Friday, November 28, 2008

A Desperate Supplication

This Supplication is dedicated to the end of violence and chaos in Mumbai, Bangkok, and everywhere else in the world... Dedicated to the longlife of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, and also to all my precious Gurus of the past, present and future, as well as to all other Masters inseparable from the Buddhas. May You all continue to live on in samsara and turn the Dharma Wheel for us, otherwise hopeless sentient beings! Ultimately, dedicating it to swift attainment of Buddhahood for all sentient beings!

In the struggle to pursue enlightenment, this sentient being has found it hopelessly embroiled in his own internal conflicts as well as struggling to prioritise between pursuing his worldly and spiritual goals. In his mind, he wished that he was like Prince Siddharta who left the life of comfort in the palace. He was sure it must had been difficult for Prince Siddharta. But why is it so difficult for him now? Is it his own karma that he has to make a worldly living and develop a family like others are doing? Or, is it his own lack of determination? He realised that he can only do it bit by bit and need the blessings from the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha in the form of the Spiritual Guru. Since the precious human rebirth may end anytime, he knows that "practising bit by bit" is not the ideal way to go. But reluctantly he has to accept it from lack of better alternatives. Hence, he feels hopeless and seeks blessings and guidance. He screams ...and wants the blessings of the Triple Gem (i.e. his hope) now. He desperately wants some blessings right now. In essence, he is expressing his mind of renunciation. Nowadays, many people can talk about bodhicitta, but what they donot know is that they have to develop the mind of renunciation first, before any true bodhicitta (the mind of enlightenment) can develop. These are mentioned by Lama Tsongkhapa in the teachings on The Three Principle Aspects of The Path.

In order to appreciate the intensity of this supplication, you need to internalise the desperation reflected in each line as your own struggle too! Is this the struggle you are in too?

A Desperate Supplication to the Guru-Triple Gem
cries by a drowning sentient being

Why in the world would I need to wake up,
And face the dreaded world?
Why in the world would I need to work,
And deal with all the craziness in the world?
Why in the world would I need to sleep
Only to wake up again?
Why not sit on the Lion’s Throne and enjoy bliss after bliss instead?

Why do I feel trapped in this body?
This flesh and bone prison.
Why do I feel trapped in this mind?
This mental prison is even harder to break.
Why do I feel trapped in a “self”?
This eternal prison, as yet, I have not seen its emptiness.
When can I achieve my freedom?

Why do I generate so much desire?
Cursed attachments that stick like glue.
Why do I generate so much anger and hatred?
This “fire” inside keeps burning.
Why do I generate so much delusion?
They just keep coming uncontrollably.
What can I do to generate only bliss?

Why do I have to go from birth to birth?
This house builder seems destined never to die.
Why do I have to bear so much pain?
Dependently arising, pain is empty, but alas, it’s still painful!
Why do I keep creating so much karma?
Stop it, stop it! I am telling myself.
How do I listen to myself?

Why do I still continue living in a world full of crazy people,
Senseless activities abound, this non-stop daily madness?
Why do I still need to make a worldly living to feed myself and others,
Fueling the engine of continued samsaric rebirths?
Why do I still prioritise worldly attainments and affairs,
And only “when I have the time”, do I pursue some dharma?
Very soon this precious human rebirth will end,
All the madness in this world will not save me from the fires of hell waiting,
Or the furs and tail that are going to grow on my body,
Or the hunger that is going to besiege me like forever,
Where is my priority?

Arrgh...! Where is my hope?

Drowning in samsara’s wide ocean,
Hands desperately grappling for Liberation,
This sentient being feels hopeless.
He cries out in desperation:

“O-Guru Triple Gem! I seek your blessings!
Quickly, quickly… come now!
Please, please…I beg of You!”

written on 28 Nov. 2008. 5.50pm, re-edited at 11.57pm. Re-edietd at about 8.30am and 9.40pm on 30 Nov. 08.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

My Water Bowls, Part 2

Referring to this previous post:

I waited and waited, day after day for one week for the bubbles to disappear but they won't. So, I shifted the bowls from the altar to a side table. And it was only then that the bubbles started to disappear. It seemed as long as the bowls were on my altar, the bubbles will still be there. Anyway, I did my own divination and asked Guru-Chenrezig whether I could clear the water bowls. The answer was a clear "No" for about 2 weeks. It was only after the bubbles completely disappeared that the answered turned out a clear "Yes". Strange, huh? So, I changed the water and cleaned the bowls on about 17th Novermber, about Monday. Until today, the tiny little crystal-like bubbles never re-appeared.

