Friday, December 30, 2011

Closing Year Message: Take Care of the Mind

As 2011 comes to a close and we usher in 2012, I think of the many things that happened in the past 12 months. Some important gurus are no longer with us such as Kyabje Lama Lhundrup of FPMT's Kopan Monastery. Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba have manifested stillness. It was a challenging year for FPMT with Kyabje Lama Zopa manifesting stroke. Personally it was a tough year too both domestically as well as work wise. However, I want to thank the Guru-Buddha, Guru-Dharma and Guru-Sangha first of all for all the blessings received during the year. Without this blessing to come into contact with the Guru-Triple Gem, no other blessings possibly matters. That is just how important the gurus are. It is due to the blessings of gurus, that I reconnected back to the late Seung Sahn Sunim and the Kwan Um School of Zen that he founded. This year I attended a meditation retreat headed by a Zen Master who received dharma transmission from ZM Seung Sahn. Having been a student to Seun Sahn Sunim and having met him before, it was not so problematic to get to know the existing Zen Masters. I am regarded as an "old student" by them so to speak, even though I had not had much contact with the School after my correspondence with ZMSS ended. But now with the knowledge that they do organise regular retreats every year in most of their Zen centres, my spiritual direction is clearer going forward. Now I can fulfill my direction of doing more retreats. Without the blessing of having met Seung Sahn Sunim in the past, I do not see if their Zen retreats will mean as much to me now. Next I want to say my gratitudes to my family and being close to them, caring for them and be cared for by them, we naturally avoid many troubles. Any hindrance is easily overcome. Therefore, our spouse and children are our closest protectors. So, I thank my family here. Then I have to thank my external root and subsidiary protectors who did a fantastic job this year. I want to mention the incident whereby I fell on the slippery icy ground twice in an oversea country recently. That was the first time I saw real natural snow! And without signboards to warn tourists of slippery grounds, I fell in no time. On those occasions, I definitely risked having a head concussion and fracturing my limbs. I say this because I was informed by another visitor whereby a lady, also from Malaysia, had fractured her wrist from a fall at the same place and as a result, her holiday was ruined. Although she is said to be older, it does not mean my bones are stronger. We never know our karma. On my second fall especially, I thought I risked breaking my back or injuring my spinal cord. It was an even harder fall. But thankfully, somehow the pouch bag that I was wearing, which is normally in front, somehow I found it at the back. It, therefore, unexpectedly cushioned my fall and I end up with only some pain. Here I learned that certain karma may not be avoided and we have to face it. Having some blessings could help smoothen our handling of bad times. Having a good protector is also the result of having some good karma. So, nothing escapes karma.  I have also done a Dorje Khadro fire puja ngondro before my trip, so that purification possibly helped too. And I remember that I was sick for a few weeks before my trip.
I also would like to express my thanks to friends, especially those who read my blog. Next year will be tougher and I can foresee it will be very challenging for me personally. Therefore, I need to lay low for a while and that means I may not be able to write as much as before. 
When "the final countdown" song blares in the air in every city around the world, most people will be busy enjoying themselves, oblivious to the fact that death may occur to them in 2012. This is for those who will die in 2012. We wish we knew when we will die, don't we? Then we can prepare ourselves. But the thing is death can come at any time. And Buddhists are taught to prepare ourselves all the time. Some other religions may think we are pessimistic. But I rather think we are actually pessimistically realistic than realistically pessimistic. You understand the difference here? Think about it. 
I wish everyone goodbye, thank you for reading my blog and I apologise for whatever wrong I might have committed/ offended either knowingly or otherwise. I will end this with a quote from the Ch’an Master Yun-men who said, “Every Day is a Good Day!” I certainly need to be reminded of this since next year is forecasted to be not so good according to feng shui and especially for people with certain horoscopes. I try not to think of it but people keep reminding me of this. Master Yun-Men is not saying that there will never be any bad days. He is saying that if we take care of the mind, then no matter what happens, it is okay. Then 2012 (or any year) will be no problem. We don’t have to freak out. Essentially our own mind is our best protector! So, that is basically my motto for next year. I repeat – “Everyday is a good day!” I might just enlarge it on a poster and hang it on my wall... less I forget. That and "Avoid evil do good, purify the mind" must adorn my walls. :) Take care!  

Sunday, December 25, 2011

A Time of Merriment and ... Serious Practice

Today is Christmas and many people are celebrating and partying and enjoying the festive mood. Lights and music are everywhere. Shopping malls and cinemas are full of people and many retailers are offering year-end sales. The streets are jammed with cars and people are just going somewhere to have a good time. While we are busy with samsaric indulgence, somewhere in Korea, a group of dedicated meditators are putting extra effort to practice through the night. They cut down on sleep to intensify their effort, hopefully  to gain enlightenment. The reason they do that is because it is to celebrate Sakyamuni Buddha's Enlightenment according to the lunar calendar, which falls on January 1, 2012 according to the normal solar calendar. So, for one week before that, they intensify their efforts to commemorate that achievement. I personally think that it is the best form of celebrating the Buddha's Enlightenment. What better way to celebrate it than to achieve enlightenment yourself! Let's wish the Christians a "Merry Christmas", and the meditators at Mu Sang Sa a "All the Best and Strive With Diligence!" I sincerely hope there will be among them those that will "make it"... if you know what I mean. :)

Even though not that I am indulging in samsara very much, but still comparing with those practitioners, I am like way way behind. Look at Geshe Tenzin Zopa, the former resident geshe of Losang Dragpa Centre. He has gone for a ngondro retreat for one year. He intends to complete his ngondros, then consider going on full three-year retreat. Before him, we hear of Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche who had left a letter behind before he wandered off into the mountains to do his cave retreat. It is unknown when he will return. He was exemplifying the wandering yogis of ancient Tibet like Milarepa. That is amazing. I wish these 2 monks "All the BEST"! After completing all those retreats, people will naturally feel more confident studying with them. Nowadays people are studying and taking guidance from teachers who have not themselves experience any long term meditation retreats. They have not gone through the due process and hence I am not sure how their followers can truly learn from these type of teachers apart from basic teachings. It is only when you have "been through it and done that", that you can seriously teach others something through your experience. But if you have not, you will be just as blind as the others that you are trying to teach. As HH Penor Rinpoche said, even people who have been recognised as reincarnate tulkus need to do extensive study and meditation life after life. But now people do not look at their gurus on this matter. They do not think it is important to have a guru with extensive study and meditation. It does not matter that their guru has not even done the one-year retreat before, let alone the three-year retreat. Their teachers bank on their followers to have faith in them and the followers foolishly think that it is enough just having guru devotion alone (and nothing else). Year-in and year -out the teachers do not teach them much about meditation, and merely give them the basics, some initiations, some pujas, and just these, they think their teachers are really very high attained Buddhas. Sometimes these teachers give highest yoga tantra, and the followers who took them do nothing more than reciting the sadhana six times a day, without much meditation into each session. Even after many years, nothing much has come out of all their practice. And yet, these people do not question themselves. I am not trying to downplay the importance of basics, initiations, sadhanas and pujas, but without a more deeper meditation practice, and developing samatha-vipassana, the root of samsara cannot be severed.

Over here, I am surrounded by sights and sounds and yet my thoughts are with those people experiencing the peace at Mu Sang Sa. My thoughts are also with Geshe Tenzin Zopa doing his ngondros and the wandering Sakyo Mipham Rinpoche experiencing the serenity of his natural green environment. Perhaps one day I shall join them. One day. For me, next year I will probably take on a lower profile. I am not sure what this means, yet. Perhaps I shall cut down on my blog posts. I don't know yet. But I shall endevour to be less visible and lay low for a while. I think I can have one or two more posts for the year before it ends... but we shall see.  

Side Topic
Recently I also feel sad when I read that the First Lady of USA wanted to be her pet dog in her next life. From a Buddhist perspective, wishing to become an animal, no matter how comfortable an animal's life may seem, is a huge "No". Someone better advice her to wish to be human or angel instead. Regardless of whether she actually believed in rebirth or reincarnation or not, it is not good to plant the psychological "seed" in her own mind of wanting to be an animal. Nothing you wished for, even casually goes unnoticed by our own sub-conscious mind. We should be careful what we wish for.

Refer the news here:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Words of Encouragement for Korean Buddhists

A religious booth in Korea
Korean Buddhism is reported to be in decline. Buddhists use to make up a large percentage of the population in Korea but in terms of total Christians (both Protestants and Catholics combined), Buddhists are now in second place. The popularity of Christianity is evident from the many Korean artists who are seen wearing crosses and from their profile are in fact Christians. In their hotels, guests are provided with two books, one is the Holy Bible, and the other a Buddhist book which is a compilation of Buddhist teachings. Christianity is so "rampant" in Korea that at one time, there were news about the Korean "Moon sect" based on Christianity. Now we hear less of this sect. When I was in a popular street shopping destination in Seoul, I came across a small stall or booth with loud speakers blaring away their Christian gospel. There was no Buddhist booth there. From a Buddhist point of view, there is no need to go to that extent to promote Buddhism. Buddhists do not "sell" Buddhism like hawkers selling noodle soup on the roadside. A lot of Christians go on a missionary by peddling across the country on bicycles to preach the Word of God. They take their missionary very seriously. That is why in Malaysia, the Muslims are wary of their activities. Both are strong religions with many followers world-wide. So, Buddhists stay out of their way.

Even though Buddhism are contended to be in second place, we must do our part to protect the religion from further erosion. One way Koreans can defend themselves from over-zealous Christians is to have faith that only in Buddhism can we really attain Enlightenment and free ourselves from the bondage of suffering within this life itself. For us, Buddhists, the godly heaven is not our final destination. Since the time of Gautama Buddha, many Buddhists have achieved Enlightenment and demonstrated their deep wisdom by elaborating and going deeper into the teachings of Gautama Buddha. Enlightened Buddhists have also understood the real nature of phenomena in ways that people of other religions can never fully comprehend. Many Christians try to understand Buddhism by studying us, but when they study, they study with a skewed view and preconception. That is why they always fail to understand the Enlightenment of the Buddha. For example, they will never fully understand what we mean by Emptiness. But it is okay. We are not interested in converting anybody. If you are interested in Buddhism, you convert yourself by making the first move. But Buddhism will never be as evangelical as the Christians. We stay true to the ideals of Buddhism and stay low to avoid conflict with any religions. It is usually other religions who find fault with Buddhism, such as the Muslims who destroyed the Bamiyan Buddha statues. Many Korean temples have been burned by these extreme Christians as you can read from many news links. Even Hwa Gye Sa temple was not spared and was said to have been burned at least 3 times in the past. The Christian President of South Korea was said to be also not "Buddhist-friendly" and allegedly implemented policies to the disadvantage of Buddhism. These are atrocious acts and I am concerned that the Korean Buddhists may one day not be able to take it anymore and but become like those Sri Lankan monks who burnt churches due to conversions to Christianity that are seen as unethical. You must remember that Sri Lanka has always been a Buddhist country for many centuries and suddenly Christianity comes in and tries to convert the Buddhists there. As Buddhists, we never practice the hatred against other religions and never regard other religions as evil. Even if Buddhist convert to other religions, we never regard these converted Buddhists as a apostate. This is unlike other religions where apostasy exist. Buddhists will tolerate as long as the conversions are not aggressively done and certainly not in the manner of hatred thrown to Buddhism by burning down our temples and saying to the Buddhists that Buddhism is an evil and incorrect religion. In that sense, these Sri Lankan monks are only retaliating against the Christians there and not because of spreading the Buddhist religion or regarding the other religion as evil. On the other hand, when people of other religions burn the Buddhist temples and statues, they are doing that in the name of their religion and regarding Buddhism as incorrect religion. Hence this is the difference between the Buddhist monks who burnt down the churches in Sri Lanka and the many Christians who vandalised and burned Buddhist temples all over Korea. So when other religions points out that all religions have extremists, I am inclined to think that yes, it's still wrong to burn down house of worship of other temples but these are acts not to be regarded in the same light as "extremists" of other religions who actually does all that in the name of religion. Buddhists do not burn down other house of worship to spread the Buddha's teachings. At least I have not heard of it. If there are, let me know. Anyway, we should never retaliate against what they did. We leave that to their own karma. We do what we can and try our best to achieve enlightenment. For it is only in achieving enlightenment that others can be convinced that the Buddha's teaching of liberation from samsara is real. Many people have achieved enlightenment in the past and many people in the future will too. Koreans must be convinced that enlightenment is real and therefore, the Buddha's message in the Four Noble Truths is real. No amount of talking can replace a true experience of enlightenment. Only in this way can we truly protect the Buddhist teaching. No point in fighting with others. But it is because of what Christianity do to Buddhism in Korea and the dire situation Korean Buddhists are facing now, that I am writing some words of encouragement to them. This blog post is to be read with this in mind.  

So, to Korean Buddhists, I have said enough. All of the above and in this paragraph are mainly written to encourage you guys not to give up so easily on the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha. These three precious jewels are more precious than anything you can find in this world and in the heaven. So, if somebody promise that you can go to heaven if you convert to their religion, say to him/her that we are not interested. It is because we already are in possession of the best and most precious of all jewels, and that is our faith in the Triple Gem. It is the only thing that can save us from the woes of rebirth. Enlightenment is real. Rebirth is real.  Do not let anyone tell you there is none. If one though can continue to the next thought, then rebirth is real. The last thought of this present life, do not just disappear or sleep. It continues into the next thought, but only thing in a different body. Stay true to Buddhism and remember to avoid evil, do good and purify the mind. For these three things are the essence of the Buddhist teachings. Most religions have the first two, but do they have the third? I am not so sure. And that is basically why we should never convert to another religion. Only in Buddhism can we find the full "tools and manual" to purify our mind to the fullest extent possible. So, Korean Buddhists, I encourage you not to give up! Om Mani Padme Hum. May All Beings be Well and Happy! 

For more info on the problems that Korean Buddhism is facing, read these links:

(note: this particular blog post is only meant for the eyes and ears of the Korean Buddhists and not for anyone else, and certainly not for people of other religions! It is not meant to find fault with other religions but only as an encouragement to fellow Buddhists)

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Master Won Hyo and the Moral Issue

You can refer to the full story of the ancient Korean Zen Master Won Hyo at various links such as this :

When I was at Mu Sang Sa, there was a wall painting of this ancient master. I was briefed by Zen Master Dae Bong on his story. I forgot exactly what I asked but think I asked ZM Dae Bong after that whether one has to go through this process of breaking through good and bad in order to reach the great perfect enlightenment. Perhaps he knew what was in my mind and immediately emphasised that Master Won Hyo did the right thing to disrobe after that and never went back to the brothel. ZM Dae Bong then said he lived in Paris at one time and Paris is a very romantic country with many pretty girls. He also had a girl friend once. And he is still a monk. His point being not every once attaining enlightenment need to go have sex at the brothel or with another woman. 

Wall Painting of Master
Won Hyo at Mu Sang Sa
And I must add that I realise yesterday that the woman that Won Hyo had sex with was a prostitute. Although I found out that he also had sex with a princess and had a son from the relationship after he disrobed, the fact was that Won Hyo was specifically led to having sex by his master. He did not go to the brothel girl out of his own desires. His master saw his ability to led hell beings and that led him to committing actions that will indeed lead him there. So, I think those sex actions were deliberately done in order to go to hell. And Master Won Hyo was well aware of that. And moreover, I found out that Master Won Hyo had such an acute bodhicitta in him that he started his own brand of Pure Land teachings for the Korean masses. He realised that meditation was probably too "unreachable" for most people and Zen had not yet reach Korea at his time. So, for Master Won Hyo, having sex was an act of great compassion. However, for present day masters who have sex, were they led to the girls due to a spiritual reason (such as to rescue those girls just like Master Won Hyo) or was it due to traces of sexual desires that still remain? I cannot answer that but this is the distinction I want to point out between Zen Master Won Hyo and other present day masters (including Tibetan Buddhist Masters) who like to use ancient master's actions or the teachings of tantra to justify their own sexual actions. Perhaps some of our present time masters have that special compassion too to commit actions that will send them to the lower realms on a compassion mission to save those beings there. Or, perhaps they could be practising a kind of Tibetan Buddhist tantra that requires a female partner. However, if we do not have that special ability and if we have not reached that level of enlightenment, then we better stick to saving sentient beings on the Planet Earth. And even if we do have that special ability and specific beings may require the masters to act in a certain "immoral" way, but our Planet Earth commonly demands that humans comply with certain decency and moral deportment, monks or otherwise. I am sure even some of our present Zen Masters have that same level of attainment as Master Won Hyo but maybe not everybody. But the principle of moral decency (in spite of bodhicitta) is true and applicable even for tantra. So, Masters still need to be discreet in their actions even though the "actions" may be correct spiritually. This issue is a very complicated one. While I cannot judge the actions of ancient or present Masters, and I respect all of them, I will remind myself of what I have posted before, i.e. Avoid Evil, Do Good & Purify the Mind. The intention of this blog post is basically to remind myself. As I said, I cannot judge the actions of ancient or present masters. I only need to make sure I do no wrong.

Note: the picture posted above of Master Won Hyo was taken by me and tells of the Master telling his friend that he need not go to China anymore.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


On 15 December 2011, the above teaching, which is the teaching of all Buddhas of the three times, had gained a deeper significance as far as I am concerned. A comment by Ven. Boon Keng had struck me that it is necessary for us to avoid non-virtuous actions, even after we have attained enlightenment. If we don’t avoid non-virtuous actions, we will have a down-fall. It is said that unless we are an eighth level Bodhisattva, then we must absolutely comply with morality. It is not to say that at levels above the eighth stage of Bodhisattva that we can ignore morality. No. Rather, at that level, good and bad are seen in the different light. Good and bad are used to help sentient beings more compassionately than ever before. So, when we hear teachings that say good and bad are transcended, it does not mean there is no good and bad anymore or there is no demarcation between what is good and what is bad. They are just regarded or used differently. At that time, we are no longer concerned with what happens to ourselves since at that time, we are no longer affected by self-interest. For breaking the precepts, we shall gladly go to the hell regions for even one sentient being. We shall have the ability to help sentient beings then. The story of the ancient Korean Zen Master Won Hyo comes to mind. I will comment on that story in a later blog. But until that level of attainment, we must comply with the common standard of morality. This is basically the message intended by Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen’s Permissions and Prohibitions, but it never gained a deeper impression until lately. Hence, for the first time, when I bowed to the Three Jewels, I actually bowed respectively to “avoid evil”, “do good” and “purify the mind”. Even though it is the most basic teaching of the Buddha, it is also the highest. Maybe I should recite this everyday so that it sticks in my mind. It is possibly the most efficacious protective "mantra" one could ever get. And there is no need for any empowerment to recite this “mantra”. Everyone should recite it daily, less we forget it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

My Visit to Mu Sang Sa, Korea

The main altar at the Buddha Hall
After my tour officially ended, my first stop the next day on a personal visit was to Mu Sang Sa. As I was staying in Seoul and not Daejeon as originally planned, my original plan to reach there before 12 noon was screwed. I had to seek some public help at the subway station near my guesthouse and also the Seoul main station to find my way to Yongsan station before going to Gye Ryong by train. The train journey took about 2 hours and I had expected only one hour. I bought the slower train due to ignorance at the ticket counter instead of the faster KTX train, which would have taken only 1 hour to reach Gye Ryong station. It was difficult to communicate in Korea as English is not commonly spoken there as widely as in Malaysia and Singapore. It was like chickens talking to ducks on many of these occasions. The few phrases that I had prepared before the trip were not enough. But thankfully Koreans are very helpful and generous people. Several of the Koreans I approached had even offered to walk us all the way to show us the direction, even though he/she was not going there in the first place. I was deeply touched by their helpful attitude. Anyway, after reaching Gye Ryong station, I took the taxi outside the station to go to Mu Sang Sa and it costs me about KRW8700.

The roof as seen from inside the Buddha Hall

Mu Sang Sa was up on the hills of Gye Ryong, slightly away from Omsa-ri, a small sub-urban town about 15 minutes travel time by car. Along the way to the temple, there was some snow at that time and the scenery was indeed peaceful. According to information publicly available, the Gye Ryong region is widely known for its spiritual energy being a fengshui balanced geography. The Zen Hall greeted us as the taxi cruised into the compound of Mu Sang Sa. We reported to the secretary on duty at the administrative office upon arrival and were quickly ushered to the dining hall for lunch. After lunch, we went back to the office where there is a small meeting room. There we had tea and some fruits with Zen Master Dae Bong. By then, there was a break and he had come out of the meditation session. I felt deeply touched by his kind gesture to take time off from the meditation retreat to talk and provide useful information on the temple buildings. He provided a tour of Mu Sang Sa and going in to most of the buildings, except for the Zen Hall where retreat participants were then under-going strict meditation schedule and are not to be disturbed.

The temples are beautifully designed both on the exterior as well as the interior. They generally reflect Korean architecture similar to other Korean temples. But the Buddha Hall had giant dragon heads on the eaves, different from the Zen Hall. These heads were also not found in Jo Gye Sa (the temple of the Jogye order located within the Seoul city) or Hwa Gye Sa (the other temple of the late Master Seung Sahn but still under the Jogye lineage or order). Along the walls on the exterior as well as interior are large mural paintings of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas or pictures that depict a certain Buddhist story. At the Buddha Hall, on the four sides of the exterior wall are paintings that depict the ten ox-herding pictures. This is a popular Zen guide to meditation practice. Mu Sang Sa was different from even Hwa Gye Sa as I was informed that Mu Sang Sa was a privately acquired asset and are not subjected the assets of the Jogye order. Local folks tell of the region having a harmonious Ying and Yang energy, represented by the dragons and phoenixes folk stories. There were also two paths coming down the mountains and one was representing the phoenix energy and the other from the opposite side representing the dragon energy. So, these energy paths envelope Mu Sang Sa in a perfect balance of harmonious fengshui, creating a suitable environment for spiritual practice. Zen Master Dae Bong explained that when Master Seung Sahn went to the site many years ago, he immediately knew that the spot was the best fengshui location. He immediately recommended that a temple be built there. It was then that efforts were made to find out more about the land ownership to enable future land acquisition. As per Zen Master Dae Bong, it started out from the current small office block. Then more buildings were added until what it is today. There are still future plans to develop Mu Sang Sa to accommodate more practitioners. As the adjacent land is said to be very expensive, any future developments will depend hugely on donations or contributions from the individuals or corporations. Thus far, from my personal observation, Mu Sang Sa has positively developed the temple site by constructing the Zen Hall, Buddha Hall, protector shrine, as well as the kitchen and accommodation block for participants coming for the summer and winter retreats. They were able to focus on their spiritual practice without much hindrance due to all these facilities. And these practitioners come from all over the world. All the retreats organised so far had been made possible due to the contributions they had received. I would urge large corporations, especially Korean large conglomerates to support the development of Mu Sang Sa as I feel that real practice is indeed going on in that temple. The temples built there are really meant for hard practice and not to build a beautiful temple or statue as tourist attraction. So, any contribution to Mu Sang Sa is indeed a contribution to the development of Buddhism and a support to serious practitioners whose goal is achieving liberation from samsara.

