Sunday, May 30, 2010

Offering to the Buddha (Part 1 of 2)

Question : (Unedited)
My son is a beginner buddhist (12 years old) and I'm trying to support his new beleifs but I know almost nothing of buddhism. He has an alter in his room and we don't know when or how to remove his offerings of candy and fruit, or what to do with them when we remove them.

My comment:
Hi A.....,

First, let me express my respect for your liberal consideration of your son's newfound belief.  It is not common to have such understanding and supportive parents when it comes to practicing an "alien" religion.  

As with all religions, there is always the risk of wrong understanding and wrong practice.  I hope your son is embarking on the right approach.  Perhaps you may ask him to share what he knows about Buddhism, and from there to gauge whether he is following the real teachings of the Buddha.

As for your query, it is best that you ask him directly.  I am sure he will be too happy to share his knowledge with you.

Buddhism is actually a very simple and practical "religion".  The rites and rituals were not introduced by the Buddha.  He was more concerned with the teachings of universal truths; truths about our existence and the true nature of this world; how to live a happy, harmless and contented life.  It was his followers in later years who introduced the different rites and rituals to suit their traditional practices.  As such all the offerings are just human gestures symbolizing faith and respect for the Buddha.  Of course through the passage of time people, for whatever reasons, misinterpreted these rites and rituals as Buddhism.

As a concerned parent, you may want to read a bit about Buddhism.  For a very short elementary introduction click here:

For a better understanding, click here:

Please come back if you need further information.

Smile from justinchoo :-)
(An update: For a good introduction, refer Rev. Dhammika's book "Good questions Good answers")

Friday, May 28, 2010

Happy Wesak

(My favourite painting by a Burmese artist)

To-day is the full moon day of the month of Vesakha which corresponds with the month of May.

It is Wesak Day, the day The Buddha was born, attained enlightenment, and the day he passed away.

Buddhists observe this day with gratitude to the Buddha for what he had taught them:

To live in peace with oneself, with the society and with nature.

Today is a special day for us to reflect on how much we have been successful in cultivating virtues in our lives.  It is a long journey, but we shall "strive on with diligence" as advised by the Buddha before he passed away.


Saturday, May 22, 2010

A simple answer

Question : (Unedited)
If you are a Buddhist is it okay to go fishing as long as you return the fish back to the water or would you be harming an animal because of the hook being caught in thier mouth.

My comment
Hi M...,

Thank you for asking me.

Is it ok for you if someone put a hook in your mouth and then set you free again?  Sorry for the blunt answer, or rather a counter question.  I feel that this will give you a very direct answer. I don't mean to be rude.  

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Getting bored

Question : (Unedited)
I appreciate your answer and thank you very much for your time. But I'm still confused over motivation - especially for the job I hold. I just don't see the point of working hard at my job and doing my best at it anymore. And it's not so easy to just say "find another job" because I feel I would end up feeling the same somewhere else. You answered a 16 year-old student asking something similar (something like Why should I try to "win" in track and get good grades?) Your answer was that one should do their best if living in the worldly side of Buddhism. But I still don't understand why? What is the point of doing that? I have read Victor Frankl's book Man's Search for Meaning where he was in a Nazi concentration camp yet found a way to motivate himself and find meaning in it. But I don't understand how to motivate myself and find "meaning" in what I'm doing. What would you recommend for me to do to find the motivation and "do my best?" Thanks again for your time. 

My comment:
Hi B...,

How I wish I am a motivation Guru, making tons of money motivating rich people like you.  That's what they do through seminars and books.  In fact I got so many motivation books that I spent so much time trying to finish reading that I forgot to motivate myself into rewarding actions.  Just joking!

The comments I made for the young person was ages ago!  
You are just getting bored with your job. Take a holiday, go to places where you enjoy.  I would say this is the "American Way".  Hope it works.  

Actually, motivation to do something is a state of mind.  Read any motivation book, it is always the same message: stay focus, perseverance, have a burning desire to achieve the goal that you have set, never give up. This means logically, once you have achieved your goal, the motivation is being fulfilled; period. Then you need another goal to get motivated.  This is a vicious cycle. You see, right now you simply don't have these attributes of motivation.  This is because you are contented with what you have, with what you have achieved.  There is nothing wrong with it.  You can't be motivated with something that you have already successfully achieved. You have successfully arrived! If you insist on staying motivated then I have to say "find another job".  That will get you motivated for awhile, as you already knew.  It is a vicious cycle, to repeat my earlier comment.  In Buddhism, we try not to fall into this vicious cycle, by staying in the present and be contented.  That doesn't prevent us from being motivated as and when we want.  I can quote you lots of advices from the motivation books, but that would be deceiving you. You could always read them, if you haven't done so yet. The remedy from my point of view will be your change of mind-set.  Maybe by focusing on the more spiritual side of life, you may consider it as your responsibility to continue to do a good job for the benefit of those concerned. After all it's only fair as you are paid to do the job.  