What caused them to appear in the first place? I have no idea. I donot think I will ever have a clear answer to that.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Now devotees wearing shoes can enter Bodh Gaya temple complex

IANS, November 20, 2008
Patna, India -- The decades-old ban on entering the Mahabodhi temple complex in Bihar’s Bodh Gaya while wearing shoes has been lifted, an official said Thursday.The move was welcomed and lauded by Buddhist devotees, mostly Tibetans and tourists visiting Bodh Gaya temple, Buddhism’s holiest shrine.

However, shoes will not be allowed within the temple’s sanctum sanctorum.

The Bodh Gaya Temple Management Committee (BGTMC) took the decision to lift the ban on entering the temples while wearing shoes.

“The BGTMC decided to lift the ban early this week in the wake of repeated demand made by devotees and tourists to allow them to enter the temple with shoes on,” said Nandji Dorjee, secretary, BGTMC.

Hundreds of Buddhist devotees and tourists, particularly foreigners, are now being allowed to enter the temple with shoes on, a big relief during winter and summer months.

Time and again, devotees and tourists complained to the officials about the discomfort they faced while walking bare feet within the temple complex.

“Bare foot entry to temple poses threat to health in chilly winter, particularly during early hours and hot summer season,” said another BGTMC official.

In winter, considered a tourist season, temperatures come down to as low as 2 - 4 degrees Celsius. During winter, bare feet entry to the temple to offer prayers was difficult.

The Tibetan Buddhists have been demanding the right to temple entry with boots on, as per their traditions. They do not see anything wrong in entering the temple with boots on.

In 2001 Ugyen Trinle Dorje, the teenaged chief of the Karmapa sect of Tibetan Buddhists defied the ban on temple entry with shoes on. Dorje entered the Mahabodhi temple sanctum with heavy boots, inviting loud protests from the neo-Buddhists.

The neo-Buddhists demanded the invoking of the penal clause in Mahabodhi temple management act, which says that a fine has to be imposed on anybody who entered the buddhist shrine with shoes on.

Then, Dorje made a bare feet entry to the temple to offer prayers.

The 1,500-year-old temple stands behind the sacred Bodhi tree under which Buddha attained enlightenment 2,550 years ago.

The Mahabodhi Temple, declared a World Heritage Site in 2002 by Unesco, is visited annually by thousands of tourists, especially from countries where there is a strong Buddhist community.

My comments:
I remember one of my good Singaporean friend's shoes got locked up in the shop where the shoes were kept. That was because our group got out late from the temple compound after doing the lights offering and the shop was already closed. My goodness! We thought he would have to go back without shoes, or have to buy a new pair of slippers/shoes from the sundry shops outside the temple compound. However, in the end, one of the security guards/temple official managed to contact the shop owner and he returned to open his shop. My friend was so relieved that he got his shoes back.

Actually I donot mind taking my shoes off, the only problem is during the early mornings and evenings during winter time, it can get so cold, my feet would be sore and "harden". I needed to massage my feet many times as I go round the temples doing circumambulation. I think those of us who had been to Bodhgaya during winter time will know what I am saying. It is difficult even with the socks on, unless you wear thick socks. And in the afternoon, the ground can be very hot. But it's okay... the holiness of the site transcends any petty pain we may have, right? Nevertheless, the ground is still cold during winter and hot during summer and mid-day. Now anyone can walk in with their shoes on until just outside the main shrine! Don't have to be distracted by the heat and cold of your feet, so can concentrate on our prayers and circumambulation. That's good, right?

Inside the sanctum santorum, we definitely must take off our shoes. No problem inside as it is sheltered from the cold and heat.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Buddha's Descend from Heaven Pt 3


On the Great Invitation (pavarana) day, the Buddha descends from Tavatimsa heaven via stairways of jewels, gold and silver

This picture shows the Buddha descending from the deva realm, from Tavatimsa heaven, after having spent the rains retreat there in order to teach the Dhamma to his mother. The day of his descent was the day of "leaving the rains retreat." The town that he descended to was Sankasa, and he descended right to the gates of the city. The place where the Buddha first stepped onto the earth later became known as the "acalacetiya," or in ordinary terms a "Buddha's footprint." This is one place, according to the legend, where a Buddha's footprint was made.
Before the Buddha's descent, Indra, king of the devas, conjured up three stairways for the purpose: a gold stairway, a silver stairway and a jewel stairway. The gold stairway, for the devas, was on the right. The silver stairway, on the left, was for the Brahmas. The jewel stairway, in the center, was for the Buddha. The top of each of the stairways rested on the summit of Mount Sumeru, while the foot of the stairways rested at the city gates of Sankasa.
The people on the Buddha's right in the picture are devas. They are the devas who descended with the Buddha. On the Buddha's left, holding the ceremonial umbrella, is a Brahma. Carrying the Buddha's bowl and walking just in front of the Buddha is Indra. Playing the lute and singing is the deva Pancasinkhara, on his right is Matuli Devaputta, who is strewing celestial flowers on the path as the Buddha descends.

