Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Spiritual Risk Management 3: Remember Sakyamuni Buddha

I wrote the advice on the need to manage our spiritual risks for good reasons, even though many people may feel uneasy about the thing I said about the risk of the entire lineage having the same low wisdom or worst, incorrect dharma understanding. And there are many lineage purists out there who seek purity of the lineage. This means that once you join the lineage, and take a particular lama as guru, you are discouraged (or even disallowed by means of various threats such as telling you that you will break your vows if you do so, etc etc) to listen to lamas of other lineages. This is happening in all lineages of Tibetan Buddhism, yes, even within the Gelugpa lineage.

But I want to ask: to what lineage does Je Tsongkhapa belonged? Think carefully before answer.

Gelugpa? Not really. There was no such lineage at his time. It only came about after his death. Actually he learned the dharma from all traditions during his time. Therefore, his is the culmination of all lineages. Importantly, he sought the truth wherever there is. He did not have any restrictive views. BUT...that does not mean he accepted all the views that he learned. And this is the important point that every dharma seeker must take note. For example, he did learned zen meditation (the Hva Shang descendants after he was defeated in the debate with Kamalashila) and commented on the kind of zen meditation practice during his time which he found to be incorrect. And he gave his reasons. I will share more info on this later in another post and whether I think such zen meditation still is being practised during our times. This was mentioned in Lam Rim Chen Mo as well as in his commentaries on tantra. You can check it out. Don't take my word for it.

The point is not to be so foolhardy about maintaining the lineage, or tradition until our own spiritual progress is compromised. Je Tsongkhapa was always careful to check if his understanding was correct or not, to the point that he thought he needed to verify his understanding directly with the Great Arya Manjusri himself. And as we know, he sought out the great Bodhisattva of Wisdom and did communicate with him. Lama Tsongkhapa's lineage is indeed, the One Buddha Vehicle that is stated in the Lotus Sutra and which Master Yin Shun and other masters talked about.

Having said that, I am not advocating practising zen today, mantra tomorrow and Pure Land Buddhism the next day. What we should do is to learn what is good in other practices and incorporate the concept (not the entire "lot, stock and barrel" so to speak) into our current practice. This is similar to the corporate best practices. So, I suppose you can call these spiritual best practices.

I have already shared 2 spiritual best practices in my last 2 writings on the topic "Spiritual risk management". This may surprise you but the 3rd best practice I am sharing now is "Remember Sakyamuni Buddha". He is the historical Buddha that was born in India more than 2500 years ago. Without him, there is no Padmasambhava, no Atisha, no Sakya Pandita, no Lama Tsongkhapa, no Amitabha Buddha, no Avalokiteshvara, no Manjusri, no Maitreya, no Shinran, no Bodhidharma, no Zen Masters, no Tibetan Masters, no Buddhist masters at all. All masters and Buddhas and Bodhisattvas came from him. We must take refuge in him and to aspire to his level of his attainments. Most cult masters think that they have higher attainments than Sakyamuni Buddha. That's the problem with believing only in masters, without a basis in Sakyamuni Buddha's teachings.

The point is : no matter which tradition we may be in currently, always fall back on Sakyamuni Buddha and his teachings. Seek his advice even though he may have passed away long ago. Remember what Obi Wan Kenobi said to Luke Skywalker just before he wwas slain by Darth Vader? He said, " Even though he (referring to Darth Vader) may kill me, but my force will be even greater after that..." If Obi Wan Kenobi existed as The Force after his death, Sakyamuni Buddha still exists as the Dharmakaya, and indeed as our Ultimate Guru, i.e. our own Holy Mind, Holy Body , Holy Speech (to use Lama Zopa Rinpoche's words recently when he taught on Ultimate Guru).

Take care!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Giant Jade Buddha starts world wide tour

My note: The biggest Jade Buddha statue is said to be made from a 260 ton jade and made into Sakyamuni Buddha statue in Anshan City, Liaoning, China.

Compiled by Hong Nguyen

The world’s largest jade Buddha statue arrived in the central seaside city of Da Nang on Wednesday, the first stop of its world wide tour.

The Jade Buddha for Universal Peace is the largest Buddha carved from gemstone-quality jade. It is also considered the most beautiful.

The 3.5-meter tall statue was carved from a rare boulder of translucent jade, dubbed “Polar Pride,” which was discovered in Canada in 2000.

The statue is modeled on the Siddhartha Gautama Buddha at the Mahabodhi Stupa in India's Bodh Gaya.

Polar Pride is the world largest pure gem-quality jade boulder ever found, weighing 18 tons.

In late 2006, the rock was transported from Vancouver in Canada to Bangkok in Thailand, where 30 skilled artisans from Thailand, Nepal and Australia spent two years carving the statue.

The Jade Thongtawee Co., Thailand’s oldest and highly regarded jade factory, was in charge of the project.

“The Jade Buddha for Universal Peace” is being displayed at the Quan The Am Pagoda until March 15 for the annual festival of the pagoda, which falls on the 19th day of the second lunar month.

It will be on display in southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, Ho Chi Minh City and southern Dong Thap Province until May 10.

The statue will later be welcomed by Buddhists in the U.S., Canada, Indonesia, New Zealand, Taiwan and other countries before being placed permanently at the Great Stupa of Universal Compassion at the Atisha Center in near the Australian town of Bendigo.

