Friday, December 31, 2010

Can kamma be erased?

Question :(Unedited)
Hai Justinchoo,

i would like to know if bad karma could be reduced or may be erase? or maybe, convert these bad karmas to good karmas?

My comment: 
Hi Y...,

Thank you for asking me.

We may say that kamma works in mysterious ways, but surely it will take its course.  We shall not be able to know exactly how kamma works unless we have reached a very high level of mental (Mind) cultivation.  As lay persons we can only learn from the Buddha's expositions.  The Buddhist context of kamma is "volition" actions, meaning those actions we do on purpose with full knowledge and awareness.  There are various grades of kamma, from the very insignificant to the very serious.  The lower grades of kamma will have lesser effect, while the serious one will take precedent.  I don't think it is possible to convert bad kamma to good kamma.  Once action is done, it cannot be undone.  However lesser bad kamma may be overwhelmed by a surge of good kamma, that the former may not have the chance to fructify. As for the really serious kamma it is quite impossible to escape its retribution.  This is one of the reasons where we often witness good people suffering with no apparent reason.

We can use an analogy of the hour-glass.  All our actions are the sand in the hour-glass.  There is no escape, each one will take its turn to flow down.  However, some will just be hidden in the flow, escaping notice.

Hope this explains sufficiently.  Please come back if need be.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Press Statement On "Buddha Relics" Exhibition




The Malaysian Buddhist Consultative Council (MBCC) do not support “The Buddha Relics & Tibetan Antiques” event held at Stadium Putra, Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur from 23/12/10 to 1/1/11 organised by the “Malaysia Kadhampa Buddhist Association”.

The Buddha relics are the remains of the Buddha and they are highly respected among all Buddhists worldwide. As the Buddha relics are very rare and precious, the discovery of any Buddha relics would receive world attention. In addition, any claim of discovery of Buddha relics must be verified by recognised Buddhist masters and even scientifically by archaeologists and scientists.

Thus, the Malaysian Buddhist Consultative Council would like to inform the Buddhist disciples and the public not to support such event nor to attend the relics expo. The MBCC is unable to verify the authenticity of its Buddhist lineage.

In addition, the MBCC do not agree with the practice of any party who circulate the proclaimed “Buddha relics” commercially either through sales or donation.

The Malaysian Buddhist Consultative Council is consisted of Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM), Buddhist Missionary Society Malaysia, Sasana Abhiwurdhi Wardhana Society (Sasana), Malaysian Fo Guang Buddhist Association and Vajrayana Buddhist Council Malaysia (VBCM).

Best regards,
Sek Chin Yong



马来西亚佛教咨询理事会不认同 嘎档巴总会









May the Blessings of the Triple Gem be with you and your family always.
With Metta,

Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia
No.9, Jalan SS25/24, Taman Mayang,
47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Tel: 03 - 7804 9154/7
Fax: 03 - 7804 9021
Also connect YBAM at Facebook

Friday, December 24, 2010

What is in an image?

Question : (Unedited)
I recently purchased a Buddha figurine.This one was the fertility/child protection model.
I am Christian not Buddhist,I just thought it looked cool.
The night after I got it,I looked at it before I went to bed and silently asked it to look after my two teenage children,who were both out.
That night,my son was involved in a car accident.He was unhurt,but are car was totaled.
Is this Gods way of saying 'put your faith in Jesus not Buddha? Or just a coincidence?
Either way,I gave the statue away.

My comment:
Hi B...,

Thank you for asking me.

There are lots of "Buddha" figurines in the market.  There are also lots of names given to them; and also lots of claims of whatever you want to believe.  

A proper Buddha figurine will only represent the historical Buddha.  It is just a symbolic representation of the Buddha.  Being a holy representation, it evokes an aura of mysticism and power.  It is in the mind of the people to turn it into whatever they want to believe out of fear and ignorance.

Depending on which way you want to interpret.  You may thank the "Buddha" figurine that it had saved your children's lives!!  Or you may curse it for causing the accident!!  See, it's all in your mind. You have the freedom to use your intelligence and common sense to interpret.  That would be the advice of a Buddhist.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Why Westerners are attracted to Buddhism

Question : (Unedited)
Hey Justin,

Why do you think Westerners are attracted to Buddhism?  Thanks for your time! - J.....
My comment:
Hi J,

Well, I can share my thoughts with you and they are as follows:

1. Buddhism is a totally new concept to the Westerners.  Its teachings give a new perspective of "religion".  Westerners are indoctrinated with the concept of the Creator God, the all powerful. Buddhism gives them an option to think otherwise.