The Buddha was a visuddhi deva, a deity on account of his purity. Later generations of Buddhist writers gave him the honorific name "Devatideva," meaning "Deva among devas." The various devas worshipped by the people of India in ancient times, such as Indra and Maha Brahma, are made into "supporting actors" as disciples of the Buddha.

Thai Buddhists believe that the day of leaving the rains retreat is another important Buddhist day. On that day they make a special offering in honor of the day the Buddha descended from the Tavatimsa heaven. The alms giving performed on this day is called "tak bhat devo," from the word "devorohana," meaning alms offering given on the day of the Buddha's coming down from the deva realm.

Source: Mahidol University

The Buddha's descend from Heaven Pt 2

The Buddha opens all the worlds, enabling the devas, hell beings and humans to see each other

On the day that the Buddha descended from Tavatimsa he performed another miracle. While he was standing on the jewel stairway, he looked upwards and the worlds of the devas (devaloka) and the Brahmas (Brahmaloka) were revealed. Then he looked downward, and the hell realms were revealed. At that time the celestial realms, the hell realms and the human realms throughout the universe were all visible to each other.

The scene shown here is from the time the Buddha descended from Tavatimsa. The event is the Buddha's "opening of the worlds." The worlds that he opened at that time were the three worlds of heaven (devaloka), hell (yamaloka) and earth (manussaloka).

Devaloka is all the worlds from the Brahmaloka down to all the celestial realms. Manussaloka is the world of human beings. Yamaloka is the lower realms, all the levels of hell down to the lowest hell, avici.

When the Buddha was descending from heaven, he looked upwards and all the worlds from the human world up to the highest heavenly realm were illuminated. As he looked around in each direction of the universe it became clear and unobstructed. And when he looked downwards, the illumination continued down to the hell realms.

At that instant the beings living in these three realms could all see each other. The human beings saw the devas, the devas saw the humans, the humans and the devas saw the hell beings, and the hell beings saw the devas and humans. And all could see the Buddha descending from Tavatimsa gloriously.

The Dhammapada commentary, composed by Buddhaghosa, states that "On this day when the beings of all realms saw each other, there was not one who did not want to be the Buddha." The Pathamasambodhi goes even further, saying; "At that time, of all the devas, humans and beasts, even down to the tiniest red or black ant, who saw the Buddha, there was not one among them who did not desire Buddhahood."

Buddhahood is the state of being a Buddha. If we were to make the story of the Buddha opening up all the worlds so that the beings could all see each other more mundane, we may interpret it to mean that on that day the Buddha gave a teaching to which people came to listen in great number, and from which people could sees the results of good and bad deeds: the result of bad being suffering, which is hell, and the result of good being happiness, which is heaven, and the possession of morality is what differentiates people from the animals.

Note: In Pali it is spelled “Tavatimsa”, In Sanskrit, “Trayatrimsa”. Both referring to the same God of Thirty Three Heaven.

Source: mahidol university

The Buddha's descend from Heaven Pt 1

By Wei Lin
3 June, 1998

The Buddha Shakyamuni was a great teacher, and his life was a paradigm of the enlightenment process. Numerous episodes of the Buddha's life are described in Buddhist literature. Among them, the eight great events are the most common, and their representations remain a favorite theme in Buddhist art. The narrative scene depicted in this wood-block print represents one of the life events, namely, the descent from the Trayastrimsha heaven.

When Shakyamuni's mother dies, she is reborn as a deva in the Trayastrimsha heaven which is presided over by the Brahmanical god, Indra. After the Buddha attains enlightenment, he goes to Trayastrimsha to teach the Abhidharma to his mother and other celestial beings. After the three months of teaching in Trayastrimsha, the Buddha decides to return to his disciples and lay followers. His descent from the heaven takes place at Sankashya in modern Uttar Pradesh, India.

The Dhammapada-Atthakatha records that when the Buddha is ready to return, Indra makes three ladders for the Buddha's descent. The ladders connect the summit of Mount Meru, where the Trayastrimsha heaven is located, and the earthly human sphere, near Sankashya city. The ladder, made of jewels, in the middle is used by the Buddha; the right ladder of gold is used by Indra; and the left ladder of silver is used by Brahma (Burlingame, 53). Indra and Brahma are depicted as the Buddha's attendants in the SAMA print.

