Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Self-evaluation and Inner Transformation

There are so many different views on conventional and ultimate realities among the masters themselves, each claiming to be the right view. In one article by Jackson Peterson (I think), he was critical of Gampopa. This is just one example of the vast divergent views of what is the ultimate reality. So, if great masters cannot even agree, how can “idiots” ….like me…. possibly stand a chance. If you need to study indepth on such topics, it must be because of a higher motivation. Example, by understanding conventional and ultimate reality or by having a better understanding of emptiness, if it can improve our meditation (especially the meditation on yidam) than we have a correct motivation to study and debate on such topics. But if we do that to boost our own ego and merely to prove others wrong, then we fall into a spiritual trap ourselves.   

If you need to point out someone is wrong, do it diplomatically. Don’t use harsh words on others, and never assume anyone is unenlightened. As tantric practitioners, we are supposed to regard others as Buddhas. But yet in our everyday actions, we do the opposite, right or not?  The moment someone honk us on the road, we look who this idiot person is and show our middle finger. Or we honk back. The moment someone parks or his tree grows a little bit into our space, we feel terribly uneasy and want to puncture the tyres or chop down the tree. I think sometime ago in Klang valley there were 2 neighbours who argued over things like that and one of them ended up being killed by the other. So, it is so sad that people become murderers over small petty things. If we don’t control ourselves and how we react to circumstances and/or comments, we will be in deep trouble one day.

There are many examples that happens everyday. And yet we happily put these aside and go on to attend our dharma teaching and put on our best behaviour when meeting with our gurus or when we are at the temples. We become instant angels. There is no inner transformation the moment we step beyond the Buddhist walls. I write this mainly to remind myself. But I would like to share my thoughts with you.
Note that I use the word “we”. It means I am not pointing fingers. I evaluate myself. You evaluate yourself. Evaluating ourselves does not mean we cannot see what’s happening around us, and asking back to ourselves what is proper behaviour and what is not. Self-evaluation on whether we have had any inner transformation is a key spiritual risk management tool and I am categorizing this blog under that label.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Tara Mantras to Help Avert Calamities

About last Sunday I have understood what the wrathful Tara dream was all about. Last Sunday I re-discovered the 21 Tara mantras. and it appears that this set of Tara mantra that I first knew of in my secondary school days, are different from those of the more popular ones often recited in FPMT centres. I checked and was surprised that the 21 mantras in the FPMT prayer book I have are different. At that discovery, I re-called the time when I first knew the Tara bak in my schooling days. No wonder when I first read about the mantras in the FPMT center I sort of felt weird. But I didnot think about it much until lately.

Recently in my part of the world, there had been strong winds, heavy rain falls and destructive floods in the northern region of the country. Then there was the volcanic eruptions in Mt Merapi, Indonesia. What has all these got to do with Tara? Well...plenty!

According to this alternative set of 21 Tara mantras, there are specific mantras for us to recite to avert the such calamities. I provide below a few of these relevant mantras relevant for storms, tornadoes, cyclones, floods, earthquake, and volcanic eruptions.

Tara who Averts Disasters (e.g. all kinds of disasters)
Om Benza Tare Sarva Biganen Shindham Kuru Svaha

Tara who Averts Earth-born calamities (e.g. earthquake, tremours, etc)
Om Tare Tutare Ture Mama Sarva Lam Lam Bhaya Shindham Kuru Svaha

Tara who Averts Destruction Wrought by Water (floods, tsunami, heavy rain, etc)
Om Tare Tutare Ture Mama Sarva Bham Bham Dzala Bhaya Shindham Kuru Svaha

Tara who Averts Destruction Wrought by Fire (volcanic eruptions, lightning, etc)
Om Tare Tutare Ture Mama Sarva Ram Ram Dzala Bhaya Shindham Kuru Svaha

Tara who Averts Destruction Wrought by Wind (storms, cyclones, twisters, etc)
Om Tare Tutare Ture Mama Sarva Yam Yam Dzala Bhaya Shindham Kuru Svaha

I also hypothesised that these mantras can help in cases of sicknesses that are caused by the imbalance of the elements such as wind (stroke), fire (fever), water (dehidration), etc. I have not yet tried nor tested my hypothesis but anyone may try it. However the above mantras are not my own hypothesis but which I have came to know about a long time ago but re-discovered recently. If your area is having these problems, you can help recite the relevant mantras. Whether it works or not, depends really on the karma of yourself, the people you are trying to help and the benefit that it would bring if the mantra works and other factors not necessarily known to us.

I felt that Tara may have wanted me to share these mantras to others. Hence, I have included it in this blog. I hope it may be of use. Thank you, dear Tara!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The Benevolence of Amitabha Buddha

This is a Japanese legend that shows the benevolence of Amitabha Buddha. He is always thinking of us, always looking over to see if we are still following or if we have fallen behind or have become heedless. For that, I am are grateful. Namo Amitabha Buddha.