2. Buddhism encourages free thinking and analysis of human existence.  It encourages intellectual thinking.  

3. Buddhism sets humans free to take charge of their lives without fear of any powerful third party intervention.  It gives full control of the person to conduct his life without fear of punishment or desire for reward by an external agent.  It tells the person that his actions, thoughts, and speech are his own volitions.  

4.  Buddhism provides alternative answers to questions about the world and existence.  It gives them answers as to the nature of this world, its incessant violent interactions, why people suffer, while others are more fortunate than others, why some die young, why some live to a ripe old age.  In a nutshell, it provides alternative answers to why we are here, why we are subject to numerous problems just to survive.

5. Buddhism gives them freedom to practice its teachings without threat of hellfire nor promise of eternal heaven.  It is up to the person to practise at the level that suits him.

6.  Buddhism emphasizes goodwill and non-violence, and respect for lives, not just human lives but all lives in the universe.  With respect and goodwill, there is no place for violence.

7. Buddhism is about universal truths which transcend cultures, traditions, geographical boundaries, time, and space.  Universal truths are not based on dogmas and beliefs.  They are based on universal truths which scientists are beginning to realize that much of their findings concur with Buddhist teachings.

8.  Buddhism offers something that Western religions cannot, and that is, harnessing the power of the mind, through Buddhist meditation.

I think this is enough.

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What is ignorance?

Question : (Unedited)
What does the term "ignorance" (lack of knowledge) mean in the Buddhist philosophy?

My comment:
Hi L,

"Ignorance" is being translated from the Pali word "Avijja".  This mental state is the cause of all our follies.  It prevents us from seeing the real nature of this live and the universe, and existence in general.  It tricks us to view life as pleasurable, of substance, and permanent.  In reality existence is the direct opposite, that is, unsatisfactory, insubstantial, and impermanent.  Avijja is not knowing the 4 Noble Truths which identify the real nature of existence, namely: suffering; its origin; its cessation; and the path leading to its cessation.

In common experience; it's just like a blind person trying to find the way.  He needs someone to lead him to the right direction.  The 4 Noble Truths are the lights dispersing the darkness.  While the Noble Eightfold Path is the journey one has to take to reach one's destination.

Friday, December 3, 2010


Question : (Unedited)
hey justinchoo,

What is the Mayayana teaching about the three Bodies of Buddha?  How does it compare with the Theravadin notion of Buddha?  



My comment :
Hi Mk,

Thank you for asking me.

I shall answer your question by referring to my revered teacher's book "What Buddhists Believe".  You can click here to read it:

Briefly it states that the Buddha was the embodiment of three aspects:  He was the physical Buddha, he was the enlightenened one who proclaimed the universal truths (Dhamma), and thirdly, he was the teacher of the Dhamma, teaching with joy or bliss.

These three bodies became known as the Trikaya ("tri" is "three" and "kaya" is "body").
Dharma kaya (Truth Body)
Sambhoga kaya (Preaching or Enjoyment or Bliss Body)
Nirmana kaya (Physical or Manifestation Body)
Although the Buddha is dead, the Dharma kaya is eternal.

Sambhoga kaya was a later Mahayana concept depicting the Buddha rejoicing in the preaching of the truths (Dhamma).
In Mahayana temples you would find three similar Buddha Images depicting the three meanings of Trikaya.  

In Theravada, the Buddha is The Buddha.  There was only one Gotama Buddha, the historical Buddha (Although there were countless other Buddhas).  He preached the Dhamma, and he was the Fully Enlightened One.  These are the three aspects of the Buddha.  His teachings are universal truths and are eternal. When one practices the Dhamma, the Dhamma protects one. When one sees the Dhamma, one sees the Buddha.  When one fully realizes the Dhamma, one is the Buddha.

Hope the answer is sufficient.

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Monday, November 29, 2010

Life is unpredictable

Question : (Unedited)
Your Grace,
  My name is C J, I'm 20 years old. I've just decided to lead a Buddhist path from 20 years of being a Christian. During my transition I've been hit with a devastating breakup from my boyfriend of two years. This breakup involved infidelity and a waste of valuable sacrifices. I'm not educated with all the coping mechanisms of the awaken one and I'm asking for help to get me through this very depressing time in my life and not come out scarred or burdened by the thought love.

