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The Daily Enlightenment


1

Reflections for Practising Buddhists


ISBN 981-05-5768-X
The Daily Enlightenment
1
Published in 2006 for free distribution only

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Yours in the Dharma,


Bro. Shen Shi’an (TDEditor)
JANUARY 1 | Mindfulness

Mindfulness should be the most natural thing in the world—without


any unnecessary strain or effort. But for us, habitually unmindful
beings, being mindful might be a daunting task. The more
unmindful we become, the more habitual it becomes, and attaining
mindfulness soon feels near impossible. How scary! Let’s all guard
our minds more carefully from now on.

I was walking to the subway station in the near noon sun. I


remembered my promise to myself to be as mindful as I could the
whole day. The sun felt hot. I caught myself screwing up my face,
frowning in its glare. This, I realise, only when I realised I developed
mild dizziness. The mindfulness came this “late”. Suddenly, I wasn’t
sure whether it was the heat of the sun that made me dizzy, or that
it was me feeling contempt for the sun that made me dizzy.

Funny. I think the latter that is true. The sun meant no harm.
It was me to be blamed ultimately. I should have experienced the
heat mindfully without attachment—that’s all—no need to grumble
about it inside.

* See Glossary for Buddhist terms


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JANUARY 2 | way of the bodhisattva

The kindest thing you can do


is to be so kind to yourself,
that you realise the value of kindness so much,
that you actually share it with everyone else!

This is the way of the Bodhisattva, the Buddha-to-be!

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JANUARY 3 | Magic

There seems to be less and less “magic” that we readily experience


as we grow older. I guess it is because we have this nagging feeling,
whenever we wake up in the morning to this world, that we have
seen it all.

Nothing seems really “interesting” anymore. Even close


relationships can become unbearably lifeless. Even best friends and
lovers can run out of subjects of interest. I figure the point is not to
seek more new exciting experiences, but to realise that the same
old stuff is mostly “good” enough.

Yes, that might be “boring”. But if we live each day “reborn”,


cleansed of yesterday’s prejudices and unnecessary judgements,
this same old world becomes anew. “Magic” is abound. Watch out
for that rainbow you haven’t seen for years. How many of you really
saw the full moon last night? Isn’t it still as magical as when you
first saw it? An old heart is one without the magic of awareness.
Are you feeling old? The mindless babbling of a baby on the bus
is magic to my ears. And to babies, everything is magic—even this
guy who is me, who is standing looking mindlessly at a baby, is
magical to him.

Am not trying to mystify anything—the path of Enlightenment


after all is a journey to clarity. The point is many of us haven’t
really seen “anything” yet (“seen” referring to “having realised the
essence”). The Buddha’s Enlightenment is like “magic”—so much so
that he cannot fully describe it to us. But he knows the “trick”—how
everything is “conjured”. To all folks out there feeling old and tired—
remember that the Buddha was ever young at heart, from his search
for Enlightenment to his “last” moments. We haven’t uncovered the
truth of the “trick” behind all things yet. Till then, cease not to be
amazed by everything. Nothing is what it seems. The age increases,
but the “magic” remains. Don’t get bored, get enlightened!

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JANUARY 4 | Belief

There is the belief we believe we believe.


And then there is what we really believe.
What do you really believe?

Be honest.
To seek the Truth and True Happiness,
you have to be honest to yourself.

Be honest—
Do you honestly believe you are a Buddhist at heart?
If yes, what is it you do that makes you Buddhist?

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JANUARY 5 | Wild Wide Eyes

I noticed that the world looks brighter and sharper when I open my
eyes bigger. Don’t laugh! Maybe you think we should have realised
this since we were toddlers. But I don’t think this is exactly true.
Seeing the world through new big eyes brings a new wave of life
to everything. Try it on your loved ones—see them renewed with
a tinge of amazement at their being and their infinite complexities
from head to toe. It is because kids live their days with perpetually
wild and wide eyes that they have endless fun. Is that not true?

Try a simple experiment—look at the palms of your hands.


Aren’t they amazing? Better still, gaze upon the serene countenance
of a Buddha image.

Yes, we probably never saw the Buddha in real life—but many


Buddha images are amazing “enough”. Then look into your own
big wide eyes in the mirror—look at them shine. You are alive! And
the Buddha-nature within you shines on bright!

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JANUARY 6 | Simple Truth

Quieten your Mind.


Reflect.
Watch.
Nothing binds you.
You are free!

—Dhammapada (The Buddha)

So simple and so true! It is amazing that a relatively “simple”


sutra (as compared to the other sutras) like the Dhammapada, has
infinite dimensions that can benefit us in different ways, in different
situations. Rediscover!

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JANUARY 7 | Openness

Had a conflict of opinions with a friend, but was mindful enough


to cease and extinguish the anger, and released the tension in the
heart before the situation worsened. That’s nothing great—if I were
really great, I would have been mindful enough to not let the anger
arise in the first place.

I saw in my mind’s eye a small hard heart, and immediately let it


disintegrate. There was an open space with a few dark clouds in my
mind. There was a mild sense of amusement. I had somewhat made
a fuss of the matter—that’s why there was anger. This realisation
is funny when you are aware of it. There was amazement too—no
heat; just cool niceness. The sudden switch from the moment
of anger to peace allowed me to appreciate deeply the value of
openness.

With this openness in the heart, any angry words which come
your way become echoes in space that you can truly hear deeply—
without prejudice. With a closed heart, angry words become sharp
arrows piercing it, as they are taken with biasness, assumed to be
weapons shot to kill. He who is open can never be hurt. How can
you hurt open space? Incidentally, “happiness” in Mandarin means
“open-heartedness”!

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JANUARY 8 | Resistance

Whatever we resists, persists. The Buddha never resisted Mara—he


let him arise to wage a storm against him. But he faced his inner
demons upfront, unflinching.

What’s important is not to get carried away by it all. Stay centred


in the eye of the storm, the point of peace. One wrong move and
you get swirled away, caught up in the storm. If we simply resist
our inner demons each time, they will only get suppressed, and
be revived, time and again. May you face your persistent inner
demons today.

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JANUARY 9 | Compassion DEMON

Asked a Venerable the question, “How to generate boundless


Compassion for all beings?” His answer was to “Cultivate equanimity.”
That means, to realise the ultimate equality of all beings—I’m not
superior to anyone, just as no one is inferior to any other. We are all
one “body”, and deserve each other’s help.

That reminds me of the simple but important parable of the


two-headed bird. A bird had two heads that shared one body.
One day, out of spite, one tricked the other to eat a poisonous
fruit, and the whole bird died as a result. Likewise, “others” and “I”
share one common body. Who we are and our survival depends
on others—there is no food, clothing, friends, parents, job... without
“others”—we are interdependent. Even one guy gone astray might
be the beginning of society’s downfall

The Venerable said, “Be careful not to become a Compassion


demon.” A Compassion demon would be one who truly thinks he
is compassionate, when he sees himself exclusively separate from
others—that “they” undeniably need help from “him”. This causes
the ego to become bloated! A truly compassionate person never
feels that he is being compassionate—he simply functions the way
he sees as the most appropriate and natural. While we should praise
the kind, no big deal should be made out of ourselves being kind.

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JANUARY 10 | Real practice

I found and bought “The Long Discourses of the Buddha”. There and
then in the shop surrounded by the myriad Dharma books available,
I realised that all the sutras have been spoken by the Buddha
already (of course!), and all the essential teachings have been
given. And there were, just as there are, living masters who are still
teaching us today by word and example.

We are alive, able to appreciate all this. Yet aren’t many of us still
waiting? Something doesn’t seem quite “right”, so we procrastinate,
delaying the real learning and practice. But it is exactly because
things are not “right”, that we need to practise now! We tend to
keep delaying the actual practice. And when we do it, it’s in bits and
pieces. Sometimes we let ourselves “take off” on certain practices,
and other times, we let our mindfulness go on indefinite holidays.

For those who are not progressing spiritually, why not?


For those who are not progressing as planned, why not?

Have we set our deadlines on when to seriously begin


eradicating our defilements? How many lives do we intend to take?
Is this a ridiculous question?

Have we reminded ourselves of our deadlines today?


When is our deadline in this life?
What makes us think we will live that long?

The treasure of the Dharma, is ever ready at our fingertips—take


it, practise it. Remember the urgency, but stay calm. Maybe there
just isn’t enough time.

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JANUARY 11 | Marriage Vows

HE: I vow to be her personal Bodhisattva from hell-fire to heavenly


bliss, for all time, before we attain Buddhahood together. However,
I shall have no request that she will be my Bodhisattva in any way. I
will be mindful not to become attached to her such that my spiritual
life will be at risk. Though we are together now, I shall have to depart
alone just as I came alone. And I will be a Bodhisattva Father to
our children, in hope that they too will be Bodhisattvas to theirs.
Together, we will live as a Buddhist family.

SHE: I vow to be his personal Bodhisattva from hell-fire to heavenly


bliss, for all time, before we attain Buddhahood together. However,
I shall have no request that he will be my Bodhisattva in any way.
I will be mindful not to become attached to him such that my
spiritual life will be at risk. Though we are together now, I shall have
to depart alone just as I came alone. And I will be a Bodhisattva
Mother to our children, in hope that they too will be Bodhisattvas
to theirs. Together, we will live as a Buddhist family.

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JANUARY 12 | Maybe

There’s this book called “Maybe (Maybe Not)” by Robert Fulgum. On


the back cover are these words:

“I once began a list of contradictory notions I hold:


Look before you leap.
He who hesitates is lost.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained.


Better safe than sorry.

You can’t tell a book by its cover.


Clothes make the man...”

