Friday, December 31, 2010

My 2010 Year-end Message

On 30th Dec, I did 3 malas of Dorje Khadro. For the first time, all the wood burned properly and so did the sesame seeds. And so many of the sesame seeds cracked open and revealed its white "seed subtance" inside. It is like those white kuaci that we eat. Now I understand why they use sesame seed. The black colour outside is symbolic of our negative karma and when it cracked open, it means that it has been purified and that our fundamental nature is pure. For the first time I understood it's meaning. In the previous pujas I did, I didnot quite noticed the substance revealing itself after the cracking sound. Yesterday there were so manyof the seeds that cracked open and the seeds jumped out and revealed the white substance inside. I felt tremendously purified after that. It was good to do Dorje Khadro at the year end to purify whatever negativities accumulated during the year. So, thanks dear Dorje Khadro!

And I would also like to thank my principal protector – Vajrapani – for not giving up on me and for giving me that wake-up call from time to time. I acknowledge your blessings and I humbly repent for the wrongs I did knowingly or unknowingly.

I also would like to acknowledge and thank Kuan Kong who may have a part to play in the successful application. I had a dream of Kuan Kong on the early morning of December 10. And on the same day, later that evening, I got a note from the agency that my application had been successful. There is a statue of Kuan Kong that holds a text, instead of the traditional sword. Students pray to this type of Kuan Kong to help them in their studies. I don’t have an image of this Kuan Kong but I believe there is a huge Kuan Kong holding a text somewhere in Taiwan. I think it is in wikipedia. You can check it out. So, thank you to Kuan Kong again.

And to any other protectors, especially those that I do not know of, I thank you all too and acknowledge your role. To each and everyone of you, I humbly pay my respect! And to cap of a reasonable 2010, let us reflect on a message I heard on the radio this morning. A communication expert was invited to the radio program and a listener called in to share a problem. The expert advised him not to give and that he should follow the adage of “practice makes perfect”. But not only that, he would add that it’s also what and how you practice. Think of the advice from a spiritual context and you will agree with me that this is such a wonderful dharma advice coming from a radio! Dharma comes in inconceivable forms. When we are ready, we can spot them. If not, then it’s just another radio talk show. Reflect on this and Goodbye 2010 and Happy New Year 2011!

Even though we always say Happy New Year but sometimes the year turns out to be sad or challenging for most people. I do not want to appear pessimistic but that's the reality of samsara. We just need to prepare our mind for any eventuality. And I wish you (all my readers) all the best in this regard. I hope I have benefitted you guys in one way or another. And if I have committed any faults in any way, as far as this blog is concerned, I apologise now.


Movie Review: The Zen of Tron Legacy

On 30th Dec, I watched Tron Legacy, the movie and I got more than I bargained for. I have always like sci-fi movies like Star Wars, Star Trek and Buck Rogers. I donot know if anyone here still remember Buck Rogers. He has a cute robot that shakes his head. Hahaha...! Well, before the movie I didnot read any review about it... at least not that much. I knew that it was a sequel and it starred Jeff Bridges and that he played two different roles in the movie. But that was more or less about it.

I certainly didnot anticipate the Zen elements in the movie. Other than Kevin Flynn sitting in meditation in various parts of the movie, there were quite a few thing I picked up from the movie that are not so obvious to non-Buddhists, and non-Zen Buddhists.

1. The seshins that Kevin Flynn do seems remarkable. Even in the midst of problems, he was able to do his meditation at certain times. That's what certain Zen traditions do. And this is indicated in the movie by Kevin Flynn.

2. The arrangement in the Headquarters of Kevin Flynn is simple and very Zen-style.

3. I think the quote " Perfection cannot be achieved but yet it is right in front of you" cuts across Zen. This is the very core of Buddhist message and it is a pity that non-Buddhist and I suspect, even most Buddhists may not be able to understand this deep message.

4. There is also this element of another world system within a tiny computer micro chip. Many Buddhist Sutras talk about this. You can find them in Avatamsaka Sutra, Lotus Sutra, and many others.

5. There is also the thing about the illusory self that does not ultimately exist. Everyone of us has a "Clu". The problem is our "Clu" thinks that he exists inherently. Think about it. Emptiness theory.

6. There is also a subtle reference to inter-dependent origination when Kevin Flynn explained the "miracle" of ISO. He said that it's a partial result of his own effort but the rest of it due to causes and conditions that come together.