Thank you for taking your time,

My comment:
Hi C J,

First, I don't deserve your honorable address.  I am just an ordinary person willing to share my Buddhist knowledge with those who are interested in.

As a practising Buddhist, the most salient reminder of the Buddha's teachings is the trilogy of universal truths.  Please remember this for the rest of your life and you will not feel so disappointed in life when things don't come your way.  They are Impermanence, Unsatisfactoriness, and Insubstantiality.  When one realizes that everything in this world cannot last forever, one is prepared to see change and the end of all component things.  The second reality in life is that one is existing in an environment of imperfection.  It is the true nature of this world and this existence.  The third is a more subtle concept; in the final analysis, one's existence come to naught.  There is nothing that one can hold on to.  One's existence is like a rainbow.  One can indulge in the beauty of the rainbow, but in the end there is nothing.

Having said that, when one sees the Dhamma (the universal truth), one is wary of one's life.  When one faces with seemingly unsurmountable problem, one has to reflect on the second universal truth of existence.  It is this very nature of unsatisfactoriness of existence that one is now facing.  Having acknowledged that, one also must reflect on the first universal truth of impermanence.  Time is the mother of salvation.  Given time the problem that one is facing will also change; maybe resolved or maybe even getting worse.  So one must be prepared to live through this unpredictable journey of problematic existence.

There is no clear-cut solutions to solve life's problems.  But the Buddha had forwarned us of the realities of existence.  One consolation for a Buddhist is the knowledge of this true nature of existence that gives spiritual support to him through life's contingencies.  When faced with problems, a wise Buddhist will reflect on this trilogy of universal truths.  After accepting these irrefutable truths, he then sets out to solve his worldly problems in a worldly manner, with some Buddhist wisdom.  

As for your "problems", I am wary of giving "advice" because I am just an ordinary person without any qualification to give advice.  Maybe just providing some suggestions for your considerations.  This is just simple psychology.  Take a break and do something that you enjoy.  And a little Buddhist wisdom; when thoughts of hatred and depression come, just acknowledge and note the thoughts and don't proceed further with the thoughts.  You will find after some time, the wound will heal.  As I said earlier, time is a great healer.

Take care, and strive on with courage.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Patting the Buddha's belly??

Question : (Unedited)
I have been studying Buddhism for a little while now.  I am interested in practing it but I have several questions that I would like to know the answers to first.  First I heard that Buddhists take up practices such as patting the belly of a statue of Buddha.  While I'm sure it's just an urban myth I would like to know for sure.  Next I work in a grocery store deli, while I have no problem becoming a vegetarian, would it be against Buddhism to work in the deli still.  There are other questions that I have but I am content to research them on my own so please respond when you have the chance Thank-you

My comment: 
Hi A,

Thank you for asking me.

Welcome to the journey of inner peace and happiness.  I heard of people patting the belly of the fat or "laughing" Buddha.  The fat Buddha is supposed to be the future Buddha, the image of which was created by some very "imaginative" people.  It's rather embarrassing actually.  There is nothing "Buddhistic" about it.  The Buddha taught universal truths which transcend race, culture, time and space.  The Buddha also encouraged us to use our common sense and human intelligence to analyze his teachings.  Patting the fat Buddha's belly as far as I am concerned is a very stupid act which insults the sanctity of the Buddha.  

There is nothing a Buddhist is forbidden to do.  The advice from the Buddha was that we should know what is wholesome and what is not.  Knowing that, and if we choose to do the unwholesome things then be prepared for the unwholesome results.  So the choice is solely ours.  The Buddha never issued commandments.  The Buddha advised with reasons.  By the way, being Buddhists doesn't mean to be vegetarians, although to be one is very healthy.  You may want to try out the following three-step analysis as to whether one should proceed with a plan of action.  First, consider whether the act is harmful to others.  Then consider whether the act is harmful to oneself.  Finally, whether the act is beneficial.

Please come back if you need further clarifications.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

You have the freedom to choose.

Question: (Unedited)
I have acually talked to you about buddhism before. Last year some time. You helped me become a buddhist. But since then i have discarded buddhism. This is something up until now i have regreted. I would like to become a buddhist again. And id like you to teach me every thing you can about my new slate of becoming a buddhist and learning the ways all again.

