Friday, June 24, 2011

Helping A Cancer Patient

Below is the message from a friend who had just been diagnosed with cancer and my personal reply to her.
Dear All,

Thank you so much for the hamper and speedily recovery "ang pow". I am very touch by all your kindness, love , care & support to help me fight the battle.

When yesterday Dr told me that I am diagnose as (L) Hemicolectomy T3N1 m0 stage 3 & I will need to go for further treatment , I was so numb, sad, depress and asking myself why this is happening to me? Stage 3!!!

That time I was so depressed & thinking of giving up this battle. But, then I know I MUST keep n fighting for MYSELF, MY FAMILY, FRIENDS , COLLEAGUES and those who are standing beside me , giving me love, support & care and I will continue to fight the battle and survive......

Thank you so much.

Dear PL,

Hi… it’s nice for you to write to us. But to be frank, when I first got your email, I was like stunned, speechless and shocked. I share with you how you feel. However I am happy and glad that you now realize that you need to continue to be in a happy state of mind. That is very important. So, continue with that positive spirit!

Last Friday, I watched the Cantonese movie “Wait till You’re Older” portrayed by Andy Lau. In the movie, his character drank a magic portion that made him grow older faster. From a 7 year old kid, he became a 17 year old teenager overnight. He was joyous and thought that he had skipped all those frustrating years as a small kid. His mum had died and his father remarried and he hates his step-mother very much.  He thought that being older meant that he can leave his home and live on his own. Little did he realize that by drinking that magic portion, it also makes him become a 70 year old man within 3 days. He realized his folly but it was too late. He searched for that wizard who made the portion and demanded that he turned him back into his former self. That wizard replied to him that unfortunately, life is a one way street and there is no turning back. And he advised that even if one has only one day left to live, he/she must continue to make the most out of it. So, Andy Lau, by the third day became a 70 year old man and realized that there’s no point in being depressed with his situation. He realized that he had no time to waste and need to make amends with his family and tried to reconcile with his father and his step-mother. He apologized for his mistakes and successfully reconciled with his family before he passed on. The thing about this movie that struck me and made such a huge impact on me is the line – “life is a one way street and there is no turning back ”. Those were the exact words used in the movie. And I think it is true that no matter if we have another 70 years or 7 days, we need to live life positively and use it to make positive impact on the lives of others.  There’s no point in being sad.

Anyway, while you are encouraged to be positive and fight the cancer, it is also beneficial if you recognize the impermanence of all lives. No matter how long we live, we will die one day. In Buddhism, we are taught by the Buddha that we should think that our lives are very short, so that we take our lives more seriously and use whatever time we have to practice Buddhism to gain final freedom from birth and death. And because of practicing good deeds as well as shunning negative actions, we accumulate merits to gain a higher rebirth, instead of being reborn as a hungry ghost, animal or hell-being. Death is inevitable. That’s the teaching of the Buddha. Whether we have cancer or not, one must prepare oneself for death from the time we are born. But people generally do not know how to prepare themselves for their next rebirth. They just want to live on and on. Unfortunately, eventually everyone dies and then they find themselves being reborn in a worst situation than current life as a human. If you want a better life in your next life, we have to start accumulating merits, or good karma. But  how do we accumulate good karma? Is it only by donation? Not necessarily.

There are simple things like reciting “Na Mo Omituo Fwo” or “Om Mani Padme Hum” mantra every day. You can make a commitment to recite 300 times every day. In this simple way, you accumulate good karma and create positive affinity with Amitabha Buddha and Kuan Yin. It also makes our mind more calm and peaceful. So, whether the cancer will be cured or not, we are not worried anymore. When the time comes, we happily go, knowing that we are going to a better life. If your next life is going to be worse than present life, you should be extremely worried. If you are reborn in Amitabha Buddha’s Pure Land, then you can still bless your family. But if you are reborn as an animal, you cannot even take care of yourself, how then can you take care of your family at that time? So, if you still want to see your family, aim to be reborn in Amitabha Pure Land (in hokkien, Kek Lok Seh Kai). That is very important.

So, please stay positive, seek your cure and fight cancer as much as you can, but remember also to recite the Na Mo Omituo Fwo at the same time. You are recommended to recite it as many times as possible every single day. Don’t miss it, ya?  Ultimately only the Buddha can take care of us in the long term.   Remember the words –Life is a one-way street. You cannot re-wind and go back in time. Whatever happens to us, we have to deal with it in a positive way to ensure we benefit ourselves and benefit others too. By “benefitting”, it means going for the spiritual type of happiness.  In the movie, Andy Lau did that by reconciling with his family. What about you?  You can recite “Na Mo Omituo Fwo” not only for yourself, but for all cancer victims in the world. If you have this kind of motivation to benefit others when you recite it (even though you yourself are in the same situation), then, that certainly will benefit you in inconceivable ways. Who knows, perhaps even your cancer can be cured this way! I hope you remember my words of advice. If you have any questions, I’ll be happy to answer you.

Anyway, I have a message from a Tibetan monk for you. I wrote to him to ask him about your situation. And this is his reply below:-

Dear PL,
I say prayers for your health recovery. Please think of all sentient being in the samsara who are suffering so much. Practice bodhicitta for all. I think of you in my mind.


His advice is the same as my advice, i.e. think of other beings in the world. So, I hope that you can recite Na Mo Omituo Fwo for all beings in the world.

Take care and best regards.

Closing notes: PL replied that she will recite the Namo Omituo Fwo and Om Mani Padme Hum mantra in accordance with the Lama's advice and mine.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Only sitting with Amida

I would like to share with you a poem I wrote today, having got the inspiration of it yesterday evening before I nod off to sleep. It combines an understanding of Soto Zen, Mahamudra and Jodoshinshu. Yesterday (thursday) morning, I woke up with a dream that explains that no matter what we practice, gradual or sudden enlightenment, no matter what our Buddhist lineage/ school, we need the grace or blessings of the Buddha. I was at a house on top of a hill and there is only one long winding road that leads to the foothill, where my car was. I could either walk the long way down but the road is long and along the way, there are fierce dogs. Or I could climb down the hill vertically but risk injury or death should I fall. Then I thought of a 3rd way. The host of the house could take me down by riding on his motorbike.Then I woke up. I knew that the dream was a good explanation of how Amitabha's vows work. It also reminded me of the time when I was in Nepal more than a year ago and there was a public strike in Kathmandu. There was no taxi to go to the airport. Thankfully the host of the hotel I was staying at offered me a ride in his motorbike. But along the way I saw many others had to walk the long way and dragging their luggage along. I was lucky. I am thankful to the host of Shambala Village Resort for going the extra mile for me. So, to those Christian evangelists out to convert Buddhists, it is not true that Buddhism does not have any grace. We have lots of grace, not only from Amitabha Buddha, but also from the entire Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the three times.

And the day before (Wednesday morning woke up), the day after Sakadawa, I dreamt I was at a temple with many monks and nuns. They are of all traditions of Buddhism, but mostly are Eastern Mahayana monks. There were some chanting/ prayer going on. It was auspicious to dream of this at the last night of Sakadawa. And this morning, I remember I dreamt of a flying horse that appeared at a ceremony hosted by my mother at a temple. Very strange. Anyway, those are just dreams. Here's the poem.

Only sitting with Amida
No matter what we practice,
Whether Shikantaza or Mahamudra,
Abandoning the hope of enlightenment,
There is no seeking.
Observing the mind with clarity,
There is only sitting
For all sentient beings.
With faith and gratitude,
Amida's Vows deliver all
In nine grades.
Namu Amida Butsu...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Spiritual check-and-balance

