Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Buddhist concepts

Question : (Unedited)

Dear Justin
I would like to ask the following:
What is meant by
Kalamasutta (not sure of spelling)
Sila samadi pana (not sure of spelling)
Anitra duka anata (not sure of spelling)
I am interested not so in the religion but more on its teachings, principles, morals etc ie how to be a better person and use in everyday lives. Where do I start?
I am residing in Malaysia, and my knowledge is shallow. As stated earlier, I am not a strong believer but I like to use its principles in everyday lives.
Thank you. Your reply is very much appreciated.

My comment:


Thank you for asking me.

"Wisdom" in the Buddhist context is the ability to see the world and our lives in the real perspective. What we assume about this life and the world are actually deceptions by external objects through our deluded sense organs. Since we see things in the wrong perspective, we react to them incorrectly, and the result is, we suffer mental and physical anguish.

"Mindful" in the Buddhist context is the ability to know the "present moment". Animals are not mindful and they react to instinct. Most of the time we are like animals reacting to instinct, thereby creating problems for ourselves and to others. To improve mindfulness, it takes effort through the practice of Buddhist meditation. The mind is tamed and then trained to listen to our command. It is not an easy task.

Kalama Sutta is one of the Buddha's discourses which encourages followers to analyze his teachings before accepting them as truth. The Buddha encouraged intelligent enquiry and open discussion


"Sila, Samadhi, Panna (pronounced as pan nya)" means morality, concentration, and wisdom. It embodies the complete teachings of the Buddha. To practise moral principles, purify the mind through meditation, and thereby gaining wisdom.

"Anicca, Dukkha, Anatta" the trilogy of existence, referred to as "impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, insubstantiality". The world is not permanent (ever changing), always not perfect, and it is its nature to be so, without any substance.

Buddhism is for everyday living and not some superstitious and esoteric rites and rituals to be followed blindly.

May I recommend that you read "What Buddhist Believe" by Ven. K Sri Dhammananda, my revered teacher from this site:

You can purchase the book from the Brickfields Temple (Mahavihara) in KL.
This book will give you answers to many of your questions.
Please come back if you need further clarifications.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Blessed string

(Picture from Daily Buddhism)

Question (Unedited)
can you give me the address of a Buddhist monk to receive a good health blessed string? thanks s.

My comment:
Hi S,

Thank you for asking me, but you have not given your location. However may lead you to the nearest temple.

I wonder why you want the blessed string. Actually the most blessed gift is to practise the Buddha's teachings. By practising his teachings, you will be protected. This is because his teachings stress on the reducing of all negative and hateful feelings, thoughts, and actions. When we reduce negative and hateful activities, we allow positive energies to rejuvenate our systems, thereby improving our health and happiness.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Have a nice day!

Question : (Unedited)

How do you forgive those who have hurt you so deep you can not even stand to look at them or think of them or talk about them with anyone?
I know that this anger and hate is causing me more pain and destruction of myself than my hating this person does to her. She will always be the kind of destructive person she is. I can't change her-how do I change me?
Thank You, J

Not really sure to tell you what my "belief" is. I have always tried to do the right things, taught my children to be decent, loving, caring, understanding. They are wonderful. Why is it so hard for me? I don't want to hate, I am sickened by the anger this person brings to my life. She is a relative so it is impossible to escape having her in my life. She does not care who she hurts or how. She is never sorry. Unfortunetly her daughter is the same way. I have tried to forgive her several times and we have started over without it lasting for long. They lie, steal, manipulate people and situations, always causing grief and destruction in my life and my marriage. This has been going on for 35 years. I ask them to stay away from my home and myself about 2 years ago. Even tho I have no contact with them, do not speak of them with other family members things are still uneven in my marriage and other family relationships. Forgiving them only sets me up for their next catastrophe. Any suggestions?

My comment:

Hi J,

Welcome to the real world. The more fortunate people do not have to experience the agony of family feuds, naughty and incorrigible children, unfilial siblings, squabbling parents, and a host of other family problems. I fully understand how you feel for I am still reeling over similar problems, perhaps more than yours.

