspects or something. They even use the handheld metal detector to scan my shoes!
And the other interesting thing that happened at the airport was I met the Hing Kong actor named Wu Chen Ee. I didnot know him prior to that until William Foong of LDC asked me if I knew him. He asked me because I was talking to him earlier. He thought I knew him. Later I went to get his autograph in which he wished me a happy 2007 year!
And the rest of the journey back is boring stuff, till I arrived at Bangkok for a one night stay overnight. On arrival, I was told by the taximan that there was bombing somewhere near the hotel I would be staying. So, I should not wander around too much. Goodness! When I was planning for this trip back in December 2006, I had thought of arrival in Bangkok a day earlier. But due to the retreat not expected to end early on 31 December (expected to finish late , which it did!), I re-scheduled the flight back to Bangkok to 1 December. I donot know what would have happened had I reached Bangkok a day earlier. I can only see it as a blessing from Rinpoche that I was safe and sound throughout the journey.
So, this has been a long series of my blogs on the Maitreya Retreat. I plan to go for this retreat again at the end of 2007! Long live my Guru!

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Part 11: Happy New Year 2007!!

Let me share with you one incident that occured atBodhgaya, during my retreat with K. Lama ZopaRinpoche. While the rest of the world was celebratingthe New Year 2007 on eve night of 31 Dec 2006 (I think so) , Rinpoche was busyrescuing Saddam Hussein. He got news of his death by hanging and asked us to follow along him in reciting prayers for Saddam's liberation. We recited powerfulmantras and dedicated merits to Saddam Hussein. We didthat before Rinpoche proceeded with other teachings.When we practice the 4 immeasurable attitudes, we do not choose one being and ignore another. I am sure if it was Bush who died, we would have done the same prayers.

While there was sound of fireworks all around us and I could not help that sometimes my mind keep flying far away back to my home town, but I could excuse myself because this was my first time celebrating the New Year's eve away from my loved one and away from my home town. There was no celebration this year, no evening candlelight meal, no "crazy" crowd, no "mad" spraying, no deafening music and screams, etc. Instead there I was chanting, praying and meditation in the peaceful gompa, surrounded by brothers and sisters walking the same path to peace. Most important of all, we are in the midst of our great Guru teaching and leading us to Final Emamcipation. My mind was thinking that maybe it was unrealistic to expect Rinpiche to allow us to shout and celebrate the new year, but at the least Rinpoche was going to wish us Happy New Year. Big Fat Hope!! hahaha!!

There was no such wish because for Rinpoche and perhaps same for all Buddhas, this kind of worldly happiness in at best temporal and doesnot contribute to liberation of the mind. In fact, such New Year madness often results in more suffering like drunkenness, untowards accidents, and what's more appaling is resulting in more delusions and ignorance. Engaging AND INDULGING in such samsaric activities would merely sink us deeper into pain. Hence, it is Rinpoche's opinion, I think, that it is far better to engage in Lam Rim practice than wasting time even in wishing "Happy New Year!". I am reminded of Je Tsongkapa's verse that worldly happiness is "the door to every pain".

So, 12 midnight went by quite uneventfully. BUT if looking from point of spiritual development - it actually was the most eventful night I had ever experience. Rinpoche explained about the Triple Precious Gem and the Precepts, among other things. So that was the way we greeted and ursher in the 2007 New Year! HAPPY NEW YEAR 2007! May All Sentient Beings be Free from Suffering and Achieve Buddhahood!