Sunday, December 27, 2009

Buddhism's Lost Cause: Tibet and Others Pt4

In more recent times, yet another case of how Buddhists have lost their sacred sites and unable to control their spiritual heritage is the case of Tibet, where it was invaded by China in 1959. The heydays of Tibet is now gone. Potala Palace is now empty and is reduced to a tourist destination. There may be monks in most monasteries but most respected Lamas and Rinpoches are no longer there. Slowly but surely Tibet's spiritual heritage is losing its glorious splendour of the past. It is being replaced by a China that do not appreciate spirituality and the need to achieve enlightenment. How sad!

Another case is that of the destruction of the giant Bamiyan Buddhas by the Talibans in 2001. That site where the Bamiyan Buddhas once were, was once a properous Buddhist cultural meeting point. Again we have lost it to others.

Are there more to come? Probably. Already Buddhists do not value making pilgrimages to Lumbini and Kapilavastu. They might have been to Swayambu and Bouddha stupas and other shrines in Nepal many times, but not a single visit to the place where the Buddha was born. See how much importance Buddhists place on Lumbini? Its significance is slowly disappearing in the minds of Buddhists. Another 100 years, and that place will be probably forgotten ... AGAIN! Buddhists just donot realise that the holiness of Lumbini far exceeds that of the other holy Buddhist stupas and shrines in all of Nepal.

All the previously cited cases from Pt 1 to 4 points to one thing: the Dharma Ending Age and our own seriously deteriorating bad karma! Yes, we donot need to be attached to these "sites" and "heritages" but that does not mean we should not do our utmost effort in protecting and preserving them for the benefit of future generations.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Buddhism's Lost Cause: Hindu Opposition Pt3

NOTE: Before you read this Part2& 3, it is important you read Part 1, so that you are clear as to the intention of this post. This is not to cause any hatred or anger or revenge, but merely to educate and to strenghen the unity amongst Buddhists.

To counter the threat posed by the popularity of Buddhism and maintain their dominant position in the Chaturvarna or caste system, the Brahmins had come out with several puranas (mythology) sometime during the 8th century AD declaring the Buddha to be the ninth avatara (reincarnation) of Vishnu as a verse to this effect from 'Mastya Purana' is engraved ina monument at Mahabalipuram near Madras. The process was complete by the time of the Bengali poet Jayadeva's writing of his 'Gita Govind' and including Buddha's name in it as an 'Avatara' in the 12th century AD. According to Puranic tradition in the Mahabharata, the ninth avatar is Balarama, not Buddha. it was a ploy by the Brahmins to subvert the religion by creating confusion in the minds of the people and portray Buddhism as a branch of Brahmanism. Their objective was to win over the hearts of the people to Brahmanism and perpetuate the caste system. ...

The extermination of Buddhism in India was hastened by the large-scale vandalism and appropriation of Buddhist temples by the Hindus. In 1590 AD, the Mahabodhi Temple in Buddhagaya was taken over by a Hindy Mahant Gosain Giri, who converted it into a Shaivite temple. His succesors kept expanding the Math by illegally occupying all the land around the Mahabodhi Temple. Although Anagarika Dharmapala fought several legal battles for the rturn of the temple to Buddhists, the Bihar Government favoured the Hindus by enacting the Buddha Gaya Temple Management Act in 1949, which effectively ensured that the Hindus remained in control. The Makutabandhana Stupa or cremation stupa in Kushinagar was changed into a Hindu temple dedicated to an obscure deity named Rambhar Bhavani when discovered it in 1860. The locals still call it "Rambhar" after the deity. Even today, pilgrims who visit the Ananda Stupa in Hajipur will see a dilapidated Hindu temple on top of it. The place is called Ramchaura Mandir after the temple. ...

The battle to regain control of the Mahabodhi Temple by Buddhists began in January 22, 1891 when Anagarika Dharmapala visited Bodhgaya...As a first step, he founded the Maha Bodhi Society of Buddhagaya in May 31, 1891 to garner support for this noble objective. Next he invited four Buddhist monks from Sri lanka to come and stay at Bodhgaya, namely Ven. Chandajoti, Ven. Sumangala, Ven. Pemmananda and Ven. Sudassana. They arrived at Bodhgaya in July 1891 and took up residence in the Burmese Rest House. As the Mahant had property rights to the land in Bodhgaya, he objected to their presence and in February 1893, two fot he monks were severly beaten up by hsi men. Two years later in 1895, when Anagarika Dharmapala attempted to install a Buddha image presented to him by the people of Japan on the upper floor of the Temple, he was assaulted and prevented to do so by the Mahant's men. So the image was kept in the Burmese Rest House. Still the Mahant and some Hindu organisations were not satisfied and tried to get the image removed from the Rest House but the Government did not yield.

In 1906, the Mahant filed a suit seeking to eject the Buddhist monks from the Rest House. Thereafter a long legal battle ensued between the Mahant and the Buddhists, which continued till 1949, when the State of Bihar enacted the Buddha Gaya Temple Management Act, which effectively transferred control of the temple land and other property to a Management Committee. Two things of the Bill were objectionable; one that the nine-man Management Committee of the Temple would have a Hindu majority, and the other that Buddhist members should be of Indian nationality. In spite of protests by the Maha Bodhi Society, the Bill was passed with an amednment for provision of an Advisory Board in which the majority should be Buddhists and not necessarily all of Indian nationality. This means that Buddhists can only advise on the management of the Mahabodhi Temple but the control and final say belongs to the Hindus!

To the Maha Bodhi Society, there is no justification for the Mahabodhi Temple to be controlled by non-Buddhists just as a Muslim mosque, a Christian church or a Hindu temple were to be controlled by persons of different faiths. Even Indian Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore objected by expressing hsi views as follows: "I am sure, it will be admitted by all Hindus who are true to their own ideals, that it is an intolerable wrong to allow the Temple raised on the spot where Lord Buddha attained His Enlightenment, to remain under the control of a rival sect, which can neither have an intimate knowledge of, nor sympathy for, the Buddhist religion and its rites of worship."

In his article entitled "The Vow Still Remains" in Sambodhi 1996, the late Ven. Pannarama Mahathera, Bhikkhu-in-charge of Buddhagaya Maha Bodhi Society, revealed the irony that even the Advisory Board which was supposed to be controlled by Buddhists, has only 11 Buddhists members but 14 non-Buddhist members! it is time that these non-Buddhists members should be replaced by representatives from Buddhist organisations, which are really concerned about the development of Bodhgaya, the place of Buddha's Enlightenment. Thus Dharmapala's vow is not fulfilled and it still remains.

Source: Khoon San, Chan. "Buddhist Pilgrimage". ISBN: 983-40876-0-8. Published for Free Distribution. 2009.

Buddhism's Lost Cause: The Fatal Blow Pt2

NOTE: Before you read this Part2& 3, it is important you read Part 1, so that you are clear as to the intention of this post. This is not to cause any hatred or anger or revenge, but merely to educate and to strenghen the unity amongst Buddhists.

The Turukas or Khaliji Turks from Afghanistan dealt the fatal blow to Buddhism in India at the close of the 12th century AD. They were fanatical muslims, bent on conquest and destruction. By then, they had conquered the western part of uttar Pradesh called the Doab, the region bordered by the Yamuna and the Ganges rivers, where they had settled themselveswith expansionist aims. Soon they began thier invasion, spreading terror and panic through all the towns and countryside in their path, and their advance posed a tremendous threat to all monasteries and temples of northern India. The whole doomed area in the east, ancient Magadha (Bihar) and North Bengal fell to the marauders. Especial ferocity was directed towards Buddhist institutions with huge Buddha and "Bodhisattva" images, which were systemmatically plundered, destroyed or vandalised. The shaven-headed monks wearing distinctive monastic robes were easily spotted and massacred wholesale as idolaters! (Note: Since the usual Muslim word for what they understand to be an 'idol' (budd) is in fact borrowed from the sanskrit 'buddha', one can imagine that these 'buddha' smashers on their fanatical campaigns took particular care to seek out and destroy Buddhist institutions.)

In the beginning of the 13th century, the structures of the Vikramalasila Mahavihara (probably sited near Colgong, District Bhagalpur, Bihar) were razed to the ground by the invaders, who out of wrath were said to have uprooted even the foundations and threw them into the Ganges. The same fate was met about this time b the Odantapuri Mahavihara (sited at Bihar Sharif near Nalanda), which had been turned into a garrison of muslim soldiers, who in about 1198 AD under Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khaliji committed such a savage massacre of the Buddhist bhikkhus of the Mahavihara that not a single human being was around to acquint the killers of the contents of books stored in the library! The story of this assault was told long afterwards in 1243 by a eye-witness to the Persian historian Minhaz. In his book, Tabaquat-i-Nasiri, he reported as follows (Ref. Buddhist Monks and Monasteries of India, page 357):

"Most of the inhabitants of the place were Brahmanas with shaven heads (monks). They were put to death. Large numbers of books were found there, and when the Mahammadans saw them, they called for some person to explain the contents. But all of the men were killed. It was discovered that the whole fort and city was a place for study (madrsa): in the Hindi language the word Bihar (i.e. Vihara) means a college."

In the destruction of the University of Nalanda, the same historian recorded that thousands of monks were burned alive and yet more thousands beheaded, and the burning of the library continued for several months. Such was the savagery of the muslim invaders!