Isn’t it interesting yet scary that sometimes we live by a “wise


old saying”, believing with all our hearts that it is absolutely true,
only to realise much later that it isn’t necessarily so? We are all
searching for the absolute unchanging Truth, or HAPPINESS in
capital letters, that has no expiry date.

There’s this poster ad with a picture of a young man yelling at


his girlfriend. Her fists were clenched, and she was pouting in anger.
In that black and white freeze frame, there is the question on it with
no black or white answer, “Life is not knowing whether to hit him
or kiss him.” The message sets one’s mind thinking. It seems funny,
serious, bizarre and understandable at the same time. Life is indeed
full of contradictions and paradoxes that we have to figure out—like
a seemingly “ridiculous” Zen koan which can lead to Enlightenment
when seriously meditated upon.

A set of Buddhist contradictory notions that no one really


voiced out:

1. Hey! What do you expect? I’m a Buddhist! Not a Buddha yet!

versus...

2. Hey! Come on! We all can be perfect Buddhas! (Referring to us


possessing Buddha-nature)
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Is 1. a consolation or an excuse when we fail to do what we
should? How and when should we use 2. to motivate ourselves
instead of using 1. to excuse ourselves? How true is 1. or 2. at that
point in time when you make each statement? Do you live more
by 1. or 2.? Why?

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JANUARY 13 | Meditate!

No reflection for you today—


Just a reminder—
“Have you meditated today?”

When was the last time you meditated? Remember that


meditation is one of the key practices that we have to practise,
in order to make substantial spiritual progress. Even the Buddha
had to do it! Remember to find some time after this to meditate.
If you don’t know how, learn! (Chanting done well is a form of
meditation too.)

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JANUARY 14 | Amusement

Some live life lightly, as if it is a joke—and we sometimes consider


them ”clowns”. But they are not necessarily unwise. We should
all learn to see ourselves with some degree of amusement,
remembering that our “selves” are illusory anyway. It is often the
ego that demands us to take ourselves too seriously, making us
prideful. Yes—being egoless is much easier said than done, but it
can be trained from the basics!

For example, when you slip and fall in public before a crowd,
try to grin it away! (It happened to me before—it was such a
ridiculous fall that I laughed till my sides ached!) Do you know
there’s Compassion involved here? The people around you might
feel uneasily tense to some extent if you were to pick yourself
up grumbling, or even looking flustered and ashamed. That’s
Compassion for the crowd—assure them with a grin that you’re
okay! They might even smile back—it’s true! And it’s Compassion
for yourself for sure. It’s okay to be occasional clowns as long as we
learn to be more mindful in future!

It takes spiritual effort to laugh the trivial things in life away.


And one funny thing is that many things are indeed trivial and we
do take them too seriously. I reckon life is a joke, but a serious joke!
A difficult joke that has to be “caught” to be felt funny. Sometimes,
the lessons learnt send us rip-roaring. But one day, with enough
effort, we shall all smile gently in great calm and understanding
like the Buddha.

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JANUARY 15 | Value of a Day

I figure that a day can be considered well-lived if it was well-


spent. “Well-spent” could be defined as well utilised in helping
oneself and/or others improve in some way or other. “The Daily
Enlightenment” was founded to encourage us all to truly learn at
least one spiritual lesson each day. It can’t be too demanding, can it?
Isn’t it important to remember what we want to live each day for?
365 days in a year can well be 365 small but steady steps towards
Enlightenment and True Happiness, or 365 steps back and forth the
path to liberation, leading more or less back to the square one of
the same old unwholesome habits and views... One day, when you
get old, you may just look back in exasperation and horror, realising
that you had been strutting up and down the same path all along,
and never really reached anywhere.

May we truly learn at least one important lesson daily—and


make that lesson learnt part of our nature. It is like a good hard
swipe to polish the dusty gem of our pure Buddha-nature. In that
part wiped, may no more dust ever alight again. All this works step
by step, degree by degree. One day, the total gem will be revealed.
Aren’t we thick with dense dust of ignorance? Isn’t it time to put
in consistent effort to clear it?

What is the value of each day? What is the value of today?


Seize the day—seize today! Discover the value... and value it!
Why not start a personal spiritual diary where you pen your own
“enlightenments” each night? It will chart your spiritual growth as
the days of your life go by. Just a crazy thought, but it wouldn’t
be too bad if we “train” ourselves to question how we lived each
day, such that we will only gp to bed if we can recall an important
lesson learnt that day! That would be like developing a spiritual
conscience!

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JANUARY 16 | RIGHT NOW

Are you happy with yourself


and your life RIGHT NOW?
This is important
because “RIGHT NOWS” are all we have.

RIGHT NOW, reflect...


Yes—reflect RIGHT NOW...
If not RIGHT NOW,
then when?

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JANUARY 17 | Alive

Indeed is awareness “being alive”... I was rushing to meet a project


deadline and was having a terrible headache. What made things
worse was the realisation that much that was planned to be
completed wasn’t. For about half an hour, I was in a stupor. As I
slowly regained my normal clarity of mind, I remember the Buddha
having taught us that mindfulness is the path to the deathless;
those who are unmindful live as if they were already dead.

When we say, “I never felt so alive”, we usually mean “I was


never so aware.” It is crucial that to enjoy life, we must live it wide
awake—don’t be asleep to certain aspects of your life. Live every
bit fully. Otherwise, you would be dead in some sense. Feel your
feelings and see your thoughts. Smell the roses and hear the birds.
If you find that enjoyable, the Buddha has greater news for us
—things can get even better, with increased objective awareness.
And nothing beats Enlightenment!

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JANUARY 18 | Anger Reflection

Keep a pocket mirror with you everywhere you go. When you
become angry under any circumstances, the very moment you are
aware of it, take out the mirror and look at your facial expression in
it. See how horrible you look and your anger will dissipate quickly.
This method works like magic. This is the outer reflection of our
inner state of mind.

The tricky part is being mindful enough to catch the anger,


and to take out the mirror in time. There will be times when you
do indeed feel anger, but refuse to look in the mirror. Know what
that means?

It means you are really angry! Watch it! The more you don’t feel
like reflecting pon yourself, the more you should!

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JANUARY 19 | Death and the TITANIC

What struck me as more meaningful than the love story in the


movie, “Titanic”, is how various characters reacted in the face of
impending death:

1. The ship designer seemed solemnly repentant, reflecting upon


his mistake, as he let the others rush for the lifeboats.
2. The captain seemed attached, disillusioned by his loss of
reputation and the possibility of a happy glorious retirement...
as he held on to the helms, not escaping but awaiting death.
Too much pride?
3. The bad guy was unscrupulous, trying to bribe and cheat to
escape death.
4. An officer could not stand the pressure of maintaining order.
After shooting a passenger who forced his way to a life boat,
he shot himself in regret!
5. There are those who simply jumped into the sea to swim after
the lifeboats already out at sea.
6. There are those praying feverishly for help.
7. The typical passenger fights others to get himself into a lifeboat.
8. There are those lovers unwilling to let go of each other.
9. And of course, there are the calm musicians who historically died
at their posts playing music to calm the panicking crowd!

So the question is—if you were on the Titanic that night,


how do you think you would have reacted? Do you think that’s
appropriate? What is appropriate?

The Titanic was a real major disaster—It was the only ship
proudly proclaimed in the history of mankind to be unsinkable—yet
it sank on its maiden voyage. How does this relates to us? Many
of us feel that we are Titanics—we feel immortal at times. We feel
undefeatable by old age, sickness and death, invincible against
the law of impermanence. There are few illusions that great.
Impermanence is not to be talked about, but felt in the bones.
Impending death is one of the best motivations available for us to
attain the deathless state of Nirvana. The day we were born, we are

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all sinking Titanics—we start advancing towards death. The tricky
part is we do not know how much of our “ship of life” is still above
the water. Have you planned your escape? How are you going to
escape? There is an ancient Indian saying:

The most amazing thing in the world is that


we all live as if we will still be alive tomorrow.

On one certain “tomorrow”, we will not be alive and the scary


thing is that this “tomorrow” might just be today! May we learn to
treasure our lives and realise the importance of transcending life
and death—today. Yes, realise this today! Because tomorrow might
never come.

Yes, yes—you’d heard the message above a thousand times. So


will this be just another such message? You decide. You can start
taking it seriously now, or tomorrow!

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JANUARY 20 | happy ending

Since beginningless time, there was the darkness of ignorance.


Thus, “I” was reborn continuously, suffering... (...countless lives in
between...) In the happy ending, “I” went beyond life and death,
happily ever after in the bliss of Enlightenment.

Question—Is your story above going to be a short or long


story? Short and sweet? Long and tedious? Why?

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JANUARY 21 | Zooming

I discovered an amazing way of looking at everyday things lately. I


call it the “zoom-in zoom-out” method. Often, the same old things
look like the same old things. We see most familiar things in fixed
contexts. For example, we usually see the kitchen table with the
table cloth on it with a vase of flowers. We see these collectively.
Zooming in on this would mean observing and seeing the intricate
details of the petals, seeing the cloth pattern... A whole new world
unfurls—like a microcosmos (small universe). It might sound
ridiculous, but I daresay that only a few of us have ever really seen
a table cloth. What does that imply? It means that we often fail to
see and appreciate the intricate details of life. More importantly, it
might mean we fail to understand how we see things, failing to
realise how we function in the mind, and its processes, which often
leave us feeling blue and betrayed. Zooming in thus has its analytical
effects. Contemplation and meditation is actually a kind of spiritual
zooming in and out.

Zooming out has mind-expanding effects. Don’t keep letting the


“ugly” painting in the room be your incredibly outstanding personal
eyesore, spoiling your appreciation of the room. Take a few steps
back and see the room on the whole—the painting might look
fitting in place, or insignificant!