So, I think Jeff Bridges was smart in bringing the Zen Master Bernie Glassman (Zen Peacemakers Center) to the movie set and incorporating Buddhist elements into the movie. But according to his (or was it his and Olivia Wilde?) interview, they also didnot want the movie to seems to be preachy. Therefore, the Zen messages were only very subtle, and I think they have achieved that.

I didnot expect Tron Legacy to be a Buddhist movie. And no, it is not. In order to be universal and in order to reach many more sentient beings, it is important for dharma messages not seem to be too Budddhistic. And one way to achieve that is through the movies and movies like Tron Legacy appeals to a wide audience. Worldwide audience actually. And I think it is a step in the right direction. We didnot need to spread Buddhism. Just spread the dharma message... like peace, seeking calmness in the midst of turmoil, love and respect for parents, parents love for the children, etc ...these are all universal dharma messages. And these elements are in this movie.

And this movie has also opened my door to what Zen Master Bernie Glassman has been doing all these while. I think he is a very good example of a master who lives the example of what an enlightened master should be doing, i.e. actively engaging with the world. I really find his street retreats interesting and if I have a chance, I would want to do it too. Yes, join his street retreats. This is what I am doing but in another way. I did my guru yoga right in the cinema theatre while watching this movie...and no, I was not distracted nor did I miss much. Jeff Bridges might call that seshin in the cinema. LOL! Indeed, Bernie Glassman is living his wisdom by his actions. And for that, I respect him. In the movie credits, Bernie Glassman is listed as a consultant under "Consultants and Advisors". Check this out:

So, what are you waiting for? If not for the sci-fi, just watch it for the Zen "dharma" elements. See what else you find is Zen dharma in the movie.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Healing by Meditation

In my previous post, I mentioned that in my meditation, I suddenly realised that my body and the Buddha's body are non-dualistic. I was actually having back-ache for a few days prior to that. But on the instance of my realisation, the backache was gone. I did not have to put those traditional medicated plasters anymore.
If you think this is a miracle, you haven't seen anything yet. Mine was really nothing much.

Read this link and you will be equally amazed by the story. So start practising your meditation.

Someone should recommend Zsa Zsa Gabor to consult wih HH the Dalai Lama on this type of meditation, maybe it will help her leg that is reported in the news that will be amputated soon. But it's unlikely she will master the meditation technique in such a short time. May Buddha bless her to be strong!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Are You Heading to Buddhahood or the Psychiatric Ward?

Yesterday was a day of reflection for me. Yeah - Christmas Day! I have some very strong desires and attachment but I have been successful in controlling it with some measure of success in the last few days. I understand that Chod practice of Vajrayana Buddhism is also about "cutting", i.e. cutting down our delusions, our anger and desires/greed. And that if we manage to cut it down, sometimes in the post-cutting moment, some realisations may dawn. Realisations are not something special because they are supposed to have been understood by us but due to our own inate ignorance and delusions, we don't understand it. We don't get it. We don't see it even though it may be in front of us all the while. So, this is something I would like to share with you all.

Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen wrote a long dharma message in verses entitled "Samsara and Nirvana: Two Sides of the Same Hand". While reflecting on Lam Rim and while doing guru yoga, it dawns on me that it is not only the hand. The concept also applies to the entire body. If you use your body and indulge in samsaric activities, especially the ones that perpetuate your samsaric delusions, then you get more and more mired in the deep end of samsara. You won't be able to get out of samsaric sufferings. However, if you use your body righteously and take care of our body properly and use it to do good for the world and our fellow beings, then it is as if we are doing enlightened activities. Then we are more towards the "Nirvana side" of our body. Similarly for our mind. Mostly our mind is the samsaric mind. We indulge our mind in crazy fantasies, and indulge it in endless greed, and desires. We seldom direct our mind towards good. Samsara and Nirvana are two sides of the same hand. The only problem is we donot realse that it is such.