Source: http://www.vietnewsonline.vn/News/Lifestyle/5418/Giant-jade-Buddha-starts-world-wide-tour.htm

World Tour Dates ( I plan to go to one of these)
5 January 2009
Blessing ceremonyThailand

13-15 March 2009
Quán The Âm TempleNon Nuoc, Đà Nang, Vietnam

21-26 March 2009
Đai Tòng Lâm Temple Bà Ria Vũng Tàu, Vietnam

29 March - 5 April 2009
Pho Quang Temple Tân Bình district, Ho Chí Minh City, Vietnam

7-24 April 2009
Hoang Pháp Temple Hóc Môn district, Ho Chí Minh City, Vietnam

1-10 May 2009
Van An Temple Châu Thành, Đong Tháp, Vietnam

13-17 May 2009
Trà VinhTrà Vinh, Vietnam

19 June - 5 July 2009
King George Square, Brisbane, Australia

10 July - 16 August 2009
Darling Harbour, Sydney, Australia

22 August - 20 September 2009
Minh Quang Temple, Sydney, Australia

3-25 October 2009
Pháp Hoa Temple, Adelaide, Australia

6-29 November 2009
Venue TBA, Perth, Australia

December 2009
Venue TBA, Melbourne, Australia

October 2010
Quang Đuc Temple, Melbourne, Australia

December 2010
Venue TBA, Auckland, New Zealand

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Head of Nyingma passes away

His Eminence Penor Rinpoche (1932 - 2009) Dharamsala, March 27 -

The head of the oldest school of Tibetan Buddhism, His Eminence Penor Rinpoche, breathed his last today around 3.30 PM (Indian Standard time) at a hospital in Bangalore, Karnataka, India, sources told phayul. Penor Rinpoche held the position of the head of Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Rinpoche had not been keeping well lately, according to sources. Kyabjé Drubwang Pema Norbu Rinpoche was born in 1932 in Powo region of Kham, Eastern Tibet. He was the 11th in the Palyul lineage of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism.

Phayul[Friday, March 27, 2009 21:54]

Friday, March 27, 2009

Spiritual Risk Mgmt 2: How to check our understanding?

Whenever we lead Dharma teachings or write/share teachings, be careful not to fall victim to arrogance as stated in the Arya Sanghata Sutra. There is a paragraph in the sutra that admonished such self-conceit teachers. On one level you can interprete “teachers” as external people, but on the other hand, it could also be a reference to our own conceitedness and ego. So, it’s good to be careful. It goes as follows:-

“… Then, after they have heard many dharma teachings, they fall into exceptional arrogance, and speak all kinds of nonsense. Overcome by ego-grasping and selfish grasping at things as their own, they do not themselves listen to this sort of dharma,… they say, “We ourselves know,” and they donot hold on to it, nor do they lend their ears to listen.

“If one should wonder why that is, it is because they have become full of arrogance in this way. ...Due to their extensive learning, they become conceited. People like these publish their own compositions. They publish the prefaces to their own texts, too. They deceive themselves and the whole world….” - The Noble Mahayana Sanghata Sutra Dharma-paryaya

Whenever we think we have some new understanding or new interpretation to certain aspects of the Sutras/classical works that seems vague, we need to support our understanding/interpretation with the relevant passages of the other Buddhist sutras and acclaimed classical works/records of acknowledged masters (it must be an acknowledged master, not just any masters) such as Nagarjuna, Atisha, Marpa, Milarepa, Chandrakirti, Shantideva, etc. We need to be able to support our arguments in a scholastic manner. If we just blasts away the teachings without supportive elements,

1. it could mean we think of ourselves as a qualified teacher, good enough to teach. But what we do not know is that other people think we have become crazy or a fake guru.

2. our teachings will lack substance without examples and other quotes from other sutras and classical works from other great masters.

In both cases above, we will be deceiving ourselves and others and ultimately harming both.

This is another way to implement spiritual risk management that I talked about earlier. It enables us to check whether our dharma understanding is consistent and correct or not with that of what is taught by Sakyamuni Buddha and later the same dharma understood by generations of great masters in the past. I have heard of many people asking how they would know their understanding is correct or not. The usual answers they get would be “ask your master or those of his lineage”. This reply is good, but if you are a student of a deviant or cultist master, (and we have plenty of them these days) you will have a problem. The master will always say, “Yes, yes, you have the right understanding” when in fact, he does not understand anything at all. Later, both master and students will fall into the hells. Also if the lineage head's understanding is shallow, then if your understanding is only of that lineage alone, and you do not seek out the answers from the Sutras and classical texts, then there is a risk that everyone in the lineage will have that same shallow understanding too. To add, asking friends and dharma brothers and sisters is a good way of discussion and for findings points of agreement/disagreement, but ultimately we cannot rely on friends/peers to check our understanding is correct or not.

The proper answer to check your understanding is to be able to quote the relevant quotes/passages directly from the sutras/records. It is not good to just make a guess…”I think the Buddha said that…” ...I think this, I think that. Thinking is not good enough. We must be able to show where exactly did the Buddha said/taught that. And then support it with other teachings from other Masters. Quote the name of the texts of the masters that you are using to support whatever knowledge you are trying to support as correct. Be honest about it. That is why studies of scriptures and texts is also important in our spiritual pursuit. Some people think practice is good enough. Clearly this is not true. How can you practice, if you do not know what and how to practice? How can practice be “enough”, when you do not know the results from your practice is correct or not? So, studying is important too in addition to practice.

If you are familiar with writing scholarly thesis (especially those who have taken masters degree or PhD), then you will know what I am talking about here. It is the same way. Basically, you need to support what you are saying with relevant examples, experiences, other researches or tests, surveys, etc that people can refer to.