Source: Khoon San, Chan. "Buddhist Pilgrimage". ISBN: 983-40876-0-8. Published for Free Distribution. 2009.

Buddhism's Lost Cause: Lessons from History Pt1

Despite the much said popularity of Buddhism in the West and the revivalism of it in most Asian countries, there had been much decline in the state of Buddhism ever since the days of the Buddha. And I blame it on Buddhists themselves for not knowing the history of Buddhism and what causes its decline especially in her country of birth, i.e. India. If we are aware of history, we will know that Buddhists and Buddhist sites have been plundered, destroyed and taken advantage of by other religions. Many Buddhists texts and scriptures have been burnt and not even one was spared. For all we know, there could had been scriptures that had been lost forever. This is saddenning but I am going to make extracts of relevant paragraphs from one book by Chan Koon San entitled "Buddhist Pilgrimage" so that Buddhists all over the world may realise the fate that befell our Buddhist forefathers and the suffering they had to go through. And I hope that by sharing these historical facts, I pray that Buddhists are able to appreciate the Buddha's kindness to us and visit those holy Buddhist sites at least once in your lifetime. I know that many people had gone to Bodhgaya, but not many people have been to Lumbini, even though they had been to Nepal several times. And still even far far less people visit Kapilasvastu, the ancient capital of the Sakyans. It is so sad when I came to know that Buddhists have almost forgotten of Kapilasvastu. At least there was development around Lumbini with a few hotels there and several guesthouses. But Kapilavastu was almost left there alone in the middle of a jungle. No guesthouses, no hotels, no visitors! I understand that not many tour operators organise to go there because of the dirt and dust along the way. And it is quite a distance away from Lumbini.

I will not be surprise that this site and some of the surrounding sacred sites such as Kudan will soon be totally forgotten and it will suffer the same fate that befell Lumbini and Bodhgaya before these sacred sites were discovered in the 19th century. All the excavation by historians will all go to waste. And if Buddhists do not appreciate their own historical cultural sites, do you think other religions will pay much attention? They will not give a damn to our historical significance. Excuse me for my language. Even in Lumbini we can see Christians coming to establish schools there but their real intention is to spread their gospel. And when the muslim turks destroyed our monasteries and Sanghas, they were already successful in establishing the muslim community there at the Lumbini district. There are actually many muslims there today. In the article I will extract from the book I mentioned, you will read about the savagery of the turks and what they did to Buddhists and Buddhism. What I wrote about the turks is not my own creation. It is stated in the book. You can do your own research based on the extract. If the book is not correct, do let me know, ok?

But my intention is not to invoke in you a feeling of anger or anything like that. All that had happened, had happened and gone in the past. There is nothing we can do about it, but we can protect what we have now. What I mean is Tibet.

In our time and age, Tibet's Buddhism is in danger of disappearing. For example, what used to be a triving palace with much activities, the Potala Palace is now very much like Lumbini. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is no longer there and it is only a place for visitors and tourists. For me, it is sad to see the palace empty, devoid of its spiritual practices and msot importantly devoid of the His Holiness the Dalai Lama. If Buddhists are not able to protect this palace, it may one day become like the palace of King Suddhodana in Kapilavastu, i.e. in total ruins. You can only see pieces of bricks of the foundation. But the Chinese Government is saying that they have brought development to Tibet. That may be true but material advancement has come at the expense of spiritual decline. Is that what we want?

So, my intention for this post and the next few parts is for us Buddhists (Therevadins, Mahayanists, Vajrayanists) is not to cause any hatred or anger or revenge, but merely to educate and to strenghen the unity amongst Buddhists. Once we are stronger and united, we could come together and support the causes that prolong the Buddha sasana such as in the case of Tibet. Hopefully the many holy monasteries in Tibet will still be there and not as ruins for our future generations to see, just as we now see the ruins of Lumbini and Kapilavastu. I pray that Buddhists come to their senses and realise the importance of being able to withstand the onslaught and pressures from others. If Buddhists are weak, Buddhism will be the first major world religion to disappear. Sometimes I think Buddhists have themselves to blame. When confronted with issues like the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, there are some Buddhists who even thinks this is in accordance with the teaching of Buddhism on impermanence and all these people do is watch and say " impermanence... impermanence...".

I am not saying we should involve in physical or verbal fights and, seriously we must be careful not to involve ourselves in any activities of revenge. The consequences of revenge could be even more dire to us. So, NO REVENGE, please. It is not the principle of Buddhists to fight or to wage any war. That's one reason Byuddhists are so easily exterminated by other religious faiths. We rather be killed than to kill. It is one of our strength but also our weakness. That's why in many cases, even recent ones, Buddhists are the ones who are at the receiving end of suffering. We could only watch and console ourselves by the reality that all things are impermanent. And leave things to karma. Indeed, the Buddhists karma is heavy. But heavier still are those who kill and plunder and destroy Buddhist images and sacred texts. I can't imagine their destiny. But we have to forgive them. It is not their fault. The fault is ignorance and we have that too, unfortunately. So we say it was due to our own weakness or karma, and stop at that. But that does not mean we cannot learn from history and strengthen ourselves internally. That is the challenge for us Buddhists.

However, what we could do is to make our voices heard louder in the international community. The World Buddhist Fellowship and other worldwide Buddhist organisations should play a stronger role in the international arena. Have a say on world issues (such as the global warming) if necessary. People may dispute this but in our age and time, I do think that the role of a Buddhist Sangha is no longer confined to the monastery. The Dalai Lama is one of the few prominent Buddhist playing that role. And yet there are Buddhists who raise questions about this role he is playing. You see what I mean? Buddhists are destroying themselves by not being in harmony.

As for me, I am playing my role here to educate the Buddhist masses with my blog.

Buddhist Groups Must be Patient & Smart

I have been away for sometime and I have much to update. Just be patient. For the moment, I have this to say.

Groups of Buddhists anywhere in the world intending to start a small centre or study group, should be patient. It will take years to build from a small group to a large one. My advice is not to be overly ambitious and start committing your group to buying huge properties that is beyond your financial means. Be smart and plan your finances. Don't commit yourself to building huge stupas, huge monasteries, etc etc and then start praying desperately to Arya Dzambala for wealth. When wealth doesnot come or people do not sponsor as much as you expect, or your membership does not grow as many, then you start lamenting why the blessings do not come from all your sutra recitations, all the mandala offerings you have made, all the prayers to Dzambala? There is a saying from other religions that God helps those who help themselves. This is true in our case too. The Buddha and Arya Dzambala help those who help themselves. Think first before you start on any ambitious plan for your Buddhist group...especially those plans that involve committing huge sums of money. I am saying this because I know of Buddhist groups that now have a huge headache of how to raise funds for the huge sum of liability they have committed in buying the property for their centre. They should have thought of buying a smaller premise... or rent instead of purchase.

I'll tell you what went wrong if your prayers to Dzambala didnot result in substantial wealth. It's not because the sutras did not work. It's not because Dzambala did not listen. It's not because the mantras didnot work. The truth hurts and what I am going to say may potentially hurt the feelings of some people, but it is better to start recognising the truth now than later. It was because of our own ego and financial ignorance that we may have committed ourselves to liabilities that are beyond our means of funding. Did we do a proper financial projection? Did we do a proper 5-year or 10-year plan? Just as smart businessmen would prepare a comprehensive Business Plan before they embark on any business to check its viability, so should Buddhist groups prepare a Project Plan before they embark on any project involving a large sum of funding. Otherwise, it could potential be destined for failure. A word of caution though: a project plan is no guarantee to success but it is better having one than none at all.

This is also part of risk management that I touched on in my previous posts. You reduce your probability of failure by doing a proper financial project planning before going on a ego trip of buying large premises for your group/centre or constructing huge stupas/buildings. But if your group is already big and has a large pool of sponsors/members, including wealthy or influential patrons, then by all means, if you are confident enough to forego the Project Plan, then its a different matter altogether. However, it is also wrong to embark on too many projects or more than you could manage.

These are only my thoughts since I have a little knowledge on financial matters. If this is sound advice, please heed it. If not, ignore it. Think about it, ok? Sarvam mangalam.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Referring to this news:

I was glad I made the effort to be there despite the fear of getting caught in the crowd. But my desire to be part of this historical event just made whatever fear of the crowd insignificant. By the time I reached there , it was about 9 something am. Nearly 10. The monks and Tan Sri Dr Koh, Datuk Seri Kong Cho Ha and Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng are all there at the pavillion. I missed the beginning and the crowd was huge but smaller than I had expected. Perhaps everyone feared the crowd until they decided that attending such a significant event wasn't important. The most important part for me was when the Mahayana monks from China, Taiwan, Japan, and various other Asian countries circummambulated the Kuan Yin statue and sprinkled the water while they recited the Great Compassionate Dharani. And I was right in the front seat when each of them came down the stage in one long line of bhikkhus and bhikkunis and circumambulated Kuan Yin in a clockwise manner. Some of the water got sprinkled on my head. I was very delighted as I am one firm believer in the powers of this dharani. O-yes, I forgot to mention something significant a Christian did. The Penang chief minister, who is a Christian bowed to the Buddhist Sanghas and bowed to Kuan Yin. He will definitely benefit from this single act in the longer term, and perhaps ultimately gain his liberation.