Before we get too upset over these problems, we have to realize the true nature of life. As Buddhists we are reminded that this life and this world are by their very nature, unsatisfactory. We are here to act out our parts in life, the good and the bad. As Buddhists we attribute this as the results of our past kamma (actions). Many things we have the power to change and prevent. However, certain things and events are destined to happen. We can try our best to lead a skilful and peaceful life. Having done our best and troubles still haunt us, then we have to find solace in the teachings of the Buddha. This is the true nature of existence.

Now coming back to your comment:
" How do you forgive those who have hurt you so deep you can not even stand to look at them or think of them or talk about them with anyone?"
Actually you are experiencing the exact opposite of what you wrote. You still want to look at them, you still think of them, and you still talk about them! That's why you are feeling miserable. Just consider this: If you do not look at them, do not think of them, and do not talk about them; then you will not have any more problems with them! This is pure logic.

We have been deceived by our mind. Each time when I took my shower, the old scenario played itself over and over again, how they hurt me, how they deserted my mother, why my daughter could have become such..... After awhile I finished my shower and the mental self destructive stage-play stopped! We become victims to our problems which by themselves are already bad enough. To associate mentally with them is like the proverbial adding insult to injury. This is what the Buddha referred to as unskilful conduct, which causes misery.

Your next comment:
"I know that this anger and hate is causing me more pain and destruction of myself than my hating this person does to her. She will always be the kind of destructive person she is. I can't change her-how do I change me?"

You got the facts right! Then start with a bit of common sense. Since such behaviour is not to our benefit, we should make effort to reduce this bad habit. As for me, when such thoughts came by and at times when I was mindful, I would command my mind to stop the poisoning, stop the non-productive and destructive thoughts! I didn't have to forgive. Maybe I am not wise enough or magnanimous enough to forgive. But I can stop the destructive thoughts from haunting me. This is the difference.

Your next comment:
"This has been going on for 35 years. I ask them to stay away from my home and myself about 2 years ago. Even tho I have no contact with them, do not speak of them with other family members things are still uneven in my marriage and other family relationships."
If this person is no longer within sight, then I would assume this person would not be causing any problem now. Thirty-five years is a very long time. Perhaps you may want to try the method that I am practising.

Have peace in yourself, if not for others.
Have a nice day!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

You are better than me.

Question : (Unedited)
Hello Justinchoo,

I am an avid reader of expert Buddhism and my interest in Buddhism started quite recently. I think its great religion / philosphy. And the answers of Buddhism expert are always helpful.

Buddha taught that we should be compassionate and tolerent of other people. Hatred and violence are not solutions to any problem.

Today I was angry/livid at a situation at the beginning. I did have some violent thoughts (thinking of shouting or hitting the guilty one). After calming down (I dont know how I achieved it), I acted out of practicality and calmness.

Find a solution, instead of dwelling on blame.

Do I break a rule in Buddism when I become angry or livid? Not lasting angry or hatred, but angry at that moment?

Thanks in advance


My comment:

Hi SS,

Thank you for asking me.

You have done better than me! It is very easy to philosophize about compassion, patience, tolerance and kindness. But when we come face to face with realities it's a very different cup of tea, so to say. Different people have different thresholds of personality traits. Some are by nature very patient, while others are always hot tempered. I am of the opinion that a big percentage of our personality traits come from our past lives. It is very difficult to change our personality traits.

However, all is not lost. By following the teachings of the Buddha and meditation, one can improve one's character. The first battle is won once a person realizes his shortcomings and decides to overcome them. He will still continue to make the same mistakes but each time it happens, he realizes and takes step to check it. If it is too late, then he will feel remorse and will try again to do better come the next time. Over time, there sure will be an improvement. I am speaking from my own experience. And I still make the same stupid mistakes when I react without mindfulness.

When we make a mistake, we do not actually break any rule in Buddhism, for the Buddha did not impose any rule upon us. His warning was that if we break a universal rule, we open ourselves to problems and difficulties. As such we must cultivate good habits so that we can conduct our lives in a dignified and harmless manner. This is what we call skilful living.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Zombies don't think.

Question: (Unedited)

Dear Justinchoo,

I hope you will receive my email in the best of your health and spirits.

I am 29 years old. I started meditation for long time but I am not so much consistent. I may do for few days thn drop it and thn I can start it again after few days. The real question I wanna ask is that I like to think allot. I am always thinking or you can say imaging about my future life always. My mind is always busy like this. The good thing is that I always think positive and see good changes in life. But I want to ask you that is it a good practice to think always or imagine about future. I usually do it when alone or walking. Should I make my mind to not to think at all and must not imagine. I would like to have your guidance about it please

With best regards,


My comment:
Hi I K,

Thank you for your concern. I'm in the pink of health.

