Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Everyday Is An Auspicious Day





Quotation from the Buddha: Majjhima Nikaya 131:

(Bhaddekaratta Sutta)

Auspicious Day

You shouldn't chase after the past
or pin your hope on the future.
What is past is left behind.
The future hasn't yet arrived.

What experience is PRESENT
you clearly see.....
Right there; Right there.
Not taken in, unshaken.
That's how you develop the heart.

Mindfully doing what should be done TODAY
for who knows?
TOMORROW death may come.
There is no bargaining with death
and his mighty hordes.

Whoever lives thus diligently,
relentlessly, both day and night,
has truly had an Auspicious Day.

*********************************

May you have good health,


peace and contentment.

And a very happy new year 2009!







Friday, December 26, 2008

Do you want others to kill you?


FreeStockPhotos.com
(Picture above not related to this post)
(Just for viewing pleasure)


Question:(unedited)
Hello!
This is a passage from the Catholic Bible:
"Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth."

I wrote this passage from the Bible because i'd like to ask you about the animals and the way they are treated by people. I'm not thinking about pets that people have at home and sometimes, unfortunately, treat them very cruelly. My question is broader and applies to eating animals. I'm thinking about slaughterhouses and many other places where animals are kept and very often inhumanly treated by people. My question is, do we have the right, reflecting upon the above passage from the Bible, to do such things with animals because God gave us dominion over them. I know that we can eat animal meat and maybe there is nothing wrong with it, but the procedure of killing animals is performed on such a big scale that sometimes i can't imagine it myself. There are also many other companies which produce cosmetics or medicines, killing at the same time animals, to improve their products. I'm just wondering is it all right because, once again, we have dominion over these creatures? What's your attitude as a Buddhist? How do you think!?
thank you!


My comment:

Hi L...,

Thank you for asking me.

I wonder whether your bible gives you the right to kill all animals?

The Buddhists, view all living beings as simply "living beings". All beings have the right to exist. To know whether we have the right to kill; simply put yourself in the shoes of the victim. Do you want to be killed by others? Do you have fear of death? In terms of scientific anatomy, an animal is no different from a human. The only difference in the Buddhist perspective is the level of "mental consciousness". "Life" is a manifestation of this mental consciousness attaching itself to a "life form", be it an animal or a human. From this Buddhist interpretation, life is life. Every life has the right to exist in its own way. As Buddhists, we are advised not to harm life to the best of our ability, and to have compassion for all lives.

Killing and eating meat are 2 different aspects. Killing means the termination of life. Eating meat means eating "dead" meat. I may be eating meat; but I do not commit the act of killing. To some who do not wish to associate with meat have decided to be vegetarians. This is a wise and wholesome decision, and certainly a very healthy one.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Spiritual Shock!


(Free Stock Photos)
(Picture above not related to this post)
(Just for viewing pleasure)


Question: (unedited)
Hello Justinchoo,I am a Catholic but I am also very interested in Buddhism and have read alot of books, especially by Thich Nhat Hahn, in fact I have been to classes on Buddhism and have tried to practice meditation, compassion towards everything and other ideas. As much as I am attracted to the ideas of the Buddha I am non-the-less confused and anxious in the sense that I believe in Jesus as the son of God and that God created us for love and to know him/her for ever and tobe with him/her.Is it possible for me to reconcile what appears to be two opposing views and achieve some kind of equanimity and peace.I believe in God but I also believe in Buddha. Am I going off my head?


My comment:
Hi P,

Thank you for asking me. It is always a mental trauma for a person who has been brought up in a western Christian society when confronted by Buddhist concepts. It is inevitable because what you have been led to believe and accept all your life have suddenly been challenged to the core. We have known "culture shock". This is "Spiritual Shock"!


The first line of defence is to rationalize and try to balance all contradictions. This is not going to be successful, and will lead to mental and spiritual disasters. To resolve this predicament, we have to be very analytical by using our heads and not our hearts. First we must face the fact that what we are experiencing is REAL CONTRADICTIONS of two very different interpretations of life and the world. Take the example of a coin. We can accept the face value of what it is worth. But we cannot have both sides of the coin facing us at any one time. The universal values or principles of most religions are similar, such as kindness, compassion, devotion, and other good moral values. These are like the "face value" of the coin, acceptable by all. However, and this comes the problem; the fundamental interpretations of life and the world are very different and often contradictory amongst these different religions. This is just like having to choose either "head" or "tail" of a coin. We cannot have both. You can't have both cakes and eat them all!



The fundamental concepts of the 2 religions are totally contradictory to each other. One believes and fears the Creator God. The other does not subscribe to the existence of a Creator God, and does not believe nor fear Him. Christians consider themselves subservient to God who punishes and rewards at His whims and fancies. Buddhists regard themselves as their own masters and not as puppets on strings being manipulated by a puppeteer up above. There are many other concepts that are totally opposed to each other, which at this juncture is best to refrain from commenting so as to avoid creating more controversy and antagonism.



There is no logic for one to subscribe to doctrines that are contradictory to one another. If two doctrines are contradictory, one must be wrong, or even both may be wrong. For sure both cannot be right.



Your comment : "I believe in God but I also believe in Buddha."


My comment: This is not logical.


If 'G' said, "I created 'B'."


But 'B' said, "No, 'G' does not exist."


Both cannot be right!

Please don't "go off your head"! But to use your head with the human intelligence and common sense to analyze and to decide FOR YOURSELF.



Please take your time to study both religions; analyze their concepts and interpretations and make your own judgments, conclusions and decisions. This is the Buddhist way.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Can I be Buddhist and still be Catholic?



(Free Stock Photos)

(Picture above not related to this post)
(Just for viewing pleasure)


Question: (unedited)
I like what buddhism teaches but I want to keep my other religion....can i be buddhist and still be catholic??

My comment:
Hi,

Thank you for asking me.

You can't have both cakes and eat them all!

The funamental concepts of the 2 religions are totally contradictory to each other. One believes and fears the Creator God. The other does not subscribe to the existence of a Creator God, and does not believe nor fear Him.

