Sunday, July 31, 2011

Saving Yong Vui Kong – A Need for Balance between Compassion and Punishment

Remember the last time I wrote about Yong Vui Kong and the support campaigns launched by NGOs (including Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia) to save Yong Vui Kong? If you do not know who he is, refer back to my blog dated Auguest 27th last year. Or, google him and read about his case. The last I read about his case is that his lawyer is contemplating appealing his case to the International Court of Justice. Well, I do hope his lawyer and those responsible to support his case in both Malaysia and Singapore will read what I have written here. If you know his lawyer (Mr Ravi) or any of his family, please forward my blog to them.

I hope you guys have not forgotten him. I am writing to all those who support for his clemency to be more consistent in efforts to save him, in the sense that we must also support the moratorium on the mandatory death sentence or amend it to be applicable to only certain limited cases. We do not support the death penalty but advocate that if at all there needs to be a death penalty, then it must be for people who are repeat or unrepentant offenders, serial killers, the drug lords (yes, these drug lords are the real people who should be punished, not those young kids that have been fooled by these drug lords). So, we only support the death penalty for these types of people. But for people who have learned their lessons, and have had a transformation in character, we must appeal to both the Singapore and Malaysian Governments to spare them. If Malaysia also happily applies the death penalty, how are we supposed to expect Singapore to listen to our appeal? They won't. So, the first thing we need to do is to get our philosophy on the death penalty right. Then we tell the whole world that not only Vui Kong must be saved but also others like him. Then in that way, we will not appear to be merely supporting one person. In this way, our appeal will be stronger and hopefully, the Singapore President will listen and grant clemency to Vui Kong. Otherwise, our appeal to the Singapore Government will seem rather hypocritical.

We can only do our best to save a life and at the same time not doing it only to save one person and ignoring the rest. We do not want to give the impression that we are happy to bend the rules for offenders to save him. Indeed, we must still emphasize the fact that he (and others like him who work for drug lords) still needs to be punished, just not the death penalty. Anything else but the death penalty, for first time offenders.... unless the first time offence is so serious it involves killing /murdering many people such as proven terrorists. Yes, we agree that drug addiction is serious but it is different in the sense that it is not taking away the precious human rebirth immediately. You must realise that the victims of drug addiction does have the right to refuse such habits, whereas if you are killed by someone else, often you are not able to defend yourself. So, we are not down-play the seriousness of the drug pedalling menace, but merely telling the authorities that it is the drug lords that need to be punished. They are the ones who normally get away with punishment by getting others (often young boys like Vui Kong) to do the job for them. Then when Vui Kong gets caught, they just get another youngster to take over. And the problem will go on and on. Meantime they hide themselves in safety from the authorities but expose others to risk of the death penalty. The Governments and law enforcers must not be too trigger happy to impose the death penalty upon young fellas like Vui Kong (unless he is the drug lord himself, then that's a different story. But as we know, he is not) until you forget to see the reality behind the issue.

Both the Malaysian and Singapore Governments should amend their laws on death penalty and only impose it for certain restricted circumstance as mentioned above. As such, I would strongly urge the Singapore President to grant clemency to Yong Vui Kong and others like him. I send the same urge to the Malaysian Yang Dipertuan Agung to grant clemency to those similar to Vui Kong’s case in Malaysia. I send the same message to all heads of nations worldwide. You can pardon them for their first offence. But if ever, they are caught working for the drug lords again, we will not be able to appeal for them again. To those who cry foul and say that we are forgetting the victoms of drug addiction, I would like to remind everyone that giving them clemency does not mean releasing them into society without any punishment at all. Of course, you can mete out the necessary punishment, be it 10 years or 20 years imprisonment or more. Make them do social work and force them to expose their former drug lords they had worked for. But in doing so, the law must protect them because these drug lords will seek revenge if they know their former drug mules have exposed them. So, if you follow my advice, the drug mules get their due punishment as insisted by the prosecutors, and sending the right message to the public that you do not manufacture drugs for drug addiction and that hiring people to pedal drugs for you will result in the death penalty. So, if the Singapore Minster is afraid of releasing Vui Kong, that it might send the wrong message, then please consider my suggestions as afore-mentioned. It will NOT send the wrong message by granting clemency to Vui Kong but putting his former drug boss to the noose. The way I see it, it is a win-win situation.
That's all my suggestion to save Vui Kong and to save Singapore’s face for granting him clemency and at the same time, not appear to be lenient on the drug menace. Indeed, we will be sending a powerful message to the drug lords who are the ultimate root cause of the drug menace i.e. hiring others to pedal drugs will result in death. Singaporeans are said to be smart people and they should be able to recognise that the problem is the act of hiring people to market the drugs for them, and not the people whom they have hired. Yes, while we agree that the people hired should be punished too, but we believe that the act of hiring is a more serious offence. They cannot be punished in the same degree. Malaysians and Singaporean authorities must not be stupid to punish the people hired with the death penalty in the same degree as the people responsible for the act of hiring. The death penalty being the apex of punishment, hence it should be reserved for the drug lords and other criminals like them. They are the real criminals, the real mastermind behind hiring kids like Vui Kong! Do not hang young kids like Vui Kong who had been taken disadvantaged due to his poor and broken family background. Yes, he may have sold drugs to others but it is really his former bosses that should be punished with the death penalty. Not Vui Kong!

Here in my appeal, I am trying to balance the delicate need for compassion for a life and the need to give punishment where it is due. I have tried my best to balance these two needs and the fact that we need to punish the right people with the right type and severity of punishment. Only in this way, can the authorities ensure proper social justice. Buddhism is not only about compassion but no punishment. Perhaps many Buddhists have this fantasy that we should leave punishment only to karma. They say, “Let karma takes it course.” That may be true, but in the practical world, there will be chaos if there is no police or judges to mete out the proper punishment for offenders. Even in temples, there are disciplinarian monks in charge of ensuring the rules and precepts of monks are followed. Those who do not follow them will be subjected to do hundreds and thousands of bowings or they have to do other tasks such as cleaning the kitchen or toilets. Therefore, there is definitely a role of punishment even within Buddhism, which emphasizes a lot on compassion and forgiving. Having said that, the punishment must be fair and in accordance to the weight of offence. It is not an easy task and it is not always fair (due to us being imperfect humans, unlike the Buddhas). And sometimes it takes someone else to point out and suggest a better way to make it fairer. That’s the purpose of this letter and I sincerely hope we will have a fair solution to the problem posed by Vui Kong’s case. For this to work, both Governments need to amend their laws and agree to impose the death penalty only on the right people (e.g. the drug lords, serial killers, and people like them) but to also announce that drug mules will not go unpunished. If possible, show drug mules being whipped on national television. Yes, you can go ahead to whip Vui Kong too. Whip him 20 or 30 times. The whipping can be done every year for as long as he remains in prison. Let him scream in pain every year. Send him to long years in prison. (To Vui Kong: You must be mentally prepared for this, ya!) That will make a lot of people to rethink that working for drug lords will only result in little punishment. On the contrary, hearing and seeing them scream in pain as well as the long years in prison will deter youngsters from pursuing a life as a drug mule. The other thing is serving the right punishment to Vui Kong will prevent him from being reborn in the lower realms. All the screaming and pain he will experience now in this life, coupled with his true repentance, will help him to avoid being reborn in the lower realms. So looking at punishment from this angle, administering the proper  punishment is indeed part and parcel of compassion. Think about it!

For drug lords who hire others to pedal the drugs for them, they will have the heaviest punishment, but even then we can give them 3 to 5 years in prison time to allow them time to repent and reform. If they take the chance properly, they can still avoid the lower realms even though they will still be subjected to the death penalty at the end of the 3 to 5 years. Unless they are not repentant of their crimes, even when given a chance, then sorry to say, they are the real criminals and deserve the lower realms. When punishment is done in secret, the public do not take the punishment seriously. In Tibetan Buddhism’s Lam Rim teachings, we are told to contemplate the sufferings of the hell beings again and again for the simple reason that we want to understand the seriousness of committing crimes and that such crimes will result in being reborn in hell where there is unrelenting pain. And such Lam Rim contemplations do work to scare people away from committing crimes. In ancient times, many criminals are paraded in the streets before they are hanged. It may seem uncivilised in today's society but such things do have a purpose. Their faces can be covered but I think it is okay to show such whipping on television. So, the authorities must rethink their strategy of not showing punishments of offenders.

A perfect balance between compassion and punishment may never be achievable but we can try our best to reach about there. And I think what I have suggested above is about the fairest balance I can think of.

May Buddha bless Vui Kong and others like him, who had been “disadvantaged” due to their family situation!

For petition to save Vui Kong, please go here:

note: Pic taken from

Saturday, July 30, 2011

How to practice the living dharma?

These are notes I took down during a recent teachings by Venerable Boon Keng at Than Hsiang temple, Penang. I took down only the important points and I might have missed some points because I do not understand some of the words spoken. I only understand the gist of his message. Any mistake is mine.

Things that people donate or contributed or sponsored for temples, the temples should use it as long as possible. Must not be careless with it or throw it away when it is just a bit broken. (my comment: same for Buddhist centres, we must not be careless with how we utilise donations or sponsorships).

Whether things are smooth or not, when we have true cultivation, we can still prosperous through whatever experiences.

Left home at Hock Beng Si, a kampung area, got Taoist statues and Taoist practices there. Never mind, just a different tradition. (my comment: Venerable Boon Keng is very tolerant of other practices and even regard these Taoist practices as perhaps necessary to connect with normal lay people. He is not so adamant as some Buddhists to discard Taoist practices or other Chinese customs deemed non-buddhistic by the orthodox.)

His Master gave him oversized robes to wear. And there was no ordination ceremony. He soon realised that whether there was an ordination or not, i.e. genuine or false ordination, it's the heart that is important. (my comment: Ordination is just an external ceremony. Important think was that he regarded himself as having taken all the precepts of a monk and his Master regarded him as such). Everyday he had to go give services until 2-3am. Everyday he eats only potato broth. No vegetables, at best only fried cabbage. And he usually wakes up at 4.30am. He had only a few hours of sleep. Sometimes only 1 hour. Whether condition is smooth or not, still must go to do prayers. Even when sick. During good or bad conditions, the Buddha dharma must be in your heart & it depends on how you are able to receive it. We should realize that even facing bad conditions, it is blessings to purify our millions of greed, hatred & delusion. (my comment: “he “ in this entire teaching refers to Ven. Boon Keng. When I took down the notes, when he was referring to himself, I wrote it down as “he”)

What dharma do you practice? Whether Zen, Pure Land, etc, whatever practice we do, there is a purpose and we must make it into a living dharma. Once when beaten by the Zen stick, suddenly he remembers the words in his prayers. He thanked the master profusely.

Smooth & not, it's the heart that must learn the living dharma. If we can do that, the sukhavati is right before you. And you don't need to go anywhere else to practice.

Inside our heart there is a little “Tai Pee Cham” book. In the beginning we practice external “Tai Pee Cham” (Great Compassionate Repentance). But when we are able to practice living dharma, inside our heart, it's the living “Tai Pee Cham”. Like the 2012 movie, there was a scene showing the Lama pouring the tea into the cup and it overflows. Similarly, when conditions are smooth or not smooth, we have to pour out first our good & bad conditions. Good or bad, we still can go through. See through good or bad conditions. Same during practices we do such as meditation. We let go of good or bad meditation. Good or bad meditation experience – all impermanent conditions.

When we meditate, that itself includes 84000 dharmas.

Some people use Buddhism to find fault with others. No need to criticize other traditions of Buddhism. No need to say this tradition is more true than the others.

Good or bad, it's how you see it and turn around the situations around.

Monday, July 25, 2011

500,000 Migsema completed

Today (25 July 2011) is a historic day. I completed 500,000 Migsema. And I dedicate them all to Kyabje Lama Zopa's and Kyabje Lama Lhundrup's excellent health and long life. I also dedicate these to the cessation of suffering for all sentient beings and for us (unenlightened beings) all to attain final, complete and ultimate enlightenment.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

How to do True Repentance?

I glanced through a book by Gelek Rinpoche and I chanced upon one sentence. He said that even though we do the 35 Buddha Confession and prostrations, it does not really purify our negative karma unless we do it within the 4 Powers. He said that only the 4 Powers are able to purify negativities. Noone has even emphasized this as much as he did. And this morning when I woke up, I realised how true his words are. Then I recollected the 4 Powers - Regret, Remedy, Reform and Resolve. These 4 Powers are what it takes for a true repentance to take place. Otherwise there is just ceremony, but not much purification.

First of all there must be a feeling of genuine regret in our hearts. That is the start of true repentance. Without regret, it means we are not sincere in the repentance. We will continue to make mistakes again and again. In order to start a true repentance, I would recommend we think of something we have done wrong (or one of our numerous bad habits) and truely regret it. And if we stick to our resolve, we will not repeat that mistake again. This is my personal recommendation. Then we choose one remedy, be it 35 Buddha Confessions, the 88 Buddhas Repentance, the Water Samadhi Repentance, the Emperor Liang Repentance, Vajrasattva long mantras, and the list goes on. We can choose one of these as the remedy. Going "cold turkey" is one of the remedy for drug addicts. It is important to choose a true remedy because there are "fake" or "short-term" remedies around. We often believe in these latter types of remedy that does not work as a true purification tool. It could work for temporarily or for other minor worldly purposes but it will not work for a true purification. Feng shui is an example that it not to be taken as a purification tool or remedy for karma. But it may work for temporary worldly  or shorter term purposes. But never for longer term things like karma. So that is remedy. Next we undertake the remedy and go through the reform (sometimes we call it "reliance" as in relying on the remedy chosen) process of the remedy, no matter how long it takes. Normally it is not just one short session, because of our deep negativities, it will take a while before the purification happens. That's basically the reason why we do mantra recitations and prostrations in the hundreds of thousands, even millions of times. Once it sinks in, then the purification can happen. It's just like the "cold turkey" process for drug addicts. They don't get cured over-night. It's a long and painful experience due to the withdrawal symptoms. Purification is also like that. We may experience the so-called "withdrawal symptoms" too. Normally purification is not easy, otherwise we will go back to our old ways and we think that it is easy to get purified. But we must stick to the reformation process and make that great resolve to turn over a new leaf to leave those bad habits behind. Hence strength of resolve is important, and that's the 4th Power. 

It takes all 4 to make the purification happen. Just going through the chanting and bowing and what not, is just one of the 4 Powers. Once we are purified, there may be signs of purification manifesting. That's according to the late Ven. Master Hsuan Hua. But I would advice not to be too obssessed with the signs. If it appears it's good. If it does not, the important thing is not to get upset. The important things is that whether you have the 4 Powers or not. Do you have genuine regret? Did you undergo the remedy with sincerity? Are you truly reforming yourself or just testing it? Do you have true resolve not to go back to your old ways? So to those who think that purification of bad karma is not possible or not fair, think again what you have to go through to get it purified. It really not that easy. Again, having said that, I am sure if there is TRUE REGRET, TRUE REMEDY, TRUE REFORM AND TRUE RESOLVE, then doing only one time the ceremony may be enough to purify millions of eons of negatve karma. But then, how many of us have these genuine 4 Powers. Very soon, we will often slide back to our old habits and bad ways. 

So, we have Gelek Rinpoche to thank for emphasising this point and I share with you this great teaching on true repentance.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Kstigarbha mantras and 100,000 Vajrasattva mantras for Lama Lhundrup

Disciples and students of the former Abbot of Kopan Monastery (now no longer with the title "Khenrinpoche" but with title "Khensur") were advised by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche to recite the long Ksitigarbha mantra for his health and I found a recording of this mantra done by Tibetan monks. These monks had offered the said mantra for a Universal Peace event at Prasanthi Nilayam in the presence of Bhagawan Sathya Sai Baba in 2010.  The picture above of the Tibetan monks chanting in front of Sai Baba is taken from the website below. Click on the picture for the enlarged view. To download the mantra, please refer to this link.

Other than the Green Tara mantra, I have recently crossed the 100,000 mark for Vajrasattva long mantra and I dedicate it to Khensur Lama Lhundrup's recovery and good health. May he be able to continue his dharma activities. (note: The new abbot of Kopan monastery is Geshe Chonyi, the Geshe-la of Amitabha Buddhist Centre of Singapore.)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Helping Japan & Instilling Faith in Sukhavati

Referring to this link:-

A group of people in Japan under the facebook page above are collecting the Heart Sutra copies that had been handcopied by people around the world. You can find the softcopy for downloading in the facebook page given. I find the Japanese version there the same as the Chinese version. So, if anyone has the hardcopy or softcopy from another source, even if it is in another language, it's okay. However, they need to be handcopied. Once you have finished copying, you can collect and send all of them to Japan in the address stated at the Facebook page. All the copies have to reach there by end of AUGUST 2011. 

They will recite each and every copy of the 10,000 Heart Sutras receive and put them all there at the Japan Earthquake site and erect a memorial. This is also in line with His Holiness the Dalai Lama's advice to recite the Heart Sutra for Japan's disaster (the one that caused the tsunami and disaster at the nuclear plant).

This could not have come at a more appropriate time. My father has been copying this Sutra for several months. This was after he got a copy of Heart Sutra from a local coffee shop. He asked me for advice what to do with it after he has completed copying one whole book. I am not sure one book has how many copies of Heart Sutra but I suspect about 100. After knowing about this, I came up with an expedient skillful mean and advice my father that he will be able "to book a place" in Amitabha Pure Land if he can finish copying 10 of those books. That means about 1000 copies. He believed what I said and deveoped aspirations to be reborn there. He requested me to get him more of those books to copy. My mother helped him get a few more. He was enthusiastic about it. I am not sure but I suspected he has slacked a little bit lately... as in his motivation for copying has dropped. So, when I know of this effort by Japan to collect the Heart Sutras, I told him about it. He seemed to show a little excitement again in copying since I told him it will benefit lots of people affected by the disaster. Hopefully his enthusiasm will sustain and get him to write as many as possible until August. And then hopefully he will be able to motivate himself to do more of it even thereafter. So, in that way, my father will accumulate merits from helping the disaster victims. Hence my words that he will be able to book a place in Amitabha Pure Land is not an empty promise. Amitabha Buddha works when you have faith in him. That's for sure. The causes and condition for rebirth there will surely blossom. I was merely the conduit between Amitabha Buddha and my father.

I have also helped the cancer friend I blogged recently to believe in Amitabha Pure Land (known as Sukhavati in Sanskrit). I managed to convinced her of its existence by relating to the friend a dream I had. In that dream another friend of mine whom I had not contacted with for some time was shopping for coffin. Well, she moved to Kuala Lumpur with her family. She was from Penang. And while in Penang, I knew that she was suffering from cancer. It progressively worsened. From colon, it spread to her lungs. But after she moved to KL, I lost touch with her as well as all of her family members whom I knew too. She was calm and collected and serene. She was okay. I woke up immediately and knew that it was a dream to tell me that she had passed on and was doing well. I searched for the her son's phone number and he told me his mother had passed away about ...I forgot how long ago but I think it's a year before or slightly less than 12 months. Had she been reborn in the lower realms, she would not have been able to come back to tell me. And she has tremendous faith in Amitabha Buddha. In her house, there is a picture of Amitabha's Pure Land that she had drawn with her own hands. I really like that painting. It is a definite indication of her faith. Moreover she had been reciting Kuan Yin Bodhisattva's Great Compassionate Heart Dharani and reads a lot of Master Hsuan Hua's dharma books. All these point to my conclusion that she had been reborn in Amitabha's Pure Land, probably somewhere in one of the 3 classes of the middle grade of the nine classes of rebirth. After listening to my story, she developed faith in Sukhavati's existence and develop aspirations to be reborn there. She told me that she did try as best to recite Namo Omituofwo as well as the mantras. With that I feel that I have done my job. I have instilled faith in people and shown them the path to Amitabha. I am not like others who try to create a false sense of denial that they can be cured from their cancer. At the same time I did not let them fall into a depression. Skillfully it was giving them hope but at the same time, coming to terms with reality of impermanence. Just asking people to face reality of impermanence is not enough. It must be acompanied by a hope. And I gave people hope in Amitabha. That was the only thing I can help anyone with cancer. That's the truth. Often when someone is down with cancer, the friends and family members will ask that cancer patient to eat this and that, try this and that. They might have heard of so-and-so story of someone who has been seemingly cured. Whether the story or claim is true or not, you do not know. You will hear so many of these advices until you do not know who to listen to. You'll end up asking yourself, "Should I try this? Or, that?" Then you get even more depressed by the confusion. Hence all the things about treatment of cancer including herbs, acupunture, reiki, snakegrass, this juice, that juice or whatever else, I am sorry but I cannot advice on these matters. I cannot guarantee that these aforementioned food or treatments will work on them. But I do know that having faith in the Buddhadharma will always work.

I can only advice people to follow the Buddha way and to have faith in Amitabha Buddha. That's the only way I know how. I am not a phowa expert, so the only way I know how to reach the Buddha Pure Lands is through faith. And in my heart, I still believe that that is the only true authentic way. Correct me if I am wrong but it does appear to me that going to the Pure Land through phowa is like gatecrashing into someone's home without having any invitation card (i.e. faith in the host as the owner of the home). I believe that for people that are still alive, they should try to develop faith in Amitabha Buddha and recite his Name or his mantras as a means to gain entry. It is only for those who are too late or never had a chance to recite these that need phowa. You should not delay to have faith in Amitabha while you can and not think that you can always engage a Lama to send you to Amitabha Pure Land upon your death via phowa. If you have this kind of thinking, you may find that you end up in the hot hells or animal realms instead. And it will not be because of any fault in the Lama who performed the phowa. It will be because of your own karma and wrong thinking.  

So, this has been my blog on helping Japan earthquake victims, and about instilling faith in Amitabha and His Pure Land.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

100,000 Green Tara mantras for Lama Zopa

On the evening of July 7th, 2011, I achieved my 100,000 target of Green Tara mantra. Since early May 2011, I have been accumulating it and have recited a total of 926 malas or 100,008 times to be exact the Green Tara mantra. I have also done 140 times the 21 Tara praises. I do all that and dedicating them to Kyabje Lama Zopa's good health. May he achieve his objective of manifesting the stroke so that he can stop manifesting it. I also dedicate them to Kyabje Khenrinpoche's good health and long life without cancer. May all Gurus around the world, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, have good health and may their dharma activities be accomplished. May all my Gurus' health be excellent and their dharma activities spread. May all sentient beings be free from pain and suffering. May they be wise, avoid evil and purify their minds to achieve Buddhahood!

Having completed 100,000 of the general Green Tara mantra, I can now specialise in any of the individual 21 Tara mantras - I refer these to the "specialised mantras" for dealing with specific situations. I have in my previous blogs shared some of these specialised mantras such as the Tara mantra to deal with earthquakes and wind or water disasters. I was told by a friend that we need to complete at least 100,000 of the general Tara mantra before one can recite the specialised mantra. The specialised mantra works better once we have completed the general mantra - Om Tare Tutare Ture Svaha. It's just like you need to be able to be a General Practitioner ("GP") before being able to be a specialist doctor.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Bersih dan Kotor, Clean and Dirty

On the surface of it, the below poem might seem to be a parody of what is going on these days in the Malaysian political scenario, but if you know me, my thoughts are way deeper than that. Anyway, this is not a political blog.  Enjoy this poem and think about its spiritual meaning in Buddhist contexts! Like it?

Bersih dan kotor
Pada mulanya,
Bersih adalah bersih
Kotor adalah kotor.

Bersih dianggap kotor oleh kotor
Kotor dianggap bersih oleh kotor.
Kotor dianggap kotor oleh bersih
Bersih dianggap bersih oleh bersih.

Oleh kerana salah sangka,
Bersih menjadi kotor,
Kotor menjadi bersih.

Setelah disucikan,
Kedua-duanya hilang,
Entah ke mana pergi.
Apakah bersih?
Apakah kotor?
Semuanya di minda.
Bersih dan kotor
Hanyalah halimunan
Konsep semata-mata.

          - 5.7.2011 9.30pm, edited on midnight 7.7.11

And the translation:

Clean and Dirty

At first,
Clean is clean
Dirty is dirty.

Clean is dirty to dirty
Dirty is always clean to dirty.
Dirty is always dirty to clean
Clean is clean to clean.

Due to confusion,
Clean is seen as dirty
Dirty is seen as clean.
 But once purified,
Both disappear
Where has it gone to?
What is clean?
What is dirty?
It’s all in the mind.
Clean and dirty
Mere illusory concepts.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Fearlessness and Song Jiang - China's Green Lantern

“All Men Are Brothers” is a Chinese serial TV drama based on the classical Chinese literature entitled “Water Margin”. It was directed by Kuk Kwok-leung. It tells of a group of bandits during the Song dynasty, when the palace officials are corrupt and the emperor is almost useless. The bandits were headed by a man named Song Jiang, and they were based at a place called Liangshan. Like the monk in the other great classicical novel "Pilgrimage to the West", the character of Song Jiang was based on a real person also by the name of Song Jiang. He has over 100 leaders to assist him. Even though they are called “bandits” by the palace, their main intention was only to fight the corrupt and evil officers, and never to over-throw the emperor. Their role was very much like that of their counterpart in England’s Sherwood Forest, i.e. Robin Hood. And in comic-dom, they practically fought for “truth, justice and freedom”, the Liangshan way. In Song Jiang’s mind, he was only thinking of how to win back the emperor’s pardon and return to either serving the Emperor or to return to civilian life. He was not interested in being regarded as a bandit forever.