The most important message that the Descent from the Trayastrimsha has come to represent occurs with the Buddha's arrival at Sankashya. Crowds of people gather there eagerly awaiting the Buddha's return. Everyone wants to greet the great teacher. According to the narratives of the Chinese travelers Faxuan and Xuanzang, there is a nun called Utpali, who vows that she would be the first person to greet the Buddha when he descends from the stairs. However, a simple nun cannot compete against the powerful kings and princes with their elaborate entourages occupying the best spots near the ladders. Yet, as a result of Utpali's devotion, she is transformed into a universal monarch, accompanied by seven treasures and the most elaborate troops, and thus she is able to secure the best position to fulfill her vow. She is the first to greet the Buddha, upon which she reverts back to her original appearance. Recognizing Utpali's devotion, the Buddha predicts her future enlightenment (legge, 49; Beal, 205). As such, the event represents the archetypal prediction of one's enlightenment by a Buddha.

The story, represented in the print, begins from the right top corner. The Buddha is shown here preaching in Trayastrimsha heaven. He is seated in a cross-legged manner, with his right hand in the varada, or bestowal, gesture while his left hand is in the vitarka, or teaching, gesture. There are four figures kneeling before him, listening to his teachings.

Below the heaven, Mount Meru is depicted rising from the center of the great ocean. The mountain is divided into four terraces. The first terrace is the home of the pitchers of water; the second one is the home of the bearers of flower garland; the third one is the home of those always intoxicated; and the fourth, or the highest one, is the home of four guardian kings of the four cardinal directions. This does not depict a physical structure, however, it suggests a sacred place in ones own heart-mind. The sacred place is defined by water, decorated by flowers, and then gathered around by ecstatic practitioners and guardian kings. This is exactly the process that one needs to go through in Buddhist rituals.

In the center of the print is the Buddha descending down from the heaven with Indra and Brahma. The Buddha makes the varada, or bestowal, gesture with his proper right hand. His left hand makes the vitarka, or teaching, gesture. The three-headed Brahma (my own note: this is a mistake - should be four-headed) seen on the left of the painting, and he carries a chauri, or a fly-whisk. Indra, on the right, carries an umbrella. Figures who carry chauris or umbrellas usually serve as servants or attendants to high ranking persons (Huntington, Susan, 53; Huntington, Susan & John, 132). The appearance of Indra and Brahma as the Buddha's attendants demonstrates the supremacy of the Buddha over the Brahmanical gods. The other lesser attendants hold various other offerings, including a chakra, a conch, food offerings, and lotus flowers. In the top left corner of the print, three flying celestial beings are shown pouring offerings, celebrating the Buddha's descent. Numerous treasures appear in the sky to mark this auspicious moment.

At the base of the triple stairs, a group of ten people are shown awaiting the Buddha's return. The figure in very front of the stairs is most probably the nun Utpali. She wears royal garb and rich ornaments. Her right hand holds lotus flowers, and her left hand extends to greet the Buddha. Other figures, waiting to greet the Buddha, hold various offerings including an umbrella, a fan, a chakra, a gem, a cymbal, lotus flowers, and a plate of fruit. Two elephants, probably belonging to a royal entourage, are shown beside these figures.

In the bottom center of the print is a stupa on a lotus base. The stupa bears triple stairs on it, commemorating this great moment, and honoring the sacred site of Sankashya. Numerous offering are placed on either side of the stupa, suggesting the peoples' veneration of this holy place. In the lower right corner of the print is an image of a Buddha seated on a pedestal. Both of the Buddha's hands display the varada, or bestowal, gesture. Two figures kneel before him and hold up their offerings. The shaven-headed figure in monastic robe is undoubtedly the nun Utpali who has returned to her original form. The scene depicts the moment when nun Utpali receives the prediction of enlightenment by the Buddha. This indicates the promise of enlightenment for every Buddhist devotee, even a woman (Huntington, John, 62).

A stupa with the three-faced, eight-armed figure of Ushnishavijaya is shown above the prediction scene. Her primary right hand makes the varada, or bestowal, gesture and the primary left hand displays the abhaya, or fear not, gesture. She also holds an arrow, a rosary in her middle and upper right hands, and a vase, a bow, a water pot in her lower, middle and upper left hands. Ushnishavijaya is the "Victorious Ushnisha," and she is shown here as the mother of all Buddhas.

Beal, Samuel, tran. Si-Yu-Ki. Buddhist Records of the Western World. London: Trubner & Co. Ltd, 1884; reprint, Delhi: Oriental Books Reprint Corp., 1969.
Burlingame, Eugene Watson, tran. Buddhist Legends, Part III. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1921.
Legge, James, tran. A Record of Buddhistic Kingdoms. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1886; reprint, New York: Dover Publications Inc.,1965.
Huntington, John C. "Pilgrimage as Image: The Cult of the Astamahapratiharya, Part II," Orientation Vol. 18, No. 8 (1987):55-68.
Huntington, Susan L & John C. Leaves from the Bodhi Tree. Dayton, Ohio: The Dayton Art Institute, 1990.
Huntington, Susan L. The Art of Ancient India. New York & Tokyo: Weatherhill, 1985.


