Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Life is to Learn How to become Good Human Being?

I think the problem is different people have different definition of what constitutes as a “good” human being. I am sure you have seen many of these “good human beings” behaves generally well when they are around Buddhist friends or surroundings or when things are smooth. But once things are not that smooth, or when they are at home or in their workplace, they become another personality. Totally in contrast to their earlier good nature. They become selfish and uncooperative in office, etc, etc. They become angry and agitated easily at home. Come back from work and scold the husband/wife and children. They develop bad habits they don’t even realize it’s a bad habit. But yet, they donate from time to time to charitable bodies, they volunteer their time for Tzu Chi Merit, they contribute to print dharma books, etc.So, they do know how to do good deeds. The problem lies in dealing with their mental afflictions. I can assure you that 99% of us do not know how to deal properly with our mental afflictions (me included definitely :)). Actually not knowing how to deal with it, is better than not recognizing it as a problem. Many people don’t even know mental afflictions are a problem. They give excuses such as “I am a nice person, I don’t get angry. It is you/him/her who provoked me. My anger is justified.” By the Buddha’s standard (common in all traditions), a“good” human being has to do 3 things on a CONSISTENT basis:-

i. doing deeds that generate merits
ii. not doing deeds that will result in demerits
iii. purifying the mind

The third component above is the hardest to do and onethat many of us do not do. Or not yet do. Or don’tknow how to do. But the key is consistency. Rememebr that. That’s all. Thank you for reading –sorry if it’s a bore :) !

Purpose of Animal Liberation

I share a lot with a good dharma friend of mine and I thought maybe it's good to share here too, without naming who, something on animal liberation:- Slightly more than a year ago, I would have thought that releasing of animals is just releasing of animals out of compassion for their pain while in the trap or cage. In Mahayana, all these while, I see the release of animals as just that, i.e. release of lives from their cages, water tanks, aquariums, containers, cooking pot, etc. Then there are those critics who saythat by releasing some animals into the open/ natural environment, we would be opening them to even more danger. This group of persons says that we would be harming them more than reducing their pain. So, there is this controversy of whether you should release their lives if it’s just a matter of releasing of lives. Of course, saving from cooking pot is one thing. But is it just at that level? But now, my guru has opened a whole new understanding to me. Yes, by doing animal liberation, we are not literally liberating them straight to enlightenment. However, we are assisting them in planting good causes and condition for a better life or better chance to be reborn as a human or god in the next life. We are also helping them plant seeds for their own future practice so that they are able to meet with dharma in the next life and practice to achieve enlightenment. So, it is not about this life alone. In the long term, indirectly we are indeed “liberating” them. And because we are able to practice such compassionate activities, thanks to these animals, indirectly they are also “liberating” us. That is why it is said in the dharma verses that we should see all sentient beings as our precious mothers and fathers and more precious than the wish-fulfilling gem. That is why in certain dharma centers, before the animals are released, not only are prayers chanted for them, the animals are actually taken round stupas and other holy objects. Indirectly the animals are circumambulating the holy objects and these will result in some future good causes and condition. Yes, practically they may still be an animal after we“release” them and perhaps so (or even be reborn in the hell or hungry ghost realms) in their next few lives depending on their existing karma. But one thing is for sure, they have planted imprints or seeds that will one day surely result in a happy rebirth for them no matter how long it takes. If their animal karma is short, by chanting prayers and mantras to them, they may even quickly die as an animal and be reborn in the better realm or one of the pure lands. So, when you see animals dying after an animal liberation event, or after you recite some mantras to them, it may actually be a good sign. Don’t take it that your mantra is ineffective, or mantra is effective but your chanting is ineffective whichever way you see it. Don’t think of it like that. In otherBuddhist centers, the animals are not taken to goround holy objects, instead sutras and other prayersare recited. This is also good because even though the animals cannot understand a word of the prayer or sutra or mantra, it will create imprints for connection with the dharma in the future. And certain mantras are powerful for creating a strong imprint or seed, and will quickly bloom for the animal. Hence, it is not the term we use for this activity,whether Animal Liberation or Animal Release, the important thing is what we do to the animal. Yes, releasing a caged animal is good but it is of not much use from the Buddhist long term point of view. For that matter, it does not have to be confined to animals, we can apply the same practice to hungry ghosts (if you can take those that are trapped in bottles by local wih doctors, why not? And moreover, it’s the hungry ghost month, isn’t it appropriate?), and humans and even gods in the heavenly realms. Terminally sick persons such as cancer victims, they should circumambulate Buddhas and other holy objects as much as possible. In my area, we are fortunate that thereare so many places we can do that. The tiered pagoda at PBA (at the pool outside) and the large Kuan Yin statue are goodplaces to do “Human and whatever-Being Liberation”.

I have attended one animal liberation with KhenchenKonchog Gyaltsen several years ago and he brought my attention to an important point. It’s still there in my head after so many years. I kept thinking about it whenever there is animal liberation. He told me sort of in private after the chanting session, that there is not much point in doing animal liberation if you continue killing animals. You release some, you kill some (or maybe, more?), so if it is just releasing ofanimals, obviously there is not much point in doing so. Initially I thought of his comments from the vegetarian point of view. But then now I get a different understanding of what he could mean. Of course, being a vegetarian is good but then, there is this whole debate about this vegetarian issue, which I shall not enter. Rather I think it is not what you eat. It is how you are able to benefit those animals killed in the process of producing the food; be it meat or vegetables. Therefore, it is important for me to think before eating any food and see it as an offering. I won’t go into details here, but in summary, we should strongly think that we are grateful to all those alive or dead that results in the food on our table. And we dedicate it to the Triple Gem and by their offering their lives or service, we undertake to practice the dharma in return until we achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all sentient beings. By this simple motivation, all our food become pure and all the sacrifice for the food becomes worthy. And it is not only during eating. By reducing killing and applying dharma in every other aspect of our lives, our animal liberation activity becomes even more powerful. So, that’s my understanding now of the point made by my Khenchen-la. I’m sorry but my understanding of dharma is just up to this level. If there’s some mistake, please point it out.

Don’t be shy. So, peace and namaste!

Don't be so racist!

Turning this into a dharma discussion...As Buddhists, it is best not to get too carried away with this racial thing. Remember this (and I am reminding myself too) - that we are chinese or Indians or whatever only in THIS LIFE! We never know when we are going to die. And when we die, how do we know we won't be reborn in the exact race that we dislike/hate/oppose/seek justice or whatever we call it - as a result of our strong racial karma? If our dharma roots are not strong enough, we may not even get the opprtunity to listen to the dharma again. Buddhism is not only attending pujas, recite mantras, receive empowerments, etc ... we can have perfect attendance at every dharma events, but if we cannot actualise the dharma in practical situations and daily life, then what use is that? It means there's no transformation yet in our life. Think about it!


I would like to take this occasion of our nation's anniversary to wish all my friends in this group a HAPPY LIBERATION! And to urge us altogether to think about our own spiritual "liberation". When is that going to happen? More and more I have heard of young people having serious illnesses or dying young. The other day I reading the papers of a young Malay 30 plus customs officer having stroke and now unable to feed the family. His wife is not working and have 2 young children. another insurance agent's younger brother, also 30 plus, now has kidney failure and every month incurring thousands of dollars for treatment and kidney dialysis. And he only has RM30k odd insurance coverage. That's not going to be enough for the rest of his life. His elder brother died suddenly some years back (40 years plus) leaving the wife and children to fend for themselves. And also stories of young people having cancer. I am sure you have heard of more such stories. There's a saying that when things go smoothly in your life, you don't care much about the dharma. It is only when things suddenly go wrong, or life gets a terrible shaking, then this serves as "alarm clocks" to wake up and start practising. I do know about the dharma but sometimes also act as if I don't give any heed about it. So, I am also terrible , and if I am not careful, I will also get one of these "alarm clocks". Age is also catching up with me. Like my parents, they seemed resigned to the fact that they are old and will inevitably get some diseases/illnesses. I know her feelings when my mother said these words to me. Indirectly, they are just waiting for their time todie. I wished then that I could do something. But at this moment, I am quite helpless myself. So, I feel sort of anguish at that moment. You know what I mean? So, please reflect on these as we celebrate independence and ... enjoy the fireworks while it lasts!

Cheers and May the blessings of the Triple Gem be with all citizens and every sentient beings as well!

Buddha's contact number

A few things came to my mind and would like to share with you:-Pure Land , Zen and Vajrayana are diferent dharma doors and if we are not conversant enough in them, we can easily confuse and criticise the others. But if we truely understand, none of these contradict the others. All the teachings of the Buddha does not contradict the others. That's basically the essense of the Lam Rim teachings. Whether you recite "Amituofo"or "Om Mani Peme Hung", both are "phone numbers" we dial into to reach or "contact" the Buddhas. I like to use this analogy: The Buddhas' Headquarter has a lotof phone numbers where upon sentient beings can contact them. And unfortunately people tend to makethe "phone number" they choose as the General/MainLine. But actually there is no main line. The "phone number" you choose is not necessarily more important than the phone number I choose and vice-versa. You choose which phone line you are comfortable with and use it. The important thing is to pick up the phone and dial the number, not continue playing with the phone device. Only then can we "contact" the Buddhas or their assistants, i.e the Bodhisattvas and Sravakas.