This is not something new actually. I am supporting what I am saying here too by telling you this is how those people pursuing their masters and postgraduate studies publish their works. Secondly, this was how people who are studying the dharma publish their works too. Not just for circular studies, even in spiritual studies people like Lama Tsongkhapa wrote his volumes of sutra and tantric teachings in this manner too. In some passages, I have read that he was careful to tell his readers that what he wrote was not merely his opinion. And then he would go on to quote passages from other texts to support it. And in the bibliography section, or at the footnote, the relevant page and paragraph of the said text is indexed. Other than Je Tsongkhapa, I have seen other masters of other lineages did the same thing, such as the author of “Students and Master Relationship in tantric Buddhism”. I am sorry I cannot recall correctly the title of the text but it is something on that topic and if not mistaken the author is Jamyang Khyense. He also supports his teachings in that manner.

So, remember not to just assume what you wrote or what you think you understand is the Buddha’s teachings. Yes, you need to be able to show where are those "teachings"? Quote me the name of the Buddhist sutra/text, which paragraph, and page.

I wrote this with the hope that it will benefit some people out there. Hopefully, through these approach some people may realise they were merely deceiving themselves (and others), and stop doing that. Wake up before it is too late!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Buddha Bar

'Buddha Bar' pressured to close in Indonesia
The Associated Press Published: March 12, 2009. JAKARTA, Indonesia:

The French lounge chain Buddha Bar is under pressure to close its only Asian branch amid corruption accusations and protests by Buddhists who say the use of their religious symbols are blasphemous.Since the December launch of the club in Jakarta, Buddhist students have demanded it be shut down, with dozens burning incense and praying outside.

An independent corruption watchdog said Thursday the venue, an elegant Dutch colonial-era building, was purchased and renovated with nearly $2.9 million in public funds before being turned into a private commercial enterprise under questionable circumstances.Several people involved in the project have ties to the political elite.With cathedral-high ceilings, a cavernous restaurant upstairs has an 18-foot (six-meter) Buddha overseeing seating for 240.

A cocktail club downstairs — like branches in New York, London, Dubai and Kiev — throbs with lounge music. It has quickly turned into a hotspot for the young and wealthy.Opposition to Jakarta's Buddha Bar escalated this week when Indonesian Religious Affairs Minister Maftuh Basyuni asked the French operator, Paris-based George V Hotels and Resorts, to consider closing down or changing the name.

"If not, I'm afraid there will be an Islam Bar, Christian Bar, and other bars," he was quoted by the Antara state news agency as saying Wednesday. "This is important for harmony among religions."Jakarta's Legislative Council repeated requests to shutter the club, saying it would be the best way to ensure Buddhists are not offended. Protesters say it is wrong to associate Buddha with a bar because the faith prohibits alcohol.Repeated phone calls and messages to managers of the Jakarta Buddha Bar went unanswered Wednesday and Thursday, and a spokesman for the city of Jakarta declined to comment.

The club is jointly run by the daughter of former Jakarta Gov. Sutiyoso, whose administration approved the building's restoration, and the daughter of former President Megawati Sukarnoputri. Peter Gonta, a powerful businessman and associate of the late dictator Suharto, is also reportedly involved.

Indonesia Corruption Watch said Thursday it has asked the Jakarta city administration to clarify the ownership of the heritage site — a former immigration office built by the Dutch in 1913 in a prime downtown neighborhood."We are worried that there may have been a conflict of interest ... because the club is run by the daughter of the former Jakarta governor," said Agus Sunaryanto, a spokesman for the anti-corruption group. "The city bought the building with the people's money. We have a right to know the circumstances. "With an estimated 200 million Muslims, Indonesia has the largest Islamic population in the world, but it also has sizable Christian, Hindu and Buddhist communities.


You guys want to know what I think of this?

OK. Here goes but be warned. If you get a shock, don't blame me. Nobody ask you to read this blog. This blog is my personal journal, and it is meant for my own "consumption". Just because it is published in the internet, doesnot mean it is a free invitation to read for everyone. There are millions of blogs in the world wide web, and why did you choose this particular blog to read? It shows it is of your own volition to come in to read it.
I think Buddhism is the only religion that's good enough to be able to have such thing as a Buddha bar. If I were working in Dubai fulltime and I doubt there are any Buddhist temple there, that bar will defnitely be my "temple". That will be my place to reconnect and "recharge" with images of the Buddha and for me to recall the Dharma. I will be at ease with that place despite the drinking and merry making. But I can live with it if I am living in Dubai on a permanent basis for some years and there's no other Buddhist centre to go to. In a scenario of dharma ending age, perhaps one day in the future, these kind of Buddha bars will be the only places we can see Buddha images. Moreover, it is said that even for non-Buddhists, the moment they see an image of the Buddha, it creates a positive imprint in their mind. And one fine day in the future (could be even many aeons later), this imprint may suddenly bloom when he/she reconnects back with the Buddha. So, in that sense, it is good and Buddhists should not be so quick to jump to fixated ideas. It shows that there is still a place for such thing as a Buddha bar. If our mind is pure, everything is pure.

However, it may not be a good idea to set up a Buddha bar in a place where the Buddha dharma is still triving. If it wants to open, perhaps open it at a location where there's very few Buddhists/moral conservatives. Open it at a place where people are not so religious. Then such Buddha bars will truely benefit these people there.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Earth Hour 2009 – What Will You Be Doing?

Cuddling up with your loved ones and admiring the stars in the night sky or organising a treasure hunt in the dark? At 8:30pm on Saturday 28 March, people from all corners of the world will turn off their lights for one hour - Earth Hour - and cast their vote for action on climate change. Anybody can participate and join together with millions of people across the globe celebrating Earth Hour.Earth Hour is about taking simple steps everyday that collectively reduce carbon emissions – from businesses turning off their lights when their offices are empty to households turning off appliances rather than leaving them on standby.