Why Request for Buddhas to stay?

... and why perform long life pujas to our Gurus? The article below from Mahidol university will clarify these questions. The story below is the exact reason why the Mahayana (inclusive of Vajrayana) tradition have taken the cue from this story to perform longlife pujas for their gurus and why there is so much emphasis on Guru devotion. If the guru gives you a cue (may not be a direct instruction such as in the story below) to do something, you must be quick to understand what needs to be done even though you may need to guess what he is trying to indicate to you. Venerable Ananda did not understand the Buddha even though he had been the Buddha's close attendant. Are you sure you understand your Guru's actions? Are you sure you are smarter than Ven. Ananda? Maybe by the time you understand, it will be too late, just like what happened to Ven. Ananda.

You need to also think what is the significance of the Buddha accepting Mara's invitation, even though he knew Mara is evil? Does it mean evil has a role to play in the grand design of things (whatever this design or scheme is)?

Read on and reflect deeply. This blog is not just for your reading pleasure!

Notice Mara's hologram-like image in front of the Buddha?

On the full moon of the third month of the Buddha's 45th rains retreat, Mara approached the Buddha and invited him to pass away; the Buddha accepted the invitation.

The Buddha traveled spreading his teaching around various countries and towns for 45 years, counting from the day of his enlightenment. The 45th rains retreat was thus the Buddha's last rains retreat, and at that time the Buddha was 80 years old.

During the last rains retreat the Buddha stayed at Velugama in the state of the town of Vesali. During that rains the Buddha was seriously ill and almost passed away. All the monks who were still unenlightened, even Ananda, the Buddha's personal attendant, felt very ill at ease seeing the Buddha so ill. The Buddha told Ananda that now his body was very old, like an old worn out carriage held together with bamboo.

The Buddha recovered from that illness and after the rains retreat went with Ananda to stay under a tree at the Pavala cetiya in the area of Vesali. During the day the Buddha gave an obhasa nimitta to Ananda that one who had fully developed the four pathways to success (iddhipada) could extend his life for a considerable time.
An obhasa nimitta is in general terms "sign language". The Buddha's life was going to end that very year, so the Buddha was intimating to Ananda that he could invite him to extend his life for a further time, but Ananda did not invite him, even though the Buddha made his statement about the iddhipada three times.

The Pathamasambodhi states that since Ananda didn't catch on, the Buddha sent him off to sit at another tree nearby. It was then that Mara approached the Buddha and invited him to pass away (nibbana). The Buddha accepted his invitation and mentally renounced his life.

To say he "renounced his life" means that he appointed the day of his death. That day was the full moon of the third lunar month. The Buddha said that three months from that day (in the middle of the sixth month) he would pass away at the town of Kusinara.

The Buddha announces to Ananda that he has renounced his life and in three months will pass away

When the Buddha renounced his life, that is, announced the date of his passing away three months in advance, an earthquake occurred. When people heard it their hair stood on end. The Pathamasambodhi states that magical drums resounded through the heavens to announce the event. Ananda, seeing the miraculous events, came out from the foot of the tree he was staying at and approached the Buddha, asking him the reason for the miraculous earthquake. The Buddha told Ananda that there were eight reasons for an earthquake, as follows:

1. Winds [geological factors]
2. Psychic powers
3. A Bodhisatta has come down from heaven to take birth in the human world
4. A Bodhisatta has been born
5. A Buddha has been enlightened
6. A Buddha gives his first sermon
7. A Buddha renounces his life
8. A Buddha passes away

The Buddha told Ananda that the earthquake on that day was a result of him renouncing the rest of his life. Hearing this, Ananda realized what the Buddha had been saying to him earlier in the day, how one who fully developed the four conditions called iddhipada, which are zeal, effort, application and investigation, if he so desired, could extend his life beyond the designated time of its expiry.

Realizing this, Ananda formally invited the Buddha to use the four iddhipada to extend his life, but the Buddha refused. This happened three times. The Buddha explained that he had given the obhasa nimitta (intimations) to Ananda to invite him to extend his life many times, and in many places, and if Ananda had been mindful and invited him then he would have accepted the invitation. In ordinary terms, the Buddha was telling Ananda that it was "too late," because the Buddha has already declared that he had renounced the remainder of his life and would pass away.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Buddhist perspective on sexuality issues

In the Sannoga Sutta, the Buddha talks about dwelling on sexual identity and links it to bondage.

The Blessed One said: "A woman attends inwardly to her feminine faculties, her feminine gestures, her feminine manners, feminine poise, feminine desires, feminine voice, feminine charms. She is excited by that, delighted by that. Being excited & delighted by that, she attends outwardly to masculine faculties, masculine gestures, masculine manners, masculine poise, masculine desires, masculine voices, masculine charms. She is excited by that, delighted by that. Being excited & delighted by that, she wants to be bonded to what is outside her, wants whatever pleasure & happiness that arise based on that bond. Delighting, caught up in her femininity, a woman goes into bondage with reference to men. This is how a woman does not transcend her femininity."

