Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Some Thoughts on How we can Deal with Dying

1. We cannot predict when we are going to die, unless we are really advanced practitioners. If it is going to happen, it will happen and no amount of worrying will stop it from happening. Even tulkus like the 11th and 12th Karmapa, Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche died young. If it is going to happen, might as well remain calm and recite good aspiration prayers.

2. However, if we are Buddhists, even if things like sicknesses or death or what other people may term as bad things occur, we always have methods of perceiving them as positive. 

We have gone for so many pilgrimages and we do so many prayers everyday. Even if we die, in our mindstream, we have firmly planted the seed to 1) gain enlightenment if we have had a good practice and can recognize the clear light at death, 2) be reborn in dewachen (if we can recollect Od Pag Med and Chenrezig at the point of death), 3) have a good rebirth if instead make the strong wish to do so. 

3. If we are very worried or nervous, it will have a negative effect of causing rebirth in the lower realm. It is like failing the examination we have prepared everyday for. Our aim is to gain enlightenment to liberate all sentient beings. For that aim, we train our mind everyday, to be very familiar with the Buddhist concepts, so we can deal with whatever happens, calmly, peacefully and in a Dharma way.  "Nga na na na te na wei ga" and "Nga shi na shi te shi wei ga". If I am sick, I have the happiness of being sick. If I die, I have the happiness of dying. It is the same. You may be young, and you have many things you want to do that you have not done yet. But you can always continue your works in your next life. Buddhists should not view that life and death has any difference, both are bardos.

4. If you feel regret that you cannot finish what you want to do in this life, then all the more it gives you motivation to put in a lot of effort to finish what you want to do. So it is not necessarily a bad thing. Now you know death is so close to us, I am sure you will put in even more effort. Even if you really cannot finish it, no problem, you can continue it if you make the wish for a good human rebirth.

5. The point of death is a big opportunity, a wonderful one where we can gain enlightenment, just by recognizing the light or the deity. So it is a joyous occasion.

6. Have trust in the practice. If you have done the long life practice, it would have extended your life unless you have some ripened karma to pay back, which you cannot control anyway.

I am also hoping I can remember what I am writing now at my own point of death. Honestly this time, if the bus or plane were to have crashed, I don't think I would have felt fear or worry, because this was a time when I did practice everyday and I was so full of good aspirations. But I don't know about the future, I hope I can maintain things this way.

I have actually had quite a few near death experiences, maybe that is why I am more relaxed now in dangerous situations and also why I place so much emphasis in learning the Dharma. I was nearly hit by a car when I was young and playing on the road, I nearly drowned twice in a pool, last year I nearly fell down a cliff when we came back from Yolmo because the bus was close to knocking me down. It is really a blessing to still be alive and be able to finish my 3 month retreat/ study in Nepal and meet with so many Dharma friends. 

Friday, November 20, 2009

What is the purpose of our lives?

Why do we lose ourselves in daily hustle and bustle, entertaining ourselves but feeling lonely and empty inside?

When do we really feel happy?

When helping a stranger, without any thought of getting any benefits from that, when seeing how happy others are, we light up inside.

When doing something constructive, which leads to the benefits of others, we are truly happy.

This is something different, very much fulfilling.

Listening to what is good and positive brings happiness.

Supporting and rejoicing what is good and positive brings happiness.

When we just enjoy nature and not keep our minds filled with countless thoughts or allow ourselves to be overwhelmed with confusing emotions, we are happy.

Running after our desires is like a thirsty man drinking sea water, he will never be satisfied and will need more.

Thursday, February 12, 2009


Have you ever reflected how much gratitude we owe to people in our lives? Every product that we used is the fruit of much perspiration and labour by many others.

From this gratitude that we owe, we should have the attitude of humility and kindness towards all, as anyone around us may be the one who has benefitted us greatly in the past, are benefitting us now and may bring great benefit to us in the future.

I was once on a bus without any money on me. This was a time when ezlink cards have not been introduced in Singapore. I was a student and I was very troubled and embarrassed at not being able to pay the fare. I was contemplating getting down the next stop and walking back home to get money. Without saying a word, a Bangladeshi worker who was close by put in the fare for me. To this day, nearly more than a decade later, I hold in my mind great respect and gratitude for this man. In Singapore, many people look down or have negative views of these foreign workers who help us to build our homes, offices and schools and take up the jobs that the proud Singaporeans decline to do. But I do not have the same view and I think we have a lot to learn from these people who earn their money with their blood and perspiration, scrimping and saving for their families back home. Where do you think our forefathers started from? They were the same and they built a great and safe nation which we are comfortably living in now.

I remember as well participating in flag-raising days. Once, I walked to many places in the East where I stayed, asking for donations from the public for Children's Charity. Most people gave very little or nothing at all. I chanced by a narrow alley where there was a man who could have been a construction worker or painter who was very dirty. I did not however ignore him or treat him with indifference. I also asked him for a donation in the same way. But I was very surprised when he put ten dollars in the can. Even today, ten dollars is a lot to give for flag-raising.

So much more valuable is the charity of someone who does not have much yet gives all he can to those who are in need.

I am also very thankful to three taxi drivers who helped me in different times. When I was in JC, there was one night where I had stayed late at school and was hoping to catch the last bus back home. It was quite dark and I was alone at the bus stop. A taxi pulled to a stop where I was standing and I told the driver I did not intend to take a taxi, I did not have the cash. He however was genuinely worried for my safety and insisted that I took the cab. He then offered to drive me home for free. It really impressed me how very kind this man was. He really safely delivered me back home without accepting a single cent.

In recent years, there was another driver who took the time to drive back and give me back my staff pass when my staff pass was accidentally left in his taxi. He could have just brought the item to the call centre and I would have had to go there to collect it. Even more recently, I got a bicycle as a free gift from a friend and took a cab to bring it back home. It was rather heavy and I got into a conversation with the driver about how inconvenient it was that my block did not have a lift. Without me asking him for help, he volunteered to carry this heavy bicycle all the way up four storeys. I would not have been able to manage by myself.

Kindness does not differ due to nationality or locality. I was backpacking in France and asked a man which train I should be taking to Versailles. He told me that it should be a particular line. My friend who was with me however said that we should be taking another line and we boarded the train. This man went out of the way, very anxiously, to get on board and tell the conductor to let us get off as we were on the wrong train. We finally got to Versailles. We would have been in great panic if we really did get on the wrong train and end up far from our intended destination. When I was at Mattelhorn in Switzerland, I got lost and was anxiously looking for the train station to board the last train back. I was lucky to encounter an old Japanese couple who were so kind to walk me to the train station. I must admit my Japanese lessons were of great use though, or they would not have been able to understand me. For that, I am grateful to my Japanese teachers at NUS.

There was just once that I got so sick from drinking alcohol that I vomitted and passed out at Chijmes, where there were many pubs and restaurants. When I was kneeling on the floor, a kind old Japanese man came out and showered me with concern. He got me a chair and a hot towel and a drink of hot water. He need not have bothered, it should have been a common sight for him and it was my own fault that I took so much alcohol. For the record, I have taken a vow not to drink alcohol anymore.

I can recount even more great acts of kindness I have experienced and witnessed both at home and overseas. Such great kindness is a source of inspiration and brings hope in the troubled world of today.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In some ways, the obstacles and adversities are our biggest friends. Without them, we cannot discover our strength and we cannot develop our patience. With the adversities, we have the chance to grow and become better and wiser.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

One thing I have often observed is how easily I can avoid anger, frustration and negative emotions simply by choosing not to get angry, frustrated or develop negative emotions. The key is to be instantly aware when such feelings or negative thoughts are rising.

When you know that your thoughts are something that will cause you or someone else feel bad, because you will do something out of anger or jealousy etc., reason with yourself whether it is right, whether things are such a big deal.

From my experience, once I recollect that at anytime I could die and anyway all things are impermanent, everything else seems like a small matter.

So instead, I choose to not get bothered and choose to be happy. By being easy going, life is much easier.

Another thing I have learnt is that expectations bring suffering. The higher your expectation is, the more likely you will be disappointed. We can dream about how things will be and paint the best picture, but we should not get attached to the results. Pain or pleasure, loss or gain, praise or blame, fame or infamy; whatever happens, if we do not wrapped up in good or bad results, then our mind will not be disturbed.

Everything will pass, whether good or bad. So when there are good times, be prepared for the bad times. When bad times come, do not get discouraged as good times will come.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Fearlessness in all situations

What arises fear in us?

We have fear because we are attached to something and do not wish to lose it or for bad to happen it.

We have fear because we do not wish to have suffering.

We have fear because we view something as scary or harmful.

If we do not have attachment, then we will not have fear. If one wants to be happy, then attachment is not a logical thing to have, as all conventional things are impermanent. Since we will definitely lose whatever we treasure eventually, why develop such strong attachment and desire?

This applies to not just your job, your wealth, your car, your house, your wife, your friends, your children, your dreams, your youth, your health, your looks etc. It even applies to the desire to become enlightened. The buddha nature is there in all of us, it is with us all the time. if we purify our defilements and perfect our understanding of the Dharma, we will eventually become Buddhas, in this, there should be no hope or fear.

The above is related to the suffering of change, which is that whatever conventional situation giving us happiness will eventually be gone. This is the truth, it is not pessimism, because the opposite also is true, that whatever suffering we experience will eventually be past. So however unbearable your current situation is, there is comfort in that it will not last. While it lasts, it provides the opportunity for the practice of giving your happiness to others and taking their suffering equally. This beautiful practice will give you peace and happiness in being able to help others. Without suffering, we have no motivation to develop renunciation and practice, so we should even be thankful to those who cause us to suffer and hope that they will be the first one we will benefit after enlightenment.

How we confused beings perceive things are usually through colored glasses, we color our view with our likes and dislikes, attachment and aversions. With our limited view, we cannot know the reality of the situation, but we still think we know exactly what the situation is. Time usually proves that we are wrong. A tall and strong person who looks mean may actually be very kind. Would you know for sure? If we have fear of that person, we might regret it later on.

As we develop great renunciation through practice, fearlessness would also arise correspondingly, so the best antidote to our fears would be a good practice.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Ultimately, you are your own guru

We have the habitual tendency to always rely on others and look to them to solve our issues.

In a way, we need to do this when we are still dumbfounded or feel helpless and cannot draw strength from within ourselves.

We need a model, a role guide, one that will direct us excellently onto the right path.

This is the reason why to become a Buddhist, one has to take refuge in the Triple Gems. The Buddha, Dharma and the noble Sangha are the best guide, teacher, role model. Only they can bring us across the ocean of suffering to the shore of permanent happiness.

In this degenerate time, we are not fortunate enough to meet the Buddha in person, nor can we meet the arhats, pratyeka buddhas or bodhisattvas. So we have to put our complete faith and trust in our compassionate guru who has been very kind to us, as our guru represents all the three Jewels.

Ultimately however, the guru is not the one who can cause us to gain enlightenment and leave all suffering. It is ourselves that we have to rely on. The guru is like the compass, but we have to use our own two feet to get to the destination.

There is actually nothing to be obtained and there has never been anything we lost. Each individual sentient being has the perfect Buddha Nature, only that it has been clouded with our delusions and defilements.

Do not just think you can rely on outer forces and influences all the time to get all you need or desire, why not tap into the wish fulfilling well of your own inner guru?

This however does not mean that you should become proud or disrespectful to others, especially those who are or have been your teachers. It is a sure sign you are far from being enlightened. It also does not mean that you should disregard the advice of others, who you should keep in mind also have Buddha Nature and are probably far more enlightened than you.

Be diligent in your practice and continue to serve your guru, listen, contemplate and meditate and get in touch with your inner guru.
The source of all problems

Where do all our sorrows and problems come from? The answer is: your deluded mind.

We cannot control the environment and circumstances around us. Partly they appear due to our wrong choices in the past and karma from beginningless lives. Well, what is done is done. We can do confession for unripened karma but this will not help our present situation.

But why is it that some people thrive due to adversities and some people wither?

The difference is in the way the mind is trained.

If you firmly believe that what is happening is real, if you think that it is never your fault, if you choose to wallow in self-pity, then who is to be blamed for your suffering?

If you think that what is happening is like a nightmare which will soon pass, if you take this chance to think of all the other people in the same situation and arise compassion for them, if you do not choose to be sad but instead strive to do what is right in each situation, your mind will remain calm and happy.

So what is your choice today, to suffer or be happy?
Don't stifle your creativity

We are all by nature very wise, with the pure wisdom from beginningless time.

By restricting ourselves through imputed views, stamping our opinions on each and every single thing, we limit our choices, we do not allow our natural wisdom to flow and find solutions.

At times of difficulty, we get frustrated with negative emotions and think there is no way out.

In fact, if we remain calm and do not overwhelm our minds with negative thoughts or stress our minds to come up with a solution, we will clearly see what the situation is, what are the possible solutions, what is the way to proceed.

Do not stifle your minds with narrow opinions and negative emotions!
The phenomenal mind

Our mind, such a wondrous thing!

We can conceive the biggest mountain in the universe (Mount Sumeru) and yet there will be no lack of space in our mind. It can conceive even more than this.

We can conceptualize a little feather with our minds, yet it does not become roomier.

By the power of the mind, such miracles like what Milarepa displayed to Rechungpa become possible, such as hiding from the rain in an ox's horn, without either Milarepa or the ox's horn changing in size.

By the power of samadhis from meditative concentration, one can attain the miraculous powers to assist in teaching the Dharma in a way suitable to the understanding of each individual and developing faith and devotion in those to be tamed by miraculous powers.

Let's be diligent in our practice! There is no greater happiness and bliss than to lead our past mothers and other loved ones across the shore of suffering to everlasting peace.
Conventional and ultimate reality

Examine our lives and all that is around us, they are nothing more than dreams and illusions.

What will come, will pass - this is what we see.

In actual fact, there is no real coming or going.

There is a perfectly pure, calm, wise and stainless nature which underlies each of us.

What thoughts appears in our mind are like ripples on the ocean of this nature.

Out of nowhere, they arise and out of no reason or rhyme, they merge back seamlessly.

So the nature of our thoughts, regardless of what we conventionally categorize them as, are in actual fact perfectly pure.

If we do not force our imputed views onto people, objects, thoughts etc., the pure enjoyment of this perfect nature would descend and that will be indescribably the ultimate bliss and happiness we can experience, beyond any worldly desires, achievements, praise or victory.

We would be able to see everything as it truly is.

In a similar way, even if our stocks crash, we lose loved ones, we lose our jobs, we get terribly sick or have problems in our relationships, know in actual fact how little such trials and tribulations matter, they will eventually pass. What disturbs you is not this seeming problems, but how you perceive them in your mind. Let go of hatred and self-pity, step back and see that it is all like a dream, just like how times past become like a dream. Allow the ocean to regain its natural calm.

Do not abandon what seems like an impure and polluted world, its nature is perfectly pure. Yet do not intentionally seek to destroy what you perceive as unreal and therefore of little consequence, the law of karma never fails.

Except the truly enlightened and awakened, the rest of us are deluded and cloud our true nature more and more with selfish hopes, desires, envy, ignorance and hatred. Just one moment is what is one needs, one moment to let go of all conceptions and prejudices, and you will see your true nature and never be suffering anymore.

When will your moment come?