As I was sitting among the Taiwanese sponsors, they must have thought my wife and I were sponsors too and we had the fortune to be invite to sit down on tables with food prepared and laid on the table. We need not have to queue for the lunch. I also took the opportunity to kiss HE Khamtrul Rinpoche on the hand after the event. I did not have a khata at that time. I bowed to both the protectors standing wrathfully just outside the Kuan Yin pavillion before I headed back home on that Sunday 6th December 2009. O-yes, the organisers distributed key chains with the image of the Kuan Yin and the pavillion. The pewter 1 foot height image of the pavillion and kuan Yin was even more beautiful. They gave one to each of the chief monk, I think. I am sure it will be available for sale alter and it will nto be cheap, I am sure. We considered getting one later, depending on the price. :)

In conclusion, it was a good trip and a blessed event. Everyone who visit Penang should visit this Kuan Yin to pay homage to it. DO you know that the newsmedia never report one important thing about the pavillion. On top of the pavillion they built 8 stupas surrounding one slightly bigger stupa and around the roof, they carved images of OM MANI PADME HUM in sanskrit letters all around the octagonal roof pavillion. This is truely beneficial because a sthe wind blows and touches the mantra letters, all the beings that get touched by the wind will benefit from it. So all Penangites will not only benefit from the tourism dollars but more importantly from the blessings from this statue. One word to describe this statue (despite the criticism of too much commercialising) - it's just simply AMAZING!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Hidden masters

There was a comment by someone that hidden masters are like Pacceka Buddhas - selfish and unable to help people. This is not true. You should not slight Pacceka Buddhas with such comments. Hidden masters can be any stage of attainment, they are just not known publicly. In fact most masters are hidden and there are countless ones whom we do not even suspect to be highly realised masters. This is because they appear like ordinary people, like you and me. For example, who would possibly suspect me to be a hidden master? They could be normal working people with no active role in the Buddhist circles. But in their midst of activity, they help numerous people.

For instance, why do you think HE Ling Rinpoche's visit to Malaysia could be suddenly approved? His visa could not even be approved on time for the first event, which was the Malaysia Mon Lam prayers. It was made to understand that it was only after one person who wrote to the Prime Minister and pleaded to him to intervene in the matter that the travel visa to HE Ling Rinpoche was approved. Even with letters of support from the Home Minstry and a few other high level persons could not get the travel visa, so who else could be higher than a minister? The travel visa got approved a few days after the message was sent. It was a surprise because the organisers had prepared to do without Ling Rinpoche. However nobody knew about this intervention and the person who had helped remained largely anonymous. But it was clear that he had benefitted so many beings who will benefit from Rinpoche's visit. However, one repercussion for him was that this person found out that the consequence of him helping Ling Rinpoche's travel visa to be approved was that he himself was unable to make it to the Medicine Master puja held. It was a consequence he had to accept. The thing is he had wanted to go to the puja to benefit his mother who was sick. So, in consequence it was his mother who could not receive the benefit.

Friday, December 4, 2009

How to Enjoy Samsara without Feeling Guilty?

When I first heard of this topic, I felt that it was a little bit strange. True enough, when HE Ling Rinpoche heard the topic his immediate reaction was that he did not have anything to say. That’s because almost everything is enjoying samsara without feeling any guilty. People already know how to do that.

But then, there were subsequent questions that clarified why the topic was posed. A senior practitioner wanted to clarify if he could still watch TV, take first class business flight and go for sumptuous feasts, etc and not feel guilty about all these. It was a logical question to ask, but still a bit strange. It was strange because I thought that this person should know better than me that Kyabje Lama Zopa had taught that our daily activity should be infused completely with dharma. In other words, dharma practice is not just confined to the half-an-hour, one hour or two hours daily puja/meditation/chanting that we do before or after working hours. Even with shopping, he advised that we should shop with bodhicitta. Similarly with watching TV, we should likewise watch with bodhicitta, regardless of what programme we are watching. I feel that this is a more practical approach than to ask laypersons not to watch televisions or go to the movies, and that whatever time you should devote to your practice. It goes to show that the people who have this kind of thinking still thinks “practice” is a special time allocated within the 24 hours that we have for formal practice. If that is the case, only by becoming monks/nuns can we truly practice since they do not watch TV or listen to music, etc. Then anyone who has this thinking must have this misconception that you need to become a monk/nun before you can truly practice. Then wouldn’t laypersons have no hope at all for liberation? This is not true.

So how do you watch movie with bodhicitta? I am not in a position to be advising this, and you should ask Kyabje Lama Zopa this question. But one thing is for certain, if you know how to practice dharma while watching a movie, then you wouldn’t feel guilty going about other activities in your daily life in samsara. Everything then becomes your bodhisattva activity. But being imperfect sentient beings at the moment, I think it is important to recognize this fact and not try to do things we cannot achieve at the moment. In other words, don’t try to be a hero when you are not. Don’t discard your TV and entertainment set immediately. We are not super beings like certain lamas who are reported to not need any sleep. We feel tired easily. And some types of music can really induce peace and calm in the mind. Go gradually, step by step. That’s why in our lineage, it is called the Graduated Path or Stages of the Path. You do what you are able to at your spiritual level. There’s no “one size fits all” approach in Buddhism.

The other way to "enjoy" samsara without feeling guilty is when we are able to see samsara and nirvana as the same in its mode of abiding. But can we do that now? If not, try the earlier method.

These are just my thoughts about the topic above. You think about it and check it up.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Old Age, Sickness and Death

Today when I woke up in the morning, I had a very strong feeling of something. Every knows that old age, sickness and death is something that cannot be avoided. It is the central theme of the Buddhist teachings. That 'something' that I felt is old age, sickness and death. It was not just superficial or intellectual. I felt it in my skin and bones that we are all so very vulnerable to these three 'demons'. We are all powerless to them. So that was the feeling I had, i.e. I felt most vulnerable. It was a 'terrifying' feeling.

The only way out was to take refuge in the Triple Jewels, i.e. our true Protectors. I assume this was the same feeling Prince Siddhartha had when he saw the 4 signs, and left the palace in search of an answer to this powerful vulnerable feeling he had. He found the answer and shared it with us. How wonderful! We need not re-invent the sheel, so to speak, and re-look for it somewhere else. Could this be a Lam Rim realisation as Pabongkha Rinpoche described it albeit a small one? Khenchen Rinpoche have said that our dharma understandings must be felt, not just intellectual understanding. I am happy if it was a sign of spiritual progress even if it was fleeting. I am not sure yet. Hopefully I take this message from the Protectors to heart that I must practise as taught by them. But I also realise perhaps this 'feeling' came about as a result of practising Guru Yoga meditation. Guru Yoga is truely remarkable if that is the case. And I have to thank Rinpoche for that wonderful meditation. At last, I have found my meditation!

But I am disappointed with my wife who are still worrying over small mundane matters and cannot 'let go'. On the surface of it, she does seem innocent to many people, but looks can be deceiving. Ultimately there is only so much I can do to help people. If they do not want to be helped or stubborn, then even Buddhas and Bodhisattvas cannot do anything. So they will continue round and round in samsara forever and ever. If people do not wake up to their senses and start practising the dharma and attain complete enlightenment, then problems will forever beset them. If they continue to be blind-sided by short-term problems and issues, and cannot learn to let go, then I really do not know what else to do. I am not yet a Buddha, ...I can only help as a sentient being in limited ways. Anyway, I'll stop here.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The concept of "Halal" in Buddhism

Many Buddhists are not aware that there could possibly be such thing as "halal" and "non-halal" in Buddhism, but with some difference. The word "halal" needless to say is an arabic word commonly used in the Islamic religion to mean...

"...lawful or legal... is an Arabic term designating any object or an action which is permissible to use or engage in, according to Islamic law. It is the opposite of haraam." Wikipedia.

We are not going to use that meaning of "halal". But we are borrowing that term and interprete it according to Buddhist precepts and morality. Hence, a halal food according to Buddhism is a food that does not involve killing and fulfills at least the 4 minimum criteria mentioned by the Buddha in order for a meat to be considered "pure".

As for halal shares, that would be shares of companies that do not involve directly or indirectly on activities that result in committing the ten negative deeds (akusala karma). Hence, if you want to be free of akusala karma, buy only shares that are from companies that promote the ten positive deeds (kusala karma). But negative karma is not just generated from their activities alone. We also got to see how the company treats its employees, customers, suppliers and other stakeholders (including the environment). If a company is known to be abusing its employees, then even though its products may be wholesome or 'halal', but seriously, the company is generating unwholesome karma daily if it's involved in damaging the environment or other aspects. And everyone who works or supports its products, indirectly supports the abusive behaviour continuously. So the concept of 'halal' must also be looked at from various angles, not just the company's product or main activities.

Furthermore, due to the fact that different motivation and other factors of the actions will result in different intensity of the karma, the halal concept in Buddhism will need to have a multi-tiered halal-ness (instead of just two choices: halal or haram). In Buddhism, it's not just black or white. There are many shades in between. So we must recognise that. In applying it to food, vegetarian food will be considered more halal than meat food. And organic vegetarian food will be even more halal than normal vegetarian food. However if a tantric practitioner can transform a meat and actually benefit the animal, then whether it is halal or not, it doesnot matter anymore. This same principle can be applied in determining the halal rating for a business corporation. In Buddhism, concept are meant to benefit sentient beings. If you can benefit beings regardless of concepts, then concepts become meaningless and you can set it aside. It's like the Buddhist saying that the boat is only for ferying you across the river. Once you have crossed it, you can abandon the boat. You don't carry it with you.