It is natural to think. And you are very fortunate to have positive thoughts. That's the way to be. How can we be not thinking while awake? We will be zombies then! The Buddha's advice was to think wisely and mindfully. Buddhist meditation is to train the mind to do just that. We can vary the intensity of thinking. To be more spiritual I would say we need to regulate our thinking pattern. To live in the present moment, meaning, to be alert and mindful here and now; no stray thoughts. For example, recitation of "Buddho", to be aware of the present moment.

However, as lay persons we cannot just think in this pattern all the time. We have to plan our lives, do our jobs, and take care of our families. Strike a balance. Practise your meditation and improve your mindfulness, while at the same time think positive .



I would like to know your thoughts on tattoo's. Im wanting to have the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" tattooed onto my body in Tibetan. What I would like to know is - would it bring bad karma, is it a very unbuddhist thing to do. I have been practicing buddhism for awhile and I wouldnt like to insalt the faith.

Kind Regards

My comment:
Hi L,

Thank you for asking me.

Why not spend more time to probe deeper into the pristine teachings of the Buddha? There is a very good web site where you can gather more info about the true teachings of the Buddha:

The Buddha taught truth and peace. He showed us how to escape from this world of suffering. He encouraged us to reduce our greed, hatred and delusion, so that we can live in peace and happiness. He cultivated his mind through countless eons to attain full enlightenment. It is through right view and understanding that we can be wise to live a harmless and happy life. To tattoo or not, is not in the ambit of the Buddha's teachings.

The freedom of choice and decision are the hallmarks of Buddhism. You are free to use your wisdom to decide.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Yes, stop reading Buddhism.


Hey, my name is L... 16 years old and from sweden, I've written to you before hope you don't get all fed up with me.

I tried Buddhism for some months, and by trying I mean, listening to Ajan Brahms Dhamma Talks, Reading Texts from, meditating and being "buddhist like" in my daily life.
This is what I found out...

I got alot of happiness from it, being happy walking, being happy sitting simply being more happy in general.
Also I got nicer to my friends and I didn't get into arguments with them. I got so happy with life that I was content. unfortuentlly this is not a good thing in my case.

when I was content I started to stop caring so much about school and other important things.

The teachers said that next best grade is good and that I should be content with it, I was then I got one grade lower than that, and finally I got fail grade in math. this stuck me so hard that I was down til I understood that it was my fault, and when I understood that... man I got angry at myself, I have parents that support me a whole lot, I have friends, I have intelligence and still I can't succed in school.

Then I figured that buddhism don't give happiness for me in the end.
When I studied buddhism I learned so much about humans but that don't give me better grades do it? without grades I won't get any job and then I've pretty much failed my parents, they are so unbeliveable kind to me that I really want to become something big to make them proud.

One Important thing that I've learned about buddhists is that they are wise and know what to do in almost every situations, you people are wise.
So I want to ask you this and please be as serious in your answare as you can.

Do You Think I should stop reading buddhism?

My comment: Hi L,

Welcome back; yes I remember you. You have also contacted the other "expert".

"Do You Think I should stop reading buddhism?"
Answer: YES. If you are just reading Buddhism and neglecting your studies, YES, stop wasting your valuable time if you still do not get the Buddha's message. I think I have told you before that you have to strike a balance between spiritual life and worldly responsibilities. You are not acting responsibly in your studies, and you are misinterpreting the Buddha's teachings.

You cannot be happy if you neglect your worldly responsibilities. In your case, your main responsibility is to concentrate on your studies. Incorporate the Buddha's teachings into your worldly activities.

Be nice, be kind, be happy, but at the same time please concentrate on your studies. If you follow this advice, then you are a wise person, a real wise Buddhist, just like us!

Sorry to be so harsh on you. Be happy and study hard!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Getting sexcited.

Question: (Unedited)

Dear Sir:

Peace and health to you!

I am an 18-year-old Buddhist of the Theravada tradition who is seeking to incorporate the Dharma into more areas of his life. However, there is one that is currently more pressing than others.

