Thursday, October 30, 2008

Problems? No Problem!


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.

"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.

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

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!!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A friendly monk

Bhante Kovida

Today a friendly monk emailed me. As I have a big ego I was delighted! Bhante Kovida first emailed me a few months ago following his conversation with Rev Dhammika in Singapore. I don't really know Bhante Kovida, but his unassuming messages put me at ease. From his biodata, he is into yoga and chi gong as well. I also practise yoga and chi gong. So you see!!

Looking forward to meet the Reverend when he comes to Penang again. Here is something about Bhante Kovida. You can read the full text from his website HERE:

[ Bhante Kovida grew up on the tropical island of Jamaica, West Indies, of Chinese descent. He immigrated to Canada, studied for a science degree, then traveled overland from Europe to India and Nepal (via Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan) during 1974-1975, where he began the study of Indian history and culture, Hatha Yoga and meditation, classical Indian music, and Buddhism. This journey was to be the most significant event in his life as it fulfilled a deep childhood yearning for travel and adventure, and spiritual understanding.

Bhante Kovida left Sri Lanka towards the end of 1993 and began traveling and sharing the Dharma in the Toronto area with occasional visits to Hamilton, Ottawa, Halifax and Vancouver. He has also visited inmates at Warkworth Correctional Center near Campbelford, Ontario, AIDS patients at the Casey House hospice in Toronto for a period.

Every two years or so, Bhante Kovida returns to Southeast Asia to visit friends and teach the Dharma, as well as Hatha Yoga and Chi Gong exercises at several Buddhist Associations and Dharma centers in Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan and Hong Kong. ]

I have included Bhante's website in my blogroll "My Favourite Buddhist Sites". Please take a look if you are interested. You can read his two books there as well.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Mind your mind

hello Justin. I do not really have a question for you this time around (sorry), but I wanted to share a quick story with you. i learned a good lesson in mindfulness yesterday at work:
I was sitting at the ambulance station at night (my partner was sleeping) and I was reading the "Dhammapada". I stopped to rest my eyes and started thinking how good I was feeling at that moment. How I was living a good life, free from a lot of ego-desires, how I was lucky to be healthy, and how I was actually understanding and applying the words of the Dhammapada. I sat there lost in my thoughts of how good things were and then took a sip of my tea without paying attention...I spilled hot tea all over my white work shirt. Lets just say I was suddenly "in the moment" for sure!

My comment:
Nice of you to come back and share experiences. The more we share the more we learn.

Your experience points out 2 characteristics of mindfulness. One is that it is possible to maintain mindfulness through constant practice. The other is that it is very difficult to sustain mindfulness continuously. At any moment our mindfulness is lost, which is most common. The lesson to learn is that we are still very imperfect. So strive on.

Please keep in touch. I would be very disappointed if you don't come back, ever!

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Friday, October 17, 2008

Vegetarianism: A Common Topic

I have been told that it does not matter if you eat meat or not. I personally do not. The reason they stated was that no matter what you eat some sort of being was harmed in the harvest. This seems wrong to me because isn't karma based on intention? The intention to harm another is there when you eat animals but not vegtables. Another reaason that they gave was that here are many products made from animals that we need to use such as soap, which in some cases is made from animal fat; but isn't one of the main buddhist ideas is that if you can't help at least do no harm? Any way I guess the question is: is it o.k. or not to eat meat, and why?

My comment:
Thank you for asking me.

I shall come straight to the point. It is OK to eat meat. It is not wholesome to kill life intentionally.

The dietician will tell you that you are what you eat. The fashion designer will tell you that you are what you wear. The Buddha told us that we are what we think, speak, and act. You see the difference?

The world is surrounded by good and bad things. It is the very nature of this world to be such. That was why the Buddha led us to SEE the real nature of this world. Once we realize this truth, we will gradually come to terms with this contradiction, the dichotomy of good and bad. The Buddha referred this as "Dukkha". It is always this Dukkha that we have to live and contend with. If you watch the National Geographic or Discovery Channel programmes, you will see this Dukkha overpowering our lives. Every moment, when a life lives, another life has to be sacrificed. This is great Dukkha. But we are blind to this fact. We ignorantly think that we can live without others dying for us. I shall not go further giving examples to convince you of this truth. The real exercise to realize this truth is to free our mind of all our preconceived ideas, and to open our minds, and then to think and observe rationally whether we can really survive without any being dying for us. No amount of reasoning or argument will convince you of this fact unless you step back, relax your mind, let your intellectual faculties take a rest, and watch National Geographic or Discovery Channel! This is not a joke.

Coming back to a more down to earth explanation. The idea of not eating meat is to avoid KILLING. When we eat meat we are eating DEAD meat. Of course there is some justification to say that we are encouraging others to kill when we eat meat. If anyone feels that way, then there is no commandment from the Buddha that you must eat meat. By all means eat only vegetables. One thing for sure, you will be very healthy. It is actually very wholesome to be a vegan. As for me, I try my best to consume less meat.

Another controversial subject is eating fish instead of red meat. It is debatable and many will disagree with me on this point, maybe even condemning me. But you decide. Go to the beach and wait for the fishing boats to return. You see the dead fishes. Then go to the abattoir and see how they slaughter animals and the cries of the animals! Are the two scenario the same?

As I said before, the best is to be a vegan. No doubt about this.

Now we come to the analysis of what constitute "Killing"? A person will be fully responsible for the killing if the following 5 conditions are fulfilled:
1 There is a living being.
2 His knowledge that the living being is alive.
3 His intention to kill
4 His act of killing.
5 The being is dead as a result of his act.

So you see, eating dead meat is not killing!

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Any halo on his head?

Hello, How would one know that they were in the presence of a enlightened /awakened person? Is there an energy or feeling one senses around this person and if so,can you sense this from the person's photo as well?

My comment:

Thank you for asking me.

Unless the person has actually encountered an enlightened person, I don't think he can provide you with an honest answer. As for me I have not the good fortune to have met an "enlightened person". I am not sure whether you can find an enlightened person in this day and age; although many would want us to believe so. I can always cook up something to answer your question with fantastic exaggerations and fantasies, but I would like to give you an honest answer. I really don't know.

As for your second question, I would think that if one is fortunate enough to have met such an enlightened person, one would definitely be overwhelmed by his powerful aura and energy. As for the photo, I don't think so. This brings us to a true incident ( which may be many of such stories). There was this monk whom many thought to be enlightened. They claimed that when his photo was taken they could see halo around his head. Incidentally, I also did take his pictures but there was no halo. Of course I did not succumb to this claim. By the way this monk was quite a handsome young man and a bit charismatic too. He is now disrobed for disgraceful conduct. The moral of the story is that one must know the Buddha's teachings in the proper perspective, and not succumb to theatrical fantasies.

The message of the Buddha is to seek truth, reduce our defilements, and live in peace with oneself and the world.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Why?: Comments By Famous Intellectuals

Karma (in Sanskrit),(Kamma in Pali): The comment below is from a Buddhist book:

We are faced with a totally ill-balanced world. We perceive the inequalities and manifold destinies of men and the numerous grades of beings that exist in the universe. We see one born into a condition of affluence, endowed with fine mental, moral and physical qualities and another into a condition of abject poverty and wretchedness. Here is a man virtuous and holy but, contrary to his expectation, ill-luck is ever ready to greet him. The wicked world runs counter to his ambitions and desires. He is poor and miserable in spite of his honest dealings and piety. There is another vicious and foolish, but accounted to be fortune's darling. He is rewarded with all forms of favours, despite his shortcomings and evil modes of life.

Why, it may be questioned, should one be an inferior and another a superior? Why should one be wrested from the hands of a fond mother when he has scarcely seen a few summers, and another should perish in the flower of manhood, or at the ripe age of eighty or hundred? Why should one be sick and infirm, and another strong and healthy? Why should one be handsome, and another ugly and hideous, repulsive to all? Why should one be brought up in the lap of luxury, and another in absolute poverty, steeped in misery? Why should one be born a millionaire and another a pauper? Why should one be a mental prodigy, and another an idiot? Why should one be born with saintly characteristics, and another with criminal tendencies? Why should some be linguists, artists, mathematicians or musicians from the very cradle? Why should some be blessed and others cursed from their birth?

These are some problems that perplex the minds of all thinking men. How are we to account for all this unevenness of the world, this inequality of mankind? Is it due to the work of blind chance or accident? There is nothing in this world that happens by blind chance or accident. To say that anything happens by chance, is no more true than that this book has come here of itself. Strictly speaking, nothing happens to man that he does not deserve for some reason or other.

Could this be the fiat of an irresponsible Creator? Huxley writes: "If we are to assume that anybody has designedly set this wonderful universe going, it is perfectly clear to me that he is no more entirely benevolent and just in any intelligible sense of the words, than that he is malevolent and unjust.'

According to Einstein: "If this being (God) is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought and every human feeling and aspiration is also his work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an Almighty Being? "In giving out punishments and rewards, he would to a certain extent be passing judgement on himself. How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to him?"

"According to the theological principles man is created arbitrarily and without his desire and at the moment of his creation is either blessed or damned eternally. Hence, man is either good or evil, fortunate or unfortunate, noble or depraved, from the first step in the process of his physical creation to the moment of his last breath, regardless of his individual desires, hopes, ambitions, struggles or devoted prayers. Such is theological fatalism:' (Spencer Lewis)

As Charles Bradlaugh says: "The existence of evil is a terrible stumbling block to the theist. Pain, misery, crime, poverty confront the advocate of eternal goodness and challenge with unanswerable potency his declaration of Deity as all-good, all-wise, and all-powerful."

In the words of Schopenhauer: "Whoever regards himself as having become out of nothing must also think that he will again become nothing; for an eternity has passed before he was, and then a second eternity had begun, through which he will never cease to be, is a monstrous thought. "If birth is the absolute beginning, then death must be his absolute end; and the assumption that man is made out of nothing leads necessarily to the assumption that death is his absolute end."

Lord Russell states: "The world, we are told, was created by a God who is both good and omnipotent. Before He created the world He foresaw all the pain and misery that it would contain. He is, therefore responsible for all of it. It is useless to argue that the pain in the world is due to sin. If God knew in advance the sins of which man would be guilty, He was clearly responsible for all the consequence of those sins when He decided to create man."

In Despair, a poem of his old age, Lord Tennyson thus boldly attacks God who, as recorded in Isaiah, says, "I make peace and create evil." (Isaiah, xiv.7) "What! I should call on that infinite love that has served us so well? Infinite cruelty, rather, that made everlasting hell, Made us, foreknew us, foredoomed us, and does what he will with his own. Better our dead brute mother who never has heard us groan."

According to Buddhism, this variation is due not only to heredity, environment, nature and nurture", but also to our own kamma, or in other words, to the result of our own inherited past actions and our present deeds. We ourselves are responsible for our own deeds, happiness and misery. We build our own hells. We create our own heavens. We are the architects of our own fate.

In short, we ourselves are our own kamma. Thus, from a Buddhist standpoint, our present mental, intellectual, moral and temperamental differences are mainly due to our own actions and tendencies, both past and present. Kamma, literally, means action;(mainly volitional actions).
Kamma constitutes both good and evil. Good begets good. Evil begets evil. Like attracts like. This is the law of Kamma. As some Westerners prefer to say: Kamma is "action-influence". We reap what we have sown. What we sow we reap somewhere (in due course).

In one sense we are the result of what we were; we will be the result of what we are. In another sense, we are not totally the result of what we were; we will not absolutely be the result of what we are. For instance, a criminal today may be a saint tomorrow. Buddhism attributes this variation to kamma, but it does not assert that everything is due to kamma.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Getting rid of hurt

hello Justin I am back again. Recently a friend of mine did some things that hurt me very much. I won't go into details but lets just say that she did some very deceitful and manipulative things to hurt me. Now I have used my buddhist wisdom to understand that she is foolish for trying to gain happiness by hurting others, and I do not want revenge, I simply explained to her how I feel, wished her well and told her we will not be friends any longer. The problem is that my meditation practice is now suffering. During meditation my mind aches with hurt, I am not angry and I have tried a "loving-kindness" type of meditation but still my mind races with hurt. What can I do during my practice to help this? I know deep down inside that this situation will pass, but right now it hurts. Thank you Justin for your advice and I hope you are happy and healthy.