I was actually thinking of how the Tibetan way of Yidam practice and whether Tibetan Buddhists are deluding themselves into thinking they are those yidams that they have imagined. What's the difference between this practice and self-hynosis into thinking you are Superman perhaps? What's the difference between a yidam practitioner and a patient at the mental hospital? It is while thinking of these questions that those realisations that I talked about above came. The Buddha mind and our mind is non-dualistic but it is not the same mind. Our mind is not equivalent to the Buddha mind, just as samsara is not equal to Nirvana. They are at different sides of the hand, remember? Hence our mind is not the same mind as the Buddha mind. One continuum cannot be the same as another continuum. But yet all the Buddha qualities are there latent within. So, we say, our mind and the Buddha mind is non-dualitic. That's the safest way to put it and that is the safest way to prevent the yidam practitioner from becoming similar to the mental patient. It is only the qualities of the Buddha mind that we want. We donot want to become somebody else's mind or somebody else's body.... even if that somebody else is the Buddha. We just want to develop their qualities of the body and mind of a Buddha. You remember that and you won't go wrong in your yidam practice. I remember reading somewhere in the lamayeshe wisdom archive there is a story related there that there are Yamantaka practitioners whose eyes have bulged out like those of Yamantaka. And this is due to incorrect practice of the yidam. Those practitioners have identified to Yamantaka as if it is an inherently existing deity. Due to visualising the deity, your body slowly turns into one. Actually you only want the enlightened qualities of Yamantaka. Just like you and me, Yamantaka also do not inherently exist. That's what emptiness is, anyway, the way I understand it. We are empty but so is the Buddha and yidam. What remains are only the activities that arise and cease. That is why it is important to understand emptiness properly before practicing tantric meditations. It helps prevent going into the wrong path. But I lament that nowadays many people seems too eager to start tantric practice without understanding the fundamentals first.

So, let us think about it on whether what I say here is right or wrong. Let us try to bring out the "nirvana" side of our body and mind and engage them to do more Buddha activities. Only in this way will the Buddha manifest and it is the way to be a emanation of the Buddha, without actually being a Buddha. This is preferable to those fake "emanations" who announce to the world that they are this and that emanation and many innocent ones fall for their trickery. How sad!

So, no matter which path we are practising, it's important to ask ourselves from time to time: Am I heading towards self-realisations of Buddhahood or to the psychiatric ward at the hospital? It does pay to always check where we are heading to. May Buddha bless!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Shinran = the Great Tantric Masters

"Although I too am within Amida's grasp,
 Passions obstruct my eyes and I cannot see him;
 Nevertheless, great compassion is untiring and illumines me always."

I think the quote above sums up beautifully the way relative truth relates with ultimate truth and is the same quitessential message of the great tantric masters. No doubt about it. Indeed, his knowledge is equivalent to the Great Tantric Masters. The more I read his works the more I think his deep wisdom is second to none.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Fear the Right Things

A common prayer in Tibetan Buddhism, especially in the Gelug tradition is the ... I think it's called "Three Great Aspirations Prayer" and it goes like this:

Please bless me to constanly fear the burning fires of the three lower realms of cyclic existence,
To take heartfelt refuge in the Triple Gem
And to continue putting enthusiastic effort in the abandoning of negativities and accumulating virtuous deeds.

For quite sometime, I have modified them so that I shift the fear aspects to fearing the actual things that are to be feared, i.e. greed, anger and ignorance. These are the three root vices and are the cause of rebirth in the lower realms. If you are a Buddha or Bodhisattva, going to the lower realms would not arise any fear in you. Going to those places in and by themselves is not an issue. For people like us who cannot as yet control our greed, anger and delusions, the issue should be on creating seeds that could pop up any moment that causes one to take rebirth there. For instance, there were cases of people losing their temper suddenly and do something stupid, such as killing the people they have otherwise loved. It's just in that moment of confusion and emotional mess, that they have done something stupid. And we could be "these people" someday if we do not have control over our actions and emotions. And we better act now if we do not want to be reported in the news for the wrong reasons.

So, I have added some other words (shown in red below) to the prayer above and now, it sounded like this:-

Please bless us to constantly fear the burning fires of the three lower realms of cyclic existence,
That are caused by unfettered greed, desires, attachment, lust, sudden acts of anger, tantrums, hatred, temper, violence and other delusions that are caused by deep ignorance and stupidity,
To take heartfelt refuge in the Triple Gem to uproot all these (causes),
And to continue putting enthusiastic effort in the abandoning of negativities and accumulating virtuous deeds.

Ever since I realise that it is the three root evils that are to be feared, I have since then recited this prayer using my own version as above. I find that it is useful because it reminds me of the proper things to be feared. Fearing the right things is part of spiritual risk management. I hope that this is of use to you and always remember it.

With this message, I am sending to all my readers a "HAPPY SEASONS GREETINGS" and "A HAPPY NEW YEAR 2011".

Friday, December 17, 2010

Gatha of Enlightenment

Hahaha... I am just joking. It is not my gatha of enlightenment. I was on two minds about whether to proceed to a guru puja today or not. In the end I made up my mind to go. It was then that I got these inspiring lines as below.

Seizing the Moon
Withered trees bear no fruit,
In winter, the sun takes a break.
Swiftly moves the sand of time,
Quickly the wise seizes the moon!

