Friday, December 4, 2015

The Two Truths In Zen: Dongshan's Five Ranks

In Tibetan Buddhism, many Masters talk about the two truths, i.e. relative truth and ultimate/absolute truth. In Zen, there is also talk about the two truths. This is best encapsulated by Dongshan Liangjie, the founder of Soto tradition within Zen Buddhism. He composed what is known as “Dongshan’s Five Ranks”. However, it may not be easy for ordinary persons to understand.

1. The Bent within the Straight (meaning the Relative within the Absolute)
In the third watch of the night
Before the moon appears,
No wonder when we meet
There is no recognition!
Still cherished in my heart
Is the beauty of earlier days.

2. The Straight within the Bent (meaning the Absolute within the Relative)
A sleepy-eyed grandma
Encounters herself in an old mirror.
Clearly she sees a face,
But it doesn’t resemble hers at all.
Too bad, with a muddled head,
She tries to recognize her reflection!

3. The Coming from within the Straight (the Absolute)
Within nothingness there is a path
Leading away from the dusts of the world,
Even if you observe the taboo
On the present emperor’s name,
You will surpass that eloquent one of yore
Who silenced every tongue.

4. The Arrival at the Middle of the Bent (the Relative)
When two blades cross points,
There’s no need to withdraw.
The master swordsman
Is like the lotus blooming in the fire.
Such a man has in and of himself
A heaven-soaring spirit.

5. Unity Attained
Who dares to equal him
Who falls into neither being nor non-being!
All men want to leave
The current of ordinary life,
But he, after all, comes back
To sit among the coals and ashes.

note: the above 5 verses are taken from "Zen Masters of China" by Richard Bryan McDaniel.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

A Little Donation Goes A Long Way

I'd like to share something I did years ago but which only recently did I realise it had benefited my parents now. Hopefully it will inspire our youngsters to start planting their own seeds of dharma so that these seeds will grow into big trees and bear fruits to benefit themselves as well as all sentient beings.

I went to my mother's house recently and noticed there was a dharma book on a desk. It was strange because I know they are not that "into" reading dharma books. It was a dharma book published by City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, specifically it was The Amitabha Sutra - a sutra discourse by the Ven. Master Hsuan Hua. So I asked my parents where they got this. I thought it was one of the Sutras I left behind years ago when I moved out. But that was not it. My mother then explained she got that book from a local temple. She was casually flipping through the book when she saw my father's name and hers in the list of donors who had sponsored the book for free publication. When she saw that, her eyes suddenly opened wide. She became interested in the Sutra and took it back home. She knew it was me who had donated and put their names instead. I told them I had forgotten, but that must be it. I can't even remember everything what I did yesterday, what more some actions I did several decades ago. I was still in school at that time. But I remember I took an initiative to even write to YBAM and donated a little of my pocket money to support the free books published by YBAM. I must have done the same thing for other publications. Those are the seeds I planted years ago and they are bearing fruit now. At that time, my parents were not so interested in reading the Dharma books I brought back home. No matter what books I brought back then, they just won't read. But now, they are interested and my mother said this is karma. Yes, I am glad she understands. Hopefully she reads the entire Sutra, because the Amitabha Sutra will truly benefit them considering their old age now. I feel sad it took so long to see the fruits coming out now, but as the saying goes, better late than never. I did not donate much. It was less than RM5.00, if not mistaken. But yet, the dharma is not measured by money. It is sincerity. Even though I was young at that time, I was very sincere in the dharma. The things I have done then, a lot of them I don't even remember now. But I get surprises every now and then. Incidences like this remind me of my actions which I did years ago. If the small donation I made then can truly benefit my parents now, I am truly happy. So, never underestimate the small donations or the small good deeds you make! You’ll be surprised, how extensive it will go.