As the temple tour almost ended, we suddenly saw a strange plant with yellow and white flowers still in full blossom even though it is already winter. The plant should have withered in the winter chill. But weirdly, it is still surviving. Zen Master Dae Bong suggested I take a picture of it and I did. Is there a Zen significance to this phenomena? I do not know. Anyway, if this is a sign of blessing from Master Seung Sahn, then I thank him from the bottom of my heart. Only from his blessings was my trip to Korea made possible. Dinner for the retreat participants was at 4.30pm but I did not stay on for that. My partner and I thanked Dae Bong Sunim and left for the Gye Ryong train station at about 4.45pm by taxi.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Hwa Gye Sa and Mu Sang Sa

Today I returned from my trip to Korea and these two verses capture my thoughts and feelings after visiting these 2 temples which are associated with the late Zen Master Seung Sahn.
Hwa Gye Sa Temple Arch

1. Hwa Gye Sa
Abandoning likes and dislikes, practitioners focus their mind inward.
Travelling to Hwa Gye Sa to meet the Master again after many years,
Bowing deeply at the relics and stupa recalling his kindness,
The Master is no longer there, but yet his presence is everywhere.

Buddha Hall, Mu Sang Sa
2. Mu Sang Sa
Dragons and phoenixes adorn the temple of Mu Sang Sa.
They live in harmony in Mount Gye Ryong,
Protected by a Grandfather who rides on a tiger,
The lonely summer flower blooms in the winter chill.

1. The first poem describes my main purpose of travelling to Hwa Gye Sa. The dharma talk for that day was by Zen Master Dae Jin who talked about likes and dislikes and how these are impermanent concepts. While there, I was shown the former room of the late Master Seung Sahn. Many of his items are still there. Bowing at his stupa was a touching moment for me as I decided to stop corresponding with him years ago because I really did not understand what he was saying then. I decided that I should find out more and understand deeper before I write another meaningless letter to him. But ... Alas! Now that I have got a little bit of understanding, he is no longer around. But yet, I have got this feeling, that all this was made possible with his blessings. And I am not the only person who has felt his deep influence to so many people till today. In that sense, his presence is felt everywhere. The first picture shows the large arch leading to the temples inside Hwa Gye Sa.
Lonely Summer Flower

2. The second poem describes Mu Sang Sa where the Buddha Hall was adorned with many heads of Dragons. Even though I have seen temples with dragon heads before, but these heads are really very big. They reminded me of the dream I had before I had even heard of this temple. So I was quite surprised when I first discovered from a picture in the internet before my trip that Mu Sang Sa has the same big dragon heads as the temple in my dream. So I said I got to go see it for myself. But that was about October 2010, i.e. last year. It was only this year that I heard of the name "Mu Sang Sa". Very strange. There are also many phoenixes, especially the inner side of the temple roof. I was informed by Zen Master Dae Bong that the spiritual energy at the temple site, which is at Mount Gye Ryong, is strong owing to the harmony of Ying and Yang “chi”. I was informed that the local Korean folks believe in the protection of a local spirit pictured as an old man with a tiger (rarely as an old woman). When Buddhism came, he was regarded as a protector and Buddhist temples often has a separate shrine for him. While there in the temple, myself and Zen Master Dae Bong saw a small plant that should have been dead by then due to the cold winter conditions. I was told it usually grows in the hotter season. It was the only plant with flowers there. The other plants around it were dead (withered), except that one. Zen Master Dae Bong suggested I take a picture of it for posterity. And I did. So it was indeed a strange sight.The second picture is the Buddha Hall at Mu Sang Sa. The third picture is that of the flower plant that still survive the winter. As you can see, it is not surrounded by other similar plant. All photos here are taken by me.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Peaceful Means May Not Always Be Appropriate

Have you heard of the extreme of peace? It is referring to the performance of non-violence in inappropriate situations. There may be circumstances in life whereby you need to take immediate action, even if it is a little violent, in order to have the correct response to the situation. It is not always appropriate to adopt non-violent way. In fact certain actions such as fasting till death can be tantamount to be misuse of peace. Just like anger, Zen Master Dae Bong explained that once Zen Master Seung Sahn explained that using anger in the proper way can be very compassionate. He called it "BIG LOVE" anger. He gave a situation whereby a mother would actually need to shout at her child and pull him away immediately from a boiling kettle that he was going to touch. Even though it can be a little violent, it was appropriate for the situation and it was an expression of love and compassion. Peaceful means, such as negotiation, will have been inappropriate in this situation. By the time you have finished talking, the child would have touched the hot kettle and would have got burnt. But "BIG LOVE" anger does not perpetuate. After pulling the child away, the anger subsides and you can see the mother hugging the child. She may scold the child a little but that's it. That's "BIG LOVE" anger. But if she lets her anger perpetuates inside her and keep on scolding the child the whole day after that, then it turns into "ATTACHMENT" anger. See how it changes?

That's why Master Seung Sahn is not so fixated by "ahimsa" or "non-violent" ways, instead he advices that we should have the correct action/function and the correct relationship to the correct situation. In more common words, it is doing the right thing at the right time and the right place. If the correct situation calls that we need to fight, we fight. You get what the master means? If hungry, eat. If tired, rest. That's what zen masters always say. Doing the right things, at the right time and place. That's Zen. That's also Mahamudra. The masters always remind us it's nothing more special than that. I remember Master Hsuan Hua used to say, "There is no fixed dharma. If the dharma is fixed, then it is a dead dharma". A fixed "right view" is a dead view. It is a one size fits all approach. But we know that one size does not fit all. Responding to situations in life is also the same. We cannot apply the same approach in all situations. Peaceful means can be applied in most situations, but not all unfortunately. And if peaceful means fail, we may need to resort to other means. It's is terrible but sometimes that is the facts of life. On a smaller scale, in the working life, sometimes situations may warrant that we be a little aggressive in the way we deal with some colleagues. This is not to bully others, but to prevent others from bullying us. So, sometimes we need to show a tougher self. But we should never act in violent ways if it is inappropriate. If it is an expression of attachment anger, then already you have the wrong attitude and can only result in more bad karma. And more suffering.    

So, I leave you with this thought. Does it make sense?

Sunday, November 20, 2011

How do we ascertain any view is right or wrong?

Question from someone in a forum: -

How do we know whether a particular view is right or wrong? Hence it is first and foremost to know "How do we know whether a data is NOT garbage data?" => "How do we know whether a particular view is right or wrong?" Kindly enlighten me.

My attempted answer that was not replied to the questioner but only posted here: -

1) Adopt an “auditor’s” mindset so that you don’t listen to only views of one particular side/view or tradition. Be open and independent (i.e. do not be judgmental) in your attitude. Listen to any view that comes. In Buddhist texts, this is explained by the analogy of the 3 kinds of vessels. This is referring to the vessel that is already full or contain toxic water inside. Whatever additional nectar poured into it will spill out or will be equally poisonous. The vessel should also not be upside down, i.e. you are not ready to be open and consider that view could be possibly true. A leaking vessel is when we hear a particualr view but dismiss it almost immediately, without any proper analysis.

2) Then subject the “view” to the tests much like the scientific lab tests that a scientist performs to verify and confirm his theory. By “testing”, it involves comparing, contrasting and analysis of the consequences, and other research on that view. In spiritual context, this means,

a) testing it against existing views from the classical spiritual texts and great masters.
b) testing it against common sense,
c) testing it against other religions views
d) testing it against scientific theories
e) research on the epistemology, ontology and other aspects of that view
f) put the view to practice and see what is the end results. This is called “walking the path to know its destination”. But one must be careful in case the destination proves to be the wrong one and it may be too late sometimes to pull out or back track.

 Notice that testing does not involve “asking the guru” because “testing” does not involve merely believing something. If you want to test something, you must put aside your devotion and all other personal views. “Auditor’s mindset” mentioned above is important.

3) We need blessings from the Buddhas and lots of positive karma. Without these, you will not be able to understand the “right view” even if it is presented to you on a golden plate. There is also the likelihood of misinterpreting the view or coming to the wrong conclusion even after all the tests done. The less delusion you have, the more likelihood you will come to the right conclusion. This third factor is the “unknown or variable” factor and is common in almost all equations. Hence, the importance of engaging in meritorious deeds, purification and repentance practices (i.e. cutting down on our negative actions, purifying our mind) and doing our preliminaries well before any realization can happen.

I hope this helps. The above are only my sincere attempt to answer and if you think it is not correct, please then ignore it as if you did not read it. May everyone be well and happy.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Mo divination was accurate

Today I checked a Tibetan Mo divination for a relative who went to the hospital to take her biopsy test results. She has had some 14 polyps removed from her colon. And she feared the worst. And I was worried too. The Mo divination showed positive results and indicated a successful sign. Just to be sure, I changed the question slightly and asked about her health in a more general way. It gave a different answer. It was negative, something like there is still need to take caution for in the long term the health may not be so good. I did not understand the divination and not sure which to believe. Was it going to be good or bad? In the evening, after talking to the relative, then only I understood the answer given by the Mo divination. The relative confirmed the positive news that there was no cancer. However, she needed to take precaution on her lower stomach area because that area is still very vulnerable. Hence, both Mo divination on the two different questions turn out to be correct.

I am happy for my relative. At least in the short term, she is going to be fine. It is a cause for celebration. And indeed I was thinking of telling her that tomorrow is the day the Buddha descended from Trayatimsa Heaven after having gone there to preach to his late mother, who had been reborn in heaven. Refer my blog post on Nov. 18th, 2008 for details of this holy event. And that my relative should be a vegetarian to celebrate her temporarily cancer-free status. For throughout the duration, from 10th to 17th November, to honour this holy occasion, I remained meatless, and will be so tomorrow.   

Friday, November 11, 2011


Today, 10th November, 2011 is the full moon day, marking the Buddha's acceptance to descend from Trayatimsa Heaven after spending some time preaching there. And on the 17th November, that's the day he actually descended. I have blogged about this event in the past and you can refer to my previous blog posts on "holy days" to read them again.

Anyway, I take this occasion to wish my dearest Lama Zopa Rinpoche to stop manifesting the stroke and perform self-healing. Perhaps if Osel Hita Rinpoche were to start actively involved in Buddhism again, then he will self-heal even faster. This is a prompt for him to act now! Osel Hita must start thinking of us, ordinary sentient beings! It really does not matter if he thinks of himself as an ordinary sentient beings too. We don't think that he is. And he should take that opportunity to benefit us by re-connecting with all of us again. But  anyway, we cannot force him, right? It's our karma. We got to practice ourselves and achieve enlightenment. That's the best offering you can give your guru. And that is exactly what I aim to do. So, I pray , pray, and pray that Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche will quickly self-heal!

And o-yes... realised that by the time I post this message, it's the next day.... so... Happy 11.11.11 too!

Om Mani Padme Hum

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Gayness is not the issue, attachment is!

Referring to this news which is the hot topic now in Malaysia, and the other news of certain opposition to the Elton John concert to be held in Malaysia just because of his gayness (refer news links below), I think it is silliness for certain segments of the Malaysian community to be so strongly anti-gay/lesbian. I have written before on this issue (refer blog on Aug. 16th, 2011) and it is clearly very possible for a gay or lesbian to be free from attachment despite their external sexual orientation/appearance. It is no longer a hindrance to such people. And one clear example is the woman (who lives with another woman, but have 2 daughters on her earlier marriage) who is said to be in a same-sex relationship for many years but is a Zen Master in her own right. She is Zen Master Soeng Hyang. Refer her bio in wikipedia. She is now the school teacher of Kwan Um School of Zen, founded by Zen Master Seung Sahn.
Refer ttp://

And you can refer to this link for some of her dharma talks. Listen to them and you can then decide whether she lives up to her title as a Zen Master.... Or, whether you think she has as much attachment as you and me.
Check "the mustard seed":

So, please stop marginalising people due to their external sexual appearance and stop discriminating against them! Remember: the message "Love is okay, attachment is not" applies to both the homosexual as well as the heterosexual groups. Even I say this, that does not mean I support that group. As I mentioned in a previous blog, I think that there is no need for any parade or street protest or anything like that. I am not sure how to explain until I came across something Neil Patrick Harris said recently. He said that gays and lesbians and be gays and lesbians without having to make any statements. In other words, you do not need to make your gender preference stick out in the public like a sour thumb. Put in another way, there is no need to wear a shirt with large words printed on it "I AM GAY". That's making undue attention to the LGBT group.

Refer news:-


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Life is

I have 2 poems to share. Wrote them today. I'll let you think of their intended message, if any.

Mind clear like space

When chanting,
Just chant.
When meditating,
Just meditate.
When doing,
Just do.
When knowing,
Just know.
No Tibetan Buddhism,
No Zen Buddhism,
No Theravada Buddhism.
Mind clear like space.

Life is

Life is..
this much,
that much,
so much.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Religions and Politics: How to help a nation?

The central of Thailand and certain parts of the city of Bangkok had been deluged with flood water over the past one week or more. And it had so far killed about 400 people. Cries of desperation had been heard. People in other countries are collecting money to help them. However, the Thai people do not actually need money. Nor do they need food. They have plenty of these. The problem is the food and other daily necessities cannot reach them due to the flood. That's the problem when a nation is faced with such huge natural disaster. There are calls from various people and religions to pray for them. There was even one call to do battle with the force of nature. 

I find this rather strange because we are not able and will never be able to battle the force of nature. That is because the force of nature is just a manifestation of the people in it. It is the group karma (or national karma as I wrote once in a previous blog post) we are talking about. And group karma is usually very strong and not easily pacified with individual karmic strength. We don't combat them. It is the wrong word to use. The right word to use is "pacify". And how do we pacify the force of nature?

It is actually very simple. But hard to implement. The whole nation or the majority of the people affected by the natural disaster must apologise and say "sorry" for whatever wrong doings they have done in the past. Karma is never wrong. So, when we Buddhists say things like "combat with nature", we are actually implying these natural phenomena like floods or earthquakes are inflicted by others, for example by God or other entities. Even if it is caused by other entities, with regard such a wide scale destruction, it is never without the accompanying negative karma of the people affected. So, the first step to ease the flood is in fact to adopt the "I am sorry" attitude, and not "I will combat you" attitude. If you have the later attitude, already the first thing you do is wrong. So, how can the mantras you recite work?

Whenever we recite the Vajrasattva mantra, we must do it with the four powers, of which regret is one of them. "Regret" is just the "I am sorry" attitude. As a nation and people, think what was the thing that you guys have done wrong? Perhaps not working together harmoniously as a nation? Perhaps, the politicians are more interested in holding large scale protests and jamming up the streets, airport and economy? Perhaps there are people, especially the politicians who are more interested in maintaining power or grabbing power for themselves, rather than contributing to the interest of the nation even without any positions? And are people supporting a political candidate just because they like him/her despite knowing he/she does not have any actual ability to govern a nation? So, all these do have consequences to the national/society's karma. 

One of the most important area to improve a nation's general karma is in the area of politics. And Buddhists do have a role to play even in politics, including monks and nuns. In the days of the Buddha, the politics then were feudal and the ordinary citizens do not have much voice in the day to day governance of the nation. But today absolute monarchies are rare. And ordinary citizens have a role to play in a democratic nation. A good and responsible government elected by the people will ensure the continued support and prosperity of the religion. But if you have a communist party taking over the nation, you will faced with dire consequences to any spiritual practice, just as what happened to Buddhism and other religions in China during the Cultural Revolution of the Communist Party of China. Lots of Buddhist temples and Buddhist scriptures were destroyed. Is that what you want to happen to Buddhism in the future? If that is what you mean when you say that religious people should be free from politics, think again. The truth is, in today's contexts at least, religious people can never be 100% free from their responsibility to do their part in supporting the right government or opposing those that are not. In a democratic nation, for example, the monks and nuns should still come out and do their part in a general election to cast their votes. Otherwise, if a bad government comes to rule and administer the nation, they also have to be partly to blame as others who supported the bad government party. 

I advocate certain limited involvement of religious people in politics and not wholesale involvement. Some limited involvement in politics by religious personalities is in fact good for the nation. This is in line with the concept of the Middle Path advocated by the Buddha and the Bodhisattva concept of not abandoning samsaric beings. The Buddhists like to cite the concept of renunciation as a reason for not getting involved in politics at all. But this is not likely to be correct as total renuncation does not mean having a "don't care, don't bother" attitude. A little involvement is necessary to balance renunciation and focus on spiritual practice. As I have mentioned, you can be involved in the election process once every few years. And you can make your disagreement with national policies heard through the proper channels. That is perhaps all a religious person needs to be involved in. But not taking to the streets until the economy and peace of the nation is affected. Certainly not be involved actively in any political party activities nor taking part in national policy debates and all that.  But we can give advice if necessary. However, how far should a religious person involved in politics is never fixed. There is no rule of thumb. It will have to depend on the situation. And no one can really tell for sure. And yes, sometimes it may even have to involve sacrifice and defending the nation in some skillful ways. I use the word skillful to be in line with how the Buddha did to prevent war waged by the Kosambis against his Sakya tribe. The Buddha never lifted a single weapon except the weapon of compassion. Unfortunately, that was not enough to prevent war. So, religious involvement with politics should never be encouraged till it has to resort to military means. Monks should never have to carry arms. The present situation in Tibet, Sri Lanka and the past histories of Japan and China are replete with examples of monks who got involved heavily in politics. We should realise that when these monks carry weapon, they are not wearing the hat of a religious monk, but that of a nationalist. We must distinguish their two different roles. It is the same with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. He was playing two roles at the same time until recently when he gave up the role as political head. I feel that it is a step in the right direction of separating these 2 roles. He cans till advice the Prime Misniter but the Prime Minister must take full responsibility and make his own decisions.

So, we can see that there were many cases of religious people who involved themselves in politics in a major way. But by and large, there is no need to go to that extent. Most of the time, just a little bit of involvement will suffice. And the rest of the time, they should concentrate on their spiritual practice, instead of meddling in politics. As Buddhists, it is better not to wear the hat of a nationalist for far too long. It may have a negative impact on our spiritual practice. To sum up, I think there is still a role to play in the politics of a nation by any religious person. But to think that religions can be absolutely free from politics is naive, if not irresponsible. Buddhists should make it a point to support the right leaders. Look at Korea for instance. It is because the people elected a Christian as their president that at times, it seems like the Buddhist interests are not being taken care of. In the meantime, Christianity is prospering there. As I said, there is no need for Buddhists (especially monks) to form a political party. Just exercise your voting rights in the right way to ensure continued support for Buddhism. I am not writing all these with any particular nation in mind. Even though I mentioned Thailand, Korea and Tibet above, the advice and views given here in this blog post is general in nature. It can be applied to any country.
By the right involvement in shaping the politics of the nation, and with the right advice given to politicians, religious people can make a positive influence to the peace as well as the spiritual welfare of the nation. That will enhance the national karma and will ultimately reduce the incidences of destruction by the so-called "forces of nature". Actually nature has no force, it acts in accordance with the karma of the people. If the people is peaceful and have positive values and the society is generally virtuous, and the politicians and citizens live in harmony, then heaven and earth will be in harmony too. Everything will be in harmony when the people are virtuous and morally upright. Think about it. 

So, if you are in the middle of a flood crisis, try to ease the situation with saying "sorry" for whatever wrong you have done in the past. Think of something wrong that you have done. For example, have you been selfish to somebody? Have you been stubborn and refuse to support a good politician even though you know he is a good politician? Have you been greedy for something? Have you been unreasonable with someone? Think, think. Only you yourself know what you have done wrong. With that "I am sorry" attitude in you, and multiply that with the number of people living in your area, things will surely improve. Together, it collectively forms a good positive karma and that is the best way to pacify destruction by nature, i.e. by a positive change in our attitude. 

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What is Your Mantra?

This is a poem I wrote dedicated especially to Zen Master Seung Sahn for the blessings and compassion he showed me years ago and still do even though he has gone beyond into our "Don't know mind". Besides telling of my re-connection with the Korean Zen group, it also tells us that traditions are harmonious when our mind is in harmony. Initially I do not understand it too, but now a little understanding emerges. When our mind is not in harmony, everything else is not in harmony. And I feel so blessed. As in all other mantra,  it is not meant to be mouthed alone. If you regard it as a koan, it falls short of the real intention. The mantra below is meant to convey a message, and not meant to be recited. Mantras are meant to be lived, i.e. living mantra. As Master Seung Sahn said many times, "Keep the don't know mind. Just do it and save all sentient beings from suffering." Thank you so much! The poem is presented in a style that is both Tibetan as well as Zen Buddhism. Most of the words used have been chosen with care because there is a meaning to them. I'll explain in due time. Meanwhile, enjoy it.

What is your mantra?

E Ma Ho!
With seeds planted many years ago,
Perhaps even longer,
From beyond the grave,
the leafy trees at Hwa Gye Sa finally grows in Hoeh Beng Shi
Crossing space,
Traversing time,
Now providing shade to this wretched mind.
Who could believe such wondrous miracle?
Such deep compassion!
Now spring time is here, the air is fresh.
The old fox beckons from far away.
I put my palms together in gratitude to my teachers.
Bodhidharma chats happily with Padmasambhava,
Shinran sits here watching in Sukhavati.
And Sakyamuni Buddha holds a flower.

Dogs’ mantra is “Wow- wow”.
Cats’ mantra is “Meow-meow”.
What is your mantra?

Om Only Don’t Know Svaha!
Om Only Don’t Know Svaha!
Om Only Don’t Know Svaha!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Importance of Supporting the Sangha ...Too!

Two days ago, I informed a former colleague of mine of a coming Kathina event at a local temple. I knew he is a Buddhist still struggling to find his footing in Buddhism. He is not active in Buddhism but wants to learn about Buddhism but yet I think he does not have enough motivation to keep it going in that direction. So, I thought it might be good if he stops by at the Kathina at the temple not very far from his home. (note: Kathina is mostly celebrated in the Theravada tradition when the robes and other requisites are offered to the Sangha. Kathina is celebrated after the vassa period that marked the end of the rainy period)

Upon hearing that, he said "No... I rather contribute to those who really needs them", implying it is more worthy to support the orphanage, home for the aged and sick, associations for the mentally handicapped, and other such organisations. I did not dispute that these organisations are worthy of support but I told him that the Sangha is still the third Jewel and is one of the key important pillars of Buddhism. And by Sangha I did not only meant the monks and nuns, but also the entire community of Buddhist monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen. I told him I always have a philosophy of supporting both these organisations and Buddhism. I said that it is important to support and contribute to Buddhism as well, even if it is just a little bit, to stay connected to Buddhism. We want to ensure in our future lives, we continue to have that relationship and connection with the Buddha dharma. Otherwise, I reasoned to him that we might find ourselves reborn as non-Buddhists, and as non-Buddhists, our enlightenment or Buddhahood will be uncertain. Anyway, in order to truely help these "special communities", we need to be liberated from samsara ourselves. I told him to think about it.

He thought for awhile and in the end, nodded in agreement. I wanted to confirm again and asked him "What I just said, does that make sense to you?" Again he said "Yes". I was happy that I manage to "convert" a non-supporting Buddhist to a one who agreed to be one. Then he disclosed to me that in his family, he is the only Buddhist and that everyone else has gone to Christianity. He said with some pride that he is still "holding the fort". Then I suggested to him that perhaps it is not very wise to fight to convert them to Buddhism. Instead he should instill some Buddhist elements into their Christian lives, because Christianity as a religion and Buddhist principles are not contradictory. In other words, a person can be a Christian but yet believe in some principles like non-killing, non-lying, loving-kindness, compassion for all beings, equanimity, letting go and others. That's because these are not necessarily Buddhist principles... and even if they are, they will blend well with the Christian religion. He did not get my point and said, "No, it does not work...". We talked a little bit more before we parted ways. At the back of my mind, I was just glad I did my part to convince him that he need to show some support to Buddhist activities. I believe he is not alone in having this kind of thinking. I have heard others talked in the same way before. Therefore, I was glad I did my part in correcting that wrong perception. That wrong perception explained why in the past he did not support me when I approached him for some contributions to a Buddhist event. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Life is short; Seek your enlightenment

Today I wished someone close to me a birthday wish. I said, "Happy Birthday!" but it comes with a short message which says "Life is short. Seek your enlightenment." I told him I hope he knows what it means and I am confident he does. At least it will linger in his mind for a while. I think this is one of my most meaningful birthday greetings I have ever wished anyone. That short message basically is a reflection of my own thoughts for myself. That's what I am feeling right now. Feeling vulnerable and that time is running short. I don't knoiw why.  Lam Rim setting in? Or am I just getting old? I don't know.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Anita Mui's rendition of The Heart Sutra

I like this cantonese version by the late songstress and actress of Hong Kong. Her sultry and husky voice adds to its uniqueness, especially the last part when she sang the mantra. I thought I like Faye Wong's mandarin version but when I heard this version, I thought this version twiched my heart a little. Is there a version in English sang by a Buddhist Western singer? Won't that be astounding? Anyway, I pray by the merit of singing this song Anita Mui would have had a good rebirth. Enjoy even if you do not understand cantonese! Just listen to the melody.

Here are other versions I find interesting: -

1. Pop version in Japanese (quite comical too, anime version):
2. Rock version in Japanese (by the same person):
3. Said to be samba version(?), for me it sounds like Jazz version:
4. A cute Scottish remix version (probably the same person responsible - Miku Hatsune - for all the above is also responsible for this):
There are also the Indian remix, Techno, and other kinds musical versions, probably done by the same person, but I can't be sure about it. Seems like a very creative way of spreading a Buddhist Sutra. Just hope that it is used in the proper way.
5. Chant Version in English by a Western Zen monk (he really chant it!):
6. Chant version in Korean (I like the melody in Korean):
7. Chant version in Tibetan:
8. Faye Wong's version for you to compare (her voice is so sweet):
9. Imee Ooi's sanskrit version:
10. Imee Ooi's mandarin rendition:
11. Another Chinese singer's version, Chyi:
12. A Tibetan version sang by Yangjin Luma, indeed she has voice of heaven (listen for yourself):
13. A non-anime version by a Japanese rock band:
14. A chant version in sanskrit by a layman:
15. A beautiful mix between traditional Korean chanting and music using a flute by a talented Korean musician:
16. Another cantonese rendition, slightly faster with a canto-pop beat thrown in by the Hong Kong pop sensation, Eason Chan:

Since today is the Bodhisattva of Compassion Kuan Yin's holy day according to the Buddhist lunar calendar, I thought sharing all these different renditions of the Heart Sutra and various chant versions in one blog post would be good to spread the positive vibe generated by such a core Mahayana Sutra. I pray that by this action, and may you by hearing them, may all sentient beings be liberated soonest and achieve the Unsurpassed, Complete and Perfect Enlightenment. I hope you guys like this post. :)  

Monday, October 10, 2011

Khensur Lama Lhundrup's Relics

Referring to my previous post dated September 16th, where I dreamt of Khensur Lama Lhundrup in blissful form, that dream was several years ago. Since that dream, I already have suspected he had achieved enlightenment. Today we are informed by the Kopan monastery and shown a picture of the former Kopan Abbot's relics. The relics are really beautiful. See picture posted here. 

Saturday, October 8, 2011

A Buddhist Tribute to Steve Jobs

This is my little tribute to Steve Jobs who has done the whole world of Buddhist proud by his innovative skills. He had a Zen teacher by the name of Kobun Chino and had visited a few Zen centres. This was reported in various internet news. He had also sought spirituality in India and visited Japan and that was probably where he encountered Zen Buddhism. I will be looking forward to the digital publication of an online comic book detailing his experiences in Japan by Forbes Magazine. His biography due in a few weeks should be interesting too. By his sheer focus and simplicity that are the hallmarks of Zen Buddhism, he was responsible for producing the iphone and ipad that has enabled many of us to quickly receive dharma messages and also replying to them. With these devices we are also able to listen to dharma lectures more conveniently without having to bring in separate gadgets. For example, that message from Khenchen Rinpoche I posted recently was sent by him using an ipad. Amazing that even Lamas are using Apple products! But whether the devices themselves are good or bad, as in most other things, it depends on how and what we use it for, right? For example, we have to train our fingers not to be so trigger happy to reply instantly. Replying without thinking through may land us in deep trouble. We must think first before we reply so quickly. Anyway, even though he may not be a practicing Buddhist as Robert Thurman said (although I am not too sure how Thurman could make that judgement that he was not one), still from the fact that he is a Buddhist, he has got the entire world buzzing about Buddhism and how it has shaped the Apple products. Apple has been on the forefront of innovative smart gadgets in modern times. With the knowledge that he was a Buddhist, it will never be the same again the next time we touch an ipad or use an iphone. We will know that these products were the result of the inspiration and vision of a Buddhist. This is what normal, working lay Buddhists should be, i.e. to turn our daily work and job into something that benefit many people. Buddhism is not only about wanting to be monks and nuns. There are so many ways to be a Buddhist. And Steve Jobs had shown us his way of being a Buddhist.

So, for that much, and perhaps more, I salute him and the honor his great products have indirectly brought to Buddhism. Thank you. May Buddha bless him for a rebirth back as a human to create more products that will benefit all sentient beings in a positive way.

Photo sourced from

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Protectors in Theravada tradition

The fourth group of devas used are dakinis, dharmapalas and lokapalas. These deities correspond to the devas found in Hindu tantra, Mahakala/Kali etc: but they are used as protectors and clearer of obscurations on the path of enlightenment. So the 10 Mahavidyas (with the exception of Tara) are not givers of enlightenments, but rather helpers on the way who clear away obstacles to practice and enlightenment in Vajrayana. So even with the group of devas (which seem to converge and to a greater degree to Hindu dieties) their use is totally different. They are not even similar. But even Sri Lanka Theravada uses Indra as a Dharmapala (protector of dharma), so such use of Hindu deity is found in all Buddhist tradition.

My comment: In many Theravada Buddhist temples, there are statues of Devas around the main Buddha statue or outside the door leading to the shrine. These are their protectors. So, Theravada Buddhists should not feel shocked when Tibetan Buddhists perform smoke offering to deities such as Ganapathi or to the Naga Kings. These are practices to be regarded as "treats" to them so that they clear our obstacles to dharma practice. I think most Tibetan Buddhists are equally aware not to take refuge in them. I post here some pictures I took of statues of devas and devis (gods and goddesses with a small "g"; other religions may prefer the word "angels" instead) at a local Theravada temple. Notice the vajra pestle that the gods are holding. Click on the images to view enlarged version. These images belong to me.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Message no. 1 from Khenchen Rinpoche

The below is a message from Lama Khenchen Konchog Gyaltsen. I felt happy I received it. Sharing with you here:-

I hope and pray that you are well.  I think of you in my meditations.  We are very fortunate having this precious human life and taking refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and following the path... Usually I can't write long letters because I don't know how to type but today I have a good secretary so I'm taking the opportunity to say a few things. 

Without the Dharma our life in samsara is only suffering or a condition of suffering and we create more causes of suffering.  We are also very smart creating the causes of suffering.  Since we have the Dharma in our life it gives us wisdom to penetrate the reality nature of the causes of suffering and causes of peace and happiness in this life and eventually for complete enlightenment.  So it is for our own benefit and for others as well that we utilize this precious human life as best as possible.  This precious human life is a venue to do all the good things. 

First, take a deep breath and release all the tension both physically and mentally and then contemplate all phenomena which is composite.  The nature of impermanence and the nature of disintegration.  Including our human body.  So by contemplating this, purify all attachment and anger. 

Second, this samsara is a state of suffering.  Either suffering of suffering, suffering of change or in the condition of suffering.  So contemplate this carefully and those who are suffering in the world, physically or mentally, including our enemies, develop sincere compassion wishing them to be free from suffering and to achieve complete enlightenment. 

Third, these manifestations, happiness and suffering within impermanence, are based on causes and conditions .  Nothing functions independently.  All are in the constitution of causes and conditions.  And all the causes and conditions are infallible.  So it is to our own benefit using our empirical wisdom, avoiding and purifying all the causes of suffering and creating and accumulating all the causes of peace and happiness.  As an example, avoiding the ten non virtues and practicing the ten virtues.  

With this understanding, we take refuge in the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and keep the moral ethics.  This makes the person pure and a subject of respect.  And then, having kept the moral ethics well, for ones own benefit to free from samsara, cultivate Bodhicitta, the mind of enlightenment for all others.  Based on sincere loving kindness and compassion.  Remind yourself of this practice every day and every moment when you are working or sitting.  This will give us wisdom and courage to do good things in our daily life and for others.  This altruistic thought inspired all the Buddhas of the past and the present.  They adopted this mind, the universal mind of bodhicitta, and they applied and practiced it in their lives and they attained Buddhahood and benefited countless sentient beings.  We can also take that example and inspire ourselves and follow the path.  So when we do these practices, our main focus is to purify all the mental afflictions.  For example ignorance, anger, pride, jealousy and so forth.  They are called the three poisons or five poisons and so forth.  They are the root cause of all our suffering and conflict for the individual and for society.  Without touching base on this no matter how much we try the real peace and happiness is impossible to attain.  This kind of experience is shared by all sentient beings.  So Dharma gives us this wisdom to understand the reality nature of suffering and happiness.  The Dharma has also great method and skill to tackle all these causes of suffering.

To purify these obscurations and mental delusions, the Vajrayanna teaching gives great skill.  Through this method, one gets the opportunity to manifest into the form of the deities which is called Yidam practice.  Inseparable of appearance and emptiness.  With this we repeatedly manifest into the Yidam deity and dissolve into emptiness based on ultimate bodhicitta that is supported by moral ethics. 

Here I mention a few words of the purpose of the practice.  There are many other books translated as a reference on how to practice.  I want you to have real peace and happiness and to be free from confusion and ignorance which are the root cause of suffering.  I will say prayers for your good health and successful meditation practice. If you'd like you may place this letter on your Facebook or web page.

Khenchen K. Gyaltshen

Longlife prayer for Khenchen-la:-
In the village of Tsari, prayer flags are flown and victory banners raised,
Searching for the stainless ambrosia for sentient beings,
You honour the great kagyu masters with a garland of mahamudra,
Great Preceptor, You who is equal to the three jewels, please live long for eons and eons!

Sunday, September 25, 2011


Someone wrote in an email, that :

What is faith exactly? The Abhidharmakosha tells us:

"Faith is full confidence in the law of karma, cause and effect, in the Four Noble Truths and in the Three Jewels. It is also aspiration for spiritual attainment, and a clear-minded appreciation of the truth."

There is another type of faith that is a combination of traditional faith, wisdom and awakening. It is called SHINJIN in Shin Buddhism. In order to have SHINJIN, we need to let go of our petty little ego and submerge ourselves in Amitabha's Vows of benefitting all beings.  When there is SHINJIN, Sukhavati is not somewhere else. It is right here and now. I share with you a poem on SHINJIN:-

Amida is truly amazing,
By His blessings,
I perform Amida's work.
In turn, Amida performs my work.
Amida and I -
Different and yet not different.
No Amida,
No I,
There is only Shinjin.
Namu Amida Butsu.

Take care, keep a clear mind always and save all sentient beings!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Panacea of Pure Nectar

The below is a prayer written by Yang Teng Tulku (from Sera Me) and translated by Jampa Jaffe for clearing away Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche's illness and other obstacles. It is a lovely prayer and I have extracted out the English version below for easy access and reading, instead of opening pdf file from the FPMT website everytime you want to read it. You can just come here to read it.

Panacea of Pure Nectar
Playing out your magical drama of all the Conquerors' three secrets -
Sole refuge, kind lama, Holder of the White Lotus - Tenzin Gyatso,
To you, from my heart I request: here, now,
Bestow the bountiful attainment of boundless virtue and well-being.

Through you, the youthful and smiling turquoise spiritual goddess - Tara,
Arisen from TAM withn a shimmering shelter of five-coloured light,
May Lama Zopa Rinpoche, consummate holder of Buddha's doctrine,
Have unwavering life, his awakening deeds spreading far and wide.

Through you, primodial lord, originator from whom all lineages proceed,
Spiritual father Manjushri - Lama Tsongkhapa,
May Lama Zopa Rinpoche, consummate holder of Buddha's doctrine,
Have unwavering life, his awakening deeds spreading far and wide.

Through you, a majestic chain of golden mountains -
The succession of the practice transmission of Ganden,
May Lama Zopa Rinpoche, consummate holder of Buddha's doctrine,
Have unwavering life, his awakening deeds spreading far and wide.

O fierce king of Vajrabhairava's assembly of deities,
Wrathful one of the three realms - Yamantaka,
Crush to utter dust the inner and outer dangers
To Lama Zopa Rinpoche, consummate holder of Buddha's doctrine.

Through you, the timely triumphant King of Medicine,

And your healing nectar-compound that alleviates all ills,
May the elements of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, consummate holder of Buddha's doctrine
Be ever stable, his life-essence ever strong.

O mighty Lord of Death and your aiding allies,
Who care for the followers of the Yellow Hat as though your own child,
Instantly dispel the inner, outer, and unseen obstacles,
To Lama Zopa Rinpoche, consummate holder of Buddha's doctrine.