I have a wonderful girlfriend of seven months whom I have deep respect and appreciation for. We have a balanced and healthy relationship. However, she has a significant zest for physicality: extended kissing, touching, making out, things of this sort -- never so far as any form of sexual contact, which we both agree we are too young for, but nevertheless quite intense at times. I have maintained a clear head throughout our time together and harbor no illusions: we will almost certainly break up at some point in the future, given the fact that our college choices are such that we will be in a long-distance relationship, quite apart from the fact that all phenomena are transitory and shouldn't be clung to. However, I often wonder if the physical aspects of our relationship are fostering undue craving and attachment in me. Could you please explain to me the Buddha's stance on such matters, with particular emphasis on what the Third Precept means in the lay Buddhist's life? I would be most grateful for any of your thoughts on this.

With metta,

My comment:

Thank you for asking me.

First we must understand we are very sensual beings; especially at your age. It is very natural. The Buddha taught universal truth. The truth is that we are very sensual. The truth is that if we are unrestrained in our senses, we may fall victims to our senses; we become slaves to our senses; the greatest trap is the sexual trap. Most are unrestrained slaves of this sexual trap, behaving no less than animals, having sexual relationships with one and sundries. Beware AIDS!

The third precept states that one should undertake to refrain from committing sexual misconduct. This has no direct bearing on whether couple should be legally married. Marriage is actually a social/legal obligation when a couple becomes man and wife. Sexual misconduct means having sexual excesses with one and sundry without a thought for genuine relationship. This behaviour is just like animal sexual instinct. Sexual misconduct will bring potential problems like unwanted children, abortion, adultery, and death from AIDS! If a couple is genuine in love and cares for each other, I would say that whatever they do in privacy is not sexual misconduct. However, I would be of the opinion that the couple should adhere to social norm, human dignity, and legal obligations, to get married if they want to live together.

The greatest gift in Buddhism is the freedom to choose and decide. When one understands the teachings of the Buddha, one has clear understanding of life and will be able to conduct one's life with wisdom.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

What you believe is your business.

Question : (Unedited)

Being a christian i am interested in the buddhist view of Christ. What do buddhist's make of christ. was he a prophet, was he a man, do you guys even believe in prophets or prophecy, what do you believe?

i know that there are some religions which acknowledge christ and the work he did (i think hare krishna is one such religion).

My comment:
As Buddhists, we are not concerned with what others think of our teacher. Our main concern is to practise his teachings in order to have inner peace and happiness. Likewise, we are not concerned about what you choose to belief. As such, we need not have to comment about your belief and your Christ. You have the freedom to believe what you want. This is the respect we give to others for their beliefs.

We Buddhists actually do not believe in anything! The Buddha advised his followers not to believe in anything without investigation and analysis. In other words, we do not believe blindly. We "believe" in universal truths. The first is that all existences are transcient and not permanent...ever changing. Because of this continuous change taking place, there is no permanent perfection in existence. In other words, the whole existence is very imperfect and unsatisfactory. We "believe" that all existence is in the end without substance. Things come and go. Life is born, growth and old age follow, in the end life expires. This is the eternal truth of existence.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

All kinds of people in this imperfect world!

Question : (Unedited)
Wisdom or transcendental intelligence is the sustaning principle of enlightenment.Without it,ignorance will have the chance to rise again.
My question is,
1)How can our wisdom be of permanent nature(as stated in Lankavatra Sutra,Chapter XII and countless more.).
~Personally,I just dont see how this is possible because:
1.)our memory is just understand some Math formula and after some time,I cant recall it anymore.If I can forget Math so easily,Why is Wisdom not forgettable like Math?


My comment:


Thank you for asking me.

The sutra is from the Mahayana tradition. I follow the Theravada tradition. We can discuss the topic "wisdom" without referring to whatever text. You are right to say that we cannot have permanent wisdom. Whatever you may read, the Buddha advised us to analyze whether it is true or not. If not true or beneficial, then we don't have to follow. If we have permanent wisdom, it means we are enlightened. If we are not enlightened then we can try to be wiser by practising the teachings of the Buddha. The more we reduce our greed, hatred and delusion, the wiser we become. That's all.

Smile from justinchoo :-)


Follow-up question by this "very angry person".