So we can see an important point here about the concept of halal in Buddhism. It is not a straight jacket, i.e. either something is halal or it is not. There are various "shades" of it in between. And it is also not something that if you donot follow, you will be punish or you are condemned. In Buddhist, it is not forced, i.e. the choice is left to the individual. We create our own karma, be it good or bad. There is no holy book in Buddhism that determines for us what is always good and what is always bad. If an action results in negative karma, then Buddhists consider that "not good". If vice-versa, then "good". It's not so much that specific action itself, but other factors behind the action such as motivation and the resulting condition of the action on others.

The same action involving the same things can create a huge bad karma for one person and very little for another, and none at all for another. The case in point here is a person who eats meat and donot practices dharma nor have any good motivation for animal that sacrificed its meat. The second person practices the dharma and have positive thoughts on animals. At least for this seciond person, the animal benefits by his dharma practice. The third person is the lama who is able to transform the meat and benefit the animal that gave its meat

I can elaborate more on this 'halal' concept from the perspective of Buddhism but this is the gist of it. So as a Buddhist, I will try not to buy shares from Genting, for example, because they are involved in gambling activities. And many persons have lost millions of dollars in their activities and in fact, many people have been known to commit suicide due to having lost so much money in gambling debt. By investing in such companies, we are indirectly supporting those gambling activities and death by suicide. Remember we have not yet included the possibility of the rampant cheating that is supposedly known to be happening daily at casinos. I am not accusing any company of cheating, but we will never know, right? While I am aware that no company (and in fact no one, except the Buddha) is perfectly free from committing negative actions, we must try as best we could at the level of practice we are at.

So sometimes we think that we are good Buddhists but then wonder where do we get all the bad karma from? We don't know because we do not realise the actions that we do are in fact generating little little karmic impact on us. Remember the saying..."tiny drops of water makes an ocean"...something like that? So as Buddhist we must remember and be aware of inter-dependent factors and how everything affects every other things. It's a very dynamic system. A small action can have a huge impact.

I am not sure if you have heard of what I have written on this halal topic from any other Buddhist, but I surely haven't. However, these are merely my thoughts on the concept of 'halal' and what it would mean if applied in Buddhism. Therefore, if you think there is any incorrect interpretation or misapplying the concept, then please share your views. In the meantime, take care and may all beings be well and happy!

Monday, November 23, 2009


This message is as true to Hndus as it is for Buddhists: -

Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba: "Manasa Bhajare Guru Charanam, Dustara Bhava Saagara Tharanam"

It means: With all your mind worship at the feet of your Guru, and cross the endless ocean of life and death. Of course, at that time, I had not yet known the concept of guru devotion in Buddhism, especially Tibetan Buddhism. I had other kinds of interpretation of that sentence then, but now I am very clear how the endless ocean of life and death can be ended by devotion to the guru.


Saturday, November 21, 2009

Garchen Rinpoche - For The Benefit Of All Beings

This is the extract of the new video on Garchen Rinpoche - an important Drikung Kagyu Lama widely respected by his disciples all over the world.

Another death

Thsi is another death that was reported in yesterday's newspaper. Datuk Patrick Wong's house got entered by robbers and a struggled was believed to have happended and he apparently lept to his death at his hous in Bangsar, a sub-urban area mostly known for wealthy residents near Kuala Lumpur.

Read it here:

Om Mani Padme Hum

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Tale of Anguish and Anger

Today I will share with you one true story. But it is not one that was reported in the media. It happened recently. There was this 55-year-old man. I donot know him but was a cousin brother of somebody who related it to someone I know. He lived in a reasonably comfortable house with his wife and son.

But that happy comfortable life changed suddenly last year when his wife died of cancer. He was most upset. With his wife gone, he placed his hopes on his son. All his wealth and money, he willed it to his son. But then, this year his son died suddenly of heart attack. Guess how old is his son? He was only 33 years old. Yes, 33! While I donot know of his life style, 33 is a young age to die.

As he was the man's only son, and only hope left, now gone, his hopes of cuddling grandchildren during his old age are now dashed. With his wife also gone, he is without any life companion. Today he tells people whenever he is in the house, he looks at the four walls. There's no one to talk to him anymore. He does not need to wait till 2012 for the world to be destroyed. His was already destroyed!

He was very angry at the holy statue(s) in his home altar. It was not mentioned what statue it was, whether it was Buddha, Kuan Yin or which of the Chinese gods, or whether there was only one statue or more than one, but he took it and smashed it to the ground. You can just imagine his deep anguish and frustrations, he could not understand why the gods/holy beings did not bless or protect his family. He could not understand why at such old age, he had to suffer such an ordeal. He had lost his family. And all alone now. All his wealth, house (at Yeap Chor Ee Road) and whatever material possessions he has, does not have any meaning to him anymore.

If you had not felt this deep frustrations before, you will only have a vaque idea of how it is like. I must confess here I have felt it before last time. But I am in a better position than this man, for after the deep anger, there arose in me a deep desire to seriously respond to all sentient beings when I become a Bodhisattva one day. I felt some bodhicitta within me that day. I donot know about that man, but I didnot stop believing in the Buddha and Bodhisattvas. I think that man is most vulnerable to conversion to another religion.

So I leave the above story in your thoughts for today. Om Mani Padme hum.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What have Buddhists become?

I am just bewildered that many Buddhists are so ignorant that they could actually believe that gods could enter the bodies of humans and communicate to them. So these ignorant people places their hopes and faith on these mediums who could call upon these gods to possess their bodies and help these humans in their prayers. Then when the so-called gods enter the mediums, they behave strangely and go into a trance.

I am of the view that many of these cases of being possessed by gods, especially the higher gods, are not actually gods. They are more likely to be spirits or ghosts. So people should place their hopes more on Buddhas and Bodhosattavs and other Arya Beings.

I really cannot believe why people should seek favors from these spirits or ghosts? Is it easier to bribe them? Or they simply believe it is the actual god/goddess come from heaven into the body of this medium? I think people are too ignorant. Gods and goddess from heaven have a very bright, clean and pure bodies. They wouldn't want to enter human bodies which they consider as filthy. Some of these gods/goddesses are actually Arhats and great Bodhisattavs. hey donot go around possessing human bodies. Example are Kuan Yin (who is a Great Bodhisattva, not a goddess)and Ji Gong (who is an Arhat, not a god). But these 2 are also popular deities in Taoism. So, they and others become Taoist god/goddesses/spirits. Generally I think the Chinese population donot know how to distinguish what is a god/goddess (deva), a Bodhisattva, a ghost, a demon, an Arhat, etc.

We know it is not at all possible to bribe Buddhas and Bodhisattvas for any favours. Still I will always go to the Buddhas for any favours than to be granted favours by spirits/ghosts. And do you know why? It is because spirits/ ghosts and for that matter any non-enlightened beings (including humans) are susceptible to greed, hatred, jealousy and all ignorance-based emotions. Once you receive favours from them, you are forever at their mercy. If they are good spirits/ghosts, it is not that bad. But how are we to know if they will always be good? Just like humans, they can have a bad day and then we will get it from them. Moreoever, if we are granted our wish, another aspect of our life could possibly be taken away. It is like barter trade. With worldly beings, we get something only in exchange with something else. Our life or the life of our family members could become shorter if we are not careful with favours obtained from these less-than-perfect beings.

Hence for certain favours like asking for babies, asking for promotions, health, etc I will never ever advice anyone to pray to any being other than Arya Beings. Only the Arya Beings are not susceptible to greed, hatred and jealousy. I do offer incense to gods and spirits and even ghosts but I do not pray to them like I pray to the Buddhas and Great Bodhisattvas and other Holy Beings. It's different.

But then I donot blame Buddhists who have no dharma knowledge. But the fault lies with those people who know that it is wrong but still want to deceive the ignorant Buddhist public. The other day I went to this local temple. They are supposed to be Buddhist temple with Buddha statues on their altars and the nun wear the traditional Buddhist Sangha robes. However, on the other side of the hall the temple has an altar for gods and spirits. The nuns collect money from locals and uses paper money charms just like the popular Goddess of Mercy temple in Penang. What is not correct is when the nun conducts the prayers, she does not wear the ordination bhikkuni precepts sash but only wear the ceremonial robes. As far as I know, the proper thing to do is to wear the precepts sash especially when conducting prayers. I donot want to judge left-home persons, but I just want to know what are the chances of success of our prayers if the person conducting it donot have respect for their precepts sash. Also I have been taught that prayers have more chances of success if the prayed by a virtuous person. But it's okay, I will give the nun the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps she still has some virtue. But these are the sort fo things people believe in nowadays. There are Buddha images there and they won't pray or offer to them, instead the fruits are offered to the ghost/spirits or devas or whatever the other statues were. From the perspective of a Buddhist like me, this was very strange. But the nun thee, obviously doesnot think it was. What has Buddhism and Buddhists become?