My comment:
Hi again A....,

Well, you can become a Buddhist again, anytime!  Actually "Buddhist" is just a "religious label".  It doesn't mean a thing!  So, you had been a "Buddhist" and then decided not to be.  Now you have decided to be one again!  As far as the whole world is concerned, the sun still rises and sets, seasons change, and life goes on.  You see, this is the beauty of Buddhism.  The only person relevant is you, yourself.  You decide, you have the freedom to think and choose.  And that was precisely what you have gone through.  You have actually learned a lot of Buddhism in this process.  You now know what is truth and beneficial; and what is not.  That's why you are here again.  Congratulations!

I dare not teach you everything about Buddhism because I myself do not know everything about Buddhism.  You are welcome to ask any question at anytime and I shall be very happy to share my thoughts with you.   Here is one:

The fool is always blind
That's why the Buddha is the All-seeing One
When we SEE with our mind,
This world perfection is none.

The Buddha can only teach
We have to play our part
To put into practice
And feel real peace in our hearts.

The Buddha's teachings are like air
The universal truths
For each and everyone to share
They are free and everywhere.

For those who choose not to breathe
The Buddha's air
Let it be, let it be
Then die in despair!

If you think you care
Then take command
To proclaim and share
The Dhamma with everyone!

Smile From Justinchoo :-)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Do we want to reinvent the wheel?

Question : (Unedited)
Hey Justin,

Can you explain any important new developments in the Mahayana movement: the greater sangha, new sutras,, the idea of the bodhisattva, and the expanded idea of the Buddha.  

What do you personally think led to these new ideas?  

Thanks so much for your time! - J...
My comment:
Hi J....,

Welcome back.

The Buddha re-discovered the universal truths of existence.  It was nothing new.  It is the eternal truths of existence.  The most salient points of these truths are embodied in the Trilogy of Anicca, Dukkha and Anatta.
The Buddha said that we had to examine our experience in order to discover its most pervasive features, the universal characteristics of phenomena, namely, impermanence, unsatisfactoriness and egolessness or notself.
The Buddha said:
All formations are impermanent.
All formations are unsatisfactory.
All phenomena, everything whatsoever, are not self.

If we can understand the Dhamma as revealed by the Buddha, there is nothing else to add.  Simply put, if you understand what a wheel is, there is nothing for you to alter or add to the wheel to make it "more round"!!!  You cannot improve on the wheel, let alone reinvent it!  If anyone insists of "improving" the wheel, it only shows that person's foolishness, or that person having some ulterior motives to hookwink other ignorant people.

The Buddha was the Fully Enlightened One.  This means that he was the Perfect One, the Omniscient, the All-knowing One.  What else do we want to add, and make fools of ourselves and disgrace and insult the purity of the Buddha.

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Rebirth is not the same as reincarnation (Part 2 of 2)

Question (Follow-up) : (Unedited)
Thanks for your answer; the light bulb metaphor makes a lot of sense.  Now, I have another related question if I may about how Buddhists view the origin of the universe (or all existence).  I won't pretend to be extensively knowledgeable of Buddhist scriptures (I try to devote more time to practical applications and also translations of the pali cannon tend to be a bit too expensive and hard to come by), but I am familiar with the aggaññasutta which describes beings (and their world) as having experienced a sort of “fall from grace” from being creatures of light to humans because of their desires.  From this I would imagine that it is thought that at some past point all beings existed in a type of nirvana-like state but experienced some crisis that led to our current universe and that this sort of cycle of fall into samsara and liberation happens endlessly in all universes.  Am I way off the mark here?

My comment :
Hi J,

You are not off the mark.  Maybe I can make some comments.  The beginning of the world or even the universe was actually not a real beginning.  There cannot be a beginning.  It was the "beginning" of a cycle of formation and destruction. When the world was completely destroyed, beings existed in other dimensions.  As existence is not permanent, sooner or later beings would be reborn to other realms depending on the quality of their storehouse of consciousness.  Inevitably, when one was at a higher realm, the lower would be one's next rebirth, as the merits would have been depleted in one's storehouse of consciousness. There won't be any opportunity for accumulation of merits in the higher realms.  It would be more for enjoyment over there. This would be the reason for the higher realms' devas taking rebirth on earth in the "beginning".  And the vicious cycle repeats itself.  