At first I did not know what these lines mean but then after thinking for a while, I think that this gatha (i.e. a Buddhist poem in verses)  is full of dharma message and contains the essence of the entire Buddhist teachings. I think it can have many levels of meaning, including non-religious ones, as one of my friends told me. If you have any other way of interpreting this poem, do share.

The first line, "withered trees" refers to a person with no bodhicitta. Trees with many leaves provide shade to many and they are the resting place for birds and other creatures. Such trees also support the earth and the creatures down there in many ways. A withered tree is unable to perform all these beneficial tasks. A sentient being without bodhicitta is the same and cannot win the fruit of Enlightenmnet. That is why bodhicitta is said to be the sole and complete path to Enlightenment. The first line should also remind  a person of the hot hells where the environment is so hot that no tree can survive. The second line, reminds us of the cold hells where it is the opposite of the hot hells. So, these 2 lines remind us not to do negative actions that result in being reborn in the lower realms of hungry ghost, animal and hell-beings. When one accumulates negative action, one cannot receive much blessings, even from the Buddhas. That's also the meaning of the second line "the sun takes a break". We can also associate the first line to being deluded by hatred and anger, symbolised by the hot condition that causes the tree to wither. The second line can be associated to being deluded by greed and attachment, symbolised by the cold condition of winter. And both greed and hatred are caused by deep ignorance that will hinder our attaining the fruit of Liberation. The "Sun" also alludes to the blessing we receive from our Root Guru and its importance in having deep and proper devotion. It is then only that we will receive the blesisngs. Without proper devotion to the Guru and the Triple Gem, there will be little, if no blessings derived from studying/practising the dharma.
The third line reminds one of the preciousness of human rebirth and its short life span and impermanence. At any time, death can occur. Therefore, we should treasure well our precious human rebirth by making full use of our time to practice the dharma and benefit human and others in ways that we can. Those who are not religious can still benefit others in non-religious ways.

If we practice the foregoing, we will be able to develop our wisdom quickly. A person with such qualities will want to practice the concentration meditation and in time will develop insight wisdom. And if he./she is keen on takign tantric practice, then he/she will take guidance from a qualified guru and develop the generation and completion stages. Ultimately,  a wise man who has attain the insght wisdom by doing the concentration and insghht meditations and having all the aforementioned qualities will swiftly attain to the highest goal of BUDDHAHOOD. That's the moon we should quickly grab!

Hence all the points of the Lam Rim are contained in the four lines of gatha. How I wish it was my gatha (Buddhist poetry) of enlightenment!  Hehehe... but unfortunately, it is only an inspiration I received on the way to a Guru puja to be conducted by Ven. Choeden Rinpoche.  But it certainly sounded Zen-like with all the use of the nature symbolism in the lines.

I dedicate this poem to the success of all my Gurus' activities and relief of every suffering and attainment of final Buddhahood for all beings!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Gilbert's "Eat, Pray, Love" vs My Own 3 Things

If we could take a eyar off to do the three things that we want most, what would that be? Have you thought about that? For Elizabeth Gilbert, they are to eat, to pray and to love. There's a movie in 2010 based on her true story. She went to experience the food in Italy which is well-known for its pizza, spaghetti and pasta. Then she explored spirituality. She fin it difficult to adapt initially and found that trying to concentrate even for 5 minutes in a meditation session was quite a chore. But as she slowly lossens up her attachment to her own "concepts", slowly she managed to adapt to the life in the Indian ashram. I find that the part where she was told that her guru was in New York when she had flown all the way from New York to India esepcially ladened with meaning. Then she went to Bali island to fin love or rather to re-kindle it and find the meaning of love again. She was hesitant to love the man she found but in the end she realised that she had been "holding on" too much to her past. She let go and found happiness. It was a lovely movie and I like the part where she said "Ruin is the road to transformation". It is so much in line with what is taught in Buddhism. Even though I have given the gist of the story, it is not that difficult to guess it anyway. Nevertheless there are many other aspects of the movie that you got to see to appreciate it, especially the dharma contents. And I won't relate it here. After watching the movie, I have been thinking, what are the three things I want to do if I could be like her in taking an entire year off from our normal working career. Not thinking of office. Of course, this is purely fantasizing as I am hardly in a situation where i can take a year off... although I would love to take a year off for postgraduate studies.

Anyway, what would be my 3 things? perhaps... meditating, retreat, pilgrimage? being a monk, doing charity work, doing 3 steps one bow? Nah... I'll settle for more realistic and more immediate things that I can do within a year.