A man attends inwardly to his masculine faculties, masculine gestures, masculine manners, masculine poise, masculine desires, masculine voice, masculine charms. He is excited by that, delighted by that. Being excited & delighted by that, he attends outwardly to feminine faculties, feminine gestures, feminine manners, feminine poise, feminine desires, feminine voices, feminine charms. He is excited by that, delighted by that. Being excited & delighted by that, he wants to be bonded to what is outside him, wants whatever pleasure & happiness that arise based on that bond. Delighting, caught up in his masculinity, a man goes into bondage with reference to women. This is how a man does not transcend his masculinity."

On transgender, according to this monk, it seemed this issue was mentioned in the Vinaya Pitaka. Here’s a text message of Ven. Dr Rahula.

The Vinaya Pitaka, the ancient Buddhist texts that define the rules for Buddhist monks and nuns, record two incidences of sex change that a monk and a nun had gone through. A group of monks and nuns bring the two incidences to the Buddha’s notice. The Buddha accepts their changed status. He allows the former male disciple who became a female to live with female disciples, and the former female disciple to live with males. These episodes indicate the Buddha’s open-mindedness toward transsexual persons. He accepted their bodily changes even though some in his society attributed such changes to the influence of bad Karmas. Some of the sections in the Vinaya Pitaka are obviously later additions, which do not represent the Buddha’s true voice. There is every reason to believe that the Buddha accepted all kinds of people irrespective of any differences they had undergone. The Buddha’s statement that one becomes a noble person not by birth but by one’s behavior confirms this conclusion. “Birth” means wealth, social status, and physical appearance including the gender of a particular person. Change of a certain person’s gender has no connection to the evaluation of that person. Only wholesome behavior—wholesome words, actions, and thoughts—makes a person noble. - Bhante Rahula Basnagoda, PhD

And this are my thoughts on gays and lesbians and transexuals:

By reenforcing our attachment to our genders, it will create karmic imprints that will potentially result in us being reborn in future lives as the gender that we are attached to, in many, many lifetimes. Or, sometimes it happens the opposite way. We might be reborn itno the gender that we hate so much. This is something to consider. Be careful.

All things are ultimately empty of inherent existence , including our concepts of sexuality. If anyone has too much attachment to gender or sexuality, I would strongly advice the person to study Emptiness... especially the Madhyamika school of emptiness. In the end, we will arrive at the conclusion that there is no such thing as inherently gay or lesbian or even heterosexual in anyone. These are just concepts that persons impute on themselves. Don't take my word for it, check it out, study Nagarjuna's, Chandrakirti's and Tsongkhapa's texts on the subject.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

"Trapped" within Emptiness

I was studying the LRCM yesterday, particularly the chapter on dependent arising and emptiness. From this chapter, I realized that it is because things are empty of inherent existence, that there is so much suffering in this world. In other words, it is due to emptiness, everything in this world arise. How do things arise? From causes and conditions, i.e. dependent upon its parts and sub-parts that come together. That’s why it’s called “dependent arising”. It depends on other factors and conditions to arise. Otherwise, nothing can arise, from aggregates, self, and all inner and outer phenomena. Our bodies arise, for example, due to the union of our fathers and mothers. Our minds arise due to the five aggregates. From these, we create the causes of suffering. Then when the time comes, we suffer from its result - i.e. pain. And it is also because of causes and conditions that it is possible for suffering to end and uproot the causes, and finally attaining nirvana. It, then dawns on me, that if this is the case, then it will be difficult for us to get out of “emptiness”, i.e. duality of samsara and nirvana. Wouldn’t it?

It is only from here that I understand why the monotheistic religions are so appealing. It’s because they create in their minds a self-existing, or inherently existing Eternal God, that creates everything else, except itself. If there is such an entity, then it would mean, there will not be any suffering. The only ones who suffer will be the subjects that he had created and willed to suffer. However, these subjects cannot and will never become God, but they could become souls “in the image of God” because God breathe its spirit into the soul. Some variants of these religions talk about possibility of union with God. All these are based on the belief in existence of a “self”. Buddhism is the only one talking about non-self and emptiness. Does that mean we are hopelessly “trapped” in emptiness? It is like trapped in the Tai Chi circle of Yin-Yang. That was what I thought when I went to sleep last night.