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Rebirth is not the same as reincarnation (Part 1 of 2)

Question : (Unedited)
My question is a somewhat complex one, or at least so it seems to me; I would like to know precisely how the Buddhist idea of rebirth differs from the idea of reincarnation.  I understand that the latter involves the transmigration of a soul from one physical body to the next and that rebirth is supposedly different because it involves no such transmigration because Buddhists do not believe in a soul.  I've heard it explained that rebirth is more of just a realization of how each being finds it cause in the previous being, like the handing of a flame from a dying candle to a new one, yet time and time again, I hear Buddhists speaking of being someone else in a past life.  How can this be?  Wouldn't it to be more accurate to say not that I WAS such and such person before this life, but rather that I simply received the kamma of that person?  Even the Buddha speaks of past lives, and we say that he was Vesantara and the others Jataka Heroes.  If there is no soul or essence (because there is no eternal self/ego) which survives death, then how is it that we are our predecessors and successors?  And if we are not them, how can kamma be just as it punishes and rewards us for the actions of others?

My comment:
Hi J.,

Thanks for sharing your thoughts.  I must congratulate you that you have got the idea of rebirth correctly.  So I need not elaborate.  This phenomenon of rebirth is a very unique one.  We can say the consciousness is like an electric current.  This current lights up different bulbs.  This current is not the same at any one moment, it travels or in a flux.  As for the bulbs, it is quite obvious that they are different bulbs.  However the light that the different bulbs emit is neither the same nor different.  The Buddha expressed the rebirth process as "neither exactly the same nor totally different" ("Na ca so, na ca anno", in Pali) (Pronounce: "Nar cha so, nar cha un-yo").

The very fact that we cannot remember our past lives is an indication that we were not them.  But the fact that we are here, brings question as to wherefrom we came.  We may argue or analyze by using our intellectual capacity till the cows come home; still we will never be satisfied.  It is believed that if one practises Buddhist meditation diligently, one may ultimately find realization through the power of the mind.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

You have the freedom not to believe others.

Question: (Unedited)
I am 19 years old and have been born into a family of Theravada Buddhists. I believe very deeply in the power of logic and rational thinking. Uptil the age of 15, I had been a buddhist simply by birth right but my quest for answers led me to investigate into my religion and a few others. After some debating, I concluded that the Buddhist philosophy indeed made sense to me and appealed to my desire for a scientific and realistic explanation of life as it is. It corresponded with my appreciation of Darwinian evolution theory and fit very well into my view of life. For a few years, I was quite content with its explanations.

Presently, I am faced by a great dilemma that is rocking the very foundations of my beliefs and also confusing me a great deal. Recently I came across a video made by an Islamic scholar through a friend. Here is its link:

The gist of this video is as follows - the latter part of it deals with atheists and states how the 1400 year old Holy Qur'an has various passages (suraahs) describing natural phenomena that science has only just explained a few hundred years back. The speaker's argument is: "How can the Qur'an possibly explain all this phenomena when it was revealed at a time when scientific knowledge was in its infancy? Could it be because the Qur'an is the product of the Creator?"

This disturbed me because I could not figure out a reasonable answer to the questions it posed. I have read that the Aganna Sutta mentions how the Buddha describes the "universe being destroyed and re-evolving into its present form over years". So, does Buddhism have such explanations regarding natural phenomena as well? If not, how can one possibly explain away the matter that the Qur'an covers and all its assertions regarding the world we live in?

Thank you very much for your time.
My comment:
Hi P....,

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

From your first paragraph, it seems you've already got a good grasp of Buddhism.  As you said you believe in logic and rational thinking.  Use them to resolve your apparent "confusion".  Before dwelling into your "problem", let's work on a different scenario.  If someone were to show you a video about the benefits of drug-taking with first hand testimonies and scientific explanations, do you crack your head trying to reconcile what you already know (taking drugs is bad) with the "new" idea that taking drugs is good?  Likewise, others can present to you their versions of belief.  It is up to you to accept or reject.  You need not have to try to find answers to reconcile fit into your own belief.  So, you are actually creating a problem for yourself which in the first place does not call for any answer.  Just ignore them and you will not have any problem.  If you are committed to Buddhism, then take refuge in the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Sangha.  Then you will be free from delusion and confusion.  

You have actually referred to the Buddha's explanation in the Aganna Sutta.  The Buddha's explanation regarding natural phenomena is in the three characteristics of existence...Impermanence, Unsatisfactoriness, Insubstantiality....Anicca Dukkha Anatta.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Brain and mind

Human Mind

Question : (Unedited)
can someone explain what the buddhist view of these 3 things are.
One who knows..

i seem to see the the brain and mind as the same..
as i understanding of readings of Ajahn Chah teachings.
Mind as piece of meat.. natural state at rest.
only moved when abiding takes place.
is mind and brain same.. just no location of actual mind?
please.. make answer simple.
comming out of deap valley.