Hi again,
You have not answered my question at all.I ask Why wisdom is not forgetable like Math formula?That's all.I do not need you to tell me how to acquire it and why it is needed etc.Futhermore ,What I wanted is reason and not just mere statement that wisdom is permanent.I ask this question eventhough many sutra state that wisdom is permanent.I dont even trust sutra's statement,what do you think about your mere statement.I just want to reclarify that what i wanted is reason not statement.
Futhermore,your answer is very unconsistent.At first,you say that wisdom is not permanent ,then you said wisdom is permanent.Without any reason you said all this thing.How am I to digest your words regardless of it's validity.
I deeply appreciated your help very much and I am sorry for my very direct style of language.I just state about my opinion.

My comment:
Hi again,

I have tried my best to provide my comments. I said I agreed with your comment that we (normal worldlings) cannot have permanent wisdom because if we have permanent wisdom we will have attained enlightenment.

Please don't get upset with my comments. You can always ask others and find better answers. I don't claim to be perfect and I don't guarantee complete satisfaction. Have peace.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Never-ending question.

Question : (Unedited)

because aung s moe* said there are no buddha sensible to enjoy nibanna at death nibanna is only attained in this very present life , nibanna is said nothing is eternalise nor is annihilated because no self is present, i think your nirvana is some sort of eternal existence being merged with your buddha nature, by the way, is buddha nature present in theravada

(*Blogger's comment: Aung s Moe was one of the panel 0f volunteers answering Buddhist questions)

Hi J,

First, Nibbana is not a place where you go and enjoy. Actually the meaning of Nibbana is "no craving". When a person is completely rid of greed, hatred and delusion, there is nothing for him to "enjoy". As I have reiterated, you have to change your mindset and adopt a new paradigm in your perception of the universe and existence based on the Buddha's revelation. If we insist on maintaining our stereotyped and limited layman's knowledge of the world and our existence, we will never understand the concept of Nibbana. By the way, the Buddha warned that ordinary mortals like us would never fully understood Nibbana.

As I said Nibbana is unconditioned, meaning, it is nothing like this present state which is subject to impermanence, unsatisfatoriness and insubstantiality. A fully enlightened person will be in a state of Nibbanic bliss here and now, not having to wait for the end of life.

Your comment " I think your nirvana is some sort of eternal existence being merged with your buddha nature, by the way, is buddha nature present in theravada?"

My comment: It is not "my Nirvana", but my understanding of the Buddha's explanation of it. What is Buddha nature? If it means the potential of becoming a Buddha, then it is there in everyone of us. It's just like a seed waiting to sprout given the right conducive conditions.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Neither the same nor different.

Question (unedited):
what is nirvana really , what happens to the buddha after death is he annihilated or is it a form of eternal existence

what reborn of us if we have no soul

Hi J,

Thank you for asking me.

Unless a person has attained enlightenment, nirvana can only be a conjecture.

However, we can postulate what nirvana is not. Nirvana is not birth and death. It is not suffering. It is not temporary. It is not changing. It is not of this world. It is beyond our human intelligence to know exactly what it is. If it can be understood easily by mere mortals, then the Buddha did not have to spend countless life-time to attain it. Buddhism will be of little value if it is so simple. That is why it takes only the Buddha to discover the real truths.

To understand rebirth, we must first understand the Buddhist concept of mind and matter, which constitute this life. The body we can see and feel. The other aspect which is very important is "mind"; the essence of this mind is "consciousness". The body without this consciousness will be a dead body. It is this consciousness that gives life to the physical body.

The law of kamma operates throughout our existence. This consciousness is the storehouse of all our kammic actions....good and bad. When this body expires, it is this storehouse of consciousness that passes on and takes rebirth in another existence. However this storehouse of consciousness is not static but changes from moment to moment depending on our kammic energy. It is in a state of flux.

Imagine the electric current flowing through a wire. When a bulb is attached it lights up. After a period the bulb will become weak and will be blown out. When we replace it with another new bulb the light will be on again. These bulbs are like our bodies. The electrical current is like our consciousness. Although the new bulb is a different one, there is this continuation of the electrical current. They are neither exactly the same nor completely different, there is a continuity of personality or character.

The Buddha described this process in Pali as "Na ca so, na ca anno" ("ca" pronounce as "cha"; "anno"= pronounce as "un-your"), which means "neither the same nor different"! This is what the Buddha referred to as "no permanent soul".
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