I think I should stop as I am not a professional counsellor.  In the Buddhist context what I can say is to be contented, give your fair share, and reflect on how lucky you are compared with many others.  You know the old story of the man complaining about not having shoes when he suddenly saw a man with no feet!?

You don't have to be motivated all the time.  Be content and be happy.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

It's all in the mind. (Part 2 of 2)

Question : (Unedited)
Hello again Justin, thanks for your prompt reply. So, when I'm chanting mantra, what should my mind try to focus on? Should I try to visualise the image of Buddha, or someone I'm praying for, or the mantra itself? I find that at times, my mind can just wander to other thoughts and get out of focus, if I don't try to concentrate on a certain thing, say, a wish or prayer or person I'm praying for. I guess I'm not sure what the "correct" way is (if there's one). Thanks!

p/s. Btw, I like your quote at the end of the message.

My comment:
Hi J,

The "correct way" is one which you feel comfortable with.  I suppose when one is chanting mantra, one's objectives are to train the mind to be calm and alert, and to reduce wandering thoughts.  If you can achieve these objectives, I suppose one is practising the "correct" way.

I think one should not be too concerned over chanting of mantras, but to concentrate on reducing one’s defilements of greed, hatred and delusion.  By practising these practical aspects of Buddhism, one will experience inner peace and happiness.

(Footnote : p/s. Btw, I like your quote at the end of the message.)
The Quote is:   
Learn from yesterday
Live for today
Save for tomorrow

Friday, May 14, 2010

It's all in the mind. (Part 1 of 2)

Question : (Unedited)

Hello Justin, I'm curious, do people cry or get emotional while praying and chanting mantras? Is that common? I've been feeling a bit down lately, and at times while I'm praying, tears just flow from my eyes... Thanks for your feedback.

My comment:
Hi J..,

It's all about human emotion.  The same song can evoke different feelings to different people, and at different times as well.  Whether one is chanting mantra or reciting Christian prayer, one can get emotionally charged if one's mind is allowed to be influenced by the general mood especially during mass rally.

On a more personal note, the same mantra can evoke different feelings depending on one's mood.  It all boils down to the tricks our mind plays on us, because we unwittingly allow our mind to lead us to express our inner feelings.  So when we feel sad we shed tears while listening to the same music or chanting the same mantra.  And when we are in a happy mood, chanting the same mantra will bring smiles in our faces!  And if we feel peaceful, then the mantra will create a serene atmosphere.  It's all in your mind. 

There are also many who believe that chanting mantras or reciting prayers will send them to heaven!  

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Monday, May 10, 2010

Difficult to bear

Question : (Unedited)
What is dukkha and how does it relate to Buddist's conception of human nature?

My comment: 
Hi T..,

Thank you for asking me.

Ask anyone who experiences hunger and who lives in fear for his life, and this person will tell you the true nature of this world...."Dukkha".  "Dukkha" literally means "difficult to bear".  He does not need to be a Buddhist.  Buddhism is about universal truths.  Switch on the TV and watch National Geographic, Discovery Channel, Animal Planet, and even the news.  What do you see?

The inherent nature of this world is infested with Dukkha.  Even to the most fortunate, the end will come.  The three universal characteristics of existence are impermanence, unsatisfactoriness, and insubstantiality.  All conditioned experiences bear these three traits.  Nothing is permanent. Nothing can last forever without change.  Because of this nature of impermanence, nothing can be forever perfect.  Such is the nature of this world.  It is very unsatisfactory...Dukkha.  I would say the greatest Dukkha is death!

Failure to understand and accept this "Dukkha" reality, humans suffer in their quest to foolishly seek for perfection and eternity.  They use their human intelligence trying to satisfy their unquenchable desires up to the maximum.  But in the end, they experience unhappiness and disappointment because the ultimate goal cannot be achieved. The ignorant person is deceived by his flawed human nature based on greed, hatred and delusion in the conduct of his life, causing him to live a life that is "difficult to bear" --"Dukkha".

