Sunday, August 31, 2008

My Revered Teacher

The Chief Reverend Dr K Sri Dhammananda

Today (31 August) I dedicate this post to my revered Teacher. To read, please click HERE.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Last thought moment

Question: (unedited)
I understand that in Buddhism, there are different planes of existence. How could that be when the word "I" itself is "nothing" and "nothing" is "Oneself" according to Buddha's teaching. As nothing is permanent in this world, how come there are different planes of existence ? Does the different types of Buddhism, especially those from the Theravada and Mahayana school have the same interpretation in explaining the "different planes of existence"? It is often said that the last thought of a human before he dies will denote what he will become in the next life (the insight of meditation). In this regards, how does one who has always practised good deeds in his life span but due to some unforseen circumstances, he has a bad thought at that instance before death would be born into an unholy realm ? What then is the significant of good Kamma when the last thought has the greatest impact in denoting one's next birth to be ? Thank you.

My comment:
Your questions show that you are well informed of the Buddha's teachings. You have also asked very pertinent questions, especially the second question on "the last thought moment". The "I" is actually not "nothing". It is "no thing". "Nothing" means "non existence". Definitely "I" exists. But "I" am "no thing" in the process. It is an empty process. A process of futility, in the end we go back to square one.

All Buddhist Traditions accept the Buddha's explanation of the different planes of existence. These planes are not permanent. In the end they also disintegrate, and slowly will form again. That is why, the Buddha explained that no matter how good you are, unless you are completely rid of all the defilements, you cannot escape the grasp of life. The highest you would go would be to the highest heaven, which eventually will end, when you have depleted the rewards of your good kamma. Only when one attained enlightenment, one will be able to escape the grasp of these planes of existence,....the attainment of Nibbana.

" It is often said that the last thought of a human before he dies will denote what he will become in the next life (the insight of meditation). In this regards, how does one who has always practised good deeds in his life span but due to some unforseen circumstances, he has a bad thought at that instance before death would be born into an unholy realm ?" "What then is the significant of good Kamma when the last thought has the greatest impact in denoting one's next birth to be ? "

You have asked a very good question. Had you put some though into it, I am quite sure you will get the answer. Certain kamma takes precedent during the process of rebirth. As the mind is always in a flux, always "moving" from the last thought, the next thought will be very much influenced by the last thought moment. That is why the last thought moment just before the person passes away, will take precedent to influence the immediate next thought moment, which in this case will be the first thought moment of the new life. If the last thought moment is of very weak influence, then the effect of the new birth will be of short duration. After this short duration, the consciousness will take rebirth again to suit the more overwhelming kamma which had been prevented to actualize earlier due to the different last thought moment.

As an example, when the person who had been very virtuous throughout his life; at his last thought moment, he had hatred in his mind, and subsequenty passed away, he would be reborn in an unhappy plane. But because that evil thought was of a very weak nature, his new unhappy birth would only last for a short period. Once the effect had been depleted, the next rebirth will commensurate with his virtuous kamma. That answers your last question.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Still Confused!

Today I answered my 1000th question! I wish to share with you this special occasion.

Question: (unedited)
-Do you think or believe that your life is only just a dream? Do you believe your present life is real?Is the whole world are only vibrations. There is no time, no space, nothing; everything is an illusion?Is the world still real??

2.Does Buddhism believe that WE are living a dream of ABSOLUTE BEING??? God?Whose dream is this? Is this our dream? or We are part of a great infinite dream? -Do we still exist?I don't really understand...please explain....-Do you life is just a illusion?

My comment:
My Dear R,
(You have set two records in this place. The first record was when you first visited here with your longest question. Today, you set another record for me, yours is the 1000th question asked.)

I thought you would be offended when I did not answer your question to save you from further confusion. You seem very persistent. You are still asking questions along similar lines. As I told you before, the more you read the other sites which give you contrary information, the more you are going to get confused. There is no way you can reconcile the various different contradictory information.

If you are interested in Buddhism please just concentrate learning the teachings of the Buddha. The site, I repeat, is

I repeat my answers. Your life is not a dream. The world is real. It is our understanding of this world and this life, that is flawed.