I am not here to tell you the entire story. Rather I want to focus on Song Jiang’s noble character. He was someone I really admire – not because he was unquestioningly loyal to the useless emperor, but rather for his steadfast stand on his Confucian principles of righteousness and honour. Even knowing that he was given a chalice full of poisonous tea, he gratefully drank it so as to gain the emperor’s trust that he was indeed a nobleman. And that he and the rest of his clansmen are righteous people, and not bandits. He practically single-handedly guided and transformed his group of bandits into gods worshipped by millions of Chinese from his time till the present day. Indeed, he was honoured with a grand statue and temple in Liangshan that still stands today. So were his other 108 warrior leaders. Their names were also inscribed on plagues in the temple. So, if you wonder how others could become worshipped as gods, and have such a wish to be a god after you die, look no further than Song Jiang. If you can follow his exemplary character and benefit people in the way he had, you will surely be a god and be highly regarded for generations after generations. There is no question about it. In Chinese literature, culture and heroes, he stands tall, much like Kuan Kong, and if there is anyone from China that qualifies to be Green Lantern, the one who is fearless, it should be Song Jiang. Hal Jordon is nowhere the man that Song Jiang was said to be. I really have a lot of respect for a person like him. His clansmen respect him in much the same way, and perhaps more. They were willing to die for him and even die together with him. That was how strong their brotherhood was. Nowadays, there is no such loyalty anymore. You see people questioning their leaders daily and are not united in pursuit of a common goal. Anyone willing to sacrifice themselves for their bosses? Hardly any nowadays. People are so opinionated now that they challenge everything the boss says. Everybody thinks they are smarter. But of course, blind obedience, especially to foolish or corrupt bosses will only make you look more foolish. So, blind loyalty is not to be encouraged either. But if you have a man or guru like Song Jiang, he is worth dying for and to be led by the nose. For he can do no wrong …as the saying goes. More than loyalty, it is also a lovely story about fighting corruption, something that most modern day society can relate to. There is also the truth of karma to realise. All the killings, be it by the good guys or the bad ones, result in karma in one way or another. Song Jiang was no exception. But he accepted his karma, and considering the situation he was in, I think that he had made the correct choices. Sometimes, we are left if limited choices and it is not always that we could have our hands clean of committing any negative karma. A lot of times, we have to make choices of either committing this bad karma or that bad karma. You need to make your choices and live with the consequences. So, choose wisely.
So, if you have not seen the Chinese series, do see it. But I am not sure if they have English sub-titles. Check it out. Here is a picture of Song Jiang in the TV series and the poster as above, while on the right is the 2011 movie "Green Lantern" starring Ryan Reynolds, which is more a fantasy story than real. He really reminds me of the qualities of a bodhisattva, one of which is fearlessness. However, real bodhisattvas fear committing evil. Not every fear should be shunned in that sense. Song Jiang, for example, feared corruption more than he feared death. He was the real Green Lantern of China. Even though "Water Margin" had been produced into countless movies and TV series such as the Shaw Brothers' "Water Margin" and another series called "Outlaws of the Marsh", this is yet another remarkable piece of work by the Chinese serial drama producers. I highly recommend it. For more information on Song Jiang, refer to Wikipedia. I hope you like my comments on this TV series and relating it to the movie "Green Lantern", which is based on the DC comic character. Go watch both.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Now I can sit in full lotus

On the night of Monday 27th June, 2011, I have discovered a way to sit in full lotus position for a lot longer time without my legs hurting as much as it had. I had an idea of turning my cushion around (the one that I had bought in the thrift shop in Singapore). I sat on it with the cushion in vertical position to my body and it worked. It's fantastic. It was hurting my legs before that because my legs had to be twisted at an angle without something supporting it underneath. That new discovery and learning Dogen's meditation posture has helped to make some progress in my meditation efforts. I have also recently learned from Ven. Sangye Nyepa that it is important to practise samatha first before vipassana. And for samatha-vipassana to precede dzogchen/ mahamudra/ shikantaza type of meditation.

So I can concentrate more on my meditation now, instead of being bothered or distracted by the nagging pain in the legs. That and the new things I have learned, I would think it's a little progress. I hope so. I have to sit a longer time and more frequently to really assess the situation. But you know, the lazy me is often the hindrance. Nonetheless, a big "Thanks" to all the Buddhas!