It is now that I realise that had I not "invested" so much of my time in the Budda Dharma then, when younger, my present situation would not have been possible. Blessings don't drop down from the sky without causes. To be sure, same thing for the negative things we did in the past. It will bear its ugly fruits too.  I want to thank Ven. Master Hua for his extensive kindness - his physical body no longer around, but his dharma life is ever present! Namo Amitabha Buddha!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Completed 100,000 Prostrations and Reminder from Ven. Master Hsuan Hua

Recently I realised that I have completed my 100,000 mark prostrations. It was a practice I started sometime in 2006 I think. I started off very slowing, I think doing prostrations only in the weekends. Then I do it everyday. Later I increased the prostrations to about 50 per day, and 108 during Saturdays. Then I increased it to 54 per day, except on Saturdays that is. I thought I will never be able to complete it but slowly, bit by bit, I managed to complete it. Now I am over the threshold. I completed the mark sometime in July this year but did not realise it till recently. When I realised it, it dawned on me that at around that time, I bumped into a dharma brother who is also a disciple of one of Ven. Master Hsuan Hua's students. When he found out that I am a direct disciple of Ven. Master, he said something about doing 10,000 prostrations. Although I have never forgotten about the 10,000 bows of Master Hua, that remark by the dharma brother came at such a timely manner when I have completed /almost completed the 100,000 prostrations. You think it is a coincident? Based on my experience, I don't think so. So, now I realised it was a reminder from the Buddhas and Venerable Master Hua, that I must complete the 10,000 bows too. It was also an acknowledgement that they are aware of my practices. Considering my difficult life, especially my working life, it is incidences like this that makes my life a little comforting.

I want to thank the Buddhas and  Ven. Master Hsuan Hua for still keeping my practice in your holy minds. Thank you!

I want to dedicate the 100,000 prostrations of Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche's good health and continue to teach the Buddha Dharma!

I also want to dedicate the 100,000 to my other Tibetan Gurus, Zen Gurus, my other Buddhist teachers and Dharma friends - May they all have the excellent conditions for the dharma practice and dharma teachings!

Although I may not always be keeping true to my practice, and I do have my personal faults, it does look like the Buddhas and my Venerable Masters never gave up on me. And to this, I appreciate very much! Thank you!  

Monday, September 28, 2015

Practising Zen and Tibetan Buddhism

I suspect there are not that many people who are practising both Zen and Tibetan Buddhism at the same time. But I am doing just that. I would like to believe that I am combining elements of both traditions in a way that suits my spiritual needs, and at the same time does not make the practice into a mumbo-jumbo spiritual mixed cocktail. I think I know how to distinguish the practices and not to "corrupt" any practice in any way. I don't add my own flavour, so to speak. I find that each practice fulfills a part of my spiritual need that may not be adequately be fulfilled by another practice. By the guidance of my Tibetan Buddhist gurus and Zen teachers, ... and others... I hope to complete my spiritual journey in this lifetime.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Bodhisattva Way of Life

Teaching by Zen Master Seung Sahn in 1996,at Dong Guk University.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Buddhist Centres should make people feel welcomed

Buddhist Centres should always try to make people feel welcomed. Ask them - "How are you?", "How is everything?", "Is there anything we can do to help?", etc. Show some genuine concern. But some Buddhist centres, especially the more senior members, the moment they see you, they ask "Why have you not been coming to the centre for so long?" It's like a confrontation. "Why are you absent?" It's so un-Buddhistic. So different from what they are supposed to have been taught.

I am writing this so that people can ponder. Make people feel welcomed. Reach out to people. Don't wait for people to come. Go to them! Buddhists learn and talk so much about Bodhicitta, but often they show very little of it in their actions.

Namo Amitabha!

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Why I dreamt of the Dakini?

I think I know why I dreamt of the dakini. I was having difficulties shaking off thoughts on a certain spirit in the days before the dream. It kept coming to my thoughts, especially in the early mornings, after sleep. However, after the dream of the dakini, it probably shocked me and the thoughts ceased to be a problem. So, thank you, DAKINI.  

Friday, June 5, 2015

I dreamt of a Dakini

I have been having very strange dreams lately... or, perhaps I should call it "nightmares"? They were scary dreams that I rather not talk about. But the strangest of all happened last night. I dreamed of a lady with dirty face and long, dishevelled/messy hair, looking at me and creeping towards me. Her looks are really creepy and looks like those witches of medieval times. Not those beautiful angelic kind. Then at that time, there was this verse in praise of Mother Dakini. It just made me think whether she could be a dakini? Am I in trouble? Is she trying to protect me, or harm me?

The thing that is different about this "scary" dream as compared to the previous ones I had in previous nights before is that I felt safe with this "lady-witch", whereas in previous nightmares, I woke up feeling scared. I do not remember the verses in praise of Mother Dakini, but apparently it came from a Tibetan Buddhist text.

Whether this is delusion or not, now I am digging as much as I can on dakinis. I really wasn't that much on this subject before. Thank you!

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Reciting Golden Light Sutra for Nepal

As advised by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche, I have finished reciting the Golden Light Sutra for Nepal in light of the recent earthquake disaster there. I would like to dedicate the recitation as follows:-

1. to Lama Zopa's safety and long life as well as for all of my Gurus.
2. to the dead in Nepal - may they be reborn in a happier place.
3. to those who are alive - may their homes and lives be restored.
4. to the reduction of my greed, anger and delusion. Do I need to say more? :)

Half-way through the recitation, I felt as if there is a sudden ripening of my negative karma. Suddenly I became sick. I wasn't having flu, suddenly I have flu. But I recovered slightly the next day. It's not that serious. At the end of the recitation, especially after the chapter of Jalavahana's fish and chapter on tigress, I really felt happy. At the completion of the recitation, I felt as if a huge burden had been lifted from my shoulders. It's like something negative I had been carrying is now gone. I do not know what that is, but I am thankful for this Sutra. And thankful to Lama Zopa for advising people to recite it. Thank you!

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Water Bubbles Returned Recently

The water bubbles in my water bowl offerings returned recently. It's about end of March 2015. It appeared in a reverse osmosis water bottle taken from Hotel Equatorial but which I offered it to the Buddha Amitabha in my house. It also appeared in the smaller bowls but lesser quantities. More appeared in the water bottle. I did not realise it until today that I had crossed the 900,000 mark of Migstema mantras recently. Thank you for coming. 

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"The Compass of Zen" is such a Gem

"Compass of Zen" is a book compilation of the teachings by Zen Master Seung Sahn.  When I first got to know of this book, I remember I saw a synopsis of it or saw the table of contents, or something and developed this idea that it is a book I could give a miss. After all, I thought I knew already those subjects on "Hinayana Buddhism" such as the Four Noble Truths, Noble Eightfold Path and on "Mahayana Buddhism topics such as the six paramitas, the Heart Sutra, the Lotus Sutra, etc.

I was mistaken.

The book turned out to be such a gem. The excellent Zen Master  explained each topic but unlike other books, cuts through all the wordy "crap"... and in Zen style, directly points to the key message of that topic. For example, most Buddhist Masters would say the 2nd Noble Truth as the cause of suffering. He directly informed the readers that the 2nd Noble Truth is the 12 Dependent Originations. And the 3rd Noble Truth is the reverse of the 12 Dependent Originations. By reversing the order, we are able to end suffering, which is the traditional way of explaining the 3rd Noble Truth.

Another example. You would think that the Diamond Sutra is about emptiness. According to Master Seung Sahn, the Diamond Sutra actually provides a bridge for a person to cross from the Hinayana view to the Mahayana view. And the Mahayana view centres a lot on the bodhisattva way.  In a recent teaching I have attended, which is a teaching by Yangsi Rinpoche, of Maitripa College, he also excellently condensed the entire teaching on this same Sutra by saying that this Sutra is on the Relative and Ultimate Bodhicitta.  I have never thought of the Diamond Sutra as a Sutra on bodhicitta. So, yes, we can see that mind of Zen Master Seung Sahn and that of the Tibetan Lama converges on the meaning of this Sutra as far as (at least) that it is about the bodhisattva way besides the view on emptiness.

I don't have the luxury of time as before to write long articles. So, this is my short comment on the book "the Compass of Zen" by Zen Master Seung Sahn. It is a publication by Shambala. Do get this book if you have been learning about Mahayana and wants a refreshing view of what you have learned. For those of you who are into Zen practice, I would say that this book is indispensable.

My prostrations to the excellent Zen Master!

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Only the Dalai Lama decides on His reincarnation!

After a long break, let me start with something on His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Referring to this news (and similar ones),, China can say whatever they want on wanting to control the Dalai Lama's reincarnation, but the truth is, they cannot even control their own future rebirth. The China government politicians will be reborn according to the karma they have created. If they don't have any good karma, they will be reborn into one of the three lower realms (just like anybody else). That is for sure. But His Holiness the Dalai Lama has control over his rebirth... for him, the term to use should be "reincarnation"... and China government has absolutely no power over his reincarnation. They may have political power, but they don't have spiritual power to control his reincarnation. In fact, none of us has any power to do so.