When feeling low, you are probably in a too narrow or zoomed-


in state of mind. Zoom out and open up! In your present inner
darkness, the sun shines on and the birds sing on! When feeling too
high or even cocky, you are probably too zoomed-out in the head
(pig-headed). Zoom in and reflect on your ego.

Try this—gaze at the stars in the deep boundless night sky as


far as you can (zoom-out)... or stare face on at the trunk of a tree
(zoom-in). What do you see? Entire new universes are here. Realms
within realms within realms... ad infinitum. See like you never see
before.

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JANUARY 22 | Puja

Sometimes, motivation can come in many ways. It is important


to remember that puja (devotional chanting) is actually meant to
inspire and motivate instead of being repetitiously boring. If puja is
done daily wholeheartedly, it becomes incredibly uplifting. Morning
puja can be the spiritual reminder to live the day mindfully, and
the evening puja can be reflection time for the day’s deeds done
and undone. The moment one feels that doing puja is a lifeless
perfunctory act, one needs to check oneself. Here’s an example of
an inspiring puja passage:

Transference of Merits and Self-Surrender:

May the merits gained in my acting thus


go to the alleviation of the suffering of all beings.
My personality throughout my existences, my possessions,
and my merits in all three ways,
I give up without regard to myself,
for the benefit of all beings.

Just as the earth and other elements


are serviceable in many ways
to the infinite number of beings inhabiting limitless space,
So may I become that which maintains all beings
situated throughout space,
so long as all have not attained to peace.

If you skimmed through the above puja passage “quickly”...


reread it... with conviction and mindfulness this time. Inspiring and
motivating, isn’t it?

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JANUARY 23 | Silence

As I sit here in the office typing on a laptop, the electricity of the


building failed. Luckily, there is a charged-up battery attached. There
is this sudden “attack” of silence and stillness. The air-conditioner’s
humming and the music of the CD-player ceased in a split-second.
The air is still—the only things moving are my thinking mind and
my typing fingers. I can hear some light traffic outside. There is a
mild but definite sense of peaceful surprise with disruptive shock
back to back. It is at moments like these that we realise how
much white noise or mental static we have in our minds when
awake—there is always something going on in our head. And while
we try to hold one thought at a time, there is always a bunch of
others constantly fighting for attention. Most of the time, we simply
let this mental chatter buzz on mindlessly, forgetting how much
better centredness and stillness feels. In silence, everything becomes
clear—you can hear a pin drop and you can hear your mind talk,
complain, sing, whisper, sigh...

It is interesting that in the beginning, I used to “curse and swear”


inside when a blackout occurs, which renders my efforts of unsaved
entered data wasted. The unpleasant shocks still come once in a
while during blackouts, but I’m starting to accept it readily and
graciously as a mere “playing” of my karma. It is a good surprise
test—these blackouts. They let me assess my levels of attachment,
anger, ego... And they remind me of the importance and joy of
stillness. Stop all the wars in the world by first stopping the wars
within yourself... be still. When all of us end our inner wars, no outer
wars will ever be fought. Everyone needs to make at least that one
small step towards world peace—learn to be still.

I think I will close my eyes and meditate upon this silence for a
while, as I wait for the power to return.

28
JANUARY 24 | Learning Quickly

There are many things we have to learn. But there are not “too many”
things—the number is just right despite it being much. This is
because what we ought to learn, we ought to learn anyway. It is
crucial then, that we live sharply and mindfully, moving quickly
through the school of life, learning lessons properly and promptly,
paying attention to the details going through the mind, being
honest and indefensive to oneself and the world. Life is short. This
makes learning quickly and moving on quickly important. This is
where the practice of effort and energy comes in. For example, if
you know you have a bad temper, read about it, meditate on it, ask
others about it. Do the following:

1. Truly recognise the state of anger.


2. Truly recognise its causes.
3. Truly recognise what angerlessness is—peace and calm.
4. Truly recognise the path that leads to angerlessness and walk it.

Sometimes, the anger returns—but if you are able to recognise


it each time, resolving it becomes easier and faster. That, if you have
noticed, is the formula according to the structure of the Four Noble
Truths—it is the universal problem-solving approach. It is possible
for us to train ourselves such that we can quickly run through this
formula in our minds within seconds when anger arises. As soon
as anger arises, it can diminish into non-existence. Don’t believe it?
Here’s a scenario:

1. Someone blames you for something.


2. You hear it and anger arises
(takes a second to be recognised if mindful enough).
3. You recognise its cause and end it takes another second).
4. You remember how you should be—angerless and calm
(takes another second).
5. You search for your angry “self” there and then and realise that
there is no one “person” angry—there is just an attachment to
an unreal offended “self” (takes 2 seconds).

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That only took only 5 seconds. It can be done. Pretty soon, if
you have mastered this, you can hardly get angry generally. The
difficult part is being mindful enough to extinguish the volcano of
anger before it erupts.

30
JANUARY 25 | Pride

Pride is a tricky thing isn’t it? One can be so proud that one refuses
to admit it. The very moment one refuses to admit that one is proud,
one is almost definitely proud. Pride is this strong sense of self that
feels justified in every way despite reality being otherwise. In fact,
pride distorts reality. This could be why it is hard to detect. We all
have pride. To have no pride is to be egoless. For that to happen,
one has to be enlightened! Are you enlightened?

Now watch it—you might “proudly” proclaim that you are


proud. Be repentant! It is not a glamourous thing! It is different
from basic human dignity. It takes a person to be mindful enough
to realise that one is indeed proud to some extent. Only then can
one seriously work at subduing pride. Are you proud? Answer this
mindfully with conviction, with the least pride possible.

31
JANUARY 26 | Letting Go

I figure it is a most natural process for us ordinary sentient beings


to begin our lives as innocent children, who “uncontrollably” grow
attached to more and more things as we grow up through the years.
The list of attachments evolve with our “maturity” (or rather, spiritual
immaturity). From toy guns, to that puppy in the pet shop window,
to credit cards and that shiny black sports car. The true beginning
of spiritual maturity seems to be the beginning of realising the
pointlessness of our picking up of more and more unnecessary
things along the process of life. Letting go then begins.

Ideally, the spiritual practitioner would have let go of every


single thing, including his craving for life, before his death—when
he would have to go. Yet, how many of us are still shopping around?
Picking up too much baggage equals to too much baggage to be
put down later. You had heard it countless times already—time is
not necessarily on our side. It is time to grow up and let the letting
go of the unnecessary begin. The intensity of your attachment to
your car now might be not much different from your attachment to
your favourite toy car as a kid. Isn’t that funny? Have we grown up in
the truest sense at all? Are we are all not children playing with toys
(the simple and the sophisticated) in the eyes of the enlightened?
Toys break and we cry.

Anything conditioned is but a “toy” of cause and effect—not


the real thing you thought it was. A grown-up grows out of toys.
Let us need only our needs, not want more wants. Letting go is
self-liberation though, not self-deprivation.

32
JANUARY 27 | Tension

The Middle Way is not a state of extreme tension. Neither is it that


of slackness. In the classic analogy of the Middle Way, the stringed
instrument that plays beautifully is strung to the right extent. It is
definitely neither too tense nor loose, but just nice.

Likewise, a bow can shoot an arrow only when there is


appropriate tension in its string. Over-stretching the string with
the arrow snaps it and the arrow goes nowhere. The moment you
fumble in your everyday tasks is an indication of your slackness in
mindfulness, and thus in your spiritual cultivation. But of course, it
would be near “impossible” to fumble if you are so slack that you
don’t even carry out any meaningful task! Excess tension is easy to
detect—you would be having a headache most of the time from
strain!

The key question—With your present “tension”, are you


playing “beautiful music” with your thoughts, words and deeds?
Are you heading somewhere with your various crescendos and
diminuendos? Is your symphony harmonious? Is it a masterful
masterpiece? How is it to be composed and played if not?

33
JANUARY 28 | Conqueror

When you win in a competition and you get high and haughty,
you had actually lost spiritually. And when your opponent, who
has lost, is not angry but is gracious about his defeat, it is he who
has won instead.

The Buddha taught that greater than one who conquers


thousands in battles is one who conquers oneself. The conquering
of oneself would include the conquering of one’s false sense of pride
and ego. The Buddha achieved the greatest victory in conquering
himself. Yet he was never high and haughty about that!

34
JANUARY 29 | Intentions & Consequences

I discovered myself to be (re)acting faster than my mindfulness


could tell me what was going on. Let me slow down before I (re)act.
The root of karma is the thought that occurs before our speech and
actions. I suggest us slowing down our (re)actions to happenings
around us by:

1. Observing our intentions of what about to be done—are they


pure or not? More harmful or beneficial to all as a whole?

2. Picturing the consequences of what about to be done—are they


good or not? More harmful or beneficial to all as a whole?

We do too many things in fixed mindless (unmindful) patterns.


Although no big disaster might occur, we inevitably trap ourselves
by our own forces of habit. For example, how many times have
you routinely ordered another cup of coffee in a “matter-of-factly”
manner without realising that your intention was just to satisfy your
excess craving for more coffee? And before you ordered that second
coffee, did you think of the consequences of too much coffee?
(Addiction, waste of time and money...) Pure or impure intentions
is the creator of pure or impure karma.

It is also important to note the possible consequences of your


intentions, no matter how pure you think your intentions are.
That is where far-sighted Wisdom comes in. You wouldn’t want to
be a person of good intentions who ends up messing up more
things than helping when lending a hand! That is who we call a
“compassionate fool” (one with Compassion lacking Wisdom). Don’t
be an “unkind wise guy” (one with Wisdom lacking Compassion)
either! Be wise and compassionate at the same time!