Here are 10 different ways to spend Earth Hour and reduce your carbon footprint:
1. Attend a local Earth Hour event or organise your own by throwing an Earth Hour street party with your neighbours
2. Gather family & friends for a night picnic in your local park and look at the stars
3. Enjoy a family dinner by candlelight
4. Organise a treasure hunt in the dark
5. Take the dog for a night walk
6. Have a candle-lit bath
7. Sit in the dark and share stories
8. Organise a family night playing board games
9. Share a romantic night in with your loved one
10. Upload your ‘on the night’ photos and videos to flickr and YouTube respectively, and then add them to the Earth Hour flickr group and the global YouTube Group.

Earth Hour Executive Director, Andy Ridley, is encouraging people to participate in whatever way they choose and to think beyond the hour.“There are no hard and fast rules surrounding participation in Earth Hour. We only ask that you flick that switch and have fun doing whatever you choose to do during that time.Make Earth Hour work for you. Families with young children should feel free to turn their lights off earlier than 8:30pm and for those having too much fun in the dark during the hour, don’t feel you have to limit yourself to one hour and switch back on at 9:30pm.”

To find out more about Earth Hour, visit the official website http://www.earthhour.org/, sign up and join millions of people in more than 1,400 cities and towns in 80 countries throughout the world by turning off your lights for one hour at 8:30pm on Saturday 28 March.

source: www.earthhour.org

Sharing dharma appropriately?

I was invited as a guest to read poems at the UNESCO's World Poetry Day yesterday. I read 2 poems entitled "Al-Bukhary" and "Dream World" (refer my posting dated 18 Mar). The audience comprised of persons of different religions and faith. In the 2nd poetry, I shared with the audience some teachings on emptiness without actually using the word "emptiness" nor "Buddha" or any obviously dharmic words/terms. I send the message of emptiness across at an appropriate level that they can understand. I think that that's important. It's no point to teach sophisticated dharma to persons who are not receptive. Not only useless, in fact, teaching dharma inappropriately could be detrimental. With these in mind, this is what I said in my speech: -

The second poem is about not taking things at face value 100% all the time. I wrote this when I was in their age - pointing to 2 secondary school students. All of us have our own ideas, expectations, prejudices, biasness and other emotional afflictions, which we often project to the external world. Therefore, this world that we experience on the mere face of it, is coloured and created by all these layers of illusory projections and emotions that come from inside us. It's like living in an illusory world. So, this poem should be understood from that perspective.

And I went on to read my composition. Hopefully I have shared the dharma appropriately. I think that this is a quality that is desirable of a person who hopes to be a good Bodhisattva. If dharma can be shared in a non-dharmic traditional "Buddhist way", more people can certainly be reached and eventually brought across the great ocean of samsara. The dharma then becomes a living dharma and not act like a cloth we wear and be confined to it. You get what I mean? I hope so.

Friday, March 20, 2009


Drupchen [Tib.] (wyl. sgrub chen) - literally “vast accomplishment,” is a form of intensive group practice that epitomizes the depth, power, and precision of the Vajrayana, drawing together the entire range of its skilful methods — mystical, ritual, and artistic — and including: the creation of the mandala house; the complete sadhana practice with visualization, mudra, chant, and music; continuous day and night practice of mantra; the creation of tormas and offerings, with sacred substances and precious relics; the tsok feast; the sacred dance of cham; as well as the construction of the sand mandala. All blend to create the transcendent environment of the pure realm of the deity and awaken, for all those taking part, the pure perception of this world as a sacred realm. So it is said that several days participating in a drupchen can yield the same results as years of solitary retreat, and great contemporary masters such as Kyabjé Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche have made a point of encouraging and reviving the practice of drupchen, because of its power of transformation in this degenerate age.

Source: wiki

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The myriad world systems
all appear before me
in a dream.

Then I stepped into my dream
and became a dream

“Oh, how happy I am!
How wonderful to be a dream!”

But then…

I became lost,
Lost in the illusory world,
where only fantasy exists,
where pixies, goblins, and gnomes live in,
which provides no real joy…
no real bliss.

“Oh, how disappointing!
How disheartening to be a dream!”

And I stepped out from it
for good.

Then a thought occurred to me:
That the world we’re living in -
to some a lovely enchanting sphere,
to others a hellish nightmare,
I wonder if it’s real…
or just another dream.

- written in 1987, still a kid, edited on 17.3.2009

A Lesson Learnt for All Buddhists

Muslim convert can go back to Buddhism

GEORGE TOWN: The Penang Sya­riah Appeals Court has upheld an earlier order made by the High Court here to allow a Muslim convert Siti Fatimah Tan Abdullah to revert to Buddhism.
A three-member panel who presided over the case as the highest authority in the Syariah Jurist System here, found that the respondent did not practise Islam from the start of her conversion, which began after she took an oath of allegiance and recited holy words in Arabic.

In delivering the judgment, Justice Datuk Ibrahim Lembut said it was proven beyond reasonable doubt that Siti Fatimah whose birth name is Tan Ean Huang, 39, from Nibong Tebal, did not practise Islam and had not embraced the religion sincerely.

Happy with the outcome: Siti Fatimah (centre) celebrating with her cousin Tan Chin Khoon (left) and aunt Goh Kui Choo after the court session at the Penang Syariah Appeals Court in George Town Monday.

The two other judges were Datuk Muhammad Asri Abdullah and Datuk Abu Bakar Ahmad.
Justice Ibrahim noted that there were differing opinions among the panel members on whether Muslims were allowed to renounce their faith.

However, they agreed that in Siti Fatimah’s case, she was a convert who did not realise the consequences of her actions when she embraced Islam.

After hearing arguments from the plaintiff, which is the state Islamic Religious Council, and the respondent’s lawyer Ahmad Jailani Abdul Ghani, Ibrahim, Justice Ibrahim said Islam was sacred so its followers must adopt its teachings faithfully.

“However, we cannot impose its teachings on non-believers nor force people to embrace Islam,” he added.

The judges took into account two main aspects before making a decision on the appeal by the council to set aside the state Syariah High Court’s decision.

They are whether the court has the legal right to allow a renouncement of the faith and whether it can decide the status of a convert who had not practised the required religious teachings.
Ibrahim said the case was an isolated one because Siti Fatimah had proven that she did not practise the religion. He stressed that if there was evidence that converts had practised the religion after their conversion, the court would have the right to disallow renouncement.

During the proceedings, Siti Fati­mah who is a hawker, testified that she converted to Islam in July 1998 for the sake of marrying an Iranian named Ferdoun Ashanian in 1999.

Fardoun left her a few months into the marriage and she had no knowledge of his whereabouts since then.

Consequently, Siti Fatimah maintained her Buddhist leanings and prayed daily to deities such as “Tua Pek Kong, Guan Yin and Thni Kong.”

Siti Fatimah told journalists that she would be praying at a Taoist temple in Nibong Tebal to express her gratitude that she had finally managed to resolve a disturbing personal issue despite it taking more than 10 years to conclude.



Let this be a lesson for all Buddhists not to place mistaken love (that kind of mushy-mushy boyfriend-girlfriend kind of love...you know what I mean!!) above our faith in Buddhism. We must always place our refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha first. In her case, she should have placed Guan Yin first, and perhaps find a 'Buddhist' boyfriend like herself.

And I know some Malaysian Buddhists have this holier-than-thou attitude in the sense that they think they are more Buddhist than this lady. These group of people think that because this lady is only partially Buddhist, and partially Taoist or maybe mixed, she is dragging Buddhism into this mess and that she doesnot deserve any sympathy from Buddhists. Worse, some people may think that she is trying to draw sympathy, and whatever else criticism they can hurl at her.

However, I personally think this kind of attitude from supposed true Buddhists is incorrect. I think it doesnot matter what label she places her religion and it doesnot matter that perhaps she had made a mistake in her part in placing her love for her boyfriend first over her religion at that time, nevertheless we, as supposed true Buddhists, should help and support her to regain back her faith in Guan Yin officially. She may be confused between what is Buddhism and what is Taoism and she may worship Tua Pek Kong and Tni Kong (God of Heaven, equivalent to Jade Emperor), but all these doesnot matter. If she wants to continue worshipping Guan Yin, whether she thinks of her as a Taoist Goddess or Buddhist bodhisattva, it doesnot matter to me - because Guan Yin is Guan Yin. To me, she has the right to worship her in whatever form. If that is Buddhism to her, I will rejoice over her decision to come back to it.

Of course, unofficially, she may not ahve left her faith in Guan Yin. And even if we cannot help her, we should rejoice over her victory in this court case, instead of condemning her. On her part, I hope she had learned her lessons not to so easily give up our faith in the Buddha, his teachings, and his Noble Order.

I personally hope to see more support from Buddhist organisations, temples and Sangha members in giving more support to people like her, even though I am not sure what form of support that we can give her. Nevertheless, we should not see her as any less a Buddhist than what we are. It doesnot matter what her level of knowledge or belief she has, even if there is just 1% of Buddhism in her, let's all do what we can, even if this means just praying for her well-being. Protecting Buddhism is our responsibility, even if it is just 1 percent.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Something on Hayagriva

One may think that Padmasambhava was only founding master of Nyingma lineage non related to Gelukpa, actually not. Padmasambhava was the one who started Dharma over Tibet. This stream of Hayagriva practice, originated from Padmasambhava, is very popular in Gelukpa. This practice was passed down from Padmasambhava to a master called Dpon Ston Skyur Gang Pa(Onton Kyergangpa?), and be unbroken since then. It was not the time of Padmasambhava’s actual physical activities when Padmasambhava passed this practice to Dpon Ston Skyur Gang Pa. Dpon Ston Skyur Gang Pa was an early master of Shangpa Kagyu who had high attainment. He could go to different places under the ‘Dream Body’. In order to seek for a practice which can subdue obstacles and nagas, he used the ‘Dream Body’ coming to Padmasambhava.

Padmasambhava gave him the Hayagriva initiation and advised him to go to Lhasa region looking for a Yogi named Naljorpa who also practiced Hayagriva. Padmasambhava has hidden a special Hayagriva dharma wheel there which can only be discovered by Naljorpa. Dpon Ston Skyur Gang Pa came to this region, found Naljorpa, got the dharma wheel and learnt the way to make it. Starting from Dpon Ston Skyur Gang Pa, this stream of Hayagriva practice and the special way to make the dharma wheel was passed down to Je Tsongkapa and further down to other gurus. ......Although this practice belongs to HYT, but the nature is a bit different from Yamantaka etc. deities and be more opened in transmission. In Tibet, whoever faced obstacles, no matter received Hayagriva initiation/oral transmission or not, can recite this deity’s mantra. extrated from Khejok Rinpoche's teachings.

