Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Why you should be born as my son?

To all sentient beings with good roots still in the bardo:

10 good reasons:
1. You will have a loving and good mother.
2. You will have loving and good grandparents who can take care of you.
3. You will be born into a Buddhist family.
4. You will have the opportunity to take refuge in the Triple Gem -Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.
5. You will have the opportunity to meet with the Precious Guru - Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
6. You will have the opportunity to meet with other Buddhist Masters/Teachers and hear the dharma.
7. You will not born into a family which is poor/in poverty.
8. You will have a proper education and upbringing.
9. You will have the chance to be blessed by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche on this 28th and 29th May 2007 - very soon!!
10.If you are born whole and complete, and have the merits of dharma practice, you will be able to benefit us - your parents, as well as benefit all other sentient beings.

We have all the means and condition for proper dharma activities, so if you are my son, you will be able to benefit many many sentient beings!!

Friday, April 20, 2007

Buddha: “ In the heavens as well as on earth, I am The Most Supreme”

When I started learning the dharma, I did not start with Vajrayana. And yes, even though you can learn about the small and medium scope path within Vajrayana itself, that would be to learn them from the side of Vajrayana. But I learned it direct from the side of the source. I started with Theravada, not by choice but by circumstance designed by affinity and previous karma. I learned from Theravadin teachers such as Ajahn Chah, Ajahn Sumedho, the Burmese Sayadaws and the Thai Luang Pors, and others. In Mahayana Buddhism I learned about the Pure Land schools and Ch’an Buddhism and Zen from a few Masters and read countless of Mahayana Sutras such as The Lotus Sutra, Surangama Sura, Ksitigarbha Sura, The Platform Sutra, etc. I have also gone through many texts and commentaries from past Masters.

I have to state this, not to boast of my “learnedness” (because I donot think I can be considered as that yet). Rather it is for encouraging new learners not to form quick conclusions when you learn something. In fact what I am writing here is considered kindergarden stuff. Basics that I pick up as a beginner. I am still learning the really harder stuff like understanding how karma works, dependent arising, emptiness, etc. And that’s why I am still learning. But I have to write this to dispel doubts that the Buddha never said anything about him being the best. I also want to reconcile and put the pieces together between different views about how Buddhism should regard itself in relation to other religions.

It took me over two-and-half decades to learn Theravada, Mahayana and Vajrayana Buddhism. Now I am like re-learning Vajrayana, i.e. seriously entering it as a tantric path. Even though I did not just started learning about the Vajrayana school, it was only recently that I could “see” and truly understand why Vajrayana path is considered the “swiftest” path to Enlightenment. Suddenly the Lam Rim that I have read before had “new” meanings. I have read about Lam Rim many times but this time, it is like “a path actually opened in front of me”. I am not sure how to explain this but it is not mere superficial understanding/intellectual only. After so many years, now I am truly ready to enter the quick path and take on a root guru.

The Path that I took is actually risky. Not many people could actually progress from Theravada to Mahayana and eventually to Vajrayana. But I did it. Some people stayed back in those schools by choice. Some could not progress further because if you are in those schools, there is a chance you might receive some misguided teachings that the Mahayana teachings are not true and merely fabrications. This is a fact. They will be telling you that theirs is the “original” teachings of the Buddha. This may be true to a certain extent because the Buddha did not actually teach tantra. And some Sutra did not exist at the time of the Buddha. But that is the beauty of Buddhism. The beauty of Buddhism is that it doesnot rely 100% on the truth of the historical Buddha himself. It means that even if you can proof that the historical Buddha did not exist, the buddhadharma would still exist. Anyone who has realized Enlightenment would in actual fact demonstrate the truth of the Buddhadharma.
So, to me, when someone talks that Buddhism is the best religion, they are merely referring to the eternal Buddhadharma and not the religion that was founded in the year 632BC. [Note: This ideal is, however, not found in Buddhism as religion alone. There are other variations of the same ideal and they are called by other terms/names. But from the side of the Buddhadharma, due to our ideal consisted of no existence of an inherently existing self, we consider that version of the ideal the best. And whatever religion/lineage has that version of ideal, is considered having the most supreme ideal. Unfortunately the concept of emptiness itself is in dispute within different Buddhist traditions due to different concepts of Emptiness].

It was the later enlightened saints that preaches tantric Buddhism and employs the Mahayanic skillful means to teach Buddhism. These are considered the 2nd and 3rd turning of Buddhism. In Mahayana, especially in the Lotus Sutra, it was mentioned about the Buddha using all kinds of skillful means to preach the dharma to sentient beings. These are considered Buddhist teachings and attributed to Sakyamuni Buddha (even though there is no conclusive evidence of how and whether in fact Sakymuni Buddha was the one who was reborn to teach tantric Buddhism in Tibet for example) because he was the one who represent the Buddhahood ideal. So to me, it doesnot matter if you cannot trace any teaching back to the historical Buddha as long as the spirit of the teaching doesnot clash with the general principles of the Buddhadharma such as the 4 Noble Truths, the ideal of Buddhahood, etc.

We can see Vajrayana employing plenty of skillful means such as the different deities, mantras, visualization techniques, prayer accessories, use of mandalas, etc etc. All these are for swiftly attaining of Enlightenment and nothing else. These are not to be attached to. In Zen Buddhism, there is a saying that before enlightenment, you use a boat to cross the river, but after reaching the shore, you don’t carry it around your shoulders. You leave the boat behind. When you have learned all the schools of Buddhism, you see the entire picture. But I am not advocating you to do the same (i.e. start learning all schools). No, because I have my own previous karmic pattern and path and so do you. To each, his or her own path to walk.