True Wisdom is truly knowing how to think, speak and act with
Compassion for all. True Compassion is truly knowing how to think,
speak and act with Wisdom for all. Wisdom and Compassion, the two
peaks of spiritual perfection, are the functioning of each other.

35
JANUARY 30 | Spiritual Friendship

Then Ananda came to the Lord (Buddha) and said, “Half of the holy
life is friendship, association and intimacy with the spiritual.” The
Buddha replied, “Say not so! It is the whole of the holy life, not half,
this friendship, this association, this intimacy with the spiritual.”

—Samyutta Nikaya

Is not the holy life, the making of more spiritual friends, the
recognition of them everywhere? A stray dog can be a spiritual
friend who teaches a subtle lesson. So can the breeze, rain and
clouds. Friendliness is a feeling of affinity, and total spiritual
friendship is connecting spiritually with all beings and nature.
Nature is Truth! A spiritual person has no enemies. The world is just
full of friends, and strangers yet to be befriended.

36
JANUARY 31 | Dying & Sleeping

When you lay to sleep tonight with your wakefulness fading,


visualise the passing away of your defilements and attachments,
the dissolution of them into the night. Feel a liberating lightness
of non-attachment. Resolve to awaken fresh and undefiled the next
morning, with great awareness for your renewed “undefiled” life. In
this way, practise the letting go of what should be let go of.

In this way, practise “letting to die” what should pass away. Upon
your deathbed, if you are a master of this practice, you will go in
peace. To practise now is to start your “going in peace” now. From
the moment we are born, we are already on our way “going”... Start
“going” peacefully now, as it is no easy journey. Then, surely, peace
and a good rebirth (if not already enlightened) will be attained.

37
February 1 | Breath

Watch your breath—it’s all there. The Buddha was a genius to teach
a practice as usefully simple yet profound as the mindfulness of
breathing. If you watch your breath constantly, noticing its ups
and downs, short and long durations, etc... you will discover that
there is a direct correlation between the state of your mind and
your breath.

For example, an angry person is likely to be out of breath, while


a calm one breaths normally. Breathing deep and long helps to
expand any state of mental constriction. In one nice long breath,
a bad mood can disintegrate with the arising of hope. Therefore,
you hear the good old advice that, “When you are feeling mad,
take a deep breath and count to ten.” Try it—it works. Of course
that is not the real solution. All problems have to be eradicated at
their root causes. Taking a deep breath might well be a fool’s way of
swallowing unneeded suffering repeatedly, without Wisdom.

Anyway, you can’t take a deep breath on your deathbed no


matter how hard you try! But meanwhile, when we are alive, let’s not
forget this nice simple process called breathing. It is your lifelong
guide (with you as long as you live!) to greater calmness and focus.
Neutral and ever helpful. Looking elsewhere for a good guide? One
is available right under your nose all this while! Breathing keeps us
alive, but being mindful of breathing keeps us awake!

38
February 2 | Humility

He who is not humble will not learn,


because he has already assumed he knows all.
He who is learned is humble.

Even the Buddha is humble by nature, though he knows all.


How can we not be humble then?

39
February 3 | Beauty

Beauty makes sense, and is beautiful, only when it is felt in the heart.
And a beautiful heart is one that sees beauty all around. It even sees
the beauty in what the world sees as ugliness.

A beautiful heart is one filled with Compassion because there


is nothing more beautiful than a kind heart. The Buddhas and
Bodhisattvas are beautiful because they have beautiful hearts. This
is the secret to true beauty.

40
February 4 | Real

I think we all are constantly looking for “substance” in our lives when
there is nothing materially substantial. We seek material wealth,
thinking that it will add true substance to our life, giving life real
meaning. Nothing can be further from the truth. As Buddhists, we
all should know the teaching well that there is no enduring self, and
that nothing (material or mental) is for real as in being substantial
(which is why we work towards Nirvana).

But we are all still deluded about this Truth, since each of us sees
it only to a certain extent, while we struggle to fulfil our material
cravings. Is this not what we call a spiritual struggle—being caught
between materialistic and spiritualistic goals?

Prince Siddhartha (the then Buddha-to-be) already showed us


clearly by example that all the luxuries of the world can never bring
real substantial happiness. Well, he could have had the world at his
feet. Yet we still seek the luxuries he renounced.

41
February 5 | Guarding the mind

I once read a book concerning awareness and thought-control using


the analogy of a cat and mouse.

The watcher is the vigilant cat and one’s thoughts the scurrying
mouse. For the cat to be constantly chasing the mouse is tiring, not
to say never-ending. However, if the cat were to keep watch just
outside the mouse-hole, it would be much easier and the mouse
would never have a chance to run too far. Similarly, if the thinker
were to maintain constant awareness, it would be much easier to
watch his thoughts, the source of his happiness and grief.

42
February 6 | Music to My Ears

I got back a music CD I lent a friend. I asked him whether he liked


it. He replied “No” in a rather sure way. I remarked that the ability
to appreciate the wide range of music throughout the world
is somewhat equivalent to one’s ability to be happy and enjoy
life—because it kind of reflects one’s ability to appreciate things in
life in general, including, say, a poem, a picture, an ad, or even just
a certain tinge of colour in the sky.

I think every sound is music to the ears of the Buddha because


his awareness in the moment is so strong that he has the deep
ability to experience every little detail in full and savour it without
emotional attachment or prejudice.

43
February 7 | Enough

How much is enough of anything? I’ve eaten enough? Played


enough? Rested enough? Worked enough? Helped enough?
Practised the Dharma enough? Different people have different
standards. So I guess we can’t set a universal standard. Some of us
strongly believe our standards for ourselves are totally right. Then
there are some of us who believe we have discovered the universal
standards.

The important thing is to find the right standard for oneself—


whether it is universal or not. This also means criticising others
for not meeting our standards is not an important priority. It is
much more important to feel at ease with our own standards.
At ease would imply feeling blameless and at peace. Is that not
the Middle Way as proposed by the Buddha this “golden mean”?
“Enough” means “not too much; not too little—just nice.” That’s a
tricky balancing act, hard to balance and even harder to maintain
the balance. At the end of the day, to become enlightened, there
are indeed universal standards to be met. But even so, they are to
be found personally.

44
February 8 | Freedom

There is the popular misconcept that to be “free”, one must have a


car, money, time... (Well, the Buddha had no car!) How real is freedom
if it is that conditioned?

True freedom is the ability to be at ease with whatever comes


along. It is unconditioned, a free state of mind. Are you free? If not,
why are you not freeing yourself?

45
February 9 | attachment

The Buddha, when he was still Prince Siddhartha, after he left the
palace that “fateful” night, rode off into a forest, where he raised his
sword to cut off his hair. This was symbolic of the cutting off of all
worldly attachments.

I have a personal theory. As it was said that his hair never grew
back. (Instead, they coiled clockwise neatly—this explains the curls
on Buddha images’ heads.) Maybe it is symbolic that he never got
attached to anything worldly again.

Am sure you have heard of “short-term monkhood.” The hair of


participants is cut off as they enter monkhood for some time. But
at the end of the period, the participants let their hair grow back
as they re-enter lay life. Does this means they become re-attached
to worldly things? Not assuming or judging anything here­—just
something for us to think about... How many defilements had we
thought we were free from, when in no time, we got re-attached to
them again? A swift swipe of the sword once and for all is not easy.
We need to be more resolute.

46
February 10 | Untitled

To give excess titles, to overly label, is actually a disease of a kind.


One ends up stereotyping everything and everyone’s experiences.
Everything is unique as they have their own unique karmic
complications and implications. No two people, events or things are
exactly the same. As long as unenlightened, none of us thus has any
true ground for prejudice or prejudgement of anything.

47
February 11 | Miracle

A little miracle a day would be learning at least a little Dharma a


day and truly appreciating it, using it, realising from it and sharing
it. Yes—this miracle needs effort. Real miracles need real effort. In
this sense, miracles do not just happen; they are created.

Enlightenment is a miracle to those who think it really


happened overnight for the Buddha. The true Buddhist knows that
though in a sense, it was sudden, it was the overflowing effect of
spiritual insights through efforts accumulated through lifetimes of
cultivation. Have you created your personal miracles today?

48
February 12 | Success

The secret to success is not wrongly giving up the right thing. Yes,
it is that simple. Learn from mistakes and carry on along the new
direction found. You only fail when you give up. No one can really
say you have failed for good.

Was the Buddha-to-be having practised extreme asceticism as


a means to liberation then a failure? Yes—if he gave up there and
then, when he almost died of hunger. But he did not give up—he
sought another method and persevered. And he achieved his goal
of Enlightenment. He did not really make any mistakes in his search
for the Truth because he learnt from his mistakes. A real mistake
would be not learning from one’s mistakes.

The greatest mistake one can make is to not dare to make


any mistakes. Mistakes made accidentally should be learnt from
sincerely—with no haunting regrets or hard feelings. Making
mistakes is an inevitable part of the learning process.

Many of life’s failures are those who did not realise how close
they were to success when they gave up. Success is just a whole
bunch of failed attempts plus one final perfect attempt. If it is worth
it, just do it—never give up. Tell yourself—if I should, I shall!

49
February 13 | anew

It is very important to live each moment anew—living each new


moment cleansed of our yesterday judgements of others. (I don’t
mean to become a gullible fool—Wisdom plays a part as we
should know when it is fair to “refer” to a person by past personal
experiences.)

Living each moment anew and “freshly reborn” would be to offer


ourselves and others infinite chances and forgiveness. It also means
giving ourselves limitless space to explore possibilities. Don’t judge
when you need not judge. The nasty guy who knocked into you
without an apology should not receive a confirmed mental verdict
by you as a condemned nasty guy. Live your next encounter with
him anew without the past judgement and you might realise that
he is basically a good guy, who was then rushing in a bad mood. If
you were to stubbornly believe that his true nature is lousy, what
good can that do? Would you want to live with that judgement of
him forever? What if others do that to you? Is it fair either way?