Christians consider themselves subservient to God who punishes and rewards at His whims and fancies. Buddhists regard themselves as their own masters and not as puppets on the strings being manipulated by a puppeteer up above.

There are many other concepts that are totally opposed to each other, which at this juncture is best to refrain from commenting so as to avoid creating more controversy and antagonism.

There is no logic for one to subscribe to doctrines that are contradictory to one another. If two doctrines are contradictory, one must be wrong, or even both may be wrong. For sure both cannot be right.

If you are devoted to any one religion, you will know that the question of following the other religion does not arise.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fighting Over Dead Body


http://www.flickr.com/photos/kiwanja/268744119/


Question:(unedited)
hi Justin


A topic abt death and preparation for the funeral cropped up during the death of one relative recently. It was told that the deceased should not be brought back to the house since he passed away in the hospital and no bathing or touching of the body within 8 hours as the deceased will feel the pain as his soul will come back during this time? This was told by a committee member of a Mahayana sect. and a debate arise to which is right and wrong during the bathing of the body. Could you explain further?




To my understanding, Buddhism teaches us that once the mental energy and matter disintegrated, that is when death occurred, the being ceased to feel, experience any sensation whatsoever to this body thus funeral preparation can be done straight away. So why is it that the Mahayana sect explain otherwise? This is such a confusing statement esp. it claims that the deceased fail to notice that he has passed away thus prayers should be done on the 7th day, 49th day and 100th day with display of his favourite foods on the table for the "soul" when he returns (claims that he will definite returns) during this time.




This committee also said that there is proof that there is such a person experienced such agony/ pain (during this afterlife moment) when preparation is done within 8 hours. Now, if this person comes back when doctors declare him dead, then this is not death, right? What is your opinion? Instead shouldn't we as the relative to the deceased offer special chanting and do merits under his name to cease his sufferings so that he has the wholesome causes for happiness and free from sufferings?




Kindly explain. What else we should do to help the deceased? Pardon me for such questions...and thank you for answering my questions...





My comment:
Hi C,


Thank you for coming back. First, please remember the historical development and spread of Buddhism, which I wrote earlier. It is very important that you understand this historical development, leading to the different "traditions" or "sects". The differing schools have different interpretations with regards rites and rituals, mainly to do with their respective customs and cultures. It is of no point arguing over these rites and rituals. It is very important that you DECIDE which tradition you want to follow. You have to study and analyze and DECIDE for yourself which is right for you.




The Mahayanas have their rites and rituals. The Tibetans have theirs also. And so are others. Which to follow? We must go back to basics. The Buddha taught only TRUTH and PEACE. Nothing else. Your understanding of Buddhism is along the line of Theravada, which I follow. You don't have to get confused if you stick to the Theravada tradition. What others do is up to them. We don't have to follow them. This is our freedom. Likewise, we don't have to tell others what to do. It is very important that we know exactly what we should do. This is 100% confidence in ourselves. This is important.




As my teacher, the Chief Rev. Dhammananda of Brickfields Temple in K.L., Malaysia said, "We Buddhists don't fight over dead bodies!"

Monday, December 15, 2008

I think, therefore I am.


http://www.flickr.com/photos/babykailan/598937577/

Question: (unedited)
Hi, how are you!

Whenever i read something that is connected with Buddhism or meditation then i always notice that there is much talking about "thinking" and "thoughts" Could you tell me why you pay so much attention to this, i mean to "thinking" What's so bad in thinking, everybody has to think. I think what i'm gonna do tomorrow, i think about my future from time to time. If you want to plan something you got to think. So is thinking something bad in Buddhism? Thank You!


My comment:

Hi L....,

I am very well, thank you.

"I think therefore I am"

The Buddha's analysis of a person is that this person consists of the physical body and the mind, which is the consciousness that makes us think. There is nothing wrong with thinking. In fact it is just natural that we think. If we can't think, we will be Zombies. However, just "thinking" is not good enough. There is right thinking and wrong thinking. Right views and wrong views. This is the first of the Buddha's teachings of the Noble Eightfold Path. If we have wrong views, we will have wrong thinking, leading to wrong actions creating wrong results.

The Buddha placed great emphasis on thinking right. When we are skilful in our conduct of our lives, we will experience inner peace and happiness. What is this right thinking? Having positive thoughts is right thinking. Having harmless thoughts is right thinking. Having compassionate and unselfish thoughts is right thinking. Understanding the true nature of this world and this life is right thinking. Right thinking leads to positive results. It is beneficial to oneself as well as to others.

What is wrong thinking? Thoughts of greed, hatred and evil are wrong thinking. Wrong thinking leads to negative results, which are harmful to oneself as well as to others.


So, continue to think, but make sure you think rightly.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

No problem, no problem.



The person who is always smiling doesn't mean that he has no problem.

But the smile shows that he has the ability to overcome all his problems.



(The above message courtesy of my blogger friend @ Serendipity Hopeful)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Accepting the inevitable.


Question: (unedited)
I am currently working through some very strong feelings as I care for a close family member who has terminal cancer. I have been meditating to help her and to keep me strong too. My question is, almost as soon as I leave the refuge and quiet of my meditation, feelings of anxiety, anger and failure return and I quickly feel like I'm back at square one! Is there anything I can do to make the feeling of peace and strength last just a little longer? Thanks.


My comment:
Hi,


Thank you for asking me. Even if you can make it "last just a little bit longer", you still will be back to square one; isn't it? This is the time when we have to face this Dukkha which the Buddha had pointed out to us. There is no way we can by-pass this Dukkha. The "solution" lies in our realization of this Truth of Dukkha, and to forebear and come to terms with this Reality of life.


This is the time when we must reflect on the truth and reality of this life. Such is the ugliness of this world and this life. This IS the TRUTH, the Dhamma which the Buddha preached. When we come to terms with the world, we will experience peace..inner peace; as there is nothing much that we can change or fight this world and this life.


Peace only comes by following and accepting the realities of existence. Have peace by accepting that which we have no control.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Why renunciation?




http://www.flickr.com/photos/skarthikn/2306265781/

Question:(unedited)
Dear Mr. Choo, I'm wondering why some people become monks or nuns and renounce romantic love, personal posessions, etc.? Are they the only ones truly practicing Buddhism? Are they the only ones that can reach true enlightenment and happiness? Or are these things possible as a lay person, too? (i do hope so.) Many thanks.


My comment:
Hi,


Thank you for asking me. The Buddha's teachings are about universal truths. These truths are truths irrespective of who you are or where you are. In other words, these truths transcend race, nationality, belief, and even time and space. These truths are universal and cannot change.


The 3 characteristics of the nature of this world are universal truths. They are impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and without substance. In each of us, there are 3 universal truths. They are greed, hatred, and delusion. They vary in intensity at different times and in different people.


The other truths are what we call conventional truths. These truths are based on convention and acceptance by the people who are concerned with them. Examples of conventional truths are money, laws of the country, customs, etiquette, culture, rites and rituals, and many other such conventional conduct and behaviour. These may not be considered as good or bad, although generally, they are for the benefit and protection of the population.


As lay persons, we are subject to abide by these conventional truths so that we can live in harmony within our society. However, at times conventional truths may not be in congruent with universal truths. The 5 precepts are universal truths. Can we practise these 5 precepts perfectly and at the same time abide by the myriads of conventional requirements?


In order to FULLY concentrate on spiritual advancement in the Buddhist way, it will be most conducive to leave mundane matters out and to become a monk or nun. If one is a lay person, just imagine the numerous problems and hindrances imposed by conventions, by one's spouse and children, one's job, one's worldly social interactions with so many types of people,etc, etc.


All things being equal, monks and nuns would have a more conducive life-style to practise and gain spiritual liberation. As monks and nuns, they have made the resolution to give up worldly concerns and worldly pleasures; and to FULLY concentrate on spiritual advancement.


As lay person, one can still find happiness and contentment by practising the teachings of the Buddha to live a harmless and noble life. By understanding and accepting the true nature of this world and this life, one can live a happy and contented life by balancing the dictates of conventional requirements with the wisdom of universal truths.


Hope the above comments are adequate. Should you need more elaboration, please come back.




Thursday, December 4, 2008

Time : Follow-up question




http://www.flickr.com/photos/simpologist/16734948/





Question: (unedited)
What you told me is true. I just want to know how does buddhist philosophy explain the sensation of time? Since nothing is changing, that would mean that time could be described as a 4 dimensional static space and for each moment there would be a totaly different consciousness for each creature . But if you were to travel through infinite space you could also find a "past you"(since there are infinitely many things in infinite space) , so there would be no reason for time, that is, if space could hold all possible moments. So, infinite time and infinite space form a paradox. How is my consciousness structured so that it gives the illusion of time (and space) as it is perceived ?



My comment:
Hi,
There is a slight confusion here. I must have accidentally clicked the wrong button, a few moments ago. Also you should have received my message 24 hours earlier if not for the power failure at my place which completely wiped out my data. By the time power was restored, it was too late to reply. All right, let's get down to work.


I thought you told me that you were a simple man seeking simple answers. Now you are asking extremely difficult questions which I don't think I could find direct answers from the Buddhist scriptures. Just the same, I shall try my best to comment on your queries. But be forewarned; you might get more confused in the end; for sure I would.


Your first comment: " I just want to know how does buddhist philosophy explain the sensation of time? Since nothing is changing, that would mean that time could be described as a 4 dimensional static space and for each moment there would be a totaly different consciousness for each creature."


In fact everything IS changing. Only "change" is not changing. This is the first of the Buddhist trilogy of the phenomena of the world. Everything is changing such that nothing is permanent. Because of this impermanence, the whole nature of things cannot last forever. The only permanent thing is impermanence itself. Our consciousness is not a permanent unchanging entity. You have a good point in identifying that "for each moment there would be a totally different consciousness for each creature". The Buddha revealed that this consciousness is a process. It is not static; that is why we do not subscribe to the idea of a permanent soul. This consciousness is in a state of flux; each moment is a different entity in itself, and yet there is this continuity.


The Buddha described this continuing process as "neither totally different nor exactly the same". Our lives are actually a process of momemt-to-moment consciousness.


Your second comment: "But if you were to travel through infinite space you could also find a "past you"(since there are infinitely many things in infinite space) , so there would be no reason for time, that is, if space could hold all possible moments."


An astrophysicist explains the nature of time in relation to space, which I quote, "The light coming from distant objects in space is made up of a tremendous number of tiny particles called 'photons'. This light from our reference point, has travelled for millions and even billions of years. But from the standpoint of these photons travelling at light speed, TIME is zero. From the viewpoint of these photons, they just departed from the source less than an instant ago! Because time slows down the faster you go, and at lightspeed, time becomes zero. So no time passes for those photons....they just left the source as far as from their viewpoint is concerned. Because they travel at lightspeed, a magical clock onboard a photon, it would show no time has elapsed since its creation, no matter how long it seems to us!"


So, coming to your last comment, infinite time and infinite space form a paradox, seems to be quite true from the above scientific explaination. As the Buddha pointed out there is no beginning and there is no end....there is NO time!


Your last question: "How is my consciousness structured so that it gives the illusion of time (and space) as it is perceived?"


Precisely what the Buddha was trying to teach us. Our deluded mind through ignorance is being deceived to think that there is substance in us and the objects that we see. In the final analysis, the Buddha revealed the truth of this world, this life, and this universe.....They are all empty processes.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Time


http://www.flickr.com/photos/erikvanhannen/537167308/






Question:(unedited)



Please tell me why is there no accurate explanation for time in buddhist philosophy ? The world is nicely explained as manifestation of mind, but i couldn't find any explanation for time except "continuous flow". I hope you can give a simple answer, for a simple man. thank you for your time






My comment:
Thank you for asking me.




By the way, I am also a simple man, just like you. I shall try to give a simple answer. In fact if you care to read my answers in the "previously asked question" page, you will find that all my answers were simple and down-to-earth.




Time is a concept "invented" by man to indicate a point in time. It was also natural that since time immemorial, man could see the sun rose and set, seasons changed. With the identification of those physical changes, the concept of time naturally occured. Now if we were to explore space, we would notice that there is no end to our journey. And if were to trace back to the origin of "creation" we would find that a beginning cannot be established. If there is no beginning and no end, how can we have TIME?




Please come back if you need to, happy thinking.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Harsh Speech



http://www.flickr.com/photos/jaydubya/27774816/


Question: (unedited)
- I was just wondering if swearing goes against 'right speech'? I'm asking this question because i swear and I need to know if this is considered 'bad' in buddhism. If you could please answer my question, thanks.


My comment:

Hi, Thank you for asking me.

The beauty of the Buddha's teachings is that we can always use our common sense and human intelligence to analyze them. Now let us use our common sense to answer your question..... Well, you got the right answer immediately. Don't you?


It is always a very pleasant feeling when one hears polite and gentle words. It shows that the person is a noble and cultured human being.


Smile from justinchoo :-)


----------------------------------------------------------

Follow-up Question: (unedited)

well not to be rude or anything like that, but that doesn't really answer my question, im sorry, but at times my common sense isn't that great, thanks.


My comment:
Hi,

My apology for the indirect answer.


The direct answer is this. There are 10 unwholesome actions in our thoughts, our speech, and bodily actions. One of them is "harsh speech". Swearing can be considered harsh speech which is unwholesome. It is unwholesome because it hurts people's feelings and also creates aversion in one's mind. In other words, it is bad.


Please come back if you need elaboration.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Stressed out


http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenilio/386282602/


Question:(unedited) (This person is a regular visitor and is a paramedic)

Hello Justin.

This time I have something different on my mind besides a question. I was involved in a bit of an accident at work. I crashed the ambulance into a building (nobody was injured). But I am in a bit of trouble with my supervisors etc. I find myself very stressed about this situation, and have been unable to meditate for about a week now. My mind just cannot settle down. Are there any particular passages from buddha's teachings that I could find some comfort in?

Thank you very much my friend.



My Comment:
Hi G...,


The solution is not to find some magic quotations from the Buddha's sayings. The right approach is to find the pertinent teachings of the Buddha to resolve your problems. You are in a very unique situation where you are confronted with the true nature of life; the realities of life unfolding in front of you everyday when you are whizzing through the traffic, siren and all.


This is the reality of life. Life is full of dangers and uncertainties. Anything can happen to us irrespective of our colour, our belief, our age, our size, our position in society, rich or poor, and everything else! No one is in charge in this world except the workings of kamma. Once you can realize this fact of DUKKHA you will be able to accept what comes in life. Your problem will gradually dissipate once you accept that which is inevitable and natural in this unpredictable world. We must ride with the waves of life, like the skilful surfer.


As for your meditation, don't force yourself to do things that you have difficulty with. The more you fight, the more tense you become. Take a break from the meditation session. When you become more relaxed, you can still continue with the practice. You have plenty of time.

Remember, we are all going through the journey; we have not reached our destination yet.


If you still insist of finding a passage which will help you, refer to verses 1&2 of the Dhammapada:


"Mind precedes all mental states; mind is the root; they are all mind-wrought. If with an impure mind a person speaks or acts, suffering follows him like the wheel that follows the foot of the ox."

"Mind precedes all mental states; mind is the root; they are all mind-wrought. If with a pure mind a person speaks or acts, happiness follows him like his never-departing shadow."


Have peace, my friend!


Smile from justinchoo :-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Ajahn Chah : Mindful Way (You Tube)



The late Ven Ajahn Chah taught very practical Dhamma.

Most Buddhists would have heard of the Venerable. His most successful Dhamma life was with the Western (Caucasian) group. His most senior Western disciple is Ajahn Sumedho who came into contact with the Venerable while Ajahn Sumedho was a young American serving under the US Peace Corp mission in Borneo. Ajahn Sumedho is now in England. For more info please click HERE:

Another very popular disciple monk is an Englishman now residing in Australia. He is Ajahn Brahmawamso, more popularly known as Ajahn Brahm. For more info please click HERE:

For more info about Ven. Ajahn Chah, please click HERE:


Friday, November 14, 2008

Superman and Buddha




Question: (unedited)
Subject: Silly Question
Simple (dumb) question : is it true that Buddha had supernatural powers, like Superman :)

My comment:

Well since it's a silly question, you will receive a SILLY answer: Superman was an Indian (not your Red Indian) of the Indian Continent. He was a monk, but misbehaved by showing off his supernatural powers and had to be disrobed and exiled in a faraway uncivilized land called America. That was why his underwear was showing!



Laugh by justinchoo :-0



[Footnote: The questioner is a regular, so this is a light-hearted banter!! :-) ]

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Precious self


http://www.flickr.com/photos/steveduteuil/2886895483/


Question:(unedited)

hello my friend, Im back again to ask another question. I have read a lot about how it is the concept of "precious self" that keeps people feeling trapped in desire and consumed by their egos. It would seem that because people feel "precious" to themselves they have their own interest and happiness as a priority. I have noticed that it is very difficult for me to sometimes not take the mean words or actions of others personally. I try to remember that they are really only hurting themselves through negative karma, but it is hard to not feel "precious" sometimes. Is the ego and the "precious self" the same thing according to your understanding? Thank you again my friend, I hope you are well.


My comment:

Thank you for dropping by. I am very well, thank you.

The Buddha's concept of "no self" or "no soul" is quite often misinterpreted. As you very aptly put it, according to my understanding of the Buddha's explanation, the concept of Anatta or "No self" is as follows.

The underlying concept of Anatta is that in the final analysis, there is nothing in this world which we can call our own. Please not the phrase "in the final analysis". Right now I am a living person, a Self, with feelings and consciousness, likes and dislikes. I am a very imperfect individual.

Without any knowledge of the Buddha's teachings, I will not gain anything in life, except eat, sleep, having sex, getting angry, being happy, being sad, getting sick, getting old, and die. Just like any animal. But with the knowledge of the Dhamma, the Buddha's teachings, my life is not lived in this stereotyped manner. I come to understand this life. That this life is very brief and in the end I will die, and the cycle will start again, et infinitum. Having this life right now is to understand that while I am living I must not abuse my body and mind.

As a normal living being , I will be subjected to likes and dislikes, pleasures and displeasures, love and hate, happiness and sorrow, and a myriad of other feelings. All these are natural, but not all natural feelings are beneficial to me. So, I must be mindful to be prepared for unforseen circumstances. Having this precious knowledge, I will now practise the Dhamma. I will not over-indulge in sensual pleasures. I will lead a life of moderation. When it's time to be happy, I will be happy. When I can't help feeling sad, I will feel sad. I will flow with the tides of life. Neither complaining nor feeling too elated with events.

In short, my friend, live a normal life. Follow the flow of Dhamma. Live a noble and harmless life. Always be mindful that we are just a miserable mortal. Right now you have this "Self", live it with wisdom of the Dhamma. For in no time there will be "No Thing", "No Self". As you said, it is this Ego that is hurting. Let "Itgo" and you will be free. Live this life but not live with the Ego.

Well, that's my understanding of "no precious self".

See you again, smile from me :-)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Science and Buddhism


Barred Spiral Galaxy NGC 1300


Question:(unedited)

Hello,
I'm writing to you only to refer to a question asked from and answered by you. It's the one with the subject "Time", posted by Tudor.

To answer that question, people prefer to turn to sciences other than the 'science of the mind', although the latter can also provide a quite thorough explanation, if I'm not mistaken. As far as I know, Buddhism has a lot in common with contemporary physics. A book called 'The quantum and the Lotus' deals with the different aspects of and the similarities between quantum physics and Buddhism. (Written by Matthieu Ricard & Trinh Xuan Thuan)

I'm not a Buddhist, I've never studied Buddhist scripts and don't know a single prayer. I'm just a thinker and have always been and I find it comforting and encouraging to see that experts of natural sciences and 'the science of the mind' justify the conclusions I've also come to by thinking and various experiences (and, of course, studying - you can't just "assume" quantum physics without going through a pile of books).

The deeper we search for truth and reality, the more similar the ways of conducting the search and further possibilities opening up become. Sciences and philosophies will no longer be strictly separated as they get closer and closer to the one truth they're seeking.

Thanks for your time :)

Eve


Answer: Hi Eve,

Welcome to this site. It is indeed very refreshing to have visitors like you. The Buddha's teachings were about the true nature of the universe and life....Universal Truths. There is nothing about blind belief. There is nothing about obeying dogmas and commandments. It is about the study and investigation of Universal Truths. Universal Truths transcend time and space, let alone race, nationality, and belief.

Scientists may be very clever. They can invent machinery and equipment and fantastic gadgets to probe the tiniest particle and explore the vastness of space. But there is one thing they cannot do. They cannot increase the power (or lack of it) of their physical sense organs. The range of their eyesight, their hearing ability, and even their mental intelligence, are hopelessly quite limited. That is why they have to rely on huge telescope to explore the universe, and powerful microscope to probe the invisible organisms. As the saying goes, the more we see the universe, the less we know because we now realize that there are so much that we do not know.

The Buddha used the power of his mind to "see and know" the true nature of this world and life. Buddhism has no problem with science. This is because a lot of things that science had discovered were already known and revealed by the Buddha over 2500 years ago! So long as science can help in the progress of humans without harming others, Buddhism accepts. The danger lies in the evil tendency, wickedness, and utter foolishness, of very intelligent people! To be very clever does not equate to be very wise. Cleverness and wisdom are two different traits. This is the danger of this world.

If science is the study and investigation of universal truths, then it is Buddhism! By the way, you need not have to know a single prayer to be a Buddhist. If you know the universal truths, you are a Buddhist!

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Reiki and Buddhism



http://www.flickr.com/photos/nubismos/2755672603/

Question:(unedited)

I have been suffering from self-esteen problem as i had very bad acne hence into depression for 4 years. So i seek a Buddhist Reiki healer for help. Actually before i seek her help,i'm already progressing in my life,cause i'm quite use to my acned face and it has been recovering better.I'm beginning to be the old optimistic and fun loving me,always ready to interact with people. But the healer teacher said i shouldn't go back to that 'me',adding that i always like to attach myself to feeling happy and have too many wants and said i will have superficial friends. I'm pretty supress and confuse by this statement because I'm just doing what i naturally like and with conscience intact. And the fact that i care for my look doesn't mean i only look for superficial friends,i always treat people with sensitivity and with my heart just that looking good will booast my confidence in meeting people.Now, i'm in serious depression,every moment having guilt in whatever i do. So how can Buddhist teachings be applied to layman like us who seek normal wants, like having friends or starting family.

My comment:

Hi, Thank you for asking me.
You just get on with your life. Continue to live the life that you've enjoyed. There is no where in the teachings of the Buddha that curtails a lay person's conduct of his life. As a lay Buddhist, one is advised to follow the 5 precepts, and live a noble and harmless life. We are all subject to certain worldly desires and it is natural that we seek worldly enjoyment within certain limits. So long as we are not too crazy chasing and seeking worldly pleasures, it is reasonable for us to seek worldly happiness like what you have been doing.


Reiki, as you know, is a form of healing using one's natural inner energy. This has nothing to do with Buddhism. Please don't get yourself entangled between reiki and the teachings of the Buddha. They are two entirely different subjects.


Hope you can be your HAPPY self again!


Smile from justinchoo :-)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Die In Peace



http://www.flickr.com/photos/wychwood/208013349/

Question:
Hello! My name is K......... I live in Norway where I am studying nursing. I am writing an assignment about how to treat dying buddhists pain and I have a few questions related to this assignment: Is there anything a nurse working in a western hospital should know about buddhism to be able to treat the dying buddhists pain/illness? I've heard that a buddhist shall not be given medication which makes him drowsy when he is dying. Do you have alternative ways to ease his pain? What do a buddhist think about pain and illness? I hope you can help me answering these questions. Best regards, K.......

My Comment:

Hi K.......,
Thank you for asking me. I think we have to separate the issue into two aspects.


One; it is the relationship between a patient and accepted conventional medical care. I would say your job and responsibility concern this aspect. The other aspect is related to the patient's religious (or spiritual) belief. You are not responsible for this aspect as you are not trained or required to cater for everyone's belief or for that matter, everyone's whims and fancies.


Buddhists have a very different view in relation to life and death, especially in the eyes of an ordinary Caucasian with a Christian tradition and culture. It is very difficult to understand Buddhist concepts if one is not willing to open one's mind to a new paradigm of spiritual interpretation.


Buddhists are also ordinary mortals, subject to pain and sorrow, especially when the end is near. They are no different from anyone. Unless the patient is a very disciplined Buddhist, the standard curative care should be good enough. The best you could do is to follow his wishes within reasonable limits.


In the Buddhist perspective, birth and death is part and parcel of life. In Buddhist training, we are taught to contemplate this reality and inevitability of old age, sickness and death; so that when the time comes we can face death with equanimity. We believe that the mind is a different entity in itself. When the body cannot sustain itself, the mind will continue on its own journey in another life. It is therefore very important that the last thought moment of the patient be very peaceful before his last breath, for it will influence the next stage of its existence, which we call rebirth.


Under ordinary circumstances, it is easy to let the patient die in peace with full consciousness until the last moment. But when pain exists, it is a very different matter. It is up to the individual to choose according to his level of spiritual maturity and his threshold of pain.


There was this Buddhist English gentleman who was a very devout Buddhist. He suffered great pain in his last days. Initially, no pain killer was given as requested by him. However, when his days came nearer, the pain was unbearable, and for all compassion, pain killer was administered.


In Buddhism, there is no strict commandment to be followed blindly. The Buddha advised us to use our human intelligence and common sense to lead a harmless and noble life so that we can die in peace, hopefully without pain.
Smile from justinchoo :-)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Buddhist concepts not controversial?



Question: (unedted)
Hi, I am a college student and I have to think of a controversial topic/thesis in Buddhism. So far, the topics I have thought of thus far have not been controversial enough to my instructor, so I was wondering with your expertise if you had any ideas. Particularly, I was interested in something about the Four Noble Truths or about Karmic action. If you can please get back to me as soon as you can with some insight, I would greatly appreciate it. Thanks!


My comment:
Hi,


Thanks for asking me. I am surprised that your instructor found no controversy in your suggestions. In fact most of the Buddha's teachings are full of "controversies" because the average person usually cannot understand them.


Perhaps if you were to start asking questions on the topics, "controversies" will surface. You will then have a hard time resolving them.


Take for instance, the topic of kamma (karma in Sanskrit), just ask this question: If kamma dictates our lives, how can we take control of our lives? We will just be like sitting ducks waiting for events to happen.


Another question relating to the 4 noble truths: If life is suffering then how can we be happy?


What about the precept of not killing? How can we live without any killing? Do you mean that if someone were to kill me, I would just smile and let him kill me? I think the above will generate enough "controversies" for your assignment.


Then the "kill-all" topic: Buddhists do not believe in the all-powerful, ever-loving, creator God. If he is so powerful and everloving, why allow people to be killed in wars, why allow murderers to kill innocent victims, why allow people to contract cancer and die a painful death, why allow accidents and all the natural disasters, why create hell?

Buddhists do not believe that they are puppets on the strings to be manipulated by God.


This will start the ball rolling!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Problems? No Problem!


http://www.flickr.com/photos/etara/504156889/

Question:(unedited)

Hello justinchoo
I would like to find more about buddhism.
I am 42 years old. Recovering from a nervous breakdown. I am very afraid of a lot of things at the moment. Life is very scary for me. I have tried to meditate before but it is extremely hard to not think of anything. Please can you help me.
P.S. I live near newcastle in England

My comment:

Thank you for asking me.

Right now, if I were you, I would keep myself busy with the things I like to do and enjoy doing them. This will take my mind away from recalling past memories. If I have the time and can afford, I will take a vacation to places that I like. I simply must find ways to relax and stay calm. After a period of time I am sure I will regain my stature and confidence, with a little help from the teachings of the Buddha.

From www.aboutbuddha.org
"Every living being has the same basic wish - to be happy and to avoid suffering. Even newborn babies, animals, and insects have this wish. It has been our main wish since beginningless time and it is with us all the time, even during our sleep. We spend our whole life working hard to fulfil this wish.
Since this world evolved, human beings have spent much time and energy improving external conditions in their search for happiness and a solution to their many problems. What has been the result? Instead of their wishes being fulfilled, human suffering has continued to increase while the experience of happiness and peace is decreasing. This clearly shows that we need to find a true method for gaining pure happiness and freedom from misery.
When things go wrong in our life and we encounter difficult situations we tend to regard the situation itself as the problem, but in reality whatever problems we experience come from the side of the mind. If we were to respond to difficult situations with a positive or peaceful mind they would not be problems for us; indeed we may even come to regard them as challenges or opportunities for growth and development. Problems arise only if we respond to difficulties with a negative state of mind. Therefore, if we want to be free from problems we must learn to control our mind." (unquote)


Whatever problems and issues confronting life, once we understand the true nature of this world and this life, we will come to terms with them. This is because we KNOW and ACCEPT the true nature of this world. The Buddha opened our eyes to SEE things as they TRUELY are, and NOT what we assume and want them to be. The first message the Buddha taught us was that this world is by its very nature not perfect. If it is not perfect, don't expect perfection. Then we have no more problem when we face with imperfections. The second message was that this world is by its very nature, not permanent. If it is not permanent, then don't expect to experience anything forever. Then we have no more problem when we face with change. These are the universal truths of existence. Irrespective of who you are, or what you want to believe, imperfection and impermanence rule supreme. Buddhists come to terms with these universal truths. The Buddha reminded us to be ever mindful of all the uncertainties in life always waiting to pounce on us at any time. The truth is, when there is birth, there will be old age, sickness, and death. And throughout this journey, there will be happiness and sorrow. Buddhism deals with the understanding and realization of the true nature of life; how we can rise above these impermanence and imperfections. This is the message of the Buddha.

The Buddha taught us to calm and take charge of our mind. This we practise through meditation. When our mind is calm, we are relaxed, and in the process our whole system flows smoothly with fewer mental and health problems. However, one needs to have a good foundation of Buddhism and what Buddhist meditation is all about, before embarking into it. One needs guidance to learn Buddhist meditation. Please don't do it alone if you are not sure.

We are scared of many things because of our poor understanding (or ignorance) of this life and this world. We fail to SEE and ACCEPT the inevitable. We want to remain blind and deaf to the realities of life that are confronting us. When we fight against the inevitable, we are torturing ourselves to death. The consequences are fear, sorrow, and in the end when the system cannot take it any longer, it snaps and explodes.

We are like little children having toothache. We cry in pain. We seek temporary relief by way of sweets and biscuits and the occasional hugs and kisses from our mothers. And we hope to get better! We have to grow up, and go see a dentist. The dentist will tell us that it is quite natural to have toothache, but there is a remedy: extraction! As adults we face up to the truth and reality. Have the tooth extracted, and Wallah! no more pain, although we have lost a tooth.

This is the message of the Budhha. Do not expect anything to be perfect and permanent, for the nature of this world and this life is not. When we realize and accept these universal truths of imperfection and impermenance, we free ourselves from sorrow and fear. We will come to accept all that are inevitable and flow with the tides of life.

I hope my sharing will help you regain your confidence. All of us have problems. It is how we respond to them, that is the difference. May you be happy. Take it easy.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Good neighbours.



Question:(unedited)
Hi Justin,

I have been a patient person for many years. I recently moved into a new apartment where my neighbour below my floor is a hawker. Everyday morning 4am, they will prepare cooking oil (using pig's meat), as the smell is very bad, my whole family will wake up. And we started to curse the neighbour. Despite we have sent management to talk to them and suggest them to cook at their stall, suggest them to cook different time, they refused to change and said this is their rights as they do at their home.

In such a situation, everyday my family has to live in hatred mood on these people whenever we smell this. We have tried many ways to prevent the smell and we are still trying.

This is dukha, I do not know how to change my mood in not dealing with "hatred" with this people, despite I am practicing meditation every week.

Pls help me to clear my thought.

Many thanks!

My comment:
Thank you for asking me.

In the Mangala Sutta, the Buddha noted that to have a suitable place to live is one of the highest blessings. It is a big problem that you are facing, no doubt. Perhaps as a last resort you may be able to round up all the immediate neighbours to have a "last stand". Failing which I think the best option is to move.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Mistreating oneself


http://www.flickr.com/photos/dramaqueennorma/201202975/

Question:(unedited)
hello-
i hope that this is an okay question and i thank you for your thoughts in advance :)
i have studied buddhism on and off for the past 4 years. i really need to committ to a practice.
anyway, as i've learned about karma, i have felt like i had a good understanding of how it works and do feel like i'm a compassionate, caring person. i love my friends/family and do want others to be happy.
in any case, i was recently talking with a friend and he brought up something that i had never thought of before. do you know one treats others well, but treats themselves pretty badly...does that cause bad karma? i mean, obviously doing this to others would be awful (and you would naturally feel badly) but to yourself?
thanks for your help with my somewhat embarassing question.
i truly appreciate it.

My comment:
Thank you for asking me.
There is nothing embarrassing about your question. It is a good question. We have actually been treating ourselves badly ever since. That is why we are still here. If we had been treating ourselves perfectly, we would have been perfect and would have found liberation. Each of us has 3 evil roots...greed, hatred, and delusion. So long as we have not completely eradicated all these 3 roots of defilements, we will always be in danger of mistreating ourselves and others.

Buddhist concept of kamma is "volition actions". Actions which we knowingly or intentionally commit, whether to oneself or to others. When committed on others, one causes suffering on the other parties. When committed on oneself, one causes suffering on oneself. In addition, an unwholesome action whether on oneself or others, will inadvertently create a corresponding effect on oneself. So you can see, abusing oneself is inflicting oneself with a double dose of punishment.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Mercy suicide?!


Daniel James with his mother and father.
The engineering student became a tetraplegic
after a scrum collapsed on him during rugby practice
(Picture from Mail Online)

Mail Online reports:
The mother of a paralysed rugby player who killed himself at a suicide clinic has defended her right to help him end a life 'filled with terror and indignity'.

This is serious matter, and a controversial one too.

This post is not to voice my opinion, but to share a story told in another blog maintained by Rev Dhammika.

It is quite long but well worth reading.

Please take your time:

Life. Don't Take It Lightly

[Just yesterday I heard that the British footballer Daniel James had gone to a euthanasia clinic in Switzerland and committed suicide, assisted suicide being legal in that country, even for non-terminal patients. James had been paralyzed from the neck down in a sporting accident and decided his life wasn’t worth living. When I heard about this I was both appalled and saddened.

A few years ago while I was staying at a Buddhist society in Europe I was informed that at 3 in the afternoon someone was coming to see me to talk about the Dhamma. Just before 3 I heard the front gate open and I saw a man in a wheelchair entering the premises. After a bit of fuss getting the wheelchair through the front door the man was pushed into the library by the person accompanying him and I entered to meet him. As we introduced ourselves he held out his hand, I took it and his grip nearly crushed my hand as he shook it. He was a good-looking man of about 25 with a fine complexion and well-developed arms and chest.

Almost immediately he got down to business. ‘Two years ago I was in a car accident in which the driver, my friend, and another person were killed. I was left paralyzed from the waist down. I’m undergoing therapy at present but the doctors tell me that if I have not regained the use of my legs within another 12 months I probably never will. I have decided that if I can’t walk again by that time I’m going to kill myself’. He paused for a moment, letting this piece of information sink in. Then he continued. ‘I have gone to Catholic and Protestant clergymen, a rabbi, a Baha’i teacher and a Hindu swami to ask them if they can give me good reasons why I should not end my life. Now I want to know what a Buddhist would say about this. That’s why I’m here.’ All this was said in a no-nonsense, matter-of-fact manner that convinced me he meant what he said. I asked him, ‘What did these other religious teachers say to you?’ ‘They all said I shouldn’t do it’ he replied. ‘Is being in a wheelchair so terrible,’ I asked him. ‘I will never get an erection again. I leak urine. You can probably smell it a bit. I can’t shit any more like normal people. Every morning I have to remove it manually. I used to love sports, I was a real sportsman. Ill never be able to run and jump like I used to. For the rest of my life I’m going to have to depend on others and quite simply, I don’t want to live like that.’ As he said this I detected a hint of emotion in his voice for the first time. I asked, ‘And have you given any thought to how you intend to kill yourself?’ ‘Gas’ he replied, ‘Its quick, clean and painless. So that’s it. Can you, as an expert in Buddhism, give me one good reason why I shouldn’t kill myself?’ I listened to all this and decided to take the approach I have sometimes found useful in such cases. I spent a few moments pretending to ponder his question and then I said. ‘No I can’t. Given your circumstanced I think suicide is your best option.’ He opened his mouth to say something but nothing come out. He must have assumed that I was going to try to convince him not to kill himself and when I didn’t respond as expected he was knocked off balance. His friend who was standing behind him gave me a horrified look and waved his hand indicating that I should not say such a thing. ‘So you agree. You think I should kill myself?’ ‘Yep, I said.’ Now it was my turn to be silent while my words sunk in.

Finally I said, ‘The only thing I think you should reconsider is how your going to commit suicide. May I recommend another way?’ ‘Er, yes’ he said. His friend looked down and shook his head in despair. ‘This is what I would recommend. I live in Sri Lanka, in Kandy up in the mountains. Every time I go to the town market I see dozens of young guys on all fours crawling around amongst the crowd begging for money or food. They’ve all been crippled by polio. Now because they spend all their time down near ground level and are always breathing in dirt and dust, they often get lung infections. And of course because they crawl around their hands and knees are bruised, calloused and covered with scabs. I also know that almost none of them get any help from the government or any charitable organizations. They live by begging and petty theft. Now this is what I recommend you do. Sell everything you have, go to Sri Lanka, get yourself a one year visa, and do everything you can to improve the lives of these young guys. They have lived on the streets for years so they are a pretty tough bunch. I will be more than happy to give you contacts in Kandy who can help you get a house and the other things you will need. Of course there are no facilities for wheelchair-bound people in Sri Lanka, no ramps or anything. The pavements are uneven and the roads full of pot holes, so getting around will be a constant struggle. I calculate that two years of this plus the strain of working with these very difficult kids should finish you off. I think the only problem you might have is that someone might come to know of what you are doing and try to help you which might prolong your life or even stave of death altogether. But you can always tell them to piss off.’ I said all this in the same no-nonsense tone that he had used when telling me of his resolve to commit suicide. He sat looking at me for a while and then we had a long talk.

I can understand and I sympathize with the terminal patient who is in great pain and who wishes to end (or perhaps better, to shorten) his or her live. But to want to kill yourself just because your life is not going the way you want it, is, to me at least, nanarcisistic, selfish and stupid. The ‘If I can’t win I’m going to take my ball and go home’ attitude to life bewilders me. In Vienna I met a distinguished surgeon who told me his life had become meaningless since he retired some years previously. He didn’t know what to do with himself and was increasingly suffering from bouts of depression. I felt like grabbing him by the collar and shouting, ‘You selfish old man!’ With the skills he had developed during his career there was so much he could do for others – tutoring young medical students, volunteering his knowledge to some charitable organization, spending periods during the year in an undeveloped country passing on his skills to surgeons there. And even if he didn’t want to share what he knew, he could travel, write a book, do some research or take up a hobby. But for whatever reason such possibilities just never occurred to him. The Buddha said that to be reborn as a human is a rare opportunity pregnant with possibilities (S.V,457). To squander that opportunity, to fail to see its potential or to be so fixated on one particular course that it blocked out all others, seems to me to be a terrible tragedy; far worse than being confined to a wheelchair or paralyzed from the neck down. I am not advocating that ‘you can achieve anything if you really want it’ or that ‘never give up’ approach to life so popular in America. The first is a delusion – you can’t achieve anything you want; life is full of limitations. And the second is almost a recipe for unhappiness – knowing when to gracefully surrender, when its time to call it quits, is a mark of good judgment. I am talking about an appreciative awareness of the fact that we are alive and using the time we have well. Yes, we may find obstacles in our way, sometimes very serious ones, so we may have to modify our goals, adjust our expectations or consider completely new ones. I am constantly astonished at how people with serious disabilities find fulfilling and creative ways to spend their time or make their lives meaningful. Daniel James’ self-pity, lack of imagination and willfulness led him to take his life. How very sad.

When I returned to the Buddhist society the next year the young man in the wheelchair came to see me again. He invited me to lunch in the flat he had just bought and where I met his new girlfriend, who quite coincidently, happened to be a Buddhist. I didn’t ask him if he had changed his mind about killing himself but I assumed he had. Sometimes you have the privilege of making a significant difference to someone’s life. If Daniel James had made the goal of his life inspiring and encouraging those less disabled than he himself, I wonder how many lives he might have been able to change.]

Well, what do you think?

Friday, October 24, 2008

Anicca Dukkha Anatta

Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta.
Impermanence, Unsatisfactoriness, Insubstantiality.

Not necessarily in that order!!













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