Hence perhaps my three things would be:

1. Play

Yes. Play. And I would like to play at Disneyland, and maybe play at Singapore's Sentosa, perhaps even experience a little of  Zoukout... but especially Disneyland. Such happy, fun places simply reinforces my desire for the ultimate Disneyland. Do you know where is the ultimate Disneyland? It is Amitabha's Sukhavati. Recently I asked a Singaporean friend if he is going to the 2010 Zoukout party or not. He answered no. Then I suggested to him half-playing but half serious, that he should try practising his sadhana during the Zoukout party. Or at least to see the emptiness of all the party and fun while in the midst of all that. It's difficult to do, but serious mind practitioners donot remain in remote places for long. They want to test the stability of their mind and achievement. I may not be at that level yet, but I remember what Lama Zopa Rinpoche advised. He said that even in shopping complexes and malls, we can practice bodhicitta and dedicate all the happy and beautiful things we see around us to all Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and all sentient beings. These are simple practices that we can do at these fun places. Buddhists need not be social outcasts. But just remember to take care of the mind. I am not the most successful in these things, so... who am I do advice... hahaha! I am sure my friend did not go. But I just hope I will not be addicted to all the playing until I become attached to it and does not want to go to do the next 2 things below. I cannot blame my friend if he thinks "negatively" of me now. I am sorry if anyone else felt that I have let them down. Perhaps I am also showing a more playful side of "me"? But I also realise that being in such places as Disneyland will also fuel our wisdom in ways if we know how. Recently I went to Air Supply's concert and I find that the more I enjoy the songs, the more I dedicate the joy and fun to my gurus and all sentient beings. I was praying in the conert itself that all sentient beings have the opportunity to experience the same fun and joy and be free of whatever pain/suffering. I also managed to do a guru yoga there in the midst of all the noise. So, that's what I eman by "half-serious" earlier. I was speaking from my own experience. Being in such fun places also will give me a chance to see if I can behave myself, so to speak.... especially my mind aspects.

2. Research

Yes, I would like to do a research paper on something to do with Buddhism and one of the following topics: sustainablity, risk management in religious organizations, governance issues in religious organizations, internal controls in temples and monasteries, and other such issues. Perhaps for this purpose I would like to go to UK and explore the universities there to do my research. I have done a few blogs on spiritual risk management in this blog and I think this is an important aspect that many practitioners miss out. I would like to explore it a little deeper and hopefully more people will appreciate its significance one day.  

 3. Pray

Finally, a similar thing to Elizabeth Gilbert. But I am not going to India. I would like to do a pilgrimage in Tibet and really explore the holy monasteries and holy places there. I would do some serious retreat at some of these places. If there is time I would also go on a pilgrimage to all the holy sites in China.

So, that's it. These are my 3 things, "Play, Research, Pray" least for now. Sorry if my three things shocked you, especially the first one, i.e. "play". What are yours?

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Kuan Kong dream

On Friday early morning (10 Dec 2010) probably between 4am to 6am, I have had a strange dream in which I was searching for something in an old house with many antique furnitures and old setting like in the 1960s Malaya. I opened one drawer and found it full of miniature Kuan Kong, the Buddhist Protector often found in Chinese Mahayana temples. Previously he was believed to be the General of Liu Bei in the Three Kingdoms period of ancient China. At that time he was known as Kuan Yu. Later he was deified and became known as Kuan Ti or often called Kuan Kong by the common Chinese folks. The miniature figurines are all about an inch in size and the Kuan Kong figurines are in various postures. Some were in the traditional posture of riding a horse and holding a sword in one hand, and some just standing with a sword. One strange posture had Kuan Kong on a boat/ship. Strange, huh?
I donot know what this means but the last protector I had dreamt of was the Eastern Mahayana version of Vajrapani. Not the Tibetan Buddhist version. And I have no idea if this dream has any significance but I will just put it here in my blog merely for record purpose. Recently I dreamt of Tara, a wrathful one, and I found out that Choeden Rinpoche will be coming soon to give a Cittamni Tara initiation and that Khenchen Rinpoche will recite the Tara mantra to help reduce the accident rate in the former Jelutong Expressway (now renamed as Lebuhraya Tun Dr Lim Chong Eu).

Thursday, December 2, 2010

How to Deal with Grief the Buddhist Way?

My computer is continuing to give me problems. It's okay for now. So, today I am able to surf and I found this article on how Shinran deals with grief. I find it a very enlightened approach to grief. It is the Buddhist way. Click and read the link below and hopefully we will be able to deal with these sorrowful situations anytime.