It is perhaps the easiest to forget to live our daily encounters


with our family members and close friends anew. Is Mum a diehard
nagger? Or is it just you that are a diehard believer that she is a
diehard nagger? We have to remember the universal characteristic
of Anatta (the Truth of non-self ). There is essentially no fixed self-
nature in anything as everything changes constantly. Keeping this
in mind helps us to be more forgiving.

No—we don’t need another life to live anew. A new life can
begin now.

50
February 14 | Judgement

A: No, no—This looks better!


B: No, no—This is better!
A: No, no—Can’t you see it? This has to be the better looking one!

Who is the best judge? Who has the “right” taste? Is there
a “proper” preference? A thousand people have a thousand
different standards because they have a thousand different sets of
karmic perceptions and inclinations. The wise argue not over the
unimportant and frivolous because they know there will be no
fruitful conclusion. The wisest judge is probably one who does not
judge, especially for trivial matters.

51
February 15 | Renunciation

True renunciation needs not be an outward abandonment of worldly


and material things. It is the giving up of our inner defilements
and mental attachments. It is this form of renunciation that the
Buddha urged all to do. He made no demands for all his followers
to renounce worldly life to follow him as monks and nuns, though
he welcomed all who were ready and willing.

I believe, despite the difficulty, in the possibility of living the


spiritual life of renunciation while being in the worldly life. We can
still deal with money matters, career, and love our spouses and
children... but with the difference of doing so with ever lesser and
lesser attachment. Tricky—but possible. In fact, this is the right
way to work towards renunciation—especially if one wishes to
eventually join the Sangha, be it in this or a future life.

52
February 16 | Posture

When depressed, depress not your head—lift it up. Look to the sky.
Take a mindful deep breath. Open your eyes wide. Smile. And where
is the depression now?

If you are mindful of your body postures when you are depressed,
you will notice that it takes certain patterns—you slouch and your
breathing becomes sighing, and your eyes become lifeless and small
as you frown. Maintaining these postures is almost a sure way of
maintaining the depression. Do the opposite and see what happens.

Our body, speech and mind works interdependently—each


affecting the other. Hence, spiritual cultivation means the mindfulness
and purification of these three “doors”.

53
February 17 | Monday Blues

Happy Monday to everyone! The sunnier Sundays are to one seems


to mean the bluer Monday blues might be. Why should anyone,
especially one who calls oneself a Buddhist, live Mondays as if they
are the most dreadful days ever? Many people are “half-dead” on
Monday mornings after a Sunday full of self-indulgence.

A Zen master who uttered that “Every day is a good day.” How
true—what is a bad day? We voluntarily choose certain days to be
“bad”. No one, especially Buddhists, should live only for Sundays.
That would mean one truly lives only 1/7 of his life! (As 1 week has
7 days). How ridiculous!

54
February 18 | Silence

Do not speak... unless it improves on silence! Do not engage in


mindless chatter.

Only when you are truly silent can you truly hear what is going
on in your mind—this is a basic step for meditation and quiet
reflection. Have you had your silence period today yet? Keep quiet
and you might just manage to keep some peace—and increase it!

55
February 19 | Did the Buddha Exist?

Is the historical Buddha for real? Did he really exist? Of course he


did. But in a sense, it isn’t very important even if he did not exist.
Because even if he was only legendary, he would still be the best
teacher, since he gave us the best teachings! So what if all the
stories about him are strictly fictitious? If his teachings lead to True
Happiness, that’s good enough! As Buddhists, where else can we
find a better teacher with greater teachings? Treasure his teachings
if it’s obvious there is no better option!

56
February 20 | Sudden Light

I want one too! I want to have one single startling realisation that
shatters aeons of clotted ignorance heaped up in the depths of
my mind. I think you would want one too. But how many of us
actually have this one single amazing realisation beyond all means
of description? Is it not a spiritual fantasy to have Enlightenment
strike you out of the blue into super-consciousness and liberation
just like that, effortlessly? Well, I think yes and no.

“No” because no Enlightenment happens overnight in the sense


that today you are a total unrepentant fool, and in the next second,
you are enlightened without any rhyme or reason. “Yes” because
“sudden Enlightenment” is but the result of much cumulative
efforts to attain Enlightenment. Like a cup that fills gently with
minor enlightenments over years of spiritual practice, one fine day,
it overflows at the brim. It is this overflowing that appears totally
sudden. We tend to make a fuss out of wanting only the overflowing
when we should focus on the topping up! The Buddha did not just
sit under the Bodhi tree for one night to attain Enlightenment. It
was a result of having cultivated for many past lives! The sudden is
not so sudden at all. Suddenness is an illusion. It is but a result of
the gradual accumulation of many causes and conditions.

But I still want one single overwhelming realisation! But I’ve to


work towards that gradually! The grand finale is to be the glorious
moment of Nirvana attained in the flash of the moment! Like pulling
the best magic “trick” ever, the secret of the “trick” is good old down
to earth diligent spiritual practice.

57
February 21 | Nagging

There is a constant nagging in your heart—a nagging for you to


give up spiritual practice, which seems ever so difficult at times.
But there appears to be another side to the nagging—that says
spiritual practice is all that is truly worthwhile despite the difficulties.
Recognise the nagging—that there are two sides to the nagging,
creating confusion that is suffering itself.

Listen to each side of the nagging. Listen hard to what each is


saying and what it really means. After which, follow your heart. You
can’t be wrong if you listen hard enough. The only way to cease the
nagging is to listen, not ignore it. To enjoy the silence, first listen out
all the nagging. To listen to all the nagging, remain silent.

58
February 22 | Humility

I discovered that false humility can develop into such a state that
one can even think one is truly humble. It can be quite scary. I am
a victim of this unknowingly sometimes. Some of us, at some point
of our lives, get pointed out that we aren’t humble and sincere
enough. And some thus try too hard too fast without proper and
deep mindfulness, to be humble and sincere. Some thus end up
humble and sincere only in outer appearances, while the heart
remains full of pride.

What I meant by mindfulness not being deep enough is that


one’s mindfulness might be only enough to guard his speech and
actions to other people. The mindfulness has not yet penetrated
into his mind itself! He can appear “totally” humble, yet with only
the intention to impress. And this intention to impress feels like a
healthy “self-esteem”, when it is pure pride detrimental to spiritual
development. One ends up being dishonest at heart to oneself and
the world without knowing.

The Buddha had no need for self-esteem because he had


realised non-self. That is why he could be selfless. The Buddha
needn’t be humble because he had no pride to subdue. Yet despite
this, we see a naturally pleasantly dignified person, which is the
nature of Buddha-nature itself—upright, all natural without “artificial
flavourings or preservatives”, beyond all pretensions and inner
tensions. Totally cool and refreshing! Don’t just be humble all your
life—have less and less need to be humble—become a Buddha!

59
February 23 | Upside Down

In Buddhism, we are sometimes referred to as “upside-down beings”.


It might sound funny but it is really an apt way of describing our
nature. Here are some examples why:

1 We humans actually pay money to scare the hell out of ourselves.


We seek the thrills of terrifying roller-coaster rides and horror
movies, and mistaken them as the highs of True Happiness.
2 We fall madly in love with total strangers, even movie stars,
and forget that those around us whom we think we know too
tiresomely well are the ones willing to lay their lives for us out
of love. Yes, am referring to the boundless love of parents, that
goes beyond most love. We might pay to see our idols perform
without hesitation while having second thoughts about giving
more allowance to our parents for their well being.
3 We eat exotic spicy food and turn our stomachs inside out with
fire, perspiring and panting, and feel that was “real good!” While
this happens, the yearning for the coolness of peace of mind or
Nirvana has no place in one’s mind! The food was just too “good”
to be true—at that moment “superior” to Nirvana! We often would
rather go for such a meal than meditate for peace of mind!
4 The idea of a terrifically good time can be drinking till dead-
drunk and vomiting all over the place, despite the inevitability
of a horrible hellish hangover the next morning.

There are countless absurd “upside downs” in us all. The nature


of the Buddha isn’t very different from us in the sense that he is
simply one with “the right side up”, the way we should be too. He is
down to earth and grounded in reality, and reacts with sensibility
to it, while teaching to help us “get upright on our feet!” The process
of cultivation is thus the “reversing of our reversed natures” to its
true upright nature! We are just “Buddhas” needing to be flipped
over! We are ordinary or enlightened beings depending on how
you look at it.

60
February 24 | Blame

Don’t blame yourself for the way you are now. Don’t lament of your
past (or past lives), when you did the wrong to deserve your present
state. Because that past person is no longer you. You now are the
repentant one willing to do good, not the past stubborn one only
willing to do evil. You have changed. And you have no one to blame.
Not even yourself in any way. Be at peace.

This is the magic of repentance. It renders one free of all blame


(though not necessarily free of all negative karmic consequences
entirely). Is it an easy way out? No—because the repentance must
be true. This means one is to make up for his misgivings best he can
and resolve to never falter again. Not easy at all. So “hard” it can be
that we had better start becoming blameless now.

61
February 25 | Ugliness

See.
See deep.
See deep into the ugliest thing you ever laid your eyes upon.
See so deep that you realise that it is the ugliest thing,
not because of itself.

See till you realise that it reveals


that there is ugliness in your mind,
that the ugliness exists only in your mind.

Because ugliness is an illusion,


so is beauty.
Reject not the ugly and cling not to the beautiful.
Peace is already here if you only see deep enough.

How deep your Enlightenment is,


is how deep you see this Truth.