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Darwinism and Buddhism

Question (Unedited):
Hi, according to Darwin, certain aggresive tendencies, anger for one, are instrinsic and even help with survival of the species.  These tendencies are therefore "natural"  Yet Buddhism speaks of "compassion"  These two characteristics are incompatible.  Isn't Buddhism, therefore, against human nature?
Man may do wrong out of ignorance.  But this may be natural for the species, even a species that can reason.  Can you please address these issues?

My comment: 
Hi M...,

Welcome back.

You like to dwell in intellectual analyses.  When we start to compare different ideas from different sources, we will inevitably face with contradictions.  We create further problems when we try to rationalize and/or to fit them together like a jigsaw puzzle.  This approach never gives satisfactory conclusions, especially when one source is flawed.   

Darwin's thesis was about the survival of the fittest, and selective evolution.  He explained about the natural instinct of survival, which is natural.  He was not explaining the cause(s) for this natural phenomenon.  He simply stated the facts from his observation and research of what was happening to life in this world.

The Buddha on the other hand was concerned about finding truth of existence.  He pointed out the horrors of surviving in this imperfect world, which was also Darwin's contention.  The Buddha did not stop there.  He discovered the cause of our existence, and provided the path for liberation from this unsatisfactory (and often horrific) existence.

If we are to maintain this "human nature" we will be caught in the web of suffering in this type of existence.  The three evil roots of human nature; greed, hatred and delusion are the resulting forces that drag us along in our rounds of birth and death.  

There is nothing wrong or contradictory in your comments.  It's a matter of realizing the Buddha's revelation and to make a choice.  The outcome will depend on your decision.

Smile from justinchoo :-)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Which nostril?

Question : (Unedited)
Hi Justinchoo :)

I was reading an article on the chanting of the words 'samma araham' and visualizing a crystal sphere in seven places in your body. I was wondering why in the first place (at the tip of the nose) men should meditate on the sphere entering through the right nostril while for women it is through the left? Why this difference and what's the cause of it?

Thank You,


My comment: 

Hi V...,

Thank you for asking me.

I share your sentiment and questioning.  You are right,  they don't make any sense!

The Buddha taught the truth about existence and how to live a peaceful and happy life.  His teachings were based on universal truths which transcend race, culture, belief, nationality, and even time and space.  He taught us the importance of using our common sense and human intelligence to conduct our lives in a wholesome and peaceful manner.  What have all these got to do with crystal sphere in 7 places and which nostril?  May I suggest that you stop wasting your time reading such nonsense.  

May I suggest that you read this book on the TEACHINGS of the Buddha, "What Buddhists Belief" :
"What Buddhist Believe" written by my revered teacher, Ven. K Sri Dhammananda.  This book explains the Buddhist perspective on life's general questions.
Venerable K. Sri Dhammananda is my revered teacher. His writings have benefitted countless people throughout the world.  He had recently passed away (18 Mar 1919 -- 31 Aug 2006)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Near-death experiences.

Question (Unedited)
Hello, again.  I’ve been reading about the anatta concept in Buddhism and was wondering what the Buddhist perspective toward out-of-body and near-death experiences, in which a person is physically dead, but somewhat revived, and can recall events that took place in the room while he/she was technically brain dead.  I’ve heard Ajahn Brahm mention such incidents several times to illustrate the point that there is scientific evidence that suggests that consciousness survives death, but I thought consciousness is supposed to be merely one of the components that create “self” and disband with death.

My comment: 
Hi J...,

Welcome!  A being consists of mind and matter.  Matter is quite straight forward to understand because we can see and feel.  Mind is a more difficult concept. Consciousness is another term to denote the same phenomenon.  Mental energy is another terminology.  It is only in the Buddhist domain that this mind or consciousness takes priority in the existence of life.  The physical body is just a temporary "home" for this consciousness to act out its role.  So, technically when the physical body is dead, this consciousness has to leave it and to find another suitable "home" to continue its act.  It's quite straight forward to understand this process, which is "rebirth".  

Now coming back to your question, I can only use my understanding to explain.  I don't think you can find any passage in the Buddhist text explaining this.  Since what is "knowing" is the consciousness, which means this consciousness is not "dead" but merely left the dead body.  For some unknown reason should the body revive, I would suppose the same stream of consciousness returns to the body again.  This is my own interpretation based on my Buddhist knowledge.  There will always be some very technical questions regarding this topic of life and death.  No matter how well we analyze, there are always some more lingering doubts and further questions.  The only way to understand the "unknowable" is not by our intellectual reasoning, but by the power of the mind through Buddhist meditation.

Smile from justinchoo :-)
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