While it is true that HH the Dalai Lama doesnot emphasise differences in religion a lot, this is merely because of his skillful means in his role and responsibility to maintain harmony. Moreover, he is a Noble Prize winner. You cannot expect a public figure like him whom many regard as a living Chenrezig to be actively advocating Supremacy of Buddhism, can you? Like I said, Buddhism itself as a religion is not the best but the ideal of Supreme Enlightenment is. And this view is held normally in secret. It is not publicly acknowledge, especially during interfaith dialogues. But many high lamas and teachers have talked about it in their teachings. Lama Khunu Rinpoche may have talked before in his teachings that Buddhism is the best and a lot of people are aware that even a lineage Guru of FPMT - Pabongka Rinpoche also has this similar view. (And some people may even say he has an even more “extreme” view than merely saying Buddhism is the best, which I shall not go into). Some argued that it is because of maintaining harmony between the different lineages of Vajrayana and between different religions that His Holiness has the difficult task of disassociating himself from this so-called “extreme view” of Pabongka Rinpoche. So, in this respect you can see and reconcile His Holiness and Pabongka Rinpoche both playing their roles. The former is playing his role to preserve harmony among religions and the latter is playing his role to preserve the lineage of Je Tsongkapa and prasangika emptiness as he see it. Since both are considered enlightened beings, by reconciling their actions in this way, you have pure view of your gurus.

Vajrayanist talk a lot about Hinayana being the small scope and Mahayana as the medium scope. I would like to think of the terms “Hinayana” and “Mahayana” along the line of Lama Yeshe’s teachings. He said that whether we are practicing Hinayana or Mahayana, it is all in our attitude. The terms are not referring to any geographical or cultural set of persons or believers. And moreover, if you are in those other schools of Buddhism, they will be able to share with you whom they think has attained enlightenment. At least, some level of enlightenment. The only question is: which level of enlightenment? Enlightenment is not just one level. You can think of it along the lines of primary school, high/secondary school and university level enlightenment. When Vajrayanist talk about it being the swiftest path to enlightenment, it means the swiftest to the most ultimate state of Buddhahood. And if you fail to achieve that state, at least perhaps you will achieve quite a lofty state as well, and be assured of achieving it later.

Going back to the matter of the Buddhadharma (again, not Buddhism!) being the best, did the historical Buddha himself said to that effect anywhere? Actually that is one of the first few things I learned as a beginner. When I started learning Buddhism, I started with the life of the Buddha. When the Buddha was born, he took seven steps (and each step a lotus flower appeared) and at the seventh step, with the right hand pointing upwards and left hand pointing downwards, he proclaimed, “ In the heavens as well as on earth, I am The Most Supreme”. It can be viewed in two ways. As the historical Buddha, there being no other Buddha at that time, He indeed is the most Supreme One. Or, it can be viewed as him saying that the ideal of Buddhahood is the most supreme. Not rebirth in heaven as a god/goddess nor a brahma. At that time, most of the founders of modern day religions were not yet born. So, I donot think he was comparing religions. Not even with the religions at his time. He was referring to his state of Buddhahood. And if there are any other religion that is able to lead anyone eventually to this ideal, then that religion is also considered buddhadharma.

So, who says the Buddha never said he was the most supreme? Anyway, in all schools of Buddhism, we believe in the nine virtues of the Buddha. We always use these titles “Bhagavan, Tathagata, Arhat,… etc” to mean “ Omniscient One, Supremely Enlightenened One, Thus Gone One, or Thus Come One, …etc” to describe the Buddha’s qualities. Everytime we use these titles to describe the Buddha, we are in fact acknowledging Him being the Highest! We are acknowledging there is no one else that is higher than the Buddha. And if you are not acknowledging that, then why recite those titles associated with the Buddha? It will also mean, you have not completely taken refuge in the Triple Gem since you still have doubts. But I do understand sometimes it takes time to develop complete faith.

Therefore, it was not the Khunu Lama nor Pabongka Rinpoche, who was the first to claim the Budhadharma being the highest and best ideal. The truth is the Buddha himself said so. However, it is an ideal that is best kept close to our hearts and not go everywhere and preach to others like an evangelist. The Buddha also taught us to use “Skillful means”, and use wisdom and compassion. Believing that the Buddhahood ideal is the best is a personal confirmation of our faith in the Triple Gem; not a tool for creating disharmony/converting others. Buddhism is not interested in converting others. I remember, Lama Yeshe pointed out that after the Buddha attained Enlightenment, he did not go about preaching immediately. Someone from the Brahma realm had to request him to teach the dharma, then only he started to teach. This is one important point Lama Yeshe stressed that Buddhism is different from other religions.

As a religion, Buddhism is another skillful means, just like other religions probably are too (if viewed from the side of Buddhism). So, in that respect, it is equal to others. But as a way of cultivation or path to an ideal, there is none equal than releasing from the cycle of rebirth (which is empty from its own side) and attaining Supreme Buddhahood (which is also empty from its own side)!

By the merit of this sharing, may my Gurus live long, and may all sentient beings be healthy, successful and finally attain Supreme Enlightenment!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Lama Zopa Rinpoche - Letter to the Glorious Buddha!

My Dear Glorious Buddha - Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche,

I heard You will be going to Malaysia and Singapore soon. I hope to be able to meet you there - either in Penang or Singapore or both. I pray that you guide me so that I know whether to go for the Ksitigarbha initiation or not. Or should I take the great Medicine Buddha initiation? And I pray I will have the conditions to be able to meet you without any obstacles.

I will always pray in my heart that you live long in this world to guide us all lost beings. You are the Spiritual Superman benefitting all sentient beings.

Long Live to you, my Dearest PRECIOUS GURU -

I humbly bow to you and seek the blessings of your holy body, speech and mind!

In Prostrations,

Your humble servant.