There is a legend. In old days, an old man offered an image of Amitabha to the Emperor Court and it had been worshiped by people in the Court. At the opening ceremony of Todai-ji, Nara, the image was handed over to Todai-ji from the Emperor Court. The image had been treasured in a storehouse. Eikan had an opportunity to worship the image and heard an appeal coming from the deep heart of the image. Eikan deplored that the image was treasured, because he believed firmly that the original vow of the image was the salvation of all sentient beings. Eikan's grief was caught by the ex-emperor Shirakawa and he ordered Eikan to retain the image and carry out the services. In later years, Eikan resigned from the head of stewards of Todai-ji and walked to Kyoto with the image carrying on his back. Near Kibata in Kyoto, monks of Todai-ji chased Eikan and tried to take the image back, but they had to give up it because it held fast on the back of Eikan.

In the early morning on February 15, 1082, Eikan was 50 years old and was walking around the platform of the image, praising Nembutsu (Namu-Amida-butsu) as an ordinary religious service in a temple, where the air was freezing cold. All of a sudden, the image walked down from the platform and begun to lead Eikan. Eikan was so astonished that he could not keep walking. At the moment, the image looked back over its shoulder and said "Eikan! Follow me." Eikan saw the holy and merciful pose of the image and desired it to keep the merciful pose for future generations. This is a legend why Mikaei Amida is looking back.

This is the principal image of Eikando, Zenrin-ji, Kyoto, Japan and it is one of the important cultural assetts of Japan. The style of the image shows a moderate way in late Heian Period but the decorative wave of clothes shows that this might be made by a sculptor in Kyoto in early Kamakura Period. The sculptor skillfully arranged the pose by catching up the moment from a static pose to a dynamic one.

The pose of Mikaeri Amida can be interpreted as an attitude:
To wait for the people behind,
To think back on his own position,
To show mercy to neighbors,
To watch the people with mercy,
To pay attention to the people, as a leader to step forward together.
The pose also shows the benevolence of the Amida, who is still worrying about the people who can not come to the front, though the Amida has already taken a lot of people in the front.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tantric or Pure Land Practice?

I do not think I have any hope to practice the Six Yogas of Naropa or those complicated tantric yogas. I am too old now. Too late to practice those things. I may not even have time for long retreats. But I do like practising Vajrayana. And at the same time, I want a secure path to my liberation if I don't succeed in Vajrayana practice. It seems to me that Pure Land Buddhism seems to offer that security. Master, what’s your advice?

What is there to hope?
There’s no hope if we try to be too smart,
If you do not know how,
If you are not sure,
If you do not have blessings
To receive proper training by a qualified master,
Why mess with your cakras and bindus?
Just place your trust in Amida,
And naturally allow His Vow to cross us over!
Namu Amida Butsu…Namu Amida Butsu…

But if you do have proper training
From a qualified master,
Ahh! Sweet nectar – that’s blessings from Amida!
Complete your training,
And help cross others over!
But always remember –
Namu Amida Butsu…Namu Amida Butsu
Anchor yourself in Amida’s Primal Vow,
Use mantras to help others,
Whatever is your training.
They are not contradictory!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Monkey God & Pilgrimage to the West (Pt 2)

I'll continue my blog on the Monkey God story.
1. One of the things learned from the white rabbit story, is that one should not harbour any secret, subtle wish, especially those "wrongful" ones such as the White Rabbit Angel's secret thought to eat the Tripitaka Monk's flesh while she was still an angel in heaven. Due to that one thought, the subsequent problems arose and she had had the opportunity to eat the monk's flesh. She only realised her problems was due to that when pointed out to her by Kuan Yin Bodhisattva. So, for those of us, with those one second thoughts to have one night stands, do be careful! It may just come true and bring consequential problems! However, as pointed by Kuan Yin again, it was due to the problems that the reincarnation of her enemy (i.e. the real princess) was able to resolve her problems with her parents, the King and Queen of Sravasti kingdom. So, in this case, problems do bring some good and because of the problems, she had accrued some merits and enabled her to be an angel once more on heaven.

2. In order to obtain the dharma we have to sacrifice something in return. Normally we need to make an offering. When the Buddha instructed the Ven. Ananda and Ven. Mogallana to retrieve the Sutras for the Tripitaka monk and his disciples, the latter monks were surprised when the two elderly disciples of the Buddha requested for some offerings. Zhu Ba Jie (the pigsy) was angry and thought negatively on Ven. Ananda and Ven. Mogallana. However, the Tripitaka monk understood and told the two that he and his three students had already sacrificed their lives for the sake fo the dharma and they was what they had to offer for the sutras and had no money to offer. It seems fortunate to Tripitaka monks and his students that the two of them accepted this offering of theirs and took out the sutras for them. However, on the way back, the sutras were "hijacked" by a giant bird, i.e. the garuda. Monkey tried to gave chase but to no avail. Actually the two chief disciples reported back to the Buddha that they were given the "wordless" Sutras and the Buddha perceived that sentient beings would not be able to understand them. And he instructed the disciples to take the sutras back. When this happened, Tripitaka's students were angry with the Buddha for taking back the scriptures. But Tripitaka monk was sad and understood the meaning of this incident. He understood he had to go back to get the written sutras from the Buddha for sentient beings. This part of the story has deep significance and I leave my readers to ponder what these "wordless" and "written" sutras mean. In exchange for the written sutras, Tripitaka monk offered the golden bowl he had obtained from the Chinese Emperor to Ven. Anada and Ven. Mogallana. He said in order to obtain something that has no price, he had earlier offered something with no price also, i.e. their lives. And in order to obtain something that has a price tag albeit a high price, he also offered something that has a high value, i.e. the golden bowl.