Compare this with another Buddhist abbot in Penang who always wear the Bhikku robes when performing prayers. And the temple never asks for specific sum of money for even their lamp lighting. Anyone can write their name on the piece of paper and put it on the altar. And it is up to you to donate how much you want/can afford. The abbot also don't want to know how much you will donate. He will just ask you to drop the money in the big wooden box in the prayer hall. Unfortunately there are not many of these kind of temples left. A lot of temples fixed a price tag nowadays. Must everything have a price tag? $10 for lamp lighting. $30 for this puja and $50 for that puja. And I don't blame them. That's the way economics work, I suppose. That's the way centers and temples do fundraising. Almost everyone's doing that. If everyone's doing it, it means it's correct, right? And if we do not agree with this way, we are considered not practising the paramita of generosity. LOL! Again, what have Buddhists become?

But what do I know? And what can I do? So I better keep my mouth shut. So you guys can ignore my ramblings.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Mahakasyapa and Zen Master Seung Sahn

This is a tribute to a remarkable master whose wisdom can be glimpsed from his answer in the video. Nov 30th marks his 5th year anniversary of his death and I wish I could tell him now that I have understood that the "Don't Know Mind" is just the same as the Mahamudra mind. At that time I donot understand and donot know how to practice Zen. But I am sure he will be proud of me today. And I hope I will be able to keep it up till I am enlightened just like him. I pray sincerely that we will meet again..somewhere, somehow !!!

Question: Is it true that you were Mahakasyapa in a former life?

Zen Master Seung Sahn: Dont even talk about such nonesense. That was a long long time ago. Zen means using your mind clearly from moment to moment. So what if the Buddha appeared, if Mahakasyapa appeared, if all the patriarchs were a bunch of drunks. Those things have nothing to do with with you or me. The only thing that is important is for you to sit here and now, be clear, and work towards enlightment.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Booking A Place in Hell

From the stories above, it certainly looks like there will be 2 more sentient beings who had booked a place in hell, joining the man who had splashed the acid over his wife and daughter few weeks ago (refer my previous post). The man who jumped from his flats has gone there probably, ahead of the other two.

It’s so sad to see people who cannot see the bigger picture and let go, instead of being attached and end up committing huge negative hellish karma. It is better to divorce and spare yourself from booking a place in HELL. Don’t commit any crime in the process of having family problems…it’s not worth it! However, I know it is easier said than done.

When we ourselves are having problems, is our Buddhist practice strong enough to withstand strong emotional upheavals? Are we able to “let go” the Buddhist way? That’s our million dollar question!

If we who are supposedly “Buddhist practitioners” are not able to guarantee ourselves that we won’t kill our spouses or children in any heated arguments/issues, what can we expect of ordinary people without much religious conviction? The way I see it, the only way we are able to sort of “guarantee” we will not do those evil actions is when we have genuinely gained the realizations of “Lam Rim” especially the lower scope graduated path. That’s why many masters have stressed on the graduated path nowadays. We need to thoroughly ground ourselves in the Lam Rim paths before practicing tantra. Otherwise it will be like building castle on soft soil. There will be a risk of land erosion/land slide, and then your castle come tumbling down. By writing this, I am reminding myself as I share it with others too. Om Mani Padme Hum.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

2012 Destruction - WHAT IF?

Referring to the movie "2012" and the Mayan prophecy, whether the Mayan or others' prediction is true or not, it does not really matter to me as a Buddhist. As a Buddhist, we are suppose to be aware of impending death anytime. Only with this awareness, will we strive and put in effort in our Buddhist practice. Otherwise, this life will be wasted away.

Should this "end of the world" on Dec 21, 2012 be true, and we are told of it in advance by the world leaders (which is unlikely as they probably donot want everyone to panic), I am going to share with you all what I think I will do in my last few weeks on Earth.

For one, I will stop work and go on a pilgrimage trip to all Four Buddhist Holy Sites as well as the other four holy places of miracles associated with the Buddha in India as well as in Nepal. Besides that I will visit all the other holy stupas and Way Places in India and Nepal. I will also visit the Four Sacred Mountains in China and pay homage to the Great Bodhisattvas there. And not to forget all the holy monasteries and stupas in Tibet and China such as Ganden, Potala Palace, Drepung, Sera, Samye, Drikung Thil and many others.

Coming home, I will convert the rest of my money into something I can barter trade for food post-destruction (if I survive). Notes and coins are very likely to be worthless then. And I don't think keeping gold bars are practical because they will like to be stolen very quickly. Maybe grains and rolls of cloth. These could prove to be useful for others even if I don't survive.

And as the D-day approaches, then what? If I can't be at any of the holy sites then, I will be at a mountain or hill doing my Guru Yoga meditation. I think that thinking of the guru is the best thing to be doing as impending death approaches.

Regardless of whether Pentagon or the White House is keeping secrets or not on any impending "Dec 21, 2012", it is important to prepare ourselves mentally and keep in mind the bigger picture, i.e. life does not end with the destruction of Earth. Birth and death will continue on and on. That's for sure, until liberation is achieved. It is said that only 1/3 of the world will be left remaining on Earth post-destruction, and if you are one of those survivors, think again - are you lucky or unlucky? There will be a lot of suffering for the survivors. Isn't it better to strive for rebirth in the Buddha's Pure Lands and wait there until the world is rebuilt again? Or, better still if you can remain in the Buddha's Pure Land. Normally having gained rebirth there, you don't go anywhere else after that, unless you want to come back to samsara to help sentient beings...or, to continue your bodhisattva training there.

By the way, if I am not wrong, only the Buddhas' Pure Lands will be spared of destruction at the end of the kalpas. It is said that even the heavens of devas and angels will be destroyed at the end of the kalpa. So, don't strive to be reborn in the heavens at that time. The only safe place is the Buddhas' Pure Lands.

So, this piece has been about my thoughts and response as a Buddhist to "2012 destruction - What if it really happens". What about you? What do you plan to do?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Vajradhara Lama

The concept of Vajradhara Lama as I found out is quite pervasive within Vajrayana. Vajradhara Lama is our main Root Lama and we visualise him in our merit field as well as during our Guru Yoga practices. All our gurus comes from him, and thus he is the actual Root Guru. Pabongkha Rinpoche expanded it to include Sakyamuni and Je Tsongkhapa. And so he refered to it as "Lama Losang Thubwang Dorje Chang".

Can it be expanded further by including one other deity and one Master and calling him Lama Kyobpa Losang Gyalwa Thubwang Dorje Chang?

Hahahaha....!! Quite a mouthfull. But it's okay. And so shall it be!! :)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

More Tragic Accidents

There had been more tragic accidents in the last one week. 3 school children was swept away by the river when the hanging bridge they and the rest of their camp friends wer standing on collapsed and drowned. That was in Kampar. And yesterday, it was reported that UTAR students were swept by the waterfall river and drowned. That was also somewhere near Kampar. A few days before, a young boy was also swept by the river current and died. His two friends were so scared that they didnot tell anyone about the accident. One boy even skipped school. It was found out only after the school teacher and her mother managed to persuade the other boy who went to school. He cried and told them what happened. Then there is the eye specialist, Dr Marcus Lim (37 years of age) who had apparently suffered a heart attacked while scuba diving at Pulau Aur. He was said to be the son of the famous Penang lawyer - the late Mr Lim Kean Siew.

Read these links:

These are all tragic cases involving water. It reminded me of an accident involving a former colleague fo mine who had also drowned at a waterfall in Kedah. I take this opprtunity to pray for all these victims and for them to take rebirth in Amitabha's Pure Land.

Namo Amitabha Buddha

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lama Umapa

This morning I woke up and remembered the name "UMAPA" very clearly in my dream. Only the name is clear, but I have forgotten the rest of the dream. But I remember it is something about seeking the teachings of Umapa. I have not been reading about Lama Umapa lately, so I am not sure why I dreamt of his text or his name now. For your info, Lama Umapa was Lama Tsongkhapa's teacher (as well as student) who was the intermediary between Manjusri and Tsongkhapa. They communicated through Lama Umapa. But later, Tsongkhapa was able to directly communicate with Manjusri, without Lama Umapa. They did many retreats together. Anyone has any sadhana or verses /practices written by/attributed to Lama Umapa?
from Berzin Archive:
Tsongkhapa also went to study the practice of Manjushri Dharmachakra (‘Jam-dbyangs chos-kyi ‘khor-lo) and Madhyamaka with the Karma Kagyu Lama Umapa (Bla-ma dbu-ma-pa dPa’-bo rdo-rje). This great master had studied Madhyamaka with the Sakya tradition and, since childhood, had daily visions of Manjushri, who taught him one verse each day. Tsongkhapa and he became mutual teacher and disciple. Lama Umapa checked with Tsongkhapa to get confirmation that the teachings he received in his visions of Manjushri were correct. This is very important, since visions can be influenced by demons.
Together with Lama Umapa, Tsongkhapa did an extensive retreat on Manjushri. From this time onward, Tsongkhapa received direct instruction from Manjushri in pure visions and was able to receive from him answers to all his questions. Before this, he had to ask his questions to Manjushri through Lama Umapa.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tragic Incident

Referring to this news:

I cant believe that using an acid to splash someone can be regarded as just scaring someone. Hello?? It's acid... you know?!! Not water. I feel sad because this man is definitely destined to be reborn in the boiling hot hell, where you will be cooked alive in acid or boiling oil. And he will be there for eons and eons without escape unless someone manages to use some of his material wealth and make offerings to the Buddha. However I am not sure to what extent that will help him. That's because his karma is too deep. After the suffering in the hot hells, he probably will be reborn as animal will bodily diseases for many lives, and thereafter as human with serious diseases and short life span for many lives. He is likely to face the same tragedy as that of his daughter and wife. The daughter and wife have probably committed some deep karma to suffer such a tragedy. In future lives, that man will suffer the same tragedy. It is said that karmic offences grow. From one act committed in a few seconds, he has to suffer for eons and eons in hell, another innumerable livetimes as an animal and again for many lives as a tragic human life. Isn't this sad? I say this is very very sad.

I pray that whatver goodness there is in this man will enable him to meet with a wise man who will then guide him to take refuge in the Buddha. That is the only salvation for him. And many others like him. The only hope.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mahamayuri = Lucifer ?

A comment in a previous post pointed out thatin the Middle East region, there is a "cult" called "Yeezidee" and they worship Lucifer. The emblem used is also a peacock and Lucifer is regarded as the Peacock Angel. This person asks whether our Peacock Queen Bodhisattva is the same as the Peacock Angel a.k.a Lucifer. And Lucifer is the Archangel in Christianity. So, is Mahamayuri also connected with Satan worship? There are also some people who associate Malek Taus (see below article) and the Sumerian God Enki as Arya Maha Mayuri. Is Maha Mayuri these gods?

My answer is this: I do not know much about Lucifer, not Malek Taus nor Enki but I can assure you our Buddhist Mahamayuri Bodhisattva is all goodness. Just because the "animal" symbol is the same (i.e. peacock) does not mean they are the same deity. In fact even Hinduism have deities riding on the peacock. The peacock is used in many cultures and religions and predates Buddhism. Therefore, be confident that the buddhist Peacock Queen Bodhisattva (Arya Maha Mayuri) is not satanic.

Having said that, the "ultimate devil" is in our mind. If our mind is perverted, we can even turn the Buddha into a devil. I have been told that even a common Buddhist paritta or mantra, which is nothing but goodness, if we recite it in a certain way, it can even become black magic. If we don't take care of our mind, we will then see everyone and everything as evil. So, we become evil ourselves. In Buddhism, we take care of the mind. Buddhism emphasizes much on taking care of the mind. In Buddhist tantra, as is in Ch'an Buddhism, if our mind is pure, everything is likewise pure, i.e. our environment turns into Buddha's Pure Land.

Last but not least, this is something I got from searching the internet:

Quote from:

"Worship centers around Angels (Malek is from the Arabic word for 'angel'), the most important of which is named Melek Taus, or the "Peacock Angel," also known as Lucifer. Lucifer plays a different role in Yezidism, where he is considered the chief Archangel, and the creator of the material world. In Yezidi belief, Lucifer is not a fallen angel, or the enemy of God. In Yezidi cosmology, the universal Spirit (the Supreme deity) created a pearl, which became broken after a period of forty thousand years. Melek, or Lucifer, used the remains of the pearl to create the material world. After this creation, the Spirit created the remaining Angels. Yezidi theology claims that Lucifer was forgiven for his transgressions, and those who revere him are the spiritual elect of humanity. They are forbidden from referring to him as Satan. [snip] Yezidis are a Kurdish sect, named after their supposed founder Yezid, the Umayyad Caliph. The Yezidi revere the Prophet Mohammed and the Sufi mystic Adi Musafir, a descendent of the Umayyad Caliphs (Kalifs). Adi is credited with writing many of the Yezidi Holy texts and is possibly the originator of the faith. Islamic writings mention the religion as early as the fourteenth century, but some scholars link them to Mithraism, Zoroastrianism, and even ancient Iraqi Buzzard worshippers. Yezidism is an enigma that has confounded scholars and incited debate for some time"

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Tigle Bubbles in Water Bowls - Again!

I am not sure what I should call them, or if the term tigle is appropriate or not, or whether I should call them "mandala bubbles", but five days after I met with my teacher, the tiny little bubbles appeared in my water bowls again. Yes, this is the third time. I am not sure if it has anything to do with meeting the teacher or not, but it sure does appear like they are blessings. Someone made a comment that these could be "sentient beings" as well, and it could be positive or negative. I have asked a few Tibetan monks before (of various traditions) but no one seems to have seen these before. I have not really not asked that many actually, because I donot want to make this a big thing and become attached to it. Anyway I cannot control it. If it comes, it comes. If it vanishes, it vanishes. There's nothing I can do about it. So I'll let the "sentient beings" come if they want....and go if they want. If you have any news, please let me know. Drop a comment.

Refer back to the posts I did in the past under the subject heading "bubbles (tigle)" or "water bowl" if you are not sure what I meant...and if you want to see the pics of these "wonder bubbles" or whatever you want to call them again.

This time the bubbles seem smaller in size and seem to be vanishing at a faster rate than the first or the second. The first ones vanish the slowest. I let these bubbles vanish by themselves before I change the water bowls. But I place additional new bowls as offering.

O-yes, a few bigger bubbles also appeared in a few "drinking water bottles" (unopened ones) that I had placed on a side table beside the altar. The drinking water bottles were not meant for offerings. One was a "Spritzer" brand drinking water. Not yet open and bought by my wife for the Nine Emperor Gods festival that is celebrated by many in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.

Strange, huh? Do you guys want to see pics of the third time appearance?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Spiritual tests

Have you been tested by your Guru? Well I have...I think a few times. Let me relate a major test that happened recently. This is a long one, so take your time to read after several days of not blogging.

Right from the beginning it was a test of my resolve. That’s how it seemed like because there were obstacles all the way till just before I was on the way home after meeting Khenchen Rinpoche last Saturday. He was my first official lama that I regard as my Vajrayana guru since I did have a refuge card given by him. And I had not met him since 2006, I think. I have heard in the past few years that he had been sick. And I had written a longlife verse to dedicate it to him for his quick recovery then. So, due to his illnesses, I wanted to see him very much in case he might decide to leave us too soon. Touch wood, I hope not. It was after receiving a stern “PRACTICE!” and that strict look on his face that I decided to be more focus on my practice in vajrayana. And not long after that, I met Lama Zopa Rinpoche and the Gelug tradition, and the rest is history. But in the beginning I did practice a little bit of Drikung, but due to the unavailability of teachers and the disunity of the drikung devotees here, it sort of did not take off seriously. At that time, I did not really go indept into Vajrayana yet.

Back to story, it was a certain “Madam” who called me to inform me that Khenchen would be here in Malaysia (but not visit my home town because noone invited him) and told me to call another man. And she gave me his number and said she will be leaving for U.K. in the next few days. So I won’t get to call her again. As I was outside my home, I did not get to write down the exact dates of Khenchen’s visit. But I got that guy’s number and soon I wrote him an sms. I waited for him to reply, but nothing. I sms again, I think. Still nothing. So I called his number but no one pick up the phone. I left a few messages. He did not return my voice messages/sms. His silence had made me think that perhaps he did not want Khenchen to be disturbed and perhaps his silence is a polite way of saying “No”. Some people are like that, you know?

But I did not give up. At last, I manage to speak to him. So, I told him I am interested to go to AS to meet with Khenchen. I asked him for details. He said ok but did not have much interest…at least it appears that way to my ignorant mind. After that, he did not sms me his house address nor the dates of Khenchen’s schedule. But I remembered roughly the dates Mdm told me, and I decided to request for his house address one week before the Saturday that I had planned to go. Thankfully he sms me back with the details. With that, at least I knew I had his permission to go to his house. So that week, I printed the longlife verse I wrote, in colour and have it framed up. It costs me RM25. I have had my car serviced to prepare for the long journey. That costs me RM198.

Two or three days before the journey, I sms that man in AS of my intended trip and he reverted by giving me a shocking reply. He said that Khenchen and he are going to Thailand and asked me to visit him only after 5pm Saturday. What!? I thought my plan to visit him was then in shreds. As I donot drive in the highway at night, especially to a unfamiliar location, I thought maybe I should re-schedule it to Sunday instead. As I learned later from Khenchen himself, Sunday he would be leaving to KL already. Had I postponed the visit to Sunday, I will not have got to meet Khenchen. Thankfully I did not decide to visit on Sunday itself. My wife was also instrumental in supporting me when I said that I could drive earlier to AS and go sight-seeing in the city centre first before meeting Rinpoche at 5pm. So, that was the decision made and I was happy about it and it was a crucial decision. I sms that man my decision to him and said I might arrive earlier and request him to revert when he is back in town from Thailand with Khenchen.

And then came the second shocking news. But it’s a positive one for me. He said they were not going to Thailand anymore but to another smaller town in Kedah (Merbok), and will be back home by 4pm. I was happy because if they had gone to Thailand, there might be delays in flight, customs, etc. Maybe Khenchen knew and wanted to see how I would react when I was told of his trip to Thailand, to test of my resolve to see him. I supposed that made him chance his plan to go to another local town instead. I was ecstatic at this change in plan. It enabled me to travel to AS and arrive there earlier and go back earlier too before dark, perhaps. At least that’s how I had planned.