 My comment:
Hi Fr......,

The simple answers are:

Brain:  The piece of grey matter encased in the skull.

Mind:   The invisible consciousness that activates the brain to think.

One who knows:  In the Buddhist context, it means one who comprehends the 4 Noble Truths and the Noble Eighthfold Path.

An analogy by using computer terminology:
Brain: the hardware
Mind: the electrical current
One who knows: all the software.

<>  Now you are in open field with plenty of fresh air and sunshine!!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Don't believe everything

Question : (Unedited)
I was recently reading a translation of the dhammapada online that included stories from which the verses are supposed to have originated, and I was only into the second story when I noticed something that puzzled me.  It was the story of Matthakundali who sees the Buddha just before dying, mentally professes his faith in him, and is thus reborn as semi-/demi-/god.  Like the Buddha’s disciples I’m confused as to why this should be.  As a westerner who likes to see logic and reason behind the world, I’m puzzled to see an instance suggesting that salvation can be achieved by faith in Buddhism rather than human effort.  One of the crucial elements that first lead me to reject Christianity and attracted me to Buddhism was a lack of faith in deity/superstition/mythology.  Am I interpreting this story correctly in thinking it suggests there is room for saving faith in Buddhism?  I’ve always understood the Buddha to be human rather than a supernatural being; is this incorrect?

Related to this is the whole idea of the fantastic stories surrounding the Buddha: his preaching from a cloud, the bowl flowing upstream, his seemingly miraculous birth, to name a few.  I’ve never taken such stories at face value, personally, choosing instead to understand them as figurative and metaphorical and not necessary (indeed, perhaps a hindrance) to practicing Buddhism.  Is this approach greatly flawed?

My comment:
Hi J....,

Thank you for asking me.

Just as there are so many types of people, there are also variations in one's belief, perception, and interpretation.  Before we proceed to discuss your comments and questions, we must first establish the fundamental teachings of the Buddha.  I am sure you are familiar with these fundamental concepts.  They alone form the basic foundation of the Buddha's teachings.  These fundamental teachings are the Four Noble Truths, the Noble Eightfold Path, the Three Characteristics of Existence, the Law of Cause and Effect, and the Three Evil Roots of Greed, Hatred and Delusion.  The rest are merely additions, legends, beliefs, and elaborations which may or may not be true.  It is up to our wise judgement to decide which is beneficial and which is not.   

The Dhammapada is a collection of stories with moral messages.  The essence of the moral messages are more important than the authenticity of these stories.  We must also bear in mind that the Buddha is no ordinary mortal.  Many things which our ancestors insisted cannot be true or to be impossible are now proven to be true and possible.  So it is wiser not to completely reject everything just because we think impossible.  We must also understand that the events related did not happen in one life time, but were the final results of accumulated events of numerous past lives.  If you study more of the Buddha's life, there will be more "fantastic" stories, events, and personal relationships with those associated with him.  All these people did not just associate with the Buddha by chance.  They were already with him during previous life-time.  

<< As a westerner who likes to see logic and reason behind the world>>
This is the greatest flaw in humans believing that one can reason with everything through logic.  One has to understand that the physical faculties have serious limitations.  Our eyes can only see that far or that size.  Anything farther or smaller, we cannot see anymore.  The same goes with our hearing, sense of smell, sense of touch, taste, and ability to compute.  Our brain also has serious limitations, otherwise all of us will be smarter than Einstein!  The Buddha had acquired an extraordinary power not available through the five physical senses.  It is the power of the mind, which an average Westerner is so grossly ignorant of.  This supreme power of the mind is what set the Buddha aloft from the others.  The power of the mind is the epitome of human achievement.

Below are the pali version with English translation of the first two verses of the Dhammapada.  In these two verses, you may find answers to all life's adventures and tragedies.

Dhammapada Verse 1

Cakkhupalatthera Vatthu :

Manopubbangama dhamma

manosettha manomaya

manasa ce padutthena

bhasati va karoti va

tato nam dukkhamanveti

cakkamva vahato padam.

Verse 1. Suffering Follows The Evil-Doer

Mind precedes all knowables,

mind's their chief, mind-made are they.