62
February 26 | No Compromise

You should not compromise for anything less than perfection. It is


because of this strict non-compromise that comes the promise of
True Happiness, which is the nature of perfection itself. One who
knows this is true is one who is more enlightened than one who
does not. One who knows this is completely true is one who is
completely enlightened.

Complete Enlightenment is the nature of perfection itself.


There is no compromise. If you want to be truly happy, you have
to be truly perfect. What do you promise yourself? Why do you
compromise for yourself? Be good to yourself because only you
have the power to make you happy. Promise yourself nothing less
than True Happiness.

63
February 27 | Re-emptying Your Cup

I’m sure many of you have heard this famous story... A university
professor visited Zen Master Nan-in to inquire about Zen, who
served tea. He filled his visitor’s cup and then kept on pouring. The
professor watched the overflowing until he could restrain himself
no longer. “It is too full. No more will go in.” “Like this cup”, Nan-in
said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can
I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”

It is most interesting that many “empty their cups” of opinions


and speculations when they realise the important lesson in the story.
And with their newly acquired “empty cup” of open-mindedness,
they might unmindfully restart receiving and collecting the opinions
of others. In no time, their cups are filled to the brim again. They
might then believe they have “found” the Truth or at least the way
to it, and stick stubbornly to it despite reality being otherwise. This
is the failure of keeping the open mind open!

Do we re-empty our cups from time to time? For most of us,


our minds open and close cyclically, believing and disbelieving,
taking up speculations and giving up speculations. It could be this
unnecessary and mindless loop that hinders us from getting closer
to Enlightenment. We need to transcend having mere opinions by
having true realisations.

It might be helpful to note that it was the Buddha’s remarkable


open-mindedness that encouraged him, when still a practising
ascetic, to seek the right method that led to Enlightenment— from
several teachers—though they left him disillusioned, urging him to
seek his own way later.

64
February 28 | Time

Time “exists” only when one waits for the future to come, and when
one wishes for the past to come again. It doesn’t “exists” for one
who lives in the “now” only. There is no fixed conception of time to
the good Bodhisattva. He is not anxious to attain the future fruit of
Buddhahood (which he knows is “a matter of time”—which is why
he is still gladly a Bodhisattva), and he yearns not to return to his
deluded non-Bodhisattva past.

So don’t say you don’t want to be a Bodhisattva just because


you don’t wish to spend aeons enlightening countless beings.
Because you say that only because you are yet to be a good
Bodhisattva. Don’t wait then. Learn to be a good Bodhisattva now.
Because of the preciousness of time not being a concern to a good
Bodhisattva, time should be a concern to you—to quickly become
a good Bodhisattva—so that you can quickly enlighten many other
beings without feeling discouraged!

65
February 29 | Transformation

I realised that anything and everything “profound” that I have


“realised” is just a “good memory” if it has yet to really transform
my life. It is totally not difficult to conceive of, even by one’s own
imagination, complex and true interpretations of the Truth of many
things. In fact, many can write a book of their realisations from the
Dharma as learnt from life to some extent.

But it all ultimately lies in how willing and how deeply we


choose to let it all transform us that really matters. Anything else
we do with it renders the Truth as “practically untrue”. That we let
a teaching or realisation transform us, can be a most subtle thing.
But it is the will to sustain and let grow this subtlety that is the
will for Enlightenment itself. It can be as simple as bearing a line
of a teaching in mind and trying to apply it in everyday life till
perfected.

For the theory-inclined Buddhist, you are probably already


theoretically advanced. Time to advance practically then. You have,
for the time being, read enough books? Time to “make” agreed
book knowledge “real”. Take time to transform, even if gradually.
Without taking this time, learning is ultimately meaningless and
leads nowhere. This passage itself... you needn’t have read it—if
you were not going to let it transform you. No need to nod your
head in theoretical agreement, or try to recall where you heard
something similar. Get “real”—be transformed, or it’s just an utter
waste of time.

66
March 1 | Dare to let go

Do you dare to list all your attachments on a piece of paper?


If not, why not? Are you TOO attached?

Do you dare to find the causes of each of your attachments?


If not, why not? Are you TOO attached?

Do you dare to imagine the peace without your attachments?


If not, why not? Are you TOO attached?

Do you dare to walk to path of letting go of your attachments?


If not, why not? Are you TOO attached?

67
March 2 | Was the Buddha Enlightened?

How do we know if the Buddha was really enlightened? I think


this is like a “trick question” that many Buddhists, including me,
find hard to answer to non-Buddhists. The honest answer has to be
that we don’t know with absolute certainty—lest we are ourselves
enlightened.

But meanwhile, the Buddha is the “most enlightened” being that


we have a detailed record of! By “most enlightened”, we mean he
was the wisest and kindest one who ever graced this Earth. He was
faultless in action, speech and deed. Perfection can’t be any more
perfect. And we have to remember that he was historical—he came,
he seeked the Truth, found it and shared it best he could.

68
March 3 | Cloud

What do you see when you look at a cloud?


Do you see a rabbit?
Do you see cotton candy?
Do you see a pillow?
What do you see?

Do you see a cloud?


Do you see it as it is—a cloud?
What is a cloud?
Is a cloud just a cloud after all?

Or is it “cloudiness”?

What is the Truth?


Truth is just exactly the way things are.

69
March 4 | Imagination

We don’t always need the real thing to experience what is close to


the real thing if we use our imagination constructively. We might
not be able to have the Buddhas or Bodhisattvas live in the flesh
before us, teaching us, giving us advice right now. But if we want to
experience what is closest to the real thing, we can imagine.

Imagine the Buddha is here, and listen to him sincerely through


his recorded discourses. Isn’t it good enough? Do we have to
absolutely need him to tell us anything in person? Or are we just
attached to him emotionally? Are there many of us Buddhists out
there who are greedy for a miracle where he appears before our
very eyes? The Buddha was here (though he said in the scriptures
that he will continue to manifest in many ways to help us) and he
had taught us all we needed to know. That is a completed “miracle”
already. The rest is up to us. Don’t keep needing inspiration—
become inspired. Inspire yourself—use your imagination.

70
March 5 | Mara

Did the Buddha fight Mara?


No—he watched him...
real closely...
and he was vanquished.

Are you fighting your inner demons?


Why not just stand aside and watch them?
Just observe—but see them very clearly.

Something strange but wonderful happens—


they disappear in the light of mindfulness.

71
March 6 | snapshot

It struck me that in a way, there is absolutely no such thing as a


“badly” taken photograph. All photographs are snapshots of physical
“reality” at certain points of time. It doesn’t matter if the angle
was off, or if the lighting was bad, because the photo is simply a
picture of something as it was, recorded on film with the conditions
given. When someone snaps “an ugly picture” of a dirty toilet, is it
considered a “poorly taken” picture of “bad taste”? The picture of
the toilet, in whatever condition when snapped, is the toilet at that
time. It is neutral and “truthful”—not a scene tasteful or tasteless.
Likewise, it is not “poorly taken”—because reality is all around. How
can one shot of “reality” be “inferior” to another?

This means that we are mostly too attached to beautiful


things—we want to snap nice pictures of ourselves dressed and
posed nicely against a nice scenery. We want to believe that that
is real and lasting. But alas—it is but a brief moment in the span
of our lives. It is hardly natural too—conjured up with much effort.
See the ego involved? The toilet picture is as true as your “best”
picture—not good or bad—just a neutral record of a conditioned
moment in time. Realising this helped me to appreciate pictures
of any kind.

72
March 7 | death rehearsal

The below is an important exercise.


You are encouraged to do it once in a while:

Stop!
Whatever you are doing right now—
sense the uneasiness and dissatisfaction
in the abrupt interruption.

How do you feel?


Disturbed? Turbulent inside? Attachments abound?
What can you do to appease your inner storm
in the shortest time possible?
Do it—till it takes less and less time.
Let go of everything and be free.

The above had been a poor rehearsal for your possible sudden
death. We either face death abruptly and rudely, or with ample
time to prepare for it. It is arrogant to assume we will be dying the
latter way.

Nothing—absolutely nothing, can help you except your spiritual


practice at the time of your death.

73
March 8 | Practise now

Hello fellow Buddhists out there! Are you a real practising Buddhist
in body, speech and mind? Are you sure? I’m referring to right
now—not a few years back, or yesterday, or even a minute ago.

This is just a “classic” sharing of a realisation that I have not


been practising the Dharma properly lately. This is “classic” because
we realise this time and again due to our lapses in mindfulness.
But that’s okay—what is important is to get back on track the very
moment we realise we forgot to be on track. I’m sure many of us
have forgotten too—before reading this.

Be honest. Are you getting back on track right now? Now—don’t


procrastinate. What are you waiting for? Don’t say you heard it all
before. As long as you are not practising this very instant, you should
hear this as if it you had never heard it before.

74
March 9 | Ego

See the ego—no matter how subtle,


in all the things that you do—no matter how minor.

See the ego in the tone you speak


in the gestures you use,
in the way you walk,
in the way you think,
in the way you see things...

If you do not see the ego,


it might mean you are too unmindful,
or too proud to acknowledge your ego—
unless you have realised egolessness already!

75
March 10 | Tendencies

We are all nothing but a bunch of shifting tendencies. Tendencies


are shaped by the forces of habit. None of us have to definitely
have a certain thing (or do a certain thing) even though we might
feel strong urges to. Our tendencies are often our desires without
Wisdom or evaluation. Not following them might leave us hollow
in a certain sense. This feeling of hollowness is caused by our
attachment to those tendencies as being part of our illusionary self.
The recognition of our tendencies as mere tendencies lead us to the
dissolution of our false self. Not following our tendencies blindly is
part of spiritual cultivation.

The next time you feel like having or doing something, be


it a neutral or ill thing, resist for a while, and let your Wisdom
evaluate its worth first. Does following that tendency leads towards
Enlightenment (in)directly or to more suffering?