On that Saturday morning I woke up feeling excited and happy to start the journey. But my wife was still rolling in bed, unable to get up. I told her she had better get up and start preparing. Then we’ll go at before noon. It wasn’t until 12.30pm that the journey officially begun. It was because we took some time to check the internet for info on AS town by searching for the map. Then we had wanted to go shop for some local biscuits to buy as gift for the AS host. We could not find any tambun biscuits nearby, so we decided to forget about it. We’ll buy it when we reach the AS town. Then we went to fill up the petrol tank, that cost me about slightly above RM30. The first obstacle there was when I over-shot the exit toll and went to exit 180 instead. I should have exited at exit 178. I had to make a huge turning and incur extra toll charges. RM13.00 toll. Plus entering the toll at AS = RM0.40. It was about slightly after 2pm. Then we went to the new shopping mall built by the generous Muslim millionaire. We took lunch there. At about after 3pm, my wife reminded me better to start looking for that man’s house as we were not sure of the location, except that it was near another shopping mall (S Parade).

On the way to my car parked outside the mall, we decided to start asking for directions to the actual housing estate of that guy. We asked a few strangers before meeting one man who surprised us by volunteering to take us right to that place. He said he was going there anyway. Could he be a manifestation of a benevolent protector? Reminded me of the young woman I met at Bangkok airport who volunteered to give me a ride and take me right up to the doorstep of Root Institute 3 years ago. I believe all these people are blessings from the guru. Anyway, that stranger took us to the particular road. I thought it would then be easy to find the host's road. After going several rounds around the place, we could not find that road. It was my mistake. I should have asked the stranger just now to take us specifically to that road. So it’s not the fault of the protector. It’s my fault for not being exact. This was the fourth obstacle. We decided to wait outside a nearby church and contact that host of Khenchen and see if he can direct us to his house. Later he came in his car and we followed him to his house. It was really difficult to find with all the twists and turnings. The problem was that the district council did not put up road signs for the small roads. We were told to wait because Khenchen was resting upstairs. This was also a test of my resolve and fifth test. Well, once I was there, I had no other choice but to wait anyway. But it means a shorter time since darkness will descend soon and we need to travel back.

However, when we arrive at his house, Khenchen was sitting right in the living room sofa, waiting for us. It was wonderful to behold him. It was a surprise because the host had told us he was resting upstairs. I prostrated to him 3 times and then presented him the frame-up longlife verses. However he returned it to me saying he cannot take it back because it will add weight to his luggage. Then he gave me his books “Calling the Lama from Afar” and “Transformation of Suffering”. He autographed both books. After that we talked for a while and I requested for oral transmission of his composition: “Permissions and Prohibitions; the mode of abiding” as well as the short Guru Yoga. I asked for any advice on those oral transmission. And he told me he had written a new one entitled, “Samsara and Nirvana; Two sides of the same hand”. He said it is in the internet and I can find it there. Since he mentioned it, it means it had given me the oral permission to read and study it. Later I found that this was a profound Lam Rim text – longer than Lama Tsongkhapa’s Foundation of All Good Qualities. I love the text, especially some of the warnings and succinct points contained in some of the verses.

I also told him my wife’s health problems and the “thousand arms” issue. He blessed my wife by reciting something and touching her head with the book “Calling the Lama from Afar”. I told him I am currently doing Chenrezig practice – not much of a practice actually. Just reciting the mani mantra and visualising the lights radiating out to all beings, esp. bardo beings. He said he was going to teach something on the guru yoga that night for short session starting at 7.30pm. And he asked me if I could go. It’s up to me, he said. Later I realized that this is actually another test (sixth one) of my resolve. Having gained the oral transmission, had I not gone it would have been a waste. Moreover, it is a direct explanation from the guru himself – the one who composed it. Not someone else. Therefore, it is a direct blessing from the guru for anyone who practices it.

However, initially I hesitated. It was because it was getting dark and I wasn’t sure if I could drive home at night. Khenchen said I have to decide myself, it’s up to me, but he said that the next day was a Sunday. So, he was saying that I could stay. And indirectly hinting that I should stay and receive the instructions. I did not get the hint right away, only realized it on the way back to Penang. I said to Khenchen I will discuss it with my wife. I told him I planned to go to Nepal in December and mainly to go for pilgrimage. I did not tell him that I would be going to Kopan too, but I suppose with his mind he would know. Also I told him I do study the Lam Rim Chen Mo and he said it is a very good book. However he added, I could also read The Jewel Ornaments of Liberation. I expected that to come because Khenchen is a Kagyupa and the Jewel Ornament is the Lam Rim text by Gampopa. I have read both. I also showed him HY’s book which he knew about and told him the teachings we are getting through internet audio-conferencing.

Not knowing what else to talk about, I suggested perhaps he may be tired and if he needed a rest, he can go have a rest. We will not disturb him. He agreed and got up to leave. At that point, I requested for blessings too and same thing, he took the book and placed it on my head. I could feel a heavy energy channeling through my head. I felt good to be blessed after that. Then we left after Khenchen had gone upstairs. Along the way to AS town, I discussed with my wife whether to go for the teachings. I donot know what or why but suddenly it occurred to me that since we were already there, we might as well stay back for a few hours more and receive his teachings. Otherwise why would I want to go back so fast? It makes more sense to stay back even though it was a guru yoga on Lord Jigten Sumgon. Even though I prefer to practice the Gelug guru yoga, I reasoned that I could still learn from Khenchen. I decided to keep an open mind and go for it. After all, this was a guru yoga written by Khenchen himself and I definitely consider him as one of my living gurus. Anyway, it’s not like I have received any guru yoga practice from Lama Zopa. Apart from reciting my personal secret mantra, there wasn’t any substantial official guru yoga that I am practicing anyway. So I decided to contact the host again and asked for directions to the place he was going to be teaching.

My wife and I went to S Parade and had our dinner there. We got lost our way a bit and this was the seventh test to test our resolve. I could have given up and return home but I did not. We kept on calling the poor host who had to entertain these 2 “kids” who could not find their way to their centre. With persistence and kindness of the host, we finally arrived at the centre just shortly before the Khenchen arrived himself with the host and his wife. We stayed through the teaching and it finished at just before 9pm. We bid farewell to Khenchen and the other members of the centre. They were very friendly and one man even led us with his car all the way to the main road (near the beautiful Nine Emperor Gods’ temple). But we said it is okay and we can find the rest of the way back to the exit toll to the highway. We thanked him and went on. Exit toll cost RM12.60. Along the way home, I mentally recited my personal secret mantra until completed my number of rounds. We arrived at about 11pm. About one and half hours later. Faster than arriving there in the morning. Maybe at night there were lesser vehicles on the highway and I drove most of the time at 100-110 kmh. I think I drove slower when arriving. We ate supper at Kayu Nasi Kandar before going home. Hence we stayed until the end and I think I passed all the tests that were ditched out to me. On hindsight these are difficult tests. I could have given up going to see him, but I did not. In fact I was even considering going to KL if the host continued to “ignore” my phone calls. But I am sure he had his reasons for not responding to my phone calls and messages. Hahaha…LOL! But I could not have done it without the support of my wife and her help was crucial throughout the journey. Also, I must thank the help by my unseen protectors all along the way. THANK YOU.

Mission accomplished.
Thank you Khenchen for testing my resolve and determination.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Points to ponder on Pema Chodron's book

There is an important point I would like to share here on the book review I did on Pema Chodron's book - The Place that Scare You. The story about the experience of the young woman and what Pema Chodron described as bodhicitta, elicited a response from someone. She wrote to me to say that her interpretation of bodhicitta is incorrect. She was comparing that one paragraph I wrote to her understanding of bodhicitta as stated in the Lam Rim texts. On the face of it, with just that one paragraph of that short story by Pema Chodron in my blogpost, it does seem that the definition of bodhicitta is incorrect. To her, it was more of a feeling of Equinimity; not Bodhicitta.

Upon reading the paragraphs of Pema Chodron's book before that particular story and the paragraphs afte that, it became clear, that Pema Chodron's understanding of what is bodhicitta is faultless. Instead the fault lies in the person who thought that it was wrong because she jumped to conclusions without first reading the story in the context of the book. In this person is a senior Buddhist. See what Pema Chodron said by "heightened neurosis"!! Many times the more learned we are, the more neurotic we become.

It also stresses one point I have known, i.e. different persons perceive differently on the same dharma message. That's why one person was able to achieve enlightenment and another do not, even though both of them receive the same teaching from the same teacher. When I read that story it was clear that the young woman did have compassion on those who jeered her. It was not only equinimity. Yes, she may not have expressed her wish for enlightenment but what is 'enlightenment'? And ask yourself, how can someone who had expressing such a deep connection to everyone not wish to be liberated from all these jeering? And if you know who Chogyam Trungpa was, you will know that this was a teacher that was unconventional in his dharma delivery methods. He was not a textbook dharma teacher. At the end of the day, he wants you to be able to interprete and understand the dharma in the context of our everyday life. Quoting text book answers without real understanding was clearly not adequate.