My advice to you again:

" May I suggest that you take a break and stop dwelling on your doubts, and stop reading about all the stuff that you have been reading. Please take a holiday, and relax your mind. Whenever disturbing thoughts come around, just ignore them and don't dwell in them for another second. Keep yourself busy with your hobby(ies), do some exercises, visit your friends and relatives and please relax yourself. I assure you if you just relax and don't dwell on all those doubts that trouble you, given time, you will realize that all are real, and you are a normal human being."

"As I have suggested you better take a holiday and free your mind from analyzing too many hypothetical assumptions. The more you ask the more you are going to get confused. And if you ask from so many of us in this site, you will add to your problems, for all our answers will not be the same.I am sorry I do not wish to hurt you further by making you more confused if I answer your questions."

Take care.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Misconception In Buddhism

Question: (unedited)
What is the greatest misconception that you think people have about Buddhism?

My comment:
The greatest misconception about Buddhism is that ignorant people view Buddhism as a very ritualistic religion, full of superstitions and many silly ideas. The Buddha did not waste his time "inventing" these silly rites and rituals. The Buddha revealed the truth of life and how we could conduct ourselves to live in peace with ourselves and the world. Rites and rituals were introduced by the followers at a later stage. Buddhism being concerned with universal truth, is applicable to all the different races. The Buddha did not insist that followers must completely discard their traditions and cultures in order to be better persons. So, different cultures retained their traditions and lifestyles and still being able to practise Buddhism.

To day, the Chinese practise Buddhism in their very Chinese way. The Tibetans likewise retained and incorporated their very colourful and ritualistic rendition of Buddhist practice. The Japanese have their distinctive style. And so are others. The "new wave" of Buddhist practice is now in the west, and they are influenced by the various traditions. The traditions that have the least rites and rituals, to the best of my knowledge, are Zen and Theravada.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Compassion for others

Question: (unedited)
I live in a big city and am faced everyday with the dilemma of having to be compassionate when feeling mistreated by others around me. Sometimes it seems that I am surrounded by mean-spirited people who only wish to release their inner-anger at others. I try to feel compassionate and think "they are in pain and frustrated, and are struggling for happiness", but then I just feel like a doormat for their frustrations. How can I remain compassionate but not feel like a sucker?

My comment:
Compassion is a very tall order. How far can we go, depends on our spiritual qualities and external circumstances. In the real world there will always be those who are suckers. Suckers are born every second seems to be a very true cliché. And most of us have been suckers at one time or another. So it is very natural. We must be careful not to become "good hearted fools". We have to be pragmatic in conducting our worldly affairs. It is easy to deceive ourselves that we can be really compassionate for all and sundry. If we are not up to the standard, so to say, we just cannot be compassionate to all. We simply don't have all the qualities that enable us to behave as such. So the next practical approach to take is to do our best.

We must first of all assess our level of spiritual maturity, and then to practise according to that level. Given time, we may be able to improve ourselves in our spiritual pursuits and hopefully be able to really feel compassionate for more people of all characters. In the meantime we need not have to take on the role of a "perfect" Buddhist.

How we feel is all up to us. Others actually cannot dictate our feelings because it is our minds that decide how we want to feel. As good Buddhists of course, we want to radiate goodwill to all. Having done that we should be feeling refreshed and at peace, instead of feeling like suckers. We know we have done the correct thing, and as with the law of cause and effect, correct results will eventually emerge. If we can consistently keep our cool (which I find it to be very difficult), others will eventually come to respect our good qualities.

As for those opportunists, we will need to be assertive while being compassionate. Such is the realities of life. It is not easy to be good all the time while being surrounded by negative forces. This is the Buddha's revelation that the world is "Dukkha"; it is always very unsatisfactory. Knowing that, what we can do is to try our best and to live with this Dukkha. Hope there is some consolation in my comments. You are not alone. But we can still journey on....

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Anxiety (#2 of 2)

Follow-up question:(unedited)

Thank you so much. You said exactly what I needed to hear. It is strange, but before your wrote
me, I had read something similar in a book on anxiety. The chapter was titled "Paradox in
Action" and it recommended giving up the struggle against anxiety and panic and actually
embracing it. Even inviting it.

I found your comments about realization versus acceptance to be particularly illuminating as I
am struggling with this now. I realize at an intellectual level that acceptance is the key, but
practicing acceptance is where I am now encountering difficulty.

I meditate every day. Since my anxiety and depression have gotten worse, I have meditated more
and more, but to little avail. I also go on walks. I find the walks comforting, but again the
acceptance I seek often eludes me. I still feel this inner resistance that blocks my acceptance.

All the psychology books I read term what I am going through as a "disorder", but I want to see it
more as an invitation to transform my understanding.

Any additional thoughts you may have would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much, I am very grateful,

My comment:
Nice to hear from you again. Please feel free to call anytime. And thank you for the ratings. It's very comforting knowing that one's effort is being appreciated.

Now to comment on your thoughts. In Buddhist training, we neither struggle nor embrace "anxiety". Least of all "inviting it". We acknowledge or note the reality of what is happening to us, and then mindfully understanding the process and respond accordingly, neither over-reacting nor being complacent. Take "itchiness". Our immediate reaction is to scratch to relieve the discomfort. If it is a mosquito bite, we add spice to the scenario by cursing the damned mosquito, and wish that we could rid the cause of this itch, by getting ready to smack the culprit. One thing leads to another , and before we realize (hardly ever), we have become a greater victim of a meer mosquito bite. The skilful approach is to realize this itchiness, note the itch, then scratch to relieve. If it still persists, we are not too concerned over it because our experience tells us that after a while, this itch will subside and we will be back to "normal" again. No over-reacting. This is a very scientific, practical and rational approach. We just face the fact (the itch), select the appropriate response (scratch), and bide our time (the natural life process) until the whole process or cycle is all over.

We cannot always rely on our "intellect" alone to solve problems. We need the extra ingredient called "skill" which we can acquire through constant practice. This is the Buddhist approach to "solve problems". We train our mind to look through deception and see into reality. An alcoholic may be intelligent enough to know that if he stops drinking, he will no longer have the problem. But can he do it? He needs proper guidance and encouragement, and in the final analysis, he can resolve resolutely that he is going to be serious and definitely make great personal effort and determination to stop drinking. A good Buddhist will follow the teachings of the Buddha, and knowing that this will bring positive and rewarding results, will resolve to put in great effort to live a skilful life. He now becomes master of himself. He is no longer a puppet of circumstances and fear.

Buddhist meditation is a mental training to achieve mastery of the mind. First, one must understand this mind. Second, to calm this mind. Third, train this mind. Fourth, to become the master of this mind. Right now we are slaves our own minds, allowing our minds to dictate us. We are actually "mindless"! To understand this mind, we have to start watching it. Then we realize that this mind is forever "moving"; it cannot keep still; we call it the "monkey mind". The second step is to take certain actions to calm this mind. We take an "object of concentration" to focus continually so that each time our mind wonders, we "bring" it back through this object of concentration. The Buddha used his inbreath and outbreath as the object of concentration. After being able to calm this mind, we can then begin to train this mind to do what we want it to do and not what it wants. This is the third step. Finally, we become masters of our minds; masters of our lives.

It is quite dangerous to go into meditation without proper understand of Buddhist meditation. The purpose of Buddhist meditation is to free the mind. But wrong approach and understanding can cause problems. Instead of "letting go", one may be "thinking more about it" and in the end succumb to insanity.

You mentioned about the term "disorder". We are all suffering from this "disorder" because we don't know and don't want to accept the reality of the true nature of this world. As intelligent Buddhists, we lead our lives trying to reduce this "disorderly" behaviour in us, making us a more humane human being.

After all that have been said, the most practical approach is to go for a relaxing holiday; forget about your fear and anxiety; start living and enjoying!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Buddhism and Society

Could you please tell me about Buddhism and its relationship with society

My comment:
When practising Buddhism, it is very important that we understand the concepts of truth. There are two types of truth. One is conventional truth. The other is ultimate truth. Some examples of conventional truth are our time of the day, our dates, our measurements, our traffic rules, and our currencies. These are based on the general acceptance by all the people. Should the people decide not to agree and accept all these ideas, they are no longer truths.

Whereas, ultimate truth is unchangeable and transcends race, culture, nationality, space and time. Examples of ultimate truth are birth, sickness, old age, and death.

Buddhism places great emphasis on self development to understand the true nature of this world and to live WITH this world in peace and harmony. Often times there are certain level of contradictions between conventional truth and ultimate truth. An example is the concept of desire. The ultimate truth of desire is that if we allow ourselves to go crazy with every desire, we will never be satisfied with whatever that we are having now. This will lead us to want more and more. We become obssessed with our desire, and greed builds up.

Conventional truth tells us that we should go and get all the things we WANT (rather than need). To do this we must work extremely hard to earn lots of money so that we can enjoy life. In this way our standard of living will improve. Beg, steal, or borrow!

The Buddha advised all those who place realization of ultimate truth as the utmost important mission in life, to renounce the worldly life. In Buddhist parlance, to become monks and nuns. In this way they are not directly involved with society. Their life-style will be drastically different from the average worldly person. However they do not pose any hindrance to society which places more emphasis on conventional truth.

However, for those Buddhists who still want to live as worldly citizens, that is, lay Buddhists, then they must ensure that they live a balanced life, being able to balance and reconcile the apparent contradictions between ultimate truth and conventional truth. In other words, we need to be practical Buddhists. In this way, we will not become a nuisance or pose any danger to society.

Buddhism advocates certain sets of principles for the followers to live by. These principles are universal values for the good of all. They encompass good values such as not destroying lives unnecessarily, being honest,
virtuous conduct, being truthful, and avoiding intoxicant.

It is the individuals who make up a society. If individuals have good values, the society will be reflected as such. As Buddhists, we are very conscious of spreading goodwill and showing compassion for all. We are taught to live in peace with ourselves as well as with others.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Anxiety (#1 of 2)

My name is J........ I am currently suffering from severe anxiety and depression. I am seeing a therapist and have read many books on the subject as well as trying various forms of medication, but to little or no avail. The reason I'm writing you is to seek an alternate view point. I have sought the psychological view and I feel that it is lacking. I feel that there is something to this trial in my life that can be labeled as something other than a "disorder". What I fear is my alone-ness. I am terrified of being separated from the people I love. I fear that something will happen to them and I will lose them. I can, intellectually, accept all this as being the normal uncertainty of life. But there is something inside of me that won't allow me to let go and live life freely. Deep beneath this is the feeling of a void. A feeling of separation that engulfs me with such pain that there are times I have considered suicide. I will continue my psychological efforts, but I would appreciate your perspective on this matter. Thank you so much for your time,

My comment:

First I must remind you that I am not a qualified counsellor. I am here to answer questions relating to Buddhism. However, I don't mind giving my "alternative view point" as a Buddhist.

You have actually diagnosed your "problem" which is "severe anxiety and depression". You have also traced the "cause" of this problem, which is "fear". Fear of being left alone and the loss of loved ones. You have lost confidence in yourself. All of us have the same "problem".

The Buddha advised us to realize and ACCEPT the true nature of life and this world. We have been deceived by the world due to our delusion and ignorance. We want perfection in this imperfect world. We want everlasting happiness in this ever changing world wrought with problems and sorrows. We want permanent relations when everything is impermanent. People grow old, get sick, and eventually will die. This is the reality of life. We have no control over it.

As Buddhists, we train ourselves to this understanding and realization. Then we acknowledge this fact that we cannot change many things and cannot control many things. Then we begin to ACCEPT and come to term with REALITY. Upon acceptance of this fact, half of our problems disappear.

A good illustration is the prison scenario. We know that the prison has strict conditions and restrictions. It is the nature or purpose of prison. Otherwise it would not be called "prison". Its purpose is to restrict freedom and inflict punishment or provide rehabilitation. Can a prisoner complain about lack of freedom in prison? If he insists of complaining and getting upset and aggressive with the prison authority, no one suffers but he, himself. The prison conditions are not going to change. On the other hand, if he ACCEPTS that prison is supposed to restrict and punish or rehabilitate, and there is no way he can escape or change the conditions, he immediately becomes "free". This ACCEPTANCE sets him free.

Your condition, in my humble opinion, is just like the prisoner who does not want to accept realities. We all have fears and doubts. We all experience happiness as well as sorrows. All of us go through the same journey. Conditions of this journey are not going to change. Since we cannot change the true nature of this worldly life, the best option left is for us to ACCEPT this fact and to live WITH it. Once we accept the inevitable as inevitable; the uncertainties as uncertainties, we face the world with wisdom. The wisdom to realize that life is uncertain, and death is certain. This wisdom will free us from fear and anxiety.

As Buddhists, we build our confidence to face this life by understanding the law of kamma, the natural universal law of cause and effect. We know that good actions, thoughts, and speech will bring corresponding good results. We make effort to live skilfully by training our mind to ACCEPT that which is natural and inevitable. With this acceptance, we no longer become fearful and resentful. The key factors are acknowledgment and acceptance. No longer resisting……; fear and anxiety will gradually disappear. Realization alone is not good enough. It takes the courage and commitment to want to accept the facts of life and face them squarely. Peace in oneself and with the world will surely follow.

It will be good if you can also take a vacation and relax your mind.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008



Very often, in Buddhism, we read and hear about enlightenment,but, actually, what is it Enlightenment? How does one know that he is enlightened or not? Is it possible to know that you are enlightened, how to feel it, what is it connected with? If you were enlightened would you know it??? How would you perceive the world then? Is there any explanation for this "higher state" of being?

My comment:
The Buddha is regarded as a Fully Enlightened person. The Pali term is Samma-sambodhi. The root word is Bodhi, meaning to awaken or to understand. There are 3 classifications of enlightenment. The highest is that of a samma-sambodhi, only attained by a Buddha who would then teach the world of his achievement. The second type is one attained by a Pacceka Buddha, but he would keep his achievement to himself without teaching others. The third is that of a "saint" or Arahat who attains through following the path as taught by the Buddha.

The result of all these 3 categories are the same, having attained complete realization of the 4 Noble Truths, and more importantly, the complete eradication of defilements of greed, hatred and delusion.

How does one know that one is enlightened? I really cannot tell you for sure because I, myself, am not enlightened. However, I can venture to share with you an illustration. When we are sick, we know the feeling. When we are well again we know for sure that we are well. I would say, that once one is enlightened, one WILL know for sure.

When we talk about enlightenment, we will definitely have to refer to the accompanying result, i.e. Nibbana (or Nirvana in Sanskrit). Nibbana means extinction of desires, and complete eradication of the 3 roots of defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion. Without any trace of these defilements, there will no longer be any clinging to future rebirth. Without birth, one will not be subject to the dictates of this unsatisfactory existence. One is no longer subject to conditions. One's existence is free from conditioning.

To the enlightened person, the world is just an illusion. A place full of deceptions, and in the end, death. He is no longer a slave to this world. He does not react to the bluffs of the world in terms of laughter or sorrow. He views the world with equanimity, neither complaining nor condoning. He is at peace with himself as well as the world, until he leaves the world for good, never to come back again.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Why have kids?

If life is suffering, what do Buddhists think about having kids?

My comment:
If Aids are caused by sexual contacts, what do you think about having sex?

Not having kids is not going to solve OUR problems. Not having kids doesn't mean that we can stop beings from being born somewere else. This is not a solution to solve the problems of life. Furthermore there is no way that we can prevent life from being born.

The Buddha reminded us that life is subject to sickness, old age, and death. This natural process is not going to give us everlasting happiness, if ever we can be so fortunate to enjoy our lives throughout. His message was to encourage us to cultivate our lives to such heights that we need not have to be born again. The crux of our mission is to work towards this final liberation so that WE need not be born again. We have no power to stop suffering merely by not creating lives.

Friday, August 1, 2008


Question: (unedited)
a fisherman catch fishes all his life. is it a bad karma to catch fish for a living?

My comment:
There are certain occupations that are considered unwholesome. They are those dealing in flesh, poison, weapons of destruction, and human trafficking (including slavery). The rationale for this is that all these activities cause great suffering for the victims, if not loss of lives. A fisherman catches fish. It is considered dealing in flesh. However there are some mitigating circumstances which we must consider. First, the fisherman is earning an honest living. Second, the lives involve fish and not human lives. Third, as for most fishermen, it may be the only traditional livelihood that he is brought up to do. It may not be easy for him to change occupation especially where he is living in a fishing village. For this reason we should show some emphathy.

It is up to the fisherman whether he is able to uproot his lifestyle in order to change profession. It is not easy. But it is not a good excuse or good defence that he continue with this occupation and not being guilty of it. It is certainly not a very wholesome lifelihood. But then again, who are we to pass judgement?

It is up to us to realize that this existence is not perfect and sometimes it is very difficult for us to avoid certain unwholesome activities. It is more pertinent at this point in time that we should continue to live skilfully so that less problems will come our way because of our persistent wholesome actions that we are now undertaking.
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