Source: gelug e-sangha- http://www.b-i-a.net/iblphk/books/book25_1_b5.html

What am I to do?

Do you have any idea how frustrating it is to be unenlightened and still holed up in samsara? Every passing second is so agonizing!

To be in such a situation, yet unable to renounce worldly activities like Prince Siddharta and other Sangha since then, adds to the agony.

I think it is not just about becoming a monk, i.e. leaving the home life; it is more than that.

What am I to do?

I am so far away from realising my potential. That's because I hardly meditate consistently. That's the problem with most of us. We have time for everything in life except meditation. We can pray, we can chant, we can recite Sutras, etc etc etc... but those activities are only preparatory activities. Yes, those are necessary activities but the mind is only properly developed with Samatha and Vipasyana meditations. Without doing any meditation, our mind will not move closer to achieving enlightenment. It is the core activity that we must do, and other activities prepare and support it. It's like buying all the raw food and cooking utensils, and other ingredients, but we stop at that. We donot start cooking.

However, at least I am laying my foundations and if I were to start doing my meditations properly one day, hopefully... may the lotus flower bloom!

But meantime, it is so agonising!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Spiritual Risk Management: Master Yin Shun's Lam Rim

I would like to share here with my readers a corporate concept which I think can also be applied into our spiritual endeavour. I feel it is even more important in our age of spiritual decline, when there are many false gurus around and many people who think that they have "made it" when actually they have not. There are many who have so much spiritual enthusiasm and gung-ho spirit, but have sadly gone mentally astray somewhere along the path. Most people will not even investigate and compare what they have heard with the Sutras or other clasical buddhist texts. On the side of sentient beings, they (we) would always choose to believe what we want to believe. In view of all these, I would like to propse a spiritual risk management and spiritual governance framework into our daily practice. A little bit of internal "check and balance" is good for our spiritual pursuit. In this writing, I will use Venerable Yin Shun's text 'Way to Buddhahood' to illustrate my point in the application into the practice of forming a guru-student relationship in the practice of Tibetan Buddhism.

I like to read Ven. Yin Shun’s Lam Rim text because it presents the Lam Rim path from a Chinese Mahayana perspective, hence it is devoid of all the tantric and Tibetan Buddhist cultural elements. I find that it is good practice to step back at times from my main practice of tantric Buddhism and look from the perspective of Masters from other traditions. I feel this is a good spiritual “best practice” and spiritual “risk management” in order to keep my practice focus always on the right track. In this way too, I hope to be able to benefit sentient beings more extensively than if I were to be able to share dharma only from the perspective of one tradition. By having some knowledge in this manner, I can compare and contrast and take all the “best spiritual practices” and incorporate that into my practice and spiritual risk management. I am fortunate in the sense that I am very familiar with these terms “best practices” and “risk management”. Hence, I use these corporate concepts in my spiritual practice.

Not only Ven. Yin Shun’s teachings, but having some knowledge in other Mahayana tradition, including Pure Land Buddhism, Ch’an or Zen, (and I would include even theravada) one is able to have an idea of managing one’s own expectations and one’s own attachments to concepts. I give you one example.

In tantric Buddhism, we are always taught to see the guru as nothing short of the Buddha himself or a particular yidam (who is also an aspect of the Buddha). By “Buddha”, I donot refer to just Sakyamuni Buddha, or historical Buddha. I meant the generic Buddha position attained by all Buddhas past, present and future. This is because in the practice of guru yoga, the inter-mingling of our own mind with the mind of the guru as well as the Buddha-yidam is important. It is meant to invoke our intrinsic Buddha qualities within in a much (or rather, it is supposed to be) quicker way. We are further told that whether the guru is actually a Buddha or not is unimportant. Some Tibetan Buddhist practitioners take this to mean that it does not matter even if the person has zero knowledge in the Buddha dharma, and zero realizations, as long as you believe in him as a Buddha (Yes, we are talking about merely having the power of faith here!), then there is a chance that one day he will lead you to Buddhahood. In a Tibetan Buddhist text by Arya Deva, it is mentioned there are 10 qualities (I think so, need to check on this) that the student must check that the guru possesses, before we are to take him as our guru.

In the text by Venerable Yin Shun, he explained the concept of guru devotion without the concept of deity yoga. And I feel that in this tradition, one will be far less susceptible to attachment to guru devotion than in Tibetan Buddhism. In the past, I have cautioned that the practice of deity yoga without the proper foundational practices (ngondro) and developing the mind of renunciation, bodhicitta and having a correct view of emptiness, then it may potentially lead one astray to being delusional. This is where some knowledge of other tradition comes in handy. Venerable Yin Shun’s text explained the necessity of having “guru devotion” and not “seeing the guru’s fault” and telling you the reasons in a way that do not need to resort to frightening a person that he/she will burn in vajra hell if he sees the latter’s fault. And in this tradition, you do not need to see your teacher in a superlative manner than what he is. Ven. Yin Shun explained that there are 5 qualities of a person whom is fit to be a “good and knowledgeable person”. But “ in this age of the decline of the dharma, however, it is extremely difficult to encounter such a person... So, one may have to settle for the second best”.

It is pointed out in the text that, “a sutra say, “One can associate with those who have one-eighth of the virtues.” Further, the Nirvana Sutra talks about one group of people, “… on whom others can rely are those who, although they have neither eliminated all afflictions, nor realised the true nature, have understood one-sixteenth of the meaning of Buddha nature. In short, because it is hard to meet a good and knowledgeable person in this period of the decline of the Buddhist teachings, you should properly associate with a person who is even just a little bit better than you in the understanding and the practice of the Buddha Dharma.”