Anyway I do think that that American woman in the story was most probably not even a Buddhist. Being a renown teacher in the West, Pema Chodron have many Western fans who are not yet formal Buddhists. Pema Chodron was merely using a story and illustrating an important buddhist concept to both buddhist and non-buddhist in a way both could understand in the context of the Middle Eastern conflicts and deep hatred between Palestinians, Jews and Americans.

This person who wrote to me wanted to take out the story (because to her, the bodhicitta interpretation was wrong) before she would share it with others. She also changed the "Chogyam Trungpa lineage" to "Kagyu" lineage. To me, yes, Pema Chodron is a Kagyu lineage teacher but she was also a Nyingma teacher to many, since her master - Chogyam Trungpa was a teacher under both lineages. To me the word "Kagyu" lineage doesnot convey the entire scope of the fact that she was in Chogyam Trungpa line of teachers. Furthermore, I think when we do a book review, it is important for the person not to "curry-flabour" it with our own intepretation or our own lineage's understanding... especially if the author is from another lineage. If we are going to "curry-flavour" it, we might as well not read the book...or for that matter, reading anything. The thing is, I want to present the author's point of view; and if I donot agree, I need to say so in the book review. But I should not edit it in such a way that it presents differently than what the author originally wrote in his/her book. Hence I also refuse to let her edit what I wrote (and in the process distort Pema Chodron's point of view) and publish it in her newsletter.

I hope my readers would take note of this even when reading my posts in this blog.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Pema Chodon's The Places that Scare You

Based on my own observation, my last book review had resulted in many books of "Rich Brother, Rich Sister" being sold off the shelves of MPH, Borders and Popular Book Stores. Many stores are now out-of-stock. So, I am glad to be able to help a nun raise some needed funds for her cancer treatment. Here's another review:

Today I read a book by Pema Chodron, entitled "The Places that Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times". It’s a book published by Shambala Publications. In case you do not know, Venerable Pema Chodron is a Tibetan Buddhist nun and teacher in the renowned Chogyam Trungpa lineage (the Trungpa tulkus are traditionally Kagyu but he also had many Nyingma teachers and taught many Nyingma teachings too. As such, he is considered by many as both a Kagyu and Nyingma master. Pema Chodron followed his style of combining Kagyu and Nyingma). By ‘places that scare you”, she did not mean a haunted house or cemetery. Indeed, these usually scary places often pale in comparison to our own ‘haunted’ mind. Our ‘haunted’ mind generates so much emotional instability, fear and grief on a daily basis that it does many times seem we would go deep into the abyss of depression and madness. That's certainly more frightening than seeing ghosts. As a result of these, we become afraid of suffering and go around building ‘protective’ walls around ourselves in the hope of shielding from these emotional topsy-turvy. As Venerable Pema Chodron said, we fortified it further with anger, jealousy, pride, etc. If we are Buddhists, we use (or misuse?) the Buddhadharma to shield ourselves further by justifying our own insecurity. In the process, we develop a kind of Buddhist ego that we do not see. For instance, we become blind to our selfish conduct within our own dharma centers. We compete with our own dharma brothers and sisters to see who has more guru devotion, or who donates more money this month, or who comes to pujas more often, etc. Sometimes we think that practicing dharma, everything will be okay. But the fact is nothing in life is certain. As Ven. Pema Chodron said Buddhist teachings do not promise happy endings. I can almost hear my readers now re-acting to this with surprise, "They do not?". After chanting hundreds, maybe thousands of mantras or sutras, you still find that you are still suffering from cancer. The tumour has still not gone away. After doing many mandala offerings and other pujas, Arya Jambala still did not give us that extra “dollars” that we need. You still need to wake up the next day and face the uncertainly of your boss’ emotional ups and downs despite having prayed to your Guru the previous night. All these are examples of how we are always looking for something expected, comfortable, predictable and safe, but the sad truth is that, things are just the opposite.

When things do not go as planned, we agonise and retreat further into insecurity. Sometimes we gloss over the insecurity and fear by doing even more similar actions. And the cycle continues, otherwise we become mentally stressed and go on the verge of insanity. On the surface of it, these examples of actions done are not necessarily bad, but it does seem sometimes that the more we practice, the more neurotic we become. Ven. Pema Chodron calls this “Heightened Neurosis”. She said that all those pictures of lamas with perpetual smiles and going about their lives with seeming easiness are those that have ‘exploded’ their neurotic behaviours. They have found the courage to face the openness or spaciousness of their environment and of their own mind. So, until then it is a fallacy to think that practicing Buddhism will immediately quell the storms of our life. Indeed, she suggested us to hold to nothing, stand on nothing, and literarily feel the ‘fall’ in a state of ‘groundlessness’. It is not 'doing nothing', rather it is an active state of true 'letting go'. She exhorted her readers to be courageous and feel our own fears and other neurotic behaviours and see into its openness/ spaciousness. She said that’s how we ‘abide in prajna paramita’. I think the below story of the woman in the Middle East describes the condition of how to abide in this state. It is only by not grasping to anything that our mind becomes truly free and then gives wisdom a chance to arise. But it's easier said than actually doing it, right? If this groundless method is difficult, try other less mind boggling methods such as practising loving-kindness, compassion, tonglen, four limitless qualities, etc.

While some of the prescriptions in this book may seem traditional in how to deal with our fears and daily emotions, Ven. Pema Chodron presents it in a fresh way by relating real stories and anecdotes to give it a powerful punch to anyone who picks up the book and reads it. At the end of the book, she appends some useful guides, including short, single sentence advices such as, not to stand in an arrow’s way, and other ageless advice but presented in a new-age way. It definitely is more than a book on how to deal with our emotional fears/insecurity but an astounding guide on how to reach out to our originally clear, bright and spacious mind in a daily setting. I find this book an indispensable 'mirror' where we are forced to look into the real nature of our emotions and how to turn these into genuine every-second-practice-moments. For those of us who hardly have time to meditate or have short limited formal practice sessions, these moment-to-moment Buddhist practice methods suggested in this book are more useful and often yield better results than formal sessions. The end result of this book, the way I see it, is how to be a real bodhisattva despite all the negative conditions in samsara.

I'll end this with a story extracted from the book, where she illustrated what is bodhicitta, the enlightened mind: -

"A young woman wrote to me about finding herself in a small town in the Middle East surrounded by people jeering, yelling and threatening to throw stones at her and her friends because they were Americans. Of course, they were terrified, and what happened to her is interesting. Suddenly she identified with every person throughout history who had ever been scorned and hated. She understood what it was like to be despised for any reason: ethnic group, racial background, sexual preference, gender. Something cracked wide open and she stood in the shoes of millions of oppressed people and saw with a new perspective. She even understood her shared humanity with those who hated her. This sense of deep connection, of belonging to the same family, is bodhicitta."

Hence, if you are confused, stressed out, or just thinking of getting a useful Buddhist book you can relate to everyday, this is it!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Tigles Appearing at Jade Buddha

At the Jade Buddha's World Tour in both Vietnam and Sydney, Australia, tigles (or referred to as Mandala Lights at their website), the tigles have been photographed and reported at the Jade Buddha's venues as can be seen in the pics at their website. Look at the pics below.

Check out my previous posts on tigles.


Note: From today onwards, I am also renaming my blog to "Buddha And Me" in line with my blog web address.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Jade Kuan Yin and Other Comments

Same Jade Kuan Yin
A few days after I wrote the blog on my dream of the Jade Thousand Armed Avalokiteshvara, I found an old diary where I discovered I had dreamt of a similar Jade Avalokiteshvara before. I actually have forgotten about that dream because it happened so long ago. But today I tried to find the diary entry again, I could not find it. That’s because I have so many diaries. But if I am not mistaken the entry was dated in the year around 1993. So, you can imagine, after about 16 years, the Jade Kuan Yin came back to me. And I have no idea why.

Om Mayura Krante Svaha
One colleague of mine came to my office and saw my Peacock Queen picture and became interested in the mantra. So, she learned the mantra by heart. Glad to share it with her.

Great Compassion Dharani
I attended a recitation of the Great Compassionate Dharani recently and recited it for 108 times. I sat at a corner where I could view the Buddha Sakyamuni and flanked by Ven. Maha Kassapa and Ven. Ananda one one side. And on the other side, there was the three saints of Amitabha Pure Land. During the recitation, I had a good visualization where it became so real till it did seems at times that Buddha Skayamuni and his chief disciples were actually there. What seems like inanimate statues, also became alive as Amitabha Buddha, Avalokiteshvara and Mahastamaprapta Bodhisattvas (or Vajrapani). And to have these holy beings in front of you, you feel like so blissed out! I like the look of the Kuan Yin image. Her head was slightly looking down and her eyes semi-closed and I thought she was deeply listening to the cries of all sentient beings. She knows our every thought and actions. She knows and hears our every scream to her for help and mercy. And she is constantly eminating millions of transformation body out of herself to bless and help there sentient beings. However on the side of the sentient beings it’s not necessarily that we are able to receive her blessings. Sometimes we are too heavily indebted by our own misdeeds. Hence we are only to blame ourselves if our prayers do not come true or we seem not to receive any blessings at all. So, all these were in my mind during the assembly to recite the great compassion dharani. In short, if you think statues are in front of you, then you are just praying to statues. But if you could see that real Buddhas were in front of you, then you deal directly with the holy ones directly and obtain direct blessings as a result. However, seriously, it’s not just a matter of playing with our visualizations.