If with a corrupted mind

one should either speak or act

dukkha (Suffering/Unsatisfactriness) follows caused by that,

as does the wheel that  follows the ox's hoof.

Explanation: All that we experience begins with thought. Our words and deeds spring from thought. If we speak or act with evil thoughts, unpleasant circumstances and experiences inevitably result. Wherever we go, we create bad circumstances because we carry bad thoughts. This is very much like the wheel of a cart following the hoofs of the ox yoked to the cart. The cart-wheel, along with the heavy load of the cart, keeps following the draught oxen. The animal is bound to this heavy load and cannot leave it.

Dhammapada Verse 2

Matthakundali Vatthu :

Manopubbangama dhamma

manosettha manomaya

manasa ce pasannena

bhasati va karoti va

tato nam sukha manveti

chayava anapayini.

Verse 2. Happiness Follows The Doer of Good

Mind precedes all knowables,

mind's their chief, mind-made are they.

If with a clear, and confident mind

one should speak and act,

happiness follows one,

as one's shadow never departing.

Explanation: All that man experiences springs out of his thoughts. If his thoughts are good, the words and the deeds will also be good. The result of good thoughts , words and deeds will be happiness. This happiness will never leave the person whose thoughts are good. Happiness will always follow him like his shadow that never leaves him.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Truths and legends

Question (Unedited):
I read somewhere recently that Buddha Shakyamuni could read 64 languages and new all their alphabets, had mystical powers and used these to trick the guards and escape from his fathers palace. I am confused!! I have recently just started to study Buddhism as I found the path interesting and so far I have felt more calm etc. However, some of the material tends to make Buddha Godlike and similar to the characters in the Bible etc. Must we accept these legendary stories as correct or should I (as a novice) focus on the four noble truths and eightfold path.

I look forward to your reply.

My comment: 
Hi A..,
Thank you for asking me.

It is good that you seek clarifications.  However, you will also find that if you ask different groups of "Buddhists" you may end up having contradictory answers!!  So be forewarned and follow the Buddha's advice to use common sense and intelligent judgement while learning his teachings. The book "What Buddhists Believe" written by my revered teacher (who had recently passed away) is a very good reference for everyone. Click here to access:

Coming back to your question.  In my forty over years' learning of Buddhism, this is the first time I've heard about this "64 languages etc".  So, as far as I'm concerned I would just ignore them.  

If you study more of the Buddha's life, there will be more "fantastic" stories, events, and personal relationships with those associated with him.  All these people did not just associate with the Buddha by chance.  They were already with him during previous life-time.  You must also remember that the Buddha was not just an ordinary mortal.  He was The Buddha, the fully enlightened one, endowed with supreme power of the mind, with supernatural power to perform feats which were beyond human ability.  However, he forbade his disciples to show off their supernatural powers as they were of no use for progress of spiritual development.

Many legendary stories were merely legends, but who knows?  Most of these stories have moral messages.  It is these moral messages that are important rather than the stories themselves.  I agree with you that we should focus on the Four Noble Truths and the Noble Eightfold Path.  Happy learning.  Please come back if you need further clarification.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

"Religion" has bad aspects?

Question : (Unedited)
Every religion in the world has good and bad aspects that make up it.  What aspects of Buddhism make it a good religion?  What attracts people to Buddhism?

What aspects do people make the religion out to be bad or misleading?  What aspects of Buddhism make other people weary or afraid of the religion? Thanks for your time!

– H...    

My comment: 
Hi H...,

Thanks for asking me.

Your question can only be answered very subjectively, and depending on which side one is with.  As a Buddhist I will point out the salient points of the Buddha's teachings.  However, others who don't subscribe to Buddhism may most probably disagree with me. It is actually a waste of time discussing when the other party is adamant to listen, to respect, to tolerate, others' views.

Your question "What aspects do people make the religion out to be bad or misleading?"
If a person does not agree or believe with that particular religion, one cannot expect that person to say good things about it.  To make matters worse, when that person has very little tolerance-level for others' beliefs, he will not only criticize but also try to prevent others from practising their beliefs.  In the worst scenario, this type of person will try to convert others to his belief, failing which he will try to eliminate them.  Such is the sad state of affairs in this world.

Buddhism is not interested to gain converts.  Buddhism is a “religion” of peace, respect, and non-violence.  It does not find faults with others.  What others chose to believe and practise is their freedom of choice.  The Buddha merely revealed the universal truths of this existence.  If the person agrees he can practise.  If he doesn't agree, then it's up to him.  Buddhism is like air.

