Saturday, June 27, 2009

The way it is.

(Picture from CK Hon)


Hi again!

You know sometimes i try to meditate, sometimes for a half an hour, sometimes one hour. However, i don't know why, probably i do something wrong, it doesn't calm me down, doesn't bring me any relief. How should i do it? I usually sit on the floor or on the bed with my legs bent, upright posture. Could you give me any directions how to improve my practise? Thanks!

My comment:

Hi L,

Welcome back.

We must always remember that when we meditate, we are actually undergoing a life-time training process. In any training programme, it is expected to have mistakes. It is in this manner that we can learn to improve ourselves. If we are experts, we don't need to train anymore. Whatever we do will be perfect and our so-called training will be just another perfect performance.

As you know, our mind is very difficult to tame. We can just do our best. Of course, the more time we put into our training the more we can improve, and at a faster rate. However there will always be those off-form periods
where things don't seem to follow through. It is natural that we face this "problem".

The Buddha listed 5 mental hindrances that disturb us when we meditate. They are sensual desires, ill will, sloth and torpor, restlessness, and doubts. These mental impurities always disturb us, especially when we meditate. In any circumstance, once our mind is not stilled and concentrated, we will become the servant of the mind, and this mind will lead us from one "adventure" to the next, without our mindfulness. The trick is to note these moments of wondering, once we come to realize their presence; and to "bring back" our wondering mind to the reference point of concentration, be it rising and falling of the abdomen, or the in-breath and out-breath at the tip of the nose, or whatever point of concentration that we choose. Actually most of the time when we meditate, our main concern is to note these wondering moments, and there are many. When we become skilful in this noting, we will find that we can maintain a certain level of concentration and calm for longer periods and with more consistency.

So don't worry too much about your "problem". It is not a problem, after all. It is just "the way it is", and if you can realize this fact, you have understood the Dhamma..."The way it is".

Smile from justinchoo:-)

Sunday, June 21, 2009

To forgive or to scold?

(Picture from CK Hon)

I heard that if I forgive a person who has wronged me, that person will receive more bad karma then if I had scolded that person. Is this true? How does Karma work?

My comment:


Thank you for asking me.

Whether you have forgiven or scolded that person, he is the sole heir of his actions. If you had forgiven him, that doesn't change things for him too. If you had scolded that person, you would be the recipient of the bad result.

Kamma in Buddhist teaching means volition action; action that is done on purpose. It can be verbal, physical and even mental. This universal law does not favour anyone, it is neither moral nor immoral; but amoral. It goes according to volition action. This means that if your volition action is unwholesome, then unwholesome reaction will be the result, sooner or later.

Although kamma plays a big part in our lives, this does not mean that we should surrender ourselves to it. We are the result of what we were; and will be the result of what we are. What we are experiencing now would have a lot to do with our past kamma. But at this present moment, we can chart our path, the way we want because we have control of our lives. This is in accordance with the law of kamma. We mistakenly think that we are only the victims of our past kamma. We must realize that we are also masters of our present kamma because we have the power to choose and act. So act wisely and live a harmless life.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

A Buddhist Soldier?

(Brilliant Picture By C K Hon)

I am interested in becoming a buddist, however as a soldier in the US ARMY some of the things that I do directly or indirectly result in the breaking of one or more of the five precepts.... my question is that does this disqualify me from buddism altogether or are there excetions to these rules...?

My comment:


No one is disqualified from becoming a Buddhist just because of his profession. The Buddha taught universal truths about this existence. The truth is that if one associates with unskilful and unwholesome profession, one must be prepared to face the unwholesome consequences. If one is prepared to be a soldier, then one must be prepared to kill and/or be killed in battle. The final decision rest on the individual. Buddhism does not force anyone to change one's profession.

There are certain principles which a Buddhist will strive to uphold along the line of the 5 precepts. Of course ideally one should choose a profession that is not against the 5 precepts. But then who is going to do the "dirty jobs" so to say. Who is going to defend the country? Who is going to keep law and order in the streets? Who is going to get rid of the pests that may affect our health? These are all very urgent and realistic questions. Those who are in this category may take consolation that they are doing it for the greater good of the society and nation. However, at the same time they could strive to lead a dignified, noble and harmless life as best they could. They still can follow and practise the teachings of the Buddha to the best of their ability.

The realities of this world and this existence are such that there are always this unsatisfactoriness and flaws where many a time we are confronted with.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Difficult concepts.

(Picture by Tony Wills)



I have a questiong about Buddhism. From my understanding (I could be mistaken), Buddhism teaches that all reality is illusion and to let go of self, desires and even the thought of heaven, because those are also illusions. It doesn't make sense to me, but my main question Buddhism once you reach enlightenment, then what? we become voids in the sky, with no thought, no soul desires, no heaven, no nothing? And all of the life we've lived and lessons we learned are all forgotten? I'm open to knew beliefs and very spiritual, but this point in buddhism seems to really bother me, I was hoping maybe you could better explain it. Thank you so much.

Many Blessings,

My comment:


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 interpret 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. Likewise our conventional thinking may not be able to understand and accept the Buddha's teachings of ultimate truths. We simply have not the mental or "wisdom" foundation to understand the Buddha's revelation of the ultimate truths.

So be patient and continue to have an open mind as aptly advised by the Buddha himself, that we should use our human intelligence and common sense to analyze his teachings, and to accept only when we are convinced.

Coming back to your questions. What we experience with our senses are very real in this world. However, in the ultimate analysis, they are just passing images or experiences. After some time all our experiences will also pass away, and in the end we also follow suit; just to start all over again in this cycle of births and deaths. In this sense, they are all illusions. If we understand this concept, the rationale of Buddhist liberation is to break away from this vicious cycle. In order to achieve this, we have to get to the core of the cause of our continuing existence, which is CRAVING to want to exist. If we have no more craving to exist, we will break away from this cycle. One can only achieve this if one is completely rid of the 3 roots of "evils" which are greed, hatred and ignorance. At this juncture just treat this liberation as getting out of this cycle. The next difficult concept will be "what then after this escape from the cycle"? It is very difficult to explain, especially I too am not liberated. The next best way is to give an illustration. Assuming a candle burning, and the flame is the life. When the flame is extinguished, we don't see the flame anymore; but can we say that there is no more flame? Try light a match, and the flame reappears. The question then is; "where did the flame go when it was extinguished"?

Another important concept is what constitute a life. A life consists of the physical form and the mind or consciousness. It is this mind that transcends repeated births. It is energy; and energy cannot be destroyed. It merely transforms into different form. This mind which is pure energy can exist anywhere even without a form.

As a 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.

I think that is more than enough to confuse you further. Please be patient and as the Buddha advised us; strive on with diligence. Please come back if you need further clarification.

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