Then this morning, something came to my mind. The Lotus Sutra and other sutras do talk about the Eternal Life Tathagata. This concept is also mirrored in the concept of “Amitayus” – translated as Buddha of Infinite Life. It is said in one of the books I have read that this “Eternal Life Tathagata” is so important that it is the central message of the Mahayana tradition, and it is the primary message of the Lotus Sutra. Is it similar to the God-concept, then? Hmm, let’s think about it. The eternal life tathagata is the Dharmakaya. I think it means it lives within the body of knowledge. It is referring to the Buddha living within Dharma. Remember that the Buddha said, “He who sees the Dharma sees me”? And in the Sanghata Sutra, it is mentioned that, “The Sanghata Sutra is the Tathagata”. And since dharma is knowledge, i.e. nothing compounded. Things that are not compounded, like space, are not subject to impermanence and suffering. Hence, it is beyond existence and non-existence. As mentioned in the Heart Sutra – “…beyond Nirvana!” , others translate as "...beyond error, end point of Nirvana", another translate as "...beyond the bounds of sorrow". It is like the shatterring of the Tai-Chi of Ying and Yang. Then we are no longer controlled by it. The Arhats may have attained Nirvana but they are not beyond Nirvana yet. That is why attaining Arhatship is not the end of the journey yet according to the Mahayanists. Do you understand now? The Eternal Life Tathagata gives hope to Buddhists of being free from all dualistic trappings, and yet it is not the same as the inherently existing God-concept of other religions. The Eternal Life Tathagata is the Dharmakaya aspect of the Buddha.

The word – beyond – is so important, yet I have missed it all the time until lately. I am sure many other Buddhists have missed that word, and just read as “attaining Nirvana”. So, there is yet hope for sentient beings. Great! Now I don’t have to convert to other religions. He! He! He! …I am just joking. I have never thought of doing so. Do all these make any sense to anyone? If it does not, please ignore. :)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Buddha's saving powers

The Day our Lord Buddha descended from Tushita Heaven is coming soon. It’s one of the most special Buddhist days every year. It’s the day I reaffirm my faith and gratitude in the triple gem and rejoice in the deeds of the Buddha and all his emanations in the past, present and future times. I have many, many, many reasons to thank the Buddha for. There are several occasions when I know my life had been saved by the Buddha, and many other occasions when I may not necessarily know it is due to the Buddha’s blessing, but nonetheless it is still due to the Buddha’s blessing.

One such occasion that I know is due to the Buddha is when I was walking back from tuition many years ago. As a school boy, at that time my body size was really shorter and smaller. As I nearly reach my house, I suddenly realized there was this huge black dog (I think it is greyhound or something, with thin waist) trailing me. I did not do anything to him or disturbed him, just walking slowly. When it turned fierce suddenly, I walked a bit faster. Suddenly I noticed the dog was also faster coming towards me. My heart was beating very fast, and I walked even faster. I don’t really know what to do... I wanted to walk into somebody’s house but all the gates were not opened. Then I started to almost-like- running-but-not-running because I knew if I ran, it will be worst. However, the dog started chasing after me even though I was not running. It was doing a 100m dash towards me. In my mind, I thought I was finished. I was going to be dog meat. The dog started to jump and leap towards me….In that split second, thank goodness, 2 persons came to my thoughts: first, Sakyamuni Buddha, second, Bhagavan Sai Baba. At that time, I did not have any formal Buddhist monk-teacher yet even though I had started studying Budhist teachings already. I did a quick mental prayer and … I did not know why I did that but I thought I put my palms together and turned towards the dog. I did not know what happened, but the dog immediately did an "emergency brake"... or fell down or something ...and made a quivering sound, very quickly it turned around and ran away even faster.

Phew! That was very close to being dog meat. Can you imagine how scared I was at that time? I think even now if I see a big dog, I will still be as frightened. Upon reaching home, I did many rounds of the mantra “Tayatha Om Muni Muni …”. After that, I never saw the dog again.

So, was it Sakyamuni Buddha who saved me? Or, was it Bhagavan Sai Baba (who was not even physically there)? What made the fierce dog suddenly turn around so quickly and dash off, like a dharma protector had suddenly appeared before it? I guess I will never know but one thing is for sure, is that I have many reasons to thank the Buddha. Sure I do!

This is just one occasion that I want to share with you and hopefully inspire some faith in the power of the Triple Gems. DO NOT DOUBT THE BUDDHA'S WISDOM AND COMPASSION FOR US! I am sure you guys have your stories too. So, I rejoice with you all in the Triple Gem on the ocasion of the Buddha's descend from Tushita Heaven, as well as regret if I have done or said something wrong to anybody.

Buddham Saranam gacchami
Dhammam saranam gacchami
Sangham Saranam gacchami x3

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The mantra of the Heart Prajna Paramita Sutra

Referring to my previous blog below (and thank you for the person's comment) and since I donot know how to post a reply comment in my own blog... how ignorant and stupid of me, huh? :) ... I will just post it as a "new post".

