Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Becoming a spiritual weirdo

Read this news article. It's about Geshe Michael Roach- a once very potential "Western Buddhist monk". But since the day he "fell for this girl" - who somehow has since then become a Lama too known as Lama Christie Mc Nally and after his long retreat practising a combination of Buddhist tantric yoga and Hindu yoga- he has become a "different" person altogether.

Why in the world would you want to not be apart by more than 15 feet if it is not worldly attachment? Why would doing that makes women being 'inclusive' in Buddhist practice?
If our spiritual foundation is not strong, we can be a geshe or have whatever title, we can end up being a weirdo rather than a genuine liberating Buddha. That is why developing the mind of renunciation is so very important, but often overlooked by Buddhists as unimportant.

And why in the world would you want to keep the monastic precepts when externally you donot behave like one? I said not behave like one because no Gelug monks would vow not be apart from a woman by more than 15 feet. And also, if you want to practice consort or yabyum practice, you should renounce the vows of a monk. The vinaya is very clear on this. Je Tsongkhapa was very clear about this. He flatly refused to practice with a consort as long as he held the vows of a monk. In fact, not just gelug monks...any monk of whatever tradition would be expected to disrobe if he wants to have a consort, whether celibate or not.

But nowadays people are greedy. They want to be part of the community of sangha as well as enjoy the more flexible lifestyle of a layperson. These persons are defiling the community of Sangha. It is unacceptable. You should not wear the monk's robes one day and the next day decide to wear normal layperson's clothes, and interchange these 2 types of clothes at your own whims and fancy without critical reason. By critical it is normally understood as health, safety or politically-enforced reasons or other reasons beyond your control. The reason should not be merely because it is allowed by someone else. As a monk, the person owes a greater duty to the entire community of Sangha because he represents the Third Jewel of Buddhism's Three Jewels. The Sangha Jewel as a part of the Buddhist culture and institution must be respected. Even though I am only a layperson, the Sangha Jewel is important enough for me to make this sharing.

BE VERY CAREFUL! Don't be greedy for high tantric practices if you have not even got your foundation a strong base. Many Buddhists with high aspirations have collapsed from lofty heights and please, donot think it will not happen to you. There is a very thin line separating divine pride and delusive pride. The former will enable you to realise Buddhahood but the latter will only make people think you've got "a screw loose somewhere up there". There are plenty of examples of the latter where nowadays we know of "masters" claiming to be "Living Buddha" or reincarnation of "this and that rinpoche" or tulku of who and who. And just because someone gave them the recognition, people automatically assume they are enlightened beings without investigating any further.

Yes - dear me, this blog is especially to remind myself. It is not intended to be a critic of anyone. But if you feel offended, then I am truly sorry and I apologise. But if you feel offended, then I am truely sorry. However, I do sincerely feel sad everytime I find someone purportedly going "off". Often when they do things like what was reported in the news article above or when they make claims of being this and that Living Buddha or reincarnation of this and that great master, they themselves do not feel their actions are weird. Through the years, I do know of persons who had gone "off" mentally in their spiritual endeavour. And I cannot guarantee myself that I won't fall too just like them. I will if I am not careful. But I hope not. I pray not. So all of us must be careful! So, I write this for self-reflection. And a gentle reminder not to mix practices of different religions, if you're not sure what would be the result.

I'll end this sharing with a verse to reflect the state of things nowadays.

"Fake masters are showered with gold and silver, treated better than kings,
While Buddhas walk amongst sentient beings unrecognised!"

- edited Jan. 29, Thurs.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Will you give up the Buddha for love?

I am always disappointed when I know of anyone who was a Buddhist but who has now converted to other religions because they have married someone who is not a Buddhist. In my opinion, it shows that the Buddha is not so important to him/her than love. Love is more important. However, when trouble comes, love is unable to save the person. He/she has forsaken the Three Refuges and has decided to take refuge in love instead. If buddha is not important to you, how then can your prayers to him come true? How then can you ever escape from life's suffering?

As a Buddhist, I may not be able to save someone else from suffering, and my own prayers may not come true sometimes. However, I am convinced the Four Noble Truths is true and I see the only way to the end of suffering and ensuring a better control of our future rebirths is through reliance on the Buddha dharma.

So, to seek a girlfriend or boyfriend from another religion and convert after marriage is ridiculous, at least for me. Not because I think there is anything wrong with the other religions. Rather, I see people as appreciating less of their own religion, i.e. Buddhism. Therefore, I am disappointed. However, having said that, if the person who converted has not been a practising Buddhist and knows little if not none of any Buddhist teaching, and after he/she converted, he/she became a better person, then I guess it is good that he/she had converted. Nevertheless, you must remember, to distance yourself from the Three Refuges is to distance yourself karmically from the Buddha's path also in the future lives. The effect is the person who left Buddhism may not be able to meet with the Buddhist path again in the future. And this is because the person who converted had inadvertantly created the karma himself/herself that separates him/herself from Buddha dharma. Karma is self-created, not cursed or created by someone else.

So, when a muslim fell for me many years ago, I knew I didnot want to give up Buddhism and that relationship didnot even get to start. I will never give up the Three Refuges for love at all.... even if I were to stay single my entire life. Hehehehe....but I am not single and I married a Buddhist. :)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Wait Till You're Older

This is the title of a chinese movie starring Andy Lau and Karen Mok shown on TV 2 days ago. It tells the story of a depressed 12-year-old Kong who ran away from home. He met a mysterious old man who claimed to have a potion that can speed up the process of growing up. I didnot see the first 10 to 15 minutes of the movie shown on TV last night but when I turned it on, something had happened to the portion given to that boy. A little of it got unto his hand and the rest dropped to the earth. He didnot know what to do with it and slept on a bench in a garden. He didnot go back home as he was running away from the his stepmother whom he didnot like (played by Karen Mok).

When he woke up, he got a shock. He found that he had become a much older teenager. And at the spot where he dropped the magic potion, a giant tree had suddenly sprung up from nowhere. He was delighted because now his stepmother would not be able to recognise him and he could continue to run away from home. Moreoevr, he had always wanted to be an adult faster. So, he enjoyed being an adult, until he realised that the magic potion would also cause him to become an old man... all these within 3 days. When hair start to grow white and his skin wrinkled, he panicked and went frantically in search of the mysterious old man who first gave him the magic potion.

He begged the old man to fix the problem and he wanted his original life back. The tree that grew suddenly had also died. However, the old man told him that life has many cycles but it is only a one way street. Life only goes forward, not backwards. He told Kong that his age cannot be reversed, and he now must cherish every single moment that he has left of him... even if it is just a single day. At that moment, I remembered Lama Zopa advised in one of his teachings that even if it is just a single second left, we must cherish it and use it for practice or nbenefit others, or whatever dharma purposes. The words "Life only goes forward... a one way street" still reverberates in my mind.

So, it was too late for this guy. He realised that he didnot have much time left as most other people thought they have. Yes, we all think we have lots of time left and we won't die yet, right?Isn't this familiar? Kong had no choice but to tell his dad (who had been searching for his lost son and been depressed that he had been a failed father and husband) the truth. Kong send his dad pictures of him in his various stages of adulthood and the latest showing him as an 80-year-old man, already haggard and hands strembling. He did whatever he had to do, including reconciling with his stepmother and helping her reconcile back to his had. And at the end, Kong died in his stepmother's arms as an 80-year-old man. Poor guy, he was just a 12-year old kid 3 days previously.

The entire film is smacked with dharma messages even though the film producers didnot portray the film as a Buddhist film. We can learn a lot about the precious human rebirth, impermanence of life, life being like a flash of lightning, gone in a moment before we realise it, we must learn to accept our life situation whatever it is and move forward, be forgiving and loving, and other dharma messages. I hope you guys who had also seen this movie had also had the same deep impact that it had on me. It is like being hit by a dharma meteor.

I throughoutly like this movie and that's why I share it here. Now we know why some people who are suffering from death threatening illness, sometimes prefer to accept their impending death and finish off the unfinished things (and these would be best to include making pilgrimages to holy sites such as the Four Holy Sites of the Buddha, especially Bodhgaya) rather than desperately seeking a cure that won't come. If you are dying, and had not been to Bodhgaya yet, perhaps this is the time for you to do so. Do an earnest prayer there and commit yourself to the Buddha's path, and I can almost guarantee you that in your future rebirths, you will definitely meet with the dharma again and be able to gain better rebirth, especially the precious human rebirth.

So, I urge all to join me in pondering on these points as we usher in the Year of the Ox. Hopefully in the coming months and years, no matter what life brings to us, all of us will make some real spiritual progress and be able to achieve complete enlightenment and bring benefit to all sentient beings. Then that is the true, most lasting "FA CAI" that anyone can ever get, right?

Hahahaha...GONG XI FA CAI! :)

Friday, January 9, 2009

The Wheel of Analytical Meditation

The cause of confusion and frustration in life
Is the virulent passion of the mind.
Distortion and dispersion, the causes of passion,
Must be replaced by incisive attentiveness.
Method of Meditation
Imagining an image before one
Of whatever is desired most
And distinguishing the five groupings of elements
Begin to analyse the imaginary body.
Flesh, blood, bones, marrow, fat and limbs,
Sense organs, internal organs and cavities,
Faeces, urine, worms, hair and nails --
Distinguish the foul parts of the body.
Categorise and classify these parts
By composition and sensory field.
Then divide and analyse them
To irreducible particles.
Looking for arising desire for any part,
See this 'body' as nothing but foul fragments.
Remember it as a dirty machine or frothing scum,
Or a heap of sticks, stones and pus.
When this flow of insight ceases,
Examine the nature, the composite complexity,
Of feeling and conceptualisation,
Reaction associations and consciousness.
Seeing the image as a bubble or mirage.
A banana tree or magical illusion,
There will be no desire for it.
So let the stream of insight flow until it vanishes.
Do not attempt to prolong the glow
But proceed and examine another image
So that all corrupted perceptions
Are seen as unfounded fabrications.
Watching these baseless fabrications,
Seeing insubstantial phenomena arise
Only to dissolve in an instant,
Is the right way of contemplation.
Aware that all worlds of the past have perished
And deducing the inevitable decay
Of the worlds of the present and future,
Discover the cause of suffering in conditioned existence.
Knowing that all creatures are born to die
Suddenly and alone
And that all forms of life go through changes,
Look at the transience of the fabric of existence.
In short, whatever forms exist,
Impermanent and transitory,
Are illuminated in contemplation
By the power of each mind.
As each synthetic desire-image arises,
Shimmering like a bubble, cloud or lightning flash
Let the stream of insight flow
Enlightening until it vanishes.
Then, in the complex multiplicity of becoming
Watch each momentary state of the flux
For the nature of inherent suffering
And the illusive pleasure that will surely
Become subsequent suffering.
Contemplate to capacity
All the pain of the human condition,
The bodymind contrivance as the basis of it all.
Through this intrinsic defect of bodymind
Not even so much as a needlepoint
Of its alloyed fabric is free
From the taint of suffering.
So it is called the origin of suffering,
A foul sewer, a fiery pit
Or a cannibal island.
Retain this realisation until it fades.
With final insight into suffering
Search in this complex, transient heap
For whatever is thought to be I,
Seeing it to be empty of self.
Like a waterfall or shower of rain
Or like an empty house,
Let the state of certainty
Stay until it vanishes.
When this realisation fades,
Examine methodically as before.
Watch a suitable diversity of images
Sometimes ignoring the precedent order.
Searching for the meaning again and again
Sometimes look at others' constitutions
Sometimes investigate one's own contrivance
And sometimes examine all of conditioned existence.
So all attachment is broken. In brief,
Rejecting all thought but this fourfold examining --
Diversity, transience, pain and Emptiness --
Constantly turn this wheel of meditation.
Directing the clear light of understanding
Upon every kind of distorted image,
The unbroken stream
Of Practice increases
Like a raging prairie fire.
Throughout all previous lives, the 'I',
Distorting, obscuring and scattering,
Created a stream of daydreams and mistakes.
Composure must replace that delusion.
When scattered energy has been consumed,
And the antidote, examining mind, is still,
When no obstruction arises in mind,
Relax in equilibrium.
With the revival of mental activity
Continue analysis as before.
Always keep presence of mind
And mindfulness of the realisation.
When one becomes forgetful
And passion arises,
Take this examining to it
As a sword to an enemy.
Practice of watchful examining,
Like a light in darkness
Destroys the last vestiges
Of injurious passion.
Insofar as imperfection is understood
And conditioned human nature seen as it is,
So the utmost serenity is known
And the sheer purity of the Great Beyond.
Progress Along the Path
Recognising through constant meditation
The complexity and the transience,
The pain and the absence of substance
Of all conditioned existence, own and other's bodyminds,
Mind is imbued with full comprehension
And even without effort,
When vision is phantasmal,
The head of passion is subdued.
Free from the breakers of passion,
The ocean of mind is unruffled and clear.
Attuned to self-possessed purity,
Concentration in peace and calm are gained.
One-pointed absorption in mind
Diffuses in piercing insight.
This is the way of initiation,
The common door to the three careers.
Significance of Achievement
Arising in mutual dependence, seen as magical illusion,
All things are primordially unborn,
Essentially Empty, with no substantial base,
Free from the extreme of the one or the many.
With realisation of indivisible space,
All things identified, the Womb of Buddha Bliss,
Beyond confusing existence and peaceful cessation,
All pervasive is the Great Transcendence of Suffering.
Supremely pure and blissful,
It is called the Great Unconditioned.
Here, the attribute of the Great Self
Is unsurpassed and transcendent.
In the Tantras, Ati, Anu and Mahayoga,
Great Bliss and Pure Space come together
In spontaneity of simple understanding,
Thereupon, completing the path.
Following the instruction of a Buddha Lama,
Practice the initial purification of the common path
Of both Sutra and Mantra Mahayana
In the tradition of Direct Revelation of the Great Perfection.
Withdraw from the bewilderment of conditioning
On this excellent path of mindfulness
First by virtue of examination
Passionate reactions no longer occur.
Then with certainty in the Emptiness of bodymind,
All desire for the three worlds is destroyed.
Gradually all trace of delusion
Vanishes into the relief of Emptiness
And dispensing with the antidote of rejection,
All 'I' and 'mine' is finally destroyed.
Clinging to nothing, but aspiring to compassion,
Like a bird in the sky of simplicity,
Gliding through life without fear,
The Buddha-son reaches the highest plane.
In the teaching of the Noble Tradition
This purification by mindfulness,
Preparation of calm and clarity,
Has crucial stress in the three careers.
In continuous practice of inspecting mind,
Purifying through examination,
And finding the smallest of obstacles,
The slightest trace of passion,
Scrutiny facilitates serenity.
Just as gold when purified by fire
Becomes malleable, soft and pliant,
So mind, freed from desire, is made responsive
In the Sutras it is said that
Ritual offering to the Triple Gem
For a thousand years of a god,
Is less beneficial than recognition
Of transience, Emptiness, and selflessness
For the instant of a finger snap.
Expressing the fourfold truth of the Mahayana
And explaining the eighty four thousand topics
Are equal in value, said the Buddha.
Meditating upon the meaning of this reaching
Essentially identical to innumerable Sutras,
Then committing oneself to this form of practice,
A vast source of knowledge is easily found
Leading rapidly to liberation.
By virtue of this explanation
And by power of the nectar of detachment
May all beings suffering these painful times
Attain a state of peacefulness.

These verses were written by Mi-pham rNam-par
rGyal-ba in the Iron Hare year [ 189 1 ]
on the eighteenth day of the month of the Pleiades.
May all beings be happy!