Thursday, April 30, 2009

I am still not awakened!

(Picture courtesy of another blogger)

Question: (Unedited)

Have you attained moksha/awakening? I've had a very meaningful dialogue with a Zen teacher who is awakened, and I'm looking for a different perspective on Buddhism. However, I'm pursuaded that answers from someone who is not awakened would be of little benefit to me.

My comment:

I am sorry to disappoint you as what I am going to say “would be of little benefit to you” because I have not attained moksha, not that I want to.

Please be very careful when you trust anyone who claimed to be somebody or have attained something. If in the future you found that he is not as claimed you would be very disappointed and shattered.

The Buddha taught truth and peace. To have inner peace, we just need to reduce our greed, hatred and delusion.


This is a Follow-up comment by the questioner: (unedited)

Forgive me, Justin, but that's the most fatuous answer I ever heard. Why would a Buddhist EVER deny interest in attaining an awakened state?

Every Buddhist guru I've encountered (including my Zen teacher to a degree)likes to engage in dis-ing other dharmas. But to imply that you don't want to awaken is absurd in the extreme.

My comment: Hi,

Your comments noted with thanks.


By the way "fatuous" from means:


[fach-oo-uhs] Show IPA
1. foolish or inane, esp. in an unconscious, complacent manner; silly.
2. unreal; illusory.

1625–35; < class="ital-inline">fatuus silly, foolish, idiotic; see -ous

fat⋅u⋅ous⋅ly, adverb
fat⋅u⋅ous⋅ness, noun

1. dense, dull, dim-witted. See foolish.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Danger of being very clever.

Picture from my fellow blogger

Hello, I am doing a speech for a class in which I must persuade people as to what a person is.

What are the Buddist teachings on this? What makes someone a person? Also, on a related topic, what parts of Buddist teaching could be applied to abortion?

My comment:

Thank you for asking me.

I don't understand what you mean by "persuading people as to what a person is". Maybe you mean to persuade people to follow certain behaviour. Or you may be asking about the Buddhist concept of what constitute a person.

For the first meaning, I would say the Buddha advised all to live a harmless life. Just imagine if all of us decide to live a harmless life, will there be any trouble? But in reality not many want to live a harmless life because there is always greed and hatred in all of us in various degree. We are by nature very unforgiving and very selfish. This is the cause of all our troubles.

As for the second meaning, physiologically, a person is no different from an animal. The only difference is in the conscious mind. Animals are guided by natural instincts. Man has a higher intelligence because of the mental consciousness enabling him to think and analyze. The danger is that he may be very intelligent, but lack the moral fibre to lead a harmless life. He may use his cleverness to harm others. This is the tragedy of the human species.

Without going into critical analysis of this sensitive issue of abortion, generally speaking, abortion is the termination of life on purpose. In Buddhist teachings, termination of life on purpose is not wholesome. If we follow a good moral life-style we will not face the problem of abortion.

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Finding scapegoat. (Part 2 of 2)

Question: (Unedited)
Hello Justinchoo,

Thank you for your answer. It is a comfort to feel the compassion of another. If anything good has come of this, one of them is that I have begun to read the books of the Dalai Lama; at first in an effort to understand why my husband was morally able to do this, and second, I began to find great wisdom in his words. Perhaps you could recommend a simple beginners course of study to me. I have looked on the Internet and in bookstores, and there is an overwhelming amount of information. I would like to come to Buddhism as a child might, with the simple truths and teachings first, as the foundation of my study.

I do have legal representation, and am blessed to be surrounded by loving family and friends, including my husband's family. I have been helped by many people, including you, and I am grateful.
Thank you,

My comment:
I am very relieved to know that you are in good spirit. In times of traumatic circumstances, it takes great character and courage to pull through. You can consider the positive side of this period in that you still have caring friends and relatives to support you. And it looks like you also have the good fortune to understand Buddhism. With these factors intact; time will be the healer.

Now a little bit about what is Buddhism. Buddhism is the name given to the teachings of the Buddha.