Well...Choden Rinpoche used the traditional English translation of the Tibetan text. Not the Eastern Mahayana text used by Chinese Mahayana Masters such as Venerable Master Hsuan Hua and others like him. That paragraph where Arya Avalokiteshvara explained how to train by "correctly and repeatedly" is significantly missing from the Eastern Mahayana version I mentioned.

Choden Rinpoche was basically explaining line by line or paragraph by paragraph of the Tibetan version of the Heart Sutra. When he came to that particular sentence, it came clear to me that we are being asked to contemplate on the explanation by Arya Avalokiteshvara to Venerable Sariputra. And since a mantra was given at the end of the Sutra, it seems to me that perhaps we should use it as a meditation word to focus our concentration (samatha meditation) while alternating it in between the analytical meditation of the explanation on emptiness. If you think about the structure of the Heart Sutra, the emptiness of the five aggregates are first explained, then the Four Noble Truths, followed by others. This is done in a systematic way until “He overcame all fears – ultimately beyond Nirvana”. Therefore, I started to pen down the method that I outlined in my earlier blog.

Whoever is interested in the Heart Sutra should also read “Echoes of Voidness” by Geshe Rabten. There the entire Heart Sutra is explained in a concise way. In that book, he explained the heart mantra of prajna paramita – the “Tayatha Om Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgata Bodhi Svaha” that it functions both as a mantra on a mundane level as well as function as a summary pointing to the way to attaining supreme Buddhahood . And the way is by cultivating the five paths of accumulation, preparation, seeing, meditation and no-more-learning. The five paths are signified by each syllable of the mantra: if I recall correctly “Gate” signifies the first path, and the next “Gate” as the second path and so on. The fifth path being “Bodhi Svaha”. “Bodhi Svaha” captures the essence of having realized the Buddhahood on attaining the path of no-more-learning. Sorry, I have forgotten the exact order. You need to refer to the book. But I am clear the mantra was pointing out as signifying the five paths. “Tayatha” simply means “It goes like this”, and “Om” is a pre-fix mantra signifying the primodial nature of the universe. Something like that. So, the mantra functions in both ways, i.e. mundane level as well as supramundane level.

The very reason it is so powerful (as stated in the Sutra) is because this mantra (and the Sutra) actually points the way to liberation and realising the heart of Supreme Buddhahood is by following the Five Paths. But the Sutra, including the mantra can also be used on a mundane level to be recited to benefit sentient beings. It will create such a powerful impact on the mind. Even if we cannot see any significant things happening physically, in reality, many spiritual positive vibes are created when we recite this Sutra and/or mantra. It is only when we manage to "cut through" our mental obstacle and connect with the Guru or Buddha, or whatever deity mantra you are reciting, will a mantra's power be demonstrated physically. That was why Kyabje Lama Zopa has requested people to recite the Heart Prajna Paramita Sutra for one of the members of FPMT in New Zealand, who got involved in a nasty accident earlier this year.

I have read, for example, that someone had observed that a bowl of water turned green when a friend next to him recited the Green Tara mantra in full concentration and faith. There was also a moment, many years ago, when I witnessed someone's small magnetic plastic plate stucked on the granite wall of his room when he reached the mantra part while reciting the Heart Prajna Paramita Sutra. He got a bit of a shocked for a moment. Even though the magnetic plastic plate (it is just like those magnetic things you tag on your fridge) has an image of Sai Baba, in his mind he was thinking of Arya Avalokiteshvara (Kuan Yin). Hence, upon analysis, he does not know whether it was the mantra, Sai Baba's powers or Kuan Yin's powers, or was it his mind that just got connected to all of the aforementioned and thus, invoked the mantra's powers. This person was just toying with the Sai Baba magnetic plate by putting it against the wall while he recited the Heart Sutra. But the surface has nothing made of steel or iron, so there was no way it could have got stucked there. It stucked there for several minutes. Then it dropped off. I have forgotten whether he tried it for a second time, and it stucked for a less-than-the-first-time, and after that, it never stucked again even though he tried it for the third time, fourth time, never after that, .... or, it never stucked at all after that first time. What I know from witnessing this "strange phenomena" is his magnetic plastic plate never until today ever sticks to wall made of bricks and cement. But it still sticks to steel and iron surfaces as it should.

If a mantra can be invoked and shows just a little of its powers that defied the conventional laws of nature, can you imagine what it can do, if we can invoke its blessings to be used to benefit sentient beings? So, put your faith in mantras, but donot repeat it mechnically like a tape recorder or parrot! It'll be of no use. It must connect to your own Buddha nature. These kind of incidences as above definitely had put a lot of faith on my side in the truth of the Buddha's teachings.

So, I will end this blog with the mantra and wish everyone to be quickly liberated from misery: