Thursday, July 29, 2010

Too busy to feel at ease.

Question (Unedited)

Sometimes I get so wrapped up in work and the general busyness of life that I can't calm down and focus on the basic things.  Can you offer some general life advice on how to slow down and be a better person to others (who I feel like I forget about since I'm always so busy)

My comment:
Hi J,

We are all the same.  We know what is wrong with us, but seem not able to find the right answers!  The problem with us is this waiting for the ideal time to come; then we will do the "right thing".  The ideal (or right) time never comes.

It is easy to give advice, but to implement is another cup of tea, so to say.  It takes great discipline, commitment and wisdom to ACT.  You don't have to stop everything now.  What is important is to resolve that you want to slow down and the only way is to act on it, gradually.  It is also very difficult to be a "better person".  We all have our Big Egos and our negative roots of greed, hatred and delusion.  Until we honestly want to reduce these evil roots, we will never become better persons.  The first step is to acknowledge that what we are now is not good enough, and it is to our best advantage that we reduce our evil roots.  Again the commitment and discipline must be there.  If you can reflect on the above more often, you will find that you will want to change for the better; and then take steps to solve your problems, GRADUALLY.

By the way, I am still trying.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Quite confusing

Question : (Unedited)
Over the past few years I have begun to think a lot about the big question - what's it all about? Having looked at other religions I was drawn to Buddhism particularly because of the Buddha's warning not to take anyone's word for anything, even his own. It seems a refreshing change and I'm now convinced that Buddhism is as close to the truth as we are likely to get. I have found it reassuring. But I have two questions:

Firstly, am I right in assuming that not all Buddhists believe in reincarnation? I find it very difficult to reconcile this with Buddhist ideas about there being no real 'me', just a collection of impulses, sensations and attachments.

Secondly, I love my children very much. I am sad at the thought that there is no heaven or reincarnation for them and they too will die one day. I find that they are an attachment I do not want to break. But strictly it seems I should, as it is a distraction like all others. After all didn't Buddha himself leave his wife and child for enlightenment?

Thank you in advance for your reply

My comment:
Hi P...,

Your first paragraph indicates that you have made a wise choice.  For someone new to Buddhism, it is like a first- time traveller discovering new and strange places, some totally alien and opposed to one's experiences.  Buddhist doctrines will be totally alien to a stereotyped Caucasian who has been brought up in a Christian environment.  This is because Buddhist concepts are very different from Christian doctrines.  It will take some time for you to think "outside the box" and experience a paradigm shift in order to appreciate and understand what the Buddha taught.  Welcome to the path of inner peace and happiness, although the journey will be a long one.  It is not a question of arriving at the final destination, but the enjoyment of freedom and inner peace while taking the journey.

There is a difference between reincarnation and rebirth.  The former assumes a permanent unchanging entity (or soul) that exists life after life.  The Tibetan concept is similar to this reincarnation.  "Rebith" takes on a totally different perspective.  It views existence as an on-going process, just like the electric current lighting up a bulb.  The "bulb" is like the physical body.  When this bulb is blown, the current is still there and when a new bulb is fixed on, it lights up again.  So you can see that there is a continuity in the electric current, but the current flowing through is not the same at any one moment.  Our existence is in this state of flux.  When the body is dead, the life energy seeks another form to "reborn".  The type of rebirth will depend on the nature of this store-house of life energy.  If this store-house of energy has more wholesome characteristics, then it will seek rebirth in a more conducive environment.  On the other hand, if it has more negative characteristics, then its rebirth will be in a more unwholesome environment.  As the life force is always in a flux, there is no permanent and unchanging soul, but a changing personality that exists throughout.  To describe this process of rebirth, the Buddha used the term "Not exactly the same, yet not totally different".  Another example will be a lighted candle.  It is not the same light that we see, but not totally different.

As for your third paragraph, it is common to face the apparent contradiction between the Buddha's teachings and our worldly lives.  We must understand that as lay persons, we are faced with myriads of mundane problems.  As parents, our duties are to love and guide them.  They cannot be considered burdens or attachments.  As for heaven and reincarnation, you will gradually come to understand the real nature of existence, and you will be very happy to know that heaven and reincarnation are not  big deals after all!  

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 intellectual 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.

Be patient.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A long question, a short answer.

Question: (Unedited except name)
Dear Reader,
My name is w....(deleted by blogger) and I am very familiar with buddhism.
But there remain a few issues not dealt with by buddhism.
Such as intelligence behind creation.

One can clearly see that the bodies of all life forms
are constructed with great complex structure. Take for example the human body and the brain, both constructed
with amazing complexity as we all know today.

When it comes to creation, Buddhism only refers to cause,
effect and karma. But only cause and effect can never lead to complex creations.
Simple Example:
Put all the parts a house is made of on the ground.
Wood, metal, sand, glass, plastic, etc. etc.
Will these parts form themselves into a house by just
cause and effect ?? Certainly not ! It takes intelligence to bring these parts together in the right way to make a house of it.
Another Example:
A Computer. Put all the parts of a computer on a table.
Metal, silicon, plastic, semiconducters, electricity,
etc. etc. Can just cause and effect bring these parts together to make a computer out of it ? Certainly not, it takes intelligence to bring these parts together in such a way that a computer comes out of it.
How much more is this the case for a human body and the human brain with it's millions of cells, all brought together to form a functional human that can think thoughts.
One can not say that just cause and effect can accomplish this.
It takes an intelligent cause to have an intelligent effect that leads to an organized creation.
Yet buddhism explains creation only in terms of cause and effect and does not refer to intelligence as a third agent operating behind cause and effect.
It is no question that intelligence is behind creation as we see it all around us until the farest distance in the universe. So how then is it possible that Buddhism explains creation only in cause and effect and nothing else ?

Another issue is that Buddhism claims that a human body is only the projection of the mind. It this is so then why do all humans have 2 eyes, 10 fingers and 1 nose ?
Why is there not someone projecting with his mind another
body with 4 eyes, 1 finger and 10 noses ?

Thanks in advance for any reply on this.
Greetings W...

My comment:
Hi W...,

Thank you for communicating with me.  

Even if we can prove (which we cannot) that there is "intelligence" behind every creation, your query will still not be satisfactorily answered.  This is because we are trying to find the "original cause", or the "original intelligence", the First Cause, the Creator.  It is a never ending question, unless we want to compromise our stand and just stop at the "original intelligence".  Otherwise, logically we will have to ask a further question: Who is behind this "original intelligence"?  Who created this "original intelligence"?  And this goes on ad infinitum.

The Buddha warned us not to dwell into speculation which had no end.  By simply depending on our human intelligence and limited physical faculties, we will never find out the beginning of phenomena.  He advised us to concentrate on conducting our lives wisely so that we would not suffer unnecessarily.

As to your second question, I would like to share with you this story.  Once there was this student sitting for his Philosophy exam.  There was only one question to answer in this 3-hr exam.  The question topic was "Why?".  This student just stared at the paper, while the rest of the students were frantically putting their thoughts in writing. As usual, the invigilator announced the final 1 minute left before time out.  This student was still deep in thought with a blank sheet in front of him!  Then he calmly took up his pen and wrote:  "Why not?"!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The wound and the scar

Question : (Unedited)
Good Day:
I am fairly new to buddhism but believe my answers lie question is how to forgive a spouse who has had an affair: getting past the hurt. The desire to forgive is's how to stop the hurt. I understand there are things I have done wrong...and this has probably contributed...I know all these actions are empty..but the effects are there.
Thank you for your time

My comment: 
Hi R...,

I appreciate your sharing of your experiences.  It's said that half the problem is solved once a person shares it with someone!  Hope this is the case.  The following comments will hopefully solve the other half, and you will be a happy man again!

It is not easy to forgive.  I know because I also face the same problem.  But you can just let go of the thought of being hurt.  This is the Buddhist way:  to let go when the thought comes.  After a while, the hurt will begin to subside because you are not allowing the recurrent thought to torture your mind and ruin your life.  You have to replace this cancerous thought of hate and not forgiving, with thoughts of magnanimity and acceptance of what had already happened.  

You have done whatever that needs to be done...that's all. Now you get on with your life. When we start living life in this positive manner, we will have inner peace. Let nature, kamma, or whatever, takes its course. The Buddha reminded us that if we follow the Dhamma, his teachings, the Dhamma protects us. This is the type of confidence that a wise Buddhist will have. Given time, we will find that we can genuinely forgive those who had hurt us. Then we will have complete peace in ourselves.

It's just like having a wound.  Even when the wound is healed, the scar remains.  But once we accept the scar as an inevitable result of the wound which had already healed, then we accept the scar as part of our appearance.  If we are lucky the scar will disappear in time.  If not, we still carry on with our lives as normal because we have already accepted the scar as part of our lives.

Hope you feel better now.  Please come back if need be.
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