On the journey back, Kuan Yin realised that the Tripitaka monk was one obstacle short. Therefore he and his students had to be tested one more obstacle. This is an indirect confirmation that all the obstacles faced by the group along the journey to the Buddha were all spiritual tests. That's what we should regard all our obstacles along our way to Enlightenment. The sutras dropped into the huge river and became wet. The four of them had to dry them beside the river bank. As Zhu Ba Jie was collecting the sutras back after drying them, he accidentally tore one of the scriptures and the part that stuck to the rock emitted holy lights. It seems that the rock still stands today, but I am not sure where.

3. When Sun Wu Kong achieved his enlightenment at the incident after the sutras dropped into the river and became wet and they were drying them, he just laughed and exclaimed that finally he had understood.Ba Jie and Wu Jing did not know what he had understood but his master, the Tripitaka monk knew. He said, "If you had understood, that's good". What did he understand? Well, back in the early days when he studied under his first Master, Master Bodhi, he was asked 2 questions. One question was : Where is Master Bodhi?'  The second question was : Where is Mount Wu Ling (the place where they were going to, to get the scriptures from the Buddha)? He did not know the answer then but now after having completed the journey, he finally understood. I did not really understand the spoken chinese from the Chinese drama but I understand the answer is the Master is where the peaceful heart/mind is. And Mount Wu Ling lies inside us and not some external place outside. In other words, the journey to enlightenment is an inner journey, or an inner transformation. I think these are very profound words and it makes sense for us to digest these words properly. And it is also significant that at the end of the journey, Sun Wu Kong went back to Master Bodhi's retreat home but he found his master is no longer there. The whole place is now empty. He sat there for a while and bowed to where his master was and reflected deeply his master's kindness. Then he smiled and laughed. Sun Wu Kong finally realised his aim. He was now at peace. He was no longer the agitated monkey that he once was. Then after some silent reflection, he left the place. There is a dharma saying that when the student is unenlightened, there will always appear a master for the student when the time is ripe. But when the student had gone beyond and achieved enlightenment, the student saves himself and no longer need the master. Please reflect deeply on the many points here on the last part of the story. It is also interesting that he thought of his first master after achieving enlightenment and went to thank him, even though the master was no longer there.  This underscores the importance of being grateful to our gurus. And also demonstrated the fact that it is due to our gurus that we are able to achieve every blessings and spiritual achievement in our lives. Both masters was instrumental and important in Monkey's achievement. When he was having problems with Tripitaka Master, he went back to his first master and sought advice from him. So, we must never forget our previous gurus, i.e. those gurus that we have learned dharma from before our present gurus. I feel this is an important point to note even though our previous gurus may be of other lineages or traditions. And it is said in the dharma teachings that even our kindergarten teachers are our gurus.

I think that's all my blog on the story of Monkey God or Monkey King and his journey with the Tripitaka monk and his fellow students to the Buddha's Pure Land to obtain the scriptures. I feel it is more of a journey to enlightenment and self-discovery than an external journey. There are many more points that we could learn than I could possibly write in any blog. What we learn, actually depends on our own karma and dharma affinity too. When the dharma affinity is not there, you can give a direct dharma teaching right in front of the person, but the person will still not get it. He will not understand what is being said. He will miss the whole dharma point or misunderstands it (which could be worse than not understanding it).

Today I just read that the film industry in Hong Kong is going to make a movie of Monkey King and it will be in 3D. It will star Donnie Yen in the title role and there will be other HK famous actors and actresses including Chow Yun Fatt as a mythical Emperor and Aaron Kwok as the Bull King (Yama Raja). Aaron Kwok as Bull King? Interesting? I am somewhat sceptical that this 3D "hollywood style" movie which inclues mega movie stars will ever have any element that stays true to the original storyline where there are many dharma points. I think this China series that I have reviewed here in my blog is a good one for it has tried to stay true to the original story by Wu Chen En as much as possible and I feel the director has ensured important dharma lessons are conveyed clearly through the way it is presented in the movie set throughout the story. Good job. I just fear the 3D movie version will be more of a film to show the special effects ability of the movie makers than conveying any dharma lessons. I hope they prove me wrong.

P/s: I am having internet problems due to my already aged PC. So, if I don't post for a while. please be patient. I guess I need to buy a new PC, and this needs $$$.  Hahaha... hope google can help a bit. :)