My comment:
Yes, you are back again...9th time!

Remember I told you about the straight jacket simile? The more you struggle, the tighter its grip. You must not dwell in the thought. You have to just "NOTE" the thought, period. When it comes again just note and do not pass any comment for or against. Do not hold court and do not be the righteous judge. Otherwise, you will fall into the trap set up by your egoistic mind trying to justify this and condemning that. By the time you realize that you are wondering, you would have come full circle!

Waiting for your good news of teaching your mind a lesson!

Remember you cannot turn back the clock, or manipulate time. But you can take control of the point in time, by just "noting" without judgment. After awhile it will become "nothing". But it will come again, then you "note" again. It is a big "battle". This is Dhamma.

Smile from justinchoo :-) Waiting for your tenth visit!

Monday, October 6, 2008

Elusive Enlightenment : A Follow-Up

Question: (unedited)
Thank you for your answer. You were right, i am still confused. What Buddha said is most plausible ( i cannot say that it is true because i sincerely don't know), but there are still some problems: is there a point to this dream that i am creating for myself, or , am i just doing it for fun ?
; since enlightenement is like waking up from a dream (or so i hear), could enlightenement be just another level of awareness ( could an enlightened person wake up from the dream of enlightenement)? Also, if the mind has supreme power, why is there any pain in the world (there could be only pleasure, and thus, no need for enlightenement )? There is also another important issue : i think (though i am not sure) that living beings (and even objects) are just manifestations of the same mind that cannot recognize itself, not actual individuals from 31 buddha lands that can reincarnate according to their karma ( i find this reincarnation "thing" childish ).Is reincarnation misunderstood ?
Hope to hear from you soon,
P.S: I cannot consider myself anything but simple since i am so utterly confused and unaware.

My comments:
Hi again,

Before plunging into troubled waters trying to make you more confused, please allow me to comment on the recommended manner of learning the Buddha's teachings. Please remember that the Buddha's teachings are very profound and at most time strike deep into our inadequate ability to understand them. This is because we have never been brought up to think and analyze these esoteric concepts discovered by the Buddha. In order to understand them it would take a period of time through deep thinking, conscious analyzes, and a change of mind-set. In modern parlance, we need a new paradigm in our thinking, setting aside our stereotype mentality, polluted with prejudices and childish ideosyncrasies. So please be patient with yourself and let the Buddha's teachings slowly gel in your mind which is now ready to receive the truth. Let time be our teacher.

Now your comment: "since enlightenement is like waking up from a dream (or so i hear), could enlightenement be just another level of awareness ( could an enlightened person wake up from the dream of enlightenement)?
My comment: Enlightenment means awakened. Enlightenment is no longer a dream. If one is awakened, how can one be awakened again?

Your question: "Also, if the mind has supreme power, why is there any pain in the world (there could be only pleasure, and thus, no need for enlightenement )?"
My comment: The Buddha reminded us that when our bodies are sick, do not let our minds be sick too. The pain in this world is physical pain. Pleasure in this world cannot last forever.

Your final "confusion": "There is also another important issue : i think (though i am not sure) that living beings (and even objects) are just manifestations of the same mind that cannot recognize itself, not actual individuals from 31 buddha lands that can reincarnate according to their karma ( i find this reincarnation "thing" childish ).
My comment: Your "31 Buddha lands" is actually the 31 planes of existence. There is nothing to do with the Buddha. In fact the Buddha being fully enlightened, is no longer stuck in these 31 planes of existence.

Your final question: "( i find this reincarnation "thing" childish ).Is reincarnation misunderstood ?

My comments: The Buddha revealed the true nature of this life, which comprises not only this body but a very important concept of mind and consciousness. Buddhists emphasize on the latter aspects. It is this consciousness that is keeping us "alive and conscious". Pervading this life-form is the mind. We can term this as "mind-consciousness". This mind-consciousness is in a state of flux, always moving on without our worldly knowledge. It took the powerful mind of the Buddha to discover this process of mind activities. The Buddha discovered the universal law of cause and effect (Law of Kamma), which governs ALL living beings, irrespect of race, time, and space (location). The universal law states irrefutably that any volitional action will definitely produce a corresponding reaction. This is the law of physics. This is also the law of life!

Whatever we did in this life and in our past lives, the cumulative effects will gradually and surely produce corresponding results in this life or future lives. When this body is gone, the mind-consciousness will take on another life-form befitting the cumulative effects that one had generated, such that the next life-form will exist in an environment commensurate with that type of accumulated effects, such that the appropriate results will actualize themselves onto that new life-form. If the results are to be a happy one, then the mind-consciousness will seek to be reborn in a conducive place where it will enjoy its fruits. On the other hand, if the results are to be a miserable one then it will seek rebirth in a miserable environment. This explains the inequalities of all life-forms in this world.

"Reincarnation" is a different concept from "rebirth". You can say that if you believe in reincarnation, you will believe in rebirth, because rebirth simply means another birth following death. The Buddha revealed the process of rebirth of mind-consciousness. There is no permanent entity or what you may call "soul" in the Buddha's explanation of rebirth.

The Tibetans believe that an exact permanent entity transmigrate into a new life-form when a person dies. This is reincarnation. This is not the Buddha's concept of "rebirth".

Happy thinking with lots of patience, and the truth will be revealed. Sunshine!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Elusive enlightenment

Mahabodhi Temple in Bodhgaya,
at the place where Buddha attained
enlightenment 2,500 years ago. It is 52 meters high.

Question: (unedited)
Hello, I have somewhat of a broad knowledge of enlightenment, but I have found that there are so many different paths of purification that can be followed to attain enlightenment, that I a little confused as what the best past is. I know that enlightenment is not really "a path" because it is here and now, however it seems that certain things can be done to increase the likelihood that someone can be enlightened. So, what I would like is your suggestion or suggestions on what the best path to follow is, and preferably a book or online source that outlines the path. I have found vipassana meditation to be very useful. I have also read that the tantric path is for people who want to achieve enlightenment "quickly." What would you suggest I do/read? thank you!

My comment:
Thank you for asking me. I am using "Buddhist Dictionary" by Nyanatiloka as reference. I find this book to be a very handy and "quick-reference" guide. Ven. Nyanatiloka was a very learned German monk.

First, let us go to the basic. The Buddha's language for enlightenment is "Bodhi", meaning "Awakenment, Supreme Knowledge". "Through Bodhi one awakens from the slumber or stupor (inflicted upon the mind) by the defilements; and comprehends the Four Noble Truths."

"As components of the state of Enlightenment and contributory factors to its achievement, are mentioned in the texts:
the 37 things pertaining to enlightenment, namely:

the 4 foundations of mindfulness
the 4 right efforts
the 4 roads to power
the 5 spiritual faculties
the 5 mental powers
the 7 factors of enlightenment
the 8 fold path."

As you can see, the above is a very scholarstic and dry explanation of "enlightenment". It makes an average person very confused. I certainly am confused. How does one know that one has attained all the 37 "requisites of enlightenment"?

The other way of looking at "enlightenment" is its ultimate result, that is Nibbana. 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.

My interpretation will be that if one is enlightened, one will have completely eradicated the 3 roots of defilements. One will be completely free of greed, hatred and delusion.

Another aspect of looking at enlightenment is through the progresive achievement of the 4 stages of sainthood. When a person attained the 4th stage he would have become an arahat, the holy one who had eradicated all the "10 fetters".

As you can see from the above explanation, "enlightenment" is a very tall order. It took the Buddha countless lives through countless aeons to attain full enlightenment. It is very difficult to achieve this in this life-time.

Vipassana meditation is the method towards purifying the mind to comprehend the true nature of this existence. It is the path towards our long journey to liberation. You can find a lot of literature in the eBook Library of the website

I hope my comments help in your search for liberation. If you need more comments, please come back.

Smile from justinchoo :-)
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