I would say that the most salient point in Buddhism is the freedom to use one's human intelligence and common sense to practise.

Friday, October 1, 2010

What do Buddhists seek?

Question : (Unedited)
My question is very basic but i find myself still slightly puzzled over it. Is Buddhism concentrated completely on achieving enlightenment?

Hi N..,

Thank you for asking me.

First we need to define what "enlightenment" means in Buddhism.  It means being "awaken" from the ignorance of existence.  It is a state whereby all negative traits are eradicated.  All Buddhists strive to achieve such a state, although it is quite impossible to achieve in one life-time.  

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.  

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Life is a drama.

Question : (Unedited)
Hello,I am a Buddhist for many years,but recently I started to get really interested in the topic of Buddhism,and many question I really unable to answer, I decided to ask you.

1.What does Buddhists mean by saying "Life is like a dream"?Why do people feel that life is like a dream?I have ponder it over many year...

2.Is reality really a illusion in Buddhism?then what is real in Buddhism?Does it mean we will wake up when we die?I have this question after I watch Matrix...

3.Why did Buddhists say reality is a illusion? In what ways is it a illusion? Is the world we living now real?I don't

My comment: 
Hi R....,

Thank you for asking me.

1) Personally, I won't say that life is like a dream because a dream is not real at all.  Life is for real.  Maybe life is a drama will be more appropriate.  We all play our parts and in the end we fade away.  The Buddha pointed out that life is not very satisfying because we always face uncertainty and danger; and in the end we all die!  It's quite scary, isn't it?  In the end, no matter what we have achieved or failed to achieve, we face the inevitable death.  

2) In the worldly sense, everything is for real.  If you pinch yourself you feel the pain.  If you jump over a cliff, it's suicide!  If you are very poor you may go hungry.  The Buddha pointed out that life is in a flux; we grow and finally decay.  So long as we crave for existence, we will be in this wretched cycle of birth and death.  In order to escape from this cycle, we need to know certain truths and to take certain path.  This is what the Buddha's 4 Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path are all about. Click here:

3) One needs to change one's mindset and perspective to enter a new paradigm to see reality of existence.  We view the world through our senses and interprete what we experience.  However our interpretations may not be the realities.  A good example is when we see a rainbow.  We cannot say the rainbow is not there.  We actually see it, the colourful arch.  However, we use our "extra" intelligence and knowledge to understand and realize that the rainbow is actually an optical illusion.
Existence, in reality is like the rainbow.  In the end all that we see and experience are tricks played on us.  We ignorantly fall victims to the wrong interpretations by using our external sense organs to interprete the world.  Because of this, we harbour greed, hatred and delusion in our lives.  The price we pay, is suffering throughout our lives, living in fear, hatred, and unhappiness.  
To understand and see things as they really are, we need to study the Buddha's teachings about life and existence.

If you need further clarification, please come back.

Friday, September 17, 2010

KISS : Keep It Short & Simple

Question : (Unedited)
No quesion.just wanted to update you and say thank you for your advice. Seemed odd to hear from someone who teaches to tell you to just let it all go for awhile, but thats exactly what i did and it seemed to help immensely.. I gave up the pressure i put on myself and all the meditation for the remainder of the year.. I'm back to my studies and meditating using patience along with knowing that its ok to be uncertain and not perfect as long as i include effort. .. In fact.. dropping the idea of what i had of, how i was suppose to be, has helped allot..
on my morning walk i only do 1 hour of walking meditation instead of 2.  in the first hour i allow myself and things around me to be just as it is in the moment..not wishing for change or clinging and then on my way back i practice walking meditation.. a third of the way back i try to keep my mind in the moment and avoid thoughts of the past or delusions of the future..  the 2nd third of the way i add to that no self talk, and the last third i add focus on my feet contacting the ground.. if you can add to or correct, please do.
again thanks for the advice
Happy New Year
Peace and Love
My comment:
Hi Fr...,
I am very happy for you that you are experiencing inner peace and mental happiness.  There is nothing that I ought to add except to continue practicing what has been giving you positive results.  Forget about high sounding terms and other esoteric methods that only hinder our spiritual progress.  They only make one, either feeling inadequate or bloating in one's ego.  The Buddha's teachings are actually very simple.  If we seek peace in ourselves, we need to do things that make us feel at ease and relaxed.  And that is precisely what you are doing now.
Have fun.
Smile from justinchoo :-)

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