With this explanation by Ven. Yin Shun, the concept of guru devotion is explained that, in fact it is not necessary to regard your teacher as enlightened, if you seriously know he is not enlightened at all. This is different from the tibetan tradition where enlightened or not, you need to visualise him as enlightened. Of course, that is done for very good reasons. But I am sayng that, having some knowledge that even though the tantric practice is taught that way, at the back of our mind, we should know that we can also learn dharma from normal unenlightened persons too. I say this because I know of some Tibetan practitioners who donot at all wish to listen or read teachings (or hesitate to do so) from any other persons than their guru, simply because they are unable to see the latter as enlightened. To regard their own guru as enlightened is not an issue because it is in fact, the proepr way to practice in tantric Buddhism. But to not wish to receive teachings from someone else even though he is a proper teacher just because you can't see the teacher as a Buddha, is it correct? If you have some knowledge of Ven. Yin Shun's teachings, you would know that it would not be a problem for you.

According to Ven. Yin Shun here, the thing that is most important is the little knowledge that he may have (and you hope to gain even that little knowledge from him); not withstanding his enlightenment status.

This is one way to avoid being caught up in a cult or a fake guru simply by blind devotion. Sakyamuni Buddha taught us to evaluate what we have heard and to contemplate them, think them over and try to elicit our own realisation, i.e. internalise them so that our guru's wisdom becomes our own wisdom. If it is not internalised, it is just knowledge, not wisdom. So, by checking to the Sutras, classical Buddhist texts by past confirmed great masters (and not just accept what we hear), contemplate the teachings over and over again, then we will derive great benefit from genuine gurus. (Note: And of course, in order to derive true benefit, one must have great positive merits and no obstructing karma. So, devotion to a guru is still important in tantric Buddhism and also purification of karma). If we donot do this risk management, we will not be able to find out that we have been following a fake teacher all the time. And we will not be able to realise that we have not truely learned anything at all even after following the same guru for umpteen years.

If we have not learned anything at all, it is actually not too bad compared with learning all the wrong things. The latter situation is far far worse. So, by studying this text by Ven. Yin Shun, we will know that it is essential that the person whom we accept as a guru must have true virtue, even if he is unenlightened. That is important even in tantric Buddhism. And after finding out that he has true virtue, and we accept him as a guru, and he accepts us as student, we should listen to his advice wholeheartedly and do everything he instructs. We should not have doubts anymore. But remember, we still need to implement our spiritual risk management by checking the Sutras, the classical texts and contemplate our guru's teachings to internalise it. This is especially relevant from the side of ignorant sentient beings who may have much knowledge but no wisdom. By listening to our guru's teachings, and then reading up the relevant Sutras on the same topic, or other classicial texts, we will be able to transmute what we merely understood intellectually into genuine pearls of dharma wisdom. Also, this risk management metod, will help us spot points in our guru's teachings where we need further clarification, especially if what he says contradicts or seems to contradicts with what are stated in the Buddhist Sutras and other classicial Buddhist texts. So, we are not merely acting on power of faith, but cultivating our inate wisdom as well.

Spiritual risk management (like corporate governance) is not based on doubt, instead it builds the foundation of strong faith and practice.

So, this is as much as I can share here for now. May All be Joyous!
- edited on Mar 14th, 2009 later in the morning.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

End of 15 Days of Miracle

edited on Mar 11th, 2009

Referring to my Post on Feb28th.

1. Read the Golden Light Sutra everyday until the 15th day continuously... even if it is just one sentence per day.
2. To read the Arya Sanghata Sutra and try to complete 3 rounds.
3. Upgrade by one notch my vegetarian commitment to be completely meatless for breakfast and lunch.

I am glad to update:

1st one: Accomplished one round of the Sutra by reading a little bit each day until completed.
2nd one: Managed to complete only 2 rounds. - edit: No, No! I accomplished 3 rounds.
3rd one: Completed.

Hip!Hip! Hurrah!!

-edit: I realised that the last day is actually today, not yesterday, and therefore, I took a half-day leave especially to accomplish one more round of Sanghata Sutra. Yes, so I manage to accomplish all that I aimed for.

"To arise as a buddha in the world,
supreme joyful effort must be made,
all sentient beings held within one's care,
and one must teach the Dharma of virtuous action."

I am glad I made some joyful effort to meet my target!

By the merits of this virtuous actions, my the lower realms be totally empty and all sufferings be totally eradicated! May all meet with the virtuous dharma and be guided by a qualified mahayana virtuous friend and be guided to complete, perfect enlightenment!

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

I cried many tears (of joy) when Jamal won the Rps20,000,000 in the game. This film connected with me so much because it made me remember those little kids (i.e. the ones the film referred to as 'slumpdog kids') that surrounded me everytime I go to Bodhgaya, India. They became tears of compassion when I realized that very, very few (if not none) of those kid that surrounded me and other tourists will ever make it to making even a decent living, not to mention being millionaires (that’s almost seems impossible). But perhaps, there’s some inspiration from this film… some hope. And that’s important!

Even though this film is fictitious, our world is also an illusion. If we donot feel anything after watching this film, it means we have not seen enough of suffering.

Go watch this film if you have not. It definitely deserved all the oscars it had won!

Another monk with attainments

Three weeks after death, monk’s body still glows

By PK Surendran, DNA India, October 7, 2008Courtesy: The Buddhist Channel

BANGALORE, India -- The body of an 80-year-old Mundgod monastery monk who died three weeks ago has shown no signs of decomposition.