What did he teach? He taught us to use our human intelligence to see the world as it really is. He taught us to be masters of ourselves. He taught us to be free from dogmas and commandments. So long as we are fearful of something or someone we are not free. We cannot have peace of mind if we are fearful.

He taught us how to have peace within ourselves. If we do not understand the true nature of the world and this life, we will never experience peace within ourselves.

The Buddha discovered the way to peace and happiness through realizing the true nature of life and this universe. It was more than 2500 years ago in northern India where the Buddha through harnessing the power of his mind realized that if man were to be free of greed, hatred and delusion, he had to look inwards into his mind, and start cleansing his inner defilements. If one reduces one's defilements, one would experience peace and happiness. He discovered that the whole world had certain characteristics and that life continued to exist because of certain causes. This world is very unsatisfactory, because we cannot be fully satisfied in life and that nothing is permanent. He also pointed out that because of our craving for permanent and complete satisfaction, we were always miserable. Furthermore, there are always evil people who are out to create trouble.

The most salient aspect of Buddhism is FREEDOM in its practice. The Buddha encouraged his followers to use their common sense and human intelligence to analyze his teachings before accepting them. He pointed out that there was no super agent who controlled us, punished us and rewarded us. We are not puppets on the strings; and there is no puppeteer up above to manipulate us. The natural law of cause and effect rules the world. No matter who you are and where you are, or what you believe, this universal LAW rules supreme. There is no escape. It is perfectly impartial. In simple language, good begets good; evil begets evil.

So,in Buddhism there is no dogma and no commandment. There is only the guidelines and noble precepts which the Buddha advised us to follow. As diligent Buddhists we use certain precepts to guide our lives. These are the 5 precepts: to refrain from killing, to refrain from stealing, to refrain from committing sexual misconduct, to refrain from telling lies, and to refrain from taking intoxicating substances.

Buddhist teachings are like air. They are free, and non discriminating. If you think it benefits you, then please breathe the air. If you choose otherwise, then it's up to you. This is the "religion" of Buddhism....Truth, Peace, Harmlessness, and Freedom.

To refer to a more traditional rendition of what Buddhism is please surf through the following websites:

Finding scapegoat. (Part 1 of 2)

(Nice picture, but nothing to do with the topic.
Just for viewing pleasure from another blog)

My husband states that he has recently become a practicing Buddhist. In February of this year, he deserted me. Two days after he deserted me, he went to a brothel in Thailand, and before he returned to the States five days later, had proposed marriage to the prostitute that he hired. I was not even aware that he had left the USA. He then moved to a different state without telling me. I found out that he had filed for divorce only when I received the papers in the mail. I have seen him only once since he deserted me, six months after he left, and I attempted a reconciliation without knowing the woman is a prostiute. I was exposed to the HIV virus. He now sends her half his earnings, and refuses to either communicate with me or to assist me in recovery from debt or anguish.
The basis of this behavior, he said, is his newfound belief in Buddhism and the concept of Impermanence. He has spent many, many thousands of dollars on Buddhist learning materials, and in supporting his girlfriend in Thailand, while I am being forced to declare bankruptcy.
Please tell me what Buddhism teaches in a situation such as this. I cannot believe that his treatment of me is condoned by any faith. I would like to know, also, what Buddhism teaches to the person who has endured such treatment.
Thank you,
T .....

My comment:

This is a very serious problem. I don't think I am qualified to give advices. But I could make some comments to the best of my knowledge of Buddhism.

One thing for sure, as you wrote; his treatment of you is definitely not condoned by any faith; and this goes with Buddhism. Buddhism categorically advises its followers to keep the 5 precepts. The 3rd precept states that one should refrain from committing sexual misconduct. Your husband's conduct violates this 3rd precept. He is definitely not following the teachings of the Buddha. The Buddha introduced the 5 precepts for his followers to live by, so that they could live in peace and harmony. Anyone who violates the 5 precepts are literally asking for trouble. The 5 precepts are universal moral values. They are: to refrain from killing; to refrain from stealing; to refrain from committing sexual misconduct; to refrain from telling lies; and to refrain from taking intoxicating substances.

As for your last question, it is very difficult to put forward a Buddhist perspective to one who is not conversant with the doctrines of the Buddha. My comment would be first, to seek legal redress. As a Buddhist, my opinion would be that he is in deep trouble for HIMSELF. It is the universal law of retribution that good begets good; and evil begets evil. He has to pay the price for his misdeeds sooner or later, with or without legal intervention.

Should you be serious to want to know more about Buddhism, which is for truth and peace, you may come back, and I will try my best to share my Buddhist knowledge.

Please take care, and have courage.

Friday, April 17, 2009

If you have a toothache, go find a dentist.

(From my garden)

I have recently become very interested in Buddhism and have come upon a wall. Buddhism teaches that one must accept things as they are - that suffering or "unsatisfactoriness" comes from trying to change the world and that happiness or enlightenment can only be achieved by accepting things.

But isn't it important to try and change things if we can - alleviate the suffering of children, overthrow oppressive governments, generally strive to make the world better?

My comment:
Hi B...

Thank you for asking me.

Since you are just beginning to study the teachings of the Buddha, you will find most concepts very intriguing and at times very contradictory to conventional beliefs which you have been taught to accept as truths. The best approach to study Buddhism is to have an open mind and gather knowledge of what the Buddha taught, without overtly trying to analyze each concept in depth. Gradually you will come to a deeper understanding and be able to interprete the Buddha's teachings with less contradiction and confusion.

The Buddha's teachings are about universal truths or ultimate 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 also 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?

To help resolve your predicament, let me illustrate with a simile of a toothache. Having a toothache is like experiencing an ultimate truth. Whether we like it or not, it's there and we are suffering in pain. If we are wise, we will just accept the condition as part of life's inconveniences. But we just don't stop there. We will go find a dentist and our problem will be solved. Your first paragraph is equivalent to having this toothache which is natural and inevitable, and being wise we have come to accept it, thus not creating further problem. Your second paragraph is just like going to see the dentist.

The Buddha's concept of "seeing things as they really are" does not mean that you do nothing about them. It means you accept them and come to terms with them, thus finding peace with the world and peace in your self. But that does not prevent you from going to see a dentist. We have the power to change things within reasonable limits.

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.

Smile from Justin Choo :-)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

The whole lot: good and bad

Picture from my blogger friend

I'll go straight to my question : How to control the anger and hatred that have arisen in your mind especially when at the same time continuously faced with daily difficulties, problems and being burdened with duties as daughter, wife, mother (plus all household chores)? I failed miserably and now even cannot do the short chanting and meditation, and not to mention cultivating the loving-kindness and compassion seems to be a heavy / terrible tasks. Everything seems hopeless.

I know that certain problems are due to my past bad karma (vipaka) but I seem unable to overcome and the incidents keep on repeating itself and I am burning away my good karma with all these anger and hatred. Please show me the ways on how to supress the anger and hatred beside meditation and being mindful. I am totally lost. Thanks a million for your advices.
I hope with my remaining good karma I will be able to receive and practise what I should do as a buddhist.

May the Blessings of the Holy Triple Gems be with you and all living beings inclusive of me.

My comment:

Hi C.....,

Thank you for asking me.

We cannot control things. The Buddha's advice was for us to accept things that we cannot change. We must realize that our lives are generally beset with worldly problems. This was the message of the Buddha, that life is Dukkha, which means "difficult to bear". If we try to fight against these things that are difficult to bear, we will suffer further. It's just like a person struggling in the water; the more he struggles, the deeper he sinks. We must learn how to swim in the water in order to float. There is nothing we can do with the water, but to accept it and learn how to float and swim in it. The skilful surfer rides the waves. He does not fight against the waves.

We have to accept this Dukkha and skilfully surf with it. Forget about chanting, meditating, and radiating loving-kindness. Realize that the problems that you are facing are very real. Then reflect on the effects that you are now going through. You would realize that your mind is a torture chamber. You are reacting to all the real troubles in your life. Reacting in a negative way. Believe me, you are not alone in this predicament. There is no magic formula to rid off our worldly problems. However, the Buddha had provided us a technique to ride the waves of sorrow. Only you will know how you feel right now. If you think you would prefer to experience less agony in your mind, then follow the advice of the Buddha. See these problems as very real problems. Realize that your negative and confrontational reactions are of no help but aggravating your agony. Simply step back, acknowledge this reality of worldly problems, then take gradual steps to follow through these problems. Do things that need to be done. Do your best and take a rest. You will feel your mental burden being reduced and you will have more peace in yourself.

You can also forget about your past bad kamma. Take charge of your life right now. Imagine what you would find in a rubbish bin....maggots, cockroaches, rats, ants, flies and the stench; and hovering above the disgusting crows waiting for the opportune time to dive in for the kill. Look on a brighter side; turn this rubbish into a compost heap, mix it with clean soil, and make a garden out of it. Plant flower and fruit seeds in it and with tender loving care, sufficient watering, and constant weeding, the seeds will germinate and grow into flowering plants. Beautiful butterflies, chirping birds, and honey bees happily surround the garden. Beautiful flowers bloom and sweet and juicy fruits tempt our senses. What a bountiful harvest!

We must change our mind-set. Clean up the rubbish in our mind. Replace it with the beautiful garden. Our mind will be bright and strong. Happy and positive events will follow through, and we can live in peace with confidence.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Have a nice day.

Picture by my Blogger friend


Thanks for your response.

Why is there no logic in subscribing to doctrines that are contradictory to each other as you put it? Surely one can subscribe to elements of one and elements of the other. Do you subscribe to all elements of your branch of Buddhism? The Buddha's closest friends did not agree with everything he preached. Buddhists are not their own masters for if that was so they could control everything which is not true.Neither are Christians puppets on a string because puppets are not sentient beings with a soul. Just because two doctrines are contradictory that doesn't necessarilly mean one must be wrong or that both cannot be right. For me it's like going to a banquet and only eating bread.Taste other contradictory foods, they need not necessarilly harm you or corrupt you.There may be a God there may not be, there may be re incarnation there may not be. I may not know that much about Buddhism but what I do know is this: Buddha summed up his philosophy(if that is the right word?)by saying we should be compassionate, take peaceful steps and to be aware. Jesus did just that. Where's the contradiction?

My comment:

Thanks for coming back.

As I had forewarned that I did not wish to point out other differences for fear of misunderstanding and of sounding disrespectful. It cuts deep into people's sensitivity. I have to be very careful not to offend others who do not share my views. Religion and politics are two very sensitive issues. We must not let our human emotions sour our relationships just because of our differing views. Since you asked me, I had expressed my views. But this does not mean that you must agree with me. I respect your views as explained.

As I had commented earlier, the Buddhist approach is to analyze very rationally and to come to conclusions. If we still cannot find good solutions, then just be patient. Keep on learning and analyzing, and hopefully one day we may find the answer.

Right now, have peace.

I am sorry if I have offended you.

Please feel free to come back for a friendly chat.

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

All sorts of questions!!

Picture from my blogger friend
(Just for viewing pleasure)

Question: (unedited)
Hello!! Well, I have a big final paper due next week for a comparative religions class I am taking and I decided to make my focus Buddhism. You seem very knowledgeable and open to answering questions so I was wondering if you could possibly answer these 8 worldview questions coming from the Buddhist point of view. A thorough response to each question would be wonderful and help me also understand and appreciate this belief more as I desire to do. Thank you!!

1.Why is there something rather than nothing? (what is the reality of creation and spiritual existence in the world and humanity?)

2.How do you explain human nature? (why do humans behave the way they do? we were born good and corrupted by the world?)

3.What happens to a person at death?
(what becomes of us when we die? is death something to fear or look forward to?)

4.How do you determine what is right and wrong?
(how do we as humans judge ethics and right and wrong decisions or practices?)

5.How do you know that you know?
(where do we gain our knowledge? does it come from our mind as the source or is it gained from the senses?)

6.What is the meaning of history?
(does it have a purpose? is it just a cycle or start-finish plan?)

7.What is the current state of affairs?
(where does Buddhism lie in today's world and society and how prominent and advancing is it?

8.What is the problem and what is the solution?
(in what ways are we as humans faulted and what ways can we reconnect to the place we are supposed to be and by what means and who can we seek to help us get there?)

THANK YOU SO MUCH! if you could take some time to respond to these questions it would aid me beyond words!

My gratitude, KC

My comments:

Hi KC, Thank you for asking me.

1.Why is there something rather than nothing? (what is the reality of creation and spiritual existence in the world and humanity?) I don't quite understand your question. We have the 5 senses. Whatever stimulates these sense organs, we know there is something. But in the final analysis, there is actually emptiness, for in the end we are also gone. The nature of the universe is cyclical. There is no beginning and no ending. There is formation, existence, degeneration and destruction; and the whole process repeats itself, et infinitum. Humanity, in fact all beings, also follow this eternal cycle of birth, growth, decay and death; and the cycle repeats itself et infinitum.

2.How do you explain human nature?
(why do humans behave the way they do? we were born good and corrupted by the world?) Human nature has 3 roots... Greed, hatred and delusion. These 3 negative roots are the cause of all our sorrows. Our life's trilogy is this: I want I don't want I don't know If I get what I want I will be very happy. The more I get the more I want; I become greedy. I don't want things that give me sorrow. If I get things that I don't want, I become very angry. The more bad things I get, the angrier I become, the more hateful I become. I am subject to such uncontrolled reactions because of "I don't know" the true nature of this world and this life. Because of this ignorance, the vicious cycle goes round and round. I get greedy, I get angry, because of my ignorance in life. Our lives revolve around this trilogy of human tragedy. Unless we change our mind-set, we will suffer through our own ignorance and stupidity. The whole world is such. The Buddha's message is very simple: Reduce our greed, reduce our hatred, reduce our ignorance by realizing the message of the Buddha. Then we will have inner peace and happiness.

3.What happens to a person at death?
(what becomes of us when we die? is death something to fear or look forward to?) First we have to consider why we are here, before we can consider what happens at death. The Buddhist perspective of life is that this "being" consists of the physical body and the mind. The existence of this being is the result of the energy of the mind taking existence in this physical body. The nature of life-form that this mind energy affixes to, will depend on the nature of the accumulated "kammic" store-house which the being had generated throughout its numerous life existences. If the kammic storehouse has a greater portion of evil and unwholesome kammic energy, this mental energy will seek a rebirth in the appropriate existence such that the evil and unwholesome energies will actualize in that life, causing agony and suffering for the being. Likewise, more wholesome kammic energy will seek rebirth in a happier condition. Again the cycle repeats itself after death. "is death something to fear or look forward to?" Death is certain when there is birth. If we can accept this unrefutable truth, we will start living correctly, not harming others, so that we can die in peace.

4.How do you determine what is right and wrong? (how do we as humans judge ethics and right and wrong decisions or practices?) Use our common sense and human intelligence. Don't you know what is right and what is wrong? Do you need some politicians or religious leaders to tell us so? Do we want to behave like little children or mindless fools?

5.How do you know that you know?
(where do we gain our knowledge? does it come from our mind as the source or is it gained from the senses?) If we have not been indoctrinated by others we stand a better chance to know what we don't know. The Buddha encouraged us to use our human intelligence and common sense to analyze his teachings and to accept only if we agree. Our mind is our master. An uncontrolled mind creates havoc to the owner. If one trains the mind to be peaceful, to be harmless, and to be generous, the owner experiences inner peace and happiness. If the mind is willing to learn from all sources and be able to seive through what is right and what is wrong, he is a wise person.

6.What is the meaning of history?
(does it have a purpose? is it just a cycle or start-finish plan?) If we analyse history, there is a pattern. It is a big drama. You have the wise ones, the heroes, the evil ones, the jokers and the fools. But in the end they all face the same fate....DEATH!

7.What is the current state of affairs?
(where does Buddhism lie in today's world and society and how prominent and advancing is it? If you understand the teachings of the Buddha, the world had been in trouble right from the start. It is so, now. And it will be the same in the future. Buddhism has always point to the real nature of this world and this life.

8.What is the problem and what is the solution?
(in what ways are we as humans faulted and what ways can we reconnect to the place we are supposed to be and by what means and who can we seek to help us get there?) The Buddha expounded the 4 Noble Truths. "Noble" because they are the real truths. These truths you have to see for yourself. If you still can't see them, then I feel sorry for you. The first of these truths is that this world is unsatisfactory, it cannot be perfect. The second truth is that we still crave to want to exist in this condition. The third truth is that one has to realize these facts which one cannot change. The fourth truth is that once one realizes these truths, and if one is wise enough, one will take steps and make effort to purify one's life and to live a noble and harmless life so that one will live in peace and happiness.

Our faults lie in my answer to your qn 2.

Here I quote from my revered teacher:
"Life is unsatisfactory because it is impermanent. When a person has a happy life, he would like the passage of time to stand still. This ceaseless passage of time is so obvious a quality of our lives that we take it for granted. Within this ceaseless movement, all things we know are born, grow, decay and die, and we will go through this process with them. The law of impermanence lays its cruel hands on all people. And all youth ends in old age, all health in sicknesses, all strength in impotence, all beauty in ugliness, and all life in death. Nothing can stop this process. Death follows birth, as night follows day. This process of change is common to all - to the poor and the rich alike, to the young and the old. But this seems to be the very thing some of us forget, living and acting as if we are immortal.

It is important to realize that we are born to this world to do some service for the weal and happiness of mankind. We will be remembered by humanity more for what we have done for mankind than what we have done for ourselves. When people see their own lives as being only a drop in an ever-flowing river, they will be moved to contribute their little part to the stream of life."

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Don't be a slave of kamma

Question: (unedited)

Hi Justin

Thks for yr reply. On my previous question on death and funeral, I just want to know whether these rites and rituals consistent with Buddha's Teaching so that I will not fall into false/wrong views. As what have been said, rites and rituals are not important, what more important is our training and cultivating our mind. I want to make sure what I know and understand abt Buddhism is on the right path. Maybe I too "kaipoh" and too concern abt others' views and opinion. Anyway, thks again for the short and simple reply.

My next question is abt reducing the density of the effect of the ripening of bad kamma. Eg. as a result of stealing, we experience poverty, wretchedness, unfulfilled desires etc.. , so in order to reduce the impact of all these, what else we should do beside accepting this as the result, being positive, repent, continue to do more wholesome action even with limited resources and opportunities. Kindly elaborate.

Another eg. having undesirable marriage partner, what we could do while experiencing the bad effects?.. esp when our spouse being not responsible in providing for the family and fulfilling his duties as husband and also having affairs with another woman. My friend is having this problem and have asked my advice and now I forward this to you as I believe you could provide better solution and advices than me. BTW, she also a buddhist thus she knows that this happenings also due to her kamma.

Thks again for your reply..

My comment:

Welcome back.

1) On your previous question on rites and rituals, I hope you are clear about my explanation.

2) The workings of kamma cannot be completely understood by us ordinary mortals. What we can conjecture is that whatever good we do will give us good results; while bad actions lead to bad results. Exactly when the results will actualize in full force, we don't really know. However we can experience the initial effects immediately in our mind. When we do good we feel happy. When we do bad, we feel guilty. The simple way is to live skilfully so that we conduct our lives harmlessly, and continue to do wholesome deeds; while avoiding harmful actions.

3) First, we must not become slaves of our past kamma. What we are experiencing now may be the results of past kamma; but this does not prevent us to take immediate positive actions to alleviate our problems. I am not a marriage counsellor and am not qualified to "advise" your friend. What I can say is that she should not succumb to the wrong interpretation of kamma and just accept her "fate". She has the power to change circumstances by taking positive and practical actions now.

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