76
March 11 | Adventure

There are certain things in our lives that we unknowingly censor


ourselves from, leading us to lead drab monotonous lives. No, no...
am not referring to hanging out at nightspots. Am referring to trying
out the same old stuff in a totally new and radical approach.

For example, don’t keep walking the same old path from your
home to the bus-stop day after day. Take a new turn and enter new
worlds and explore new sceneries. You might meet an interesting
“new” neighbour or... Whatever it is, if you keep your mind open
and watchful—enlightenment is abound in every nook and cranny
high or low. Spiritual realisations can hit you. We don’t necessarily
have to seek adventure in the wild—adventures can happen in real
life every day.

77
March 12 | Smile

The definition of “generosity” or “giving” in Buddhism is the widest


you can ever dream of. Even a simple sincere smile at a stranger is
a gift of Loving-kindness. The next time you catch a stranger in the
eye, don’t look away abruptly, glare on furiously, or stare lifelessly.
Generate a thought of well being for him or her and smile! What
a beautiful and effective way of creating fresh positive karmic
connections!

78
March 13 | The THIRD Precept

The third precept is sometimes taught to mean “To avoid sensual


(not just sexual) misconduct.” This is very interesting because it
widens the scope of what pertains to not observing the precept
(besides the usual “no extramarital affairs”...). Am sure you agree
that in the single act of sex exists pleasures of all the senses
simultaneously.

A personal reflection on “sensual misconduct” is that as long


as one abuses any one of the six senses (of sight, hearing, smelling,
taste, touch, thinking), or indulges any one sense continuously in
sensual pleasure, one is deemed to be breaking the precept. This
would include things like over-eating (abuse and indulgence of
the sense of taste), “addiction” to certain types of music (abuse and
indulgence of the sense of hearing)...

We should remember the purpose of observing this precept—to


learn to be content (instead of being pleasure-crazed), so as to
channel more focused energy towards spiritual cultivation.

79
March 14 | Offerings

Sometimes we forget the significance of shrine offerings. How


often do we offer light before Buddha images perfunctorily, just
because the light was out? Do we remember its significance to be
“the importance of fuelling our inner light of Wisdom, that dispels
the darkness of ignorance?”

And when we offer flowers that are supposed to be reminders


of impermanence, do we not sometimes make a fuss out of how
pretty they look as we arrange them? That’s attachment to beauty!
Sometimes we even remove withered flowers from the shrine
quickly with certain disgust, without second thought or reflection
on the truth of impermanence.

When rituals become routine, the unmindful tend to forget


their significance, rendering them hollow and meaningless. Making
offerings ultimately benefit those who offer. And when those who
offer do not do so wholeheartedly, benefit is little, if any.

80
March 15 | Trash

During spring-cleaning, I started sorting out everything I have in


the cupboards into piles of different categories—Buddhist books,
general books, childhood books, cards and letters from friends, lots
of unclassifiable knick-knacks... and of course, trash. The trash pile
was interesting because it piled up the highest. Like I said, the trash
“was” interesting—in it were miscellaneous articles of past interests.
I was very clear of what all each item meant to me. I couldn’t bear to
throw any of it away. But that now seems to be just a whole bunch
of near “random” attachments.

I felt a strange sense of release as the trash piled up. I have


somewhat “come of age”, grown out of my past, much out of my
“junior” attachments—a kind of material renunciation. I felt a sense
of horror when I realised I was somewhat “throwing out” parts
of my life, parts that were deemed to be of utmost importance
are now pure trash. Does this means I had wasted much of my
life focusing on the wrong things? There was a dreadful, heart-
wrenching feeling.

Then the answer came to be “No”. All these played a part in my


growth and led me to my present state. It was all a process, part and
parcel. There was a reason for every wrong turn I took in life, namely
my ignorance. But it was the knowledge of my ignorance that led
me here to be seeking Wisdom. I felt some relief.

The story doesn’t end here. Before I cleared the trash, I told
myself to be mindful of my present attachments—both material
and mental. I wouldn’t want to sort out a pile of trash again in a
few years’ time!

81
March 16 | Sense of the Sacred

The reverence a “good” Buddhist has for the Triple Gem is


sacred—because he realises the true preciousness of it. When he
sees a member of the Sangha (of the Triple Gem) who is obviously
human, making a human mistake, he might be ever courteous and
encompassing—because he represents a sacred goal. Likewise,
he behaves reverently before a “sacred” statue of the Buddha (a
reminder of the Buddha—part of the Triple Gem) and when he
reads the sutras (Dharma—part of the Triple Gem), as he holds and
flips these “sacred” books mindfully, respectfully.

But when he sees a non-member of the Sangha, an ordinary


human being, making an equally human mistake, is he just as
forgiving? Does this living human, hardly a “sacred statue”, not
deserve his respect too? Is he much less “sacred” in his eyes? Is the
amount of respect he has for the Triple Gem inversely proportional
to the amount of disgust he has for what is not of the Triple Gem?
How would the Buddha want him to treat all living beings? Sentient
life, in any form is sacred. All beings have Buddha-nature—the ability
to be enlightened and the ability to enlighten.

82
March 17 | mystery

The fascination with “X-Files” is itself a case of X-Files (a mystery) to


some. There seems to be a mass misdirection of seeking answers
of the mysterious unknown. Aren’t we all looking too far out into
outer space and not looking deeply enough into our “inner space”
of consciousness? It seems that many of us have yet to discover that
the most inexplicable, strangest, most fascinating and marvellous
X-Files to be solved are within ourselves.

Why we are here? What is the meaning and purpose of life? That
is the ultimate personal mystery of every individual to be solved
by oneself. This search is hardly a journey to the reaches of outer
space. No need to uncover the identity of strange aliens, when the
individual, on the path to Enlightenment, is one who had discovered
oneself to be essentially an alien to oneself. He is alienated from his
true “self”. How much more fascinating can discovering aliens be,
when oneself is the immediate alien?

The Truth is out there, but it is also everywhere else. Truth is


nature, whether alien or human. Truth is nature—beyond space
and time. Though the Truth is everywhere, it is the journey within
the mind that discovers it ultimately. The ultimate Truth is in here
after all, not out there.

83
March 18 | Vow

Bodhisattvas were once ordinary human beings like us, but they
developed hearts of great Compassion. They vowed with all their
hearts to help all sentient beings be released from their sufferings.
In that sense, they were great human beings.

Most of us aren’t great human beings yet. We might become


so in this life—or we might take many more lifetimes. And most
of us haven’t got the commitment to vow great vows like the
Bodhisattvas because much as we would like to, we know we might
have great difficulties in living up to them. Even simple promises we
make to friends we sometimes fail to keep, much less the keeping
of vows to all beings.

Do we stop here? No. Be realistic. First promise yourself what


you ought to. In other words, vow to be your own personal
Bodhisattva. Convinced that you can take good care of your
spirituality, vow simple vows that encompass some other beings
with your Compassion. You might not live up to your vows at first.
Thus, renew your vows from time to time. As your Compassion and
Wisdom grows, your vows will grow to be greater and one day, they
will encompass all. This might very well be how ordinary beings
eventually become great Bodhisattvas.

84
March 19 | Calm

In a moment of the calm of meditation, I feel the magnificent but


silent glory of peace. It is but a short peep at deep peace. This is of
course only a small fraction of what the Buddha feels—unshakable
supreme calm.

As I open my eyes, the world appears in amazing technicolour,


and sounds are in stereo surround sound. And the air is fresher
naturally. Heightened awareness! Evil is just dark clouds covering the
hearts of the good, that can be dispersed. This is almost Pure Land
already. “Hold on to the calm”, I beseech myself, “Hold on best you
can—let the peace from everyday meditation overflow into everyday
living. The greatest magic trick is transforming this world through
transforming oneself. Samsara quelled inside is Pure Land outside.

Yes—this is but a minor glance of the Buddha’s state. I feel


“shivers” down my spine, humbled by what the Buddha had attained,
and pleasantly surprised once more, that he told us we can do it
too. Greater than receiving the promise of salvation is the faith
in one’s own possible “self-vation”. Suddenly, I “felt” the Buddha’s
smile forming on my face. I know this moment of calm will come
to pass. And I tell myself solemnly, in his own words—“Strive on
with diligence.”

85
March 20 | Middle Way

Some complain that it is hard—or even impossible to walk the


Middle Way. It can seem totally incredible that anyone can actually
walk the Middle Way at all, striking a constant delicate balance
between not falling towards extremities of any kind. So do we give
up walking the path?

No. When we say “Walk the Middle Way”, we actually mean “Try
our best to walk the Middle Way.” We will tend to stray now and
then in different aspects of our life while we practise walking it. For
example, we might in one second entertain the illusory possibility
of the existence of a permanent self (this is falling into the extreme
of belief in eternalism). And in the next second, we might catch
ourselves over-eating our favourite food (another form of extreme).
And this is where diligence and the perfection of effort in cultivating
Wisdom comes in. The point is to constantly tune ourselves to the
balancing point of “not too much or little; but just enough”.

It is this moment to moment tuning that is our actual practising


of the Middle Way. The Buddha never expected us all to jump onto
the balancing tight-rope and start walking without tipping over
now and then. He understands that time is required for practice
to become perfect.

86
March 21 | questions

To the majority of us out there just reading others’ Dharma sharing,


is this how we feel—somewhat spiritually empty? Do we wish to get
personal, to realise something on our own and share it, or are we
ever content just reading others’ experiences and thoughts? Do we
wait for Enlightenment to hit us or do we seek it on our own?

What is your personal path to True Happiness? Are you on it?


Is it steady? Is it a pure struggle or is it plain smooth-sailing? Could
there be something wrong with your master plan to True Happiness?
If there is nothing wrong, why aren’t you as happy as you should
be? Or are you happy already? Are you sure?

87
March 22 | Refuge

Do you run to your lover or best friend when something nasty


unpleasant happens to you? Who do you automatically run to when
you need a safe haven for comfort?

Haven’t you received the Threefold Refuge in the Triple Gem


already? Do you recall the Buddha and his teachings to mind before
running to someone? Refuge in the Triple Gem is very much an
internal “affair” of the heart. You don’t always have to run to the
nearest temple to seek the advice of a dear Venerable.

If you already know the Buddha and his teachings to some


extent, you are your most immediate spiritual “Sangha nurse” to
heal yourself. Connect with yourself and self-heal best you can.
True refuge is always within. The moment you really enter your
inner refuge, you will discover a treasure-house of Compassion and
Wisdom that leads to liberation.

88
March 23 | Misery

Suffering is inevitable, but misery is optional. Many of us lead more


fortunate lives than those in the Third World Countries. However, we
are still dissatisfied. There are things abound that we find “imperfect”
or “painful”, and so suffering arises. We seldom see that what we
have is already enough to give us more than the basic comforts
that we need.

Some rejecters of Buddhism stop at the First Noble Truth (Life is


of much dissatisfactions), proclaiming the Buddha to be pessimistic,
over-brooding on suffering. However, we as Buddhists know that
there is the Fourth Noble Truth too—the way to transcend all
dissatisfactions! While the Buddha teaches us to be content, to
treasure what we have, we are not expected to stop at agreeing with
the First Noble Truth—since true and total happiness is possible. If it
were not, there would be no point to be Buddhists at all.

89
March 24 | Lost in Space and Time

I saw a man looking at nothing in particular. He did not look sad or


happy, neither peaceful nor disturbed—just neutral. Just blankness,
in a daze. Maybe he was daydreaming. It seems that he is in a
kind of physical and mental standstill. Can’t really call it peace or
suffering—just kind of on the edge. Seems like a rare moment of
“harmless mindlessness”—lost in space and time with “nothing” to
do. But meanwhile, life is ever fleeting away. Is he going to live like
that often or “forever”? Wake up! Get enlightened, not lost.

90
March 25 | Common Ground

All Buddhists, despite our outer differences in traditions of practice,


should seek our inner deepest common ground, realising that the
84,000 teachings of the Buddha come from one source and aim at
the universal goal of liberation. That one source is the Triple Gem.
Let us connect to each other through our personal connections (via
the Threefold Refuge) to the Triple Gem.

Like the rays of light from the “sun” of the Threefold Refuge, may
we reach out in 84,000 ways and directions pervading all space,
eliminating the darkness of delusion. Peace to all schools of the
Buddha’s teachings. The greatness of the Buddha’s teachings is their
abilities to shine forth skilfully in different ways to reach different
beings. And it is us all, the individuals who are to be the rays of light,
the missionaries of the Dharma. Be your own lamp, but shine forth
too, best you can, to guide others.

91
March 26 | what you want

Have: great.
Don’t have: it’s okay.

It’s staying: great.


It’s not staying: it’s okay.

This is non-attachment:
the non-yearning all-accepting heart.

This is ease and simplicity.


This is a key to living without suffering—happiness.

92
March 27 | Seeking Forgiveness

It is very important to seek forgiveness quickly when we have done


something wrong. Sometimes I find myself, after having uttered
words of mindless anger, being too proud and heated up to admit
my mistake despite the awareness of it. I might fume on a while
silently, all the while in no mood to say sorry. After a while, the
whole incident is forgotten and the “usual” relationship with the
other party resumes.

This is most unhealthy if it happens repeatedly—even if there is


a long time gap in between. Because there will be “echoing” negative
karmic imprints in the mind. The damage, no matter how little, by
the wrong action, is done. And the fact that the damage was not
properly resolved is like an evil seed that might grow into something
terrible in time to come. For the wrong-doer, it might grow into a
long-term guilt complex. For the wronged, it is a scar within that
threatens to reopen once provoked again.

We don’t easily forget the unpleasant—even after there is


forgiveness. As we are shaped by our karmic imprints, seeking
forgiveness readily will make oneself a more forgiving person too.
One will be free of any subtle forms of guilt. The freedom from a
guilty conscience is very important at one’s point of death, as deep
regret can often propel one to a future life of suffering.

A karmic imprint is a karmic imprint, no matter how small it


is. A lot of peace of mind can come from a forgiven and forgiving
mind. Never underestimate the power of seeking forgiveness and
forgiving others.

93
March 28 | Best

Try your best.


Is it good enough?
If not,
your best was simply not good enough.

Do your best.
But how do you know it is your best?
Because you don’t,
you don’t have any reason not to try harder.

The realisation of this is what leads to the best,


to true perfection—
Buddhahood, True Happiness.

94
March 29 | Millennium

The coming of the last millennium seemed kind of “stressful” for


many people all over the world. There was a vague feeling of
uneasiness, of some probably impending doomsday disaster. It
is most interesting to note that much of all the tension of the
millennium’s coming was simply due the fact that we were crossing
over to the year 2000, which seemed like a special moment in
history. But “2000” is just a number! Is it not true for some of us that
we anticipated something amazing to happen all over the world
just because at last we will be entering the 21st century? All the
tension building up could have been be a self-fulfilling prophecy
that created some man-made disaster. Imagine nations of people
panicking in 1999 about panicking later in 2000! The more the
panicking now about panicking later, the more panicking there
might be!

101 interpretations of many prophecies can complicate 1 reality.


Incidentally, the Buddha did predict many of his disciples’ future
Enlightenment. He did this to encourage them to strive on, not to
encourage them to be any less diligent!

Here’s a “prophecy” from the Buddha that is definitely true—you


will become a Buddha too, if you are to avoid all evil, cultivate all
good and purify your mind with all your heart!

95
March 30 | Spiritual Improvement

Don’t think of spiritual improvement as something obscure.


If you think of it as something obscure,
ignorance is obscuring you.
So what is spiritual improvement?

It is becoming a kinder person.


It is becoming a wiser person.

To improve spiritually is
to be kind enough to want to help all,
and to be wise enough to be able to help all.

96
March 31 | Light

Do you see the myriad colours in white sunlight?


Do you see the white light in a rainbow?

Unity lies in diversity.


Diversity lies in unity.

It is the same and at the same time it is not the same.


It is different and it is not different.
How different are you from another?
How similar is another to you?

Are we one or are you one?


Us all beings collectively is the unrealised Dharmakaya too,
the universal body of all Buddhas,
the omnipresence of Enlightenment, of one seamless reality.
This is the white light of us, the “individual” rainbow colours.

97
April 1 | Knowing

The Truth is what you know. If you do not know it, you only choose
to believe in something that might, or might not be the Truth. Be
without choosing. Why play the guessing game? A correct guess is
still only a guess. To be enlightened is to be “choicelessly knowing”,
with no alternative knowledge or doubt. Be in the light. Know the
Truth. Don’t just agree with the enlightened; become enlightened.

98
April 2 | Help Yourself

When we really feel the need to seek spiritual help, we should


always bear in mind that the Buddha can’t help us without us
helping ourselves first. The phenomenon of merely praying for
help is rampant (e.g. students during examination periods), without
realising this simple and subtle truth—we are our best help, if only
we try our best. It is dangerous not to realise that. For then, not only
is the problem left unsolved, we might shift the blame to those we
expect help to come from.

The Bodhisattvas are always around but we should realise that


it is best that we be our own Bodhisattvas. Is that not the truest
meaning of self-reliance in Buddhism? The Buddha did not become
a Buddha by prayer! The enlightened can only help us after we have
sown sufficient seeds of self-help or karmically deserve help.

99
April 3 | Bowing

Why do some Buddhists not bow when they come across a Buddha
image at a place of worship? Do they not remember the significance
of bowing? It is to pay our homage to the enlightened one while
humbling ourselves, so that we can be more willing to learn. We
all know well that a Buddha image is just a block of wood, ceramic
or metal. However, in the moment of bowing, the Buddha image
is visualised to be the Buddha himself. It is taken to represent
him because the Buddha is not visibly around to most of us at
the moment, and we humans are creatures who need images for
remembrance. Why not bow when it takes only a little time and
effort? There are the two common reasons (besides sheer laziness)
why one does not:

1. One is attached to the ego and thus detaches from bowing, as


it helps to reduce egoism.
2. One is already detached from the ego and thus sees no point
in bowing.

Don’t overlook this simple gesture of devotion. It is often not


enough for us to just understand the significance of observances
in Buddhism; we need to practise them to truly benefit.

It should be noted that it is possible for a Buddhist to bow


forcefully, with lots of pride, bursting with unseen ego! How do
you bow?

100
April 4 | Faults

Realised recently how easily I dismiss my own misgivings. The major


misgivings I tone down, telling myself inside, “Nay—it’s not that
bad—get over it.” In no time, I forgive myself. It is so easy to fool
myself that that is being compassionate to myself, when actually it
is a spiritually unhealthy suppression of healthy conscience. When
roles are reversed, our attitudes often reverse. When someone lets
us down in some way, we might magnify this misgiving and hang
on to it, grumbling and cursing them inside. Forgiving, not to say
forgetting, becomes hard. It seems that he who forgives himself the
easiest is sometimes one who forgives others the hardest. This twisted
attitude pivots upon the ego. It makes us too quick to judge others
and too slow to check ourselves. The path to perfection would be to
give ourselves no excuses when we go wrong, while keeping an open
mind, giving “reasonable excuses” to why others go wrong.

This reminds me of the often quoted Dhammapada verse—“Look


not at the deeds left done and undone by others; