Sunday, November 25, 2012

Buddhism and Gender Segregation

In Buddhism, during certain practice occasions, such as group retreats, men and women are segregated. The reason this is done is because it is meant for the good of the participants of the retreat themselves. Due to the seriousness of the meditation practice, lustful thoughts and actions are discouraged. It is also done for practical reasons. It is better for the men to be grouped with the men and the women with women because it is not practical for men and women to share the same bathroom and sleeping room. But this is done only during serious practice sessions. After the event, the men and women are free to do what they like. Buddhism has a reason for doing everything. It does not force any precepts or commandments into anyone. You are free to kill and to steal. The only thing is Buddhism reminds you of the consequences of your own actions, whether it is good or bad. If you kill, you will have to bear with the consequences of killing, in this present life and the next. Same for stealing and any other actions. With the natural karma law in force, there is no need in Buddhism to do the bidding of any supreme entity. The law of karma is natural and is not created nor enforced by the Buddha or anyone else. So it is impartial. You cannot also argue with it as with mundane legal cases. And it also does not mean you are offering a gold bar to the Buddha, you will suffer less from the karma you have already created previously. There is no pleasing anyone, unlike other religions whereby you are said to be able to go to the supreme being's heaven if you protect the sanctity of that religion, irrespective of the actions you do in achieving that. Have you not heard of people killing to protect their religions and their supreme being? In Buddhism, it does not work that way. Killing anti-Buddhists who blaspheme the Buddha will still yield the same negative karma as you will if you kill anyone else. It does not mean the karma will be less or that you will be more favored by the Buddha. There is no such thing in Buddhism. But sometimes there are people who misrepresents their religions, so I cannot really judge or imply that other religions are less fair, but one thing is clear - Buddhism is fair. It does not force anyone to do things they don't like. Even though religions that force its adherents to do things does have a place in society, in Buddhism, Buddhists have a choice. Precepts are not forced unto anyone. Hence in Buddhism there is no necessity to segregate the genders in shopping malls, cinemas, hair saloons, etc. Physical separation is only superficial because in Buddhism we are taught that mind is the forerunner of all things - good and bad. It starts with a bad thought. Physical separation does not prevent bad thoughts. Anyway, if you put men with men and women with women too much and too often, that will indirectly foster and promote homosexuality among people of that religion. So, they must be careful not to over-do the segregation. As a Buddhist, I certainly do not wish such non-Buddhist laws to be imposed on any Buddhists. We have our own ways to prevent misconduct amongst Buddhists. There is no need to apply the laws of other religions unto us.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Don't Let Your Character Shy You From Buddhist Practice

Life is too short. Even though some people say I do not improve even though having been to 'retreats' and all that, isn't it true that only sick people need medicines? I know myself better. I will be in a worse position if I don't. Going to such retreats creates a strong imprint which can potentially manifest in future lifetimes, possibly at moments when you need them most. It will reconnect you with the Buddha Dharma even though you may not have resolved your internal 'weaknesses' such as anger, greed, and many delusions. I will not be able to know what sort of religions there will be in the future lives, but based on current ones, I cherish the freedom I get in Buddhism. And I certainly want to reconnect back with my spiritual path in my future lives. After this one is long gone, we are going to have different family members, different environment, different world. So I am not going to let the circumstances of this life undermine my intention to start planting causes and condition to shape my potential future life. Even though I have not exactly gotten rid of my anger, lust, greed, hatred, whatever else.... despite all my negative actions, and I am not giving excuses not to continue to work on them, but I still have not forgotten my path. There is still much that I can do to help sentient beings in various small ways. A few weeks ago, I helped a small house lizard escape out of its 'vajra hell'. Its 'vajra hell' is my house kitchen sink! It was circling round and round and unable to climb out. I am not sure what happened to its ability to climb on vertical surfaces. The sink was not wet or oily. Anyway, it was very tired by the time I saw it and would have died had I not intervened to help it. But it was quite a task to help it as every time I go near it with a piece of paper to push it out of the sink, it ran away from it. This helped me realise that we could be in a similar position. We could be constantly running away from the Buddha's compassionate and tireless effort to give us blessings. Through our own ignorance, we shy away from the Buddha's wisdom and compassion. In the case of Pure Land Buddhism, we are likened to running from Amida's Vow (or not recognising it), even though Amida's Vows are always around us. While trying to help it, I was also chanting some mantras for it to hear, even though it probably could not hear it or could not make any sense of it. But it's okay because it is the connection with the Dharma that I was trying to impart to it. In the end, using some ingenuity, I put a long stick from the top of the sink to the bottom and slowly with another piece of paper, I pushed it when it was too tired to move. Helping sentient beings are much like that. Bodhisattvas must never abandon a sentient being in need, even if it is just a house lizard. It also depends on our innate wisdom and skillful means to respond in the most appropriate manner to sentient being's unique situations. So the lizard crawls out and hid itself underneath a rack for plates and cups. Animals constantly live in fear. This small incident made me realise so many things, and I thought I want to share. I realise that it is not the life of a lizard that really needs saving, rather it is connecting an animal with no Dharma connection to someone with some Dharma connection. If the lizard is lucky, it will die soon thereafter and be reborn in a better realm of existence. Saving the life of the lizard is not the actual animal liberation, rather causing it to be reborn in a better realm is. I think that is important. Hence despite my carelessness sometimes with other humans, there are times when I have shown my little bit of compassion and wisdom. The latter can only be possible due to my little involvement with the Buddha Dharma. That is why one should not shy away from it.

Bottom line is - don't let anyone tell you not to go for meditation retreats, chantings or even involve yourself in Buddhist activities based merely on your outer character. Don't be disillusioned! Don't shy away from receiving help from the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, who are always there for us. Don't feel that you are not joining or quiting because you have not improved despite being involved in it for so many years. Delusions are not that easily uprooted after aeons of its dictatorship!

So... due to the necessity to continue to work on my internal issues, to repent and the need to plant imprints for the future, I will be gone for a while....and I may not be able to write anything in this blog for a while. It does not mean I will be a better person after I return. It may be the same old me from other's perspective. But I will still go because from my point of view, it will not be the same old me. Be patient and take care. I pray that my protectors will take care of my family members and home while I am away! Om Mani Padme Hum! Om Tare Tutare Ture Svaha!

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Monday, November 5, 2012

Non-Genuine Dharma Transmissions

Recently I read an article of an interview between a magazine and a Zen teacher. He is a Westerner and had many years of Zen meditations under many teachers, roshis, shifus, etc. He had the opportunity to see the many things that were going on in the Zen world. Among the things he revealed in that Q & A was that not all persons who got a dharma transmission or who have the title 'roshi' are actually enlightened. From his wide experience he can vouch that there were on occasions 'other considerations' for granting dharma transmissions. Moreover, he said that certain meditative experience of oneness may not be considered as an 'enlightenment' in the Buddhist sense. There could also be people who did not actually penetrate the entire course in koan study but decided to take on the title of 'roshi'. This article confirms my own thoughts that these sort of things could indeed happen. Something similar is mentioned in the book "Foundation of Japanese Buddhism, vol. II" by Alicia & Daigan Matsunaga, publication of Buddhist Books International.  

That was why I said that it is not about the master, but about yourself, ultimately. Also the fact is if the master is genuine, you can still learn a thing or two from him, even though he may not be as enlightened as you think (and even if his dharma transmissions were not based on spiritual attainments). He may still be able to guide you and others in his/her own ways. So some trust and respect to him is still proper. It is different, though, if he is only out to gain fame, position and money. Then you better run. But scandals do happen. How you react to it will depend on your personal experience with the teacher involved in the scandal. It is also completely possible that completely pure enlightened persons could sacrifice themselves in compromising positions merely to help the other persons. As unenlightened persons, we will not be able to fully comprehend this matter. Thank goodness my experiences with my own gurus and masters have not been any other thing but pure. I am not saying the scandals are all lies, nor am I validating them. Only that my spiritual development does not have any such hindrance. I completely trust my gurus and masters. If you do become  'Roshi' or 'Zen Master' (or whatever title) one day or offered a dharma transmission, make sure you are a worthy recipient, enlightened or otherwise. For me, I am not interested in such titles. But I do want someone qualified to check my progress. That's for sure.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Urging the Rakhinees and Rohingyas to Live Peacefully

Even though I have written that the issue between the Rakhinees (who happens to be Buddhists) and the Rohingyas (who happens to be Muslims), are merely ethnic issues, and not religious issues, I have to urge the Buddhist Rakhinees to be more tolerant and compassionate to reach out to the Muslim Rohingyas. Similarly, I would urge the Muslim Rohingyas to tolerate and have compassion on the Rakhinees. Please live peacefully with the Rakhinees. I hope the Government of Myanmar can allocate a piece of land for them, and place all the Rohingyas there. Let them have their own life there.