The KLE hospital in Belgaum had declared the Buddhist spiritual leader, Trippa Lobsung Nyama, dead but his followers insist he has attained samadhi (a deep, blissful, meditative state).

All these days the body was kept inside an air-cooled hall where his followers offered prayers. Their belief only got strengthened when the body showed no signs of decomposition weeks after the death.

The Mundgod monastery soon turned into a pilgrimage centre for Buddhists.

A KLE medical team then studied the body. Senior Dr Vinay Mahishal, who was part of the team, told DNA that they sent their “confidential” report to the KLE medical trust chairman. “There’s no doubt that he is clinically dead. And I am surprised how putrefaction has not yet set in. The body was as serene and shining as on the day of death,” the doctor said.

The hospital authorities explained that when a person stops taking water and food, water content in the body dries up, slowing down, or even temporarily arresting, putrefaction. The monk in question had stopped eating from some time before his death. It does not, however, mean that his body will remain that way for long. It could seem fresh for a while only. The only way to keep it intact for ages is to mummify it and his followers are doing that.

The hospital authorities said the monk’s relatives and associates agree that he is not going to be the same again. But “he was no ordinary mortal” they are convinced. “How else does one explain the non-decomposition of his body,” asks a monk. They are already working on a ‘samadhi sthal’.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Abstain, yet not Rejecting if it comes! - additional comments in red

I wrote the below advice to advice a "friend" who is having doubts about his spiritual commitments and his "growing up urges"... by this I include masturbation, thoughts of girls, urges to have a booze, etc (definitely not including acts of crime such as murder, rape, robbery, etc. Also a drink or two is okay, but not to the point of being drunk. You must know what acts can be done and what cannot). I am glad I can share this advice too with others like him. Even the below advice is only on masturbation, it is the same with every other urges a young boy would have at his age. My advice need not necessarily be correct, so you got to think for yourself. Make your own choices and walk your path! Good luck, brother. Think about it.

I had the same dilemma as you are having now more than a decade ago.

Now, doing it doesnot bring as much pleasure to me as it did then. From time to time I still do it, but only doing it to end the once-in-a-blue-moon cravings. Not to experience pleasure. Not as fun anymore. Same action but different motivation. You see the difference?

Now I agree with the medical doctors that it is actually healthy to masturbate once in a while... especially when younger. It will keep the sperm healthy and if you are married, and wants to have kids, your sperm needs to have good mobility and shape. If you donot masturbate for long periods, then your sperm count will not only drop but reduced in their speed and agility and other aspects which any gynae can tell you.

Even if it is considered negative actions, and indeed it may be, still as tantric practitioners, we need not reject those actions even as we try to abstain from them. I am not sure if you understand. Even as we aim for our spiritual goal, it is important to grow in a manner like other sentient being... in the sense that we learn from all our negative actions and transforming them later into powerful Mind of Renunciation and Bodhicitta.

I wrote this Zen haiku ( a type of short poem) several years ago. Or, is there such thing as tantric haiku?? Yeah, first tantric haiku. Anyway, I channeled my negative energies into creative positive ones...despite being seemingly erotic. A good Buddhist friend advised me that time that "if I need to, I can go around and discover a little bit of the world, but always remember to come home. Don't go out and get lost...never coming back!" 'Home' means our Three Refuges and our precepts, our dharma, our gurus, etc. I understood what he meant even though he didnot quite elaborate it. And I hope you would too. On the face of it, it may seem erotic, but you need to look deeper into the haiku and see what you understand from it. I leave that to you.


My dick pierces the heavens
into a black hole
ejaculating bliss...aaAHH!

ANGER and patience

too much
too much
too much
too much
In our hearts...
too little
too little
too little
too little
written on: 5 Sept 2000

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Start Prostrations Ngondro early

On the recent TVB Hong Kong programme shown on TV, the first episode showed actor Lo Ka Ying visiting Qinghai, China. He visited the various temples there and the lake where divination on reincarnation of lamas are sought. It was a fantastic show.

The TV show also included a section where they showed how the Tibetan lamas make medicinal pills. Will you believe it if I tell you their medicine is not only made of herbal plants? but also include dead animal parts, human excrement, other animal excrement, charcoal and metals such as gold, silver, lead (YES, lead which is actually poisonous), but I think there is a logic in it but don't ask me...:) and they put tiny quantity of each only. And also stones like jade and other precious stones. Really amazing to see how the lamas can make all these medicines and after that, recite mantras to make it effective.

The actor also went to a temple where there was a footprint of a lama who did 1500 million (or 1.5 billion) prostrations. WOW!! And as a result of his prostrations, at the spot where he did his prostrations, there was an imprint of his feet on the wooden flooring. We can actually see the shape of his foot. AMAZING! This is just like our precious Je Tsongkhapa who also left imprints on the spot where he did his prostrations.

And to compare, we complain and feel tired after doing less than 100 times prostrations. How useless we are, right? Or at least, I am. Like today I did 100 prostrations and will try to do 100 times everyweek. If I don't increase my prostrations, I will never be able to finish my 100,000 prostration ngondro. Buddhists who are serious in their practice should not wait for their gurus to give them ngondros, or wait for their gurus to tell themt o do prostrations. You should self-impose. I started my prostrations this way too. Almost every Tibetan Buddhist lineage ngondro consists of prostrations. So, I am not sure what are people waiting for, before they start doing the prostrations accumulations. Do you want to wait till you are old or develop arthritis or leg problems or other health problems? By then, it will be too late. You won't be able to do it anymore.

And don't think that you are young that you have a lot of time to do your prostrations. Do it before your bad karma ripens and you cannot do it anymore!