I find that the Chan or Zen practice of having an enlightened master certifying one's achievement of enlightenment something beneficial. I feel that it functions as a spiritual check-and-balance. In this way you know whether you have achieved a certain standard or not. In their traditions, they call it "mind-to-mind dharma transmission". And whoever has been certified, will be given a certificate. It is something like your graduation scroll. Of course, it is always open to being abused, like anything else, but it is better than not having such a system in place. Without such a system, anyone can claim to be an enlightened master. With an inka (that's what it is called in Zen) in hand, the holder is more believable than someone who does not, especially if his inka is from a reputable master such as Master Hsu Yun or Master Hsuan Hua. These two masters may not be around anymore, but there are still masters that have these certifications and they may not have such high profile as the masters I mentioned. You may even be surprised that some of these low profile masters have such certifications. Hence don't look down on low profile masters and always think only of high profile gurus. Do not generalise everyone. You'll be surprised that there are masters even in Malaysia with such dharma transmissions. We just need to seek them out. However the inka may have a different meaning according to each school. For example, in the Kwan Um School of Zen, it could just mean that the holder is a certified teacher. Not necessarily his level of enlightenment. Refer to But some teachers tend to down play this since they do not want their disciples to have too much attachment to this "paper certificate". If you do not have it, it does not mean you are not enlightened. These masters do not want this "certificate" to become an indirect hindrance or obstacle. I can understand their concern, but I still think that as a system, it was and still is a good spiritual check-and-balance. You can discreetly seek an audience with an enlightened master and ask him to test your understanding. The Lin-chi school of Zen had an interesting record or tradition of dharma sparing between a Master and a would-be-heir-of-dharma-transmission. Finally, if you got it, you do not need to show it to everyone that you have got a enlightenment certificate. "Hey... look, I got an INKA. I am certified as enlightened!". Nowadays, people do not even have anything and yet they shamelessly advertise themselves as "Living Buddhas" (not in the sense of Tibetan Buddhist tulkus, they have a different system). Instead, you keep it as a secret and do not divulge it to anyone, except your closest disciples (so that they can develop faith and to inspire them).   

However not every Buddhist tradition has this system. Theravada do not have it, neither does Tibetan Buddhism. Personally I find it a good thing to have, ... it is a spiritual internal control mechanism. If I ever become a Vajrayana Master, and IF ( a big "IF") I ever achieve enlightenment, I will seek certification from a Zen Master and then begin this system in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition. You think this is feasible? Hahahah... a big fat hope! I know somebody who is laughing now - "You ... enlightened??...impossible with all your delusions". Yeah... all my delusions. So it is a dream for now. :)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Master Hsuan Hua's 16th Anniversary

On June 7, 1995 Ven. Master Hsuan Hua entered stillness and it's now the 16th year in which we commemorate him on such an occasion. It's good that I have finished the prostrations recently and hence I can now offer those prostrations to him. I'd like to share with you all some pictures from City of Ten Thousand Buddhas where they had a commemoration ceremony last Sunday. He always have a place in my heart! Always!

Here's the link -

Lastly, I'll end with this verse as usual, which I wrote last year.

The sky is enormously huge and vast,
Still greater than that is Master’s Way Virtue!
The ocean is enormously deep and wide,
Still greater than that are Master's Vast Vows!
To you - Embodiment of the Triple Jewels,
And the Incomparable Saviour, I go for refuge!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Jack Sparrow, Mermaids and the Dakinis

Have you watched the latest "Pirates of the Caribbean"? I am a fan of Johnny Depp and I thought he is a fantastic actor and that he excels in whatever role he takes, whether it is a police cop or a swashbuckling pirate. The latest Jack Sparrow's adventures had him pursuing the fountain of youth on stranger tides (whatever that was suppposed to mean...LOL!!). Anyway, what was extraordinary in this movie and one that reminds me of a parallel Buddhist myth or legend are the mermaids. Yes, Jack Sparrow and his fellow pirates went to catch mermaids with the intention of getting one drop of their tears. Legend has it that you need a tear from a mermaid mixed into the water from the fountain of youth in order to make it work. Actually there are other elements to make it work but shall leave it to you to discover it in the movie. One clue is that one person needs to make a sacrifice. Anyway, the mermaids shown in this movie is not your typical mermaid ala Disney's mermaid. The mermaids in the world of Jack Sparrow can transform into ferocious men-eating beasts. Yes, one moment they are such delicate beautiful creatures and the next they show their huge fangs and appetite for men's flesh and blood.

This reminds me instantly of the wrathful Tara I dreamt of some time back. Refer to one of my previous blog post. It also reminds me of what a friend of mind describing what are the Tibetan Buddhist dakinis. They are said to be of two types, i.e. one beautiful and angelic and the other look like witches of old England. Actually I believe there is only one type and they can probably change from beautiful ladies to wrathful creatures and vice-versa. Very similar to the mermaids in this 4th movie on "Pirates of the Caribbean". They did it so convincingly that at times, it makes you fear mermaids, like they are werewolves or vampires. Interesting to you? Then go catch it.... if not for Johnny Depp or the gorgeous Penelope Cruz, then the mermaids. Hahaha... LOL!  

P/S: If you wish me to do any movie review from a Buddhist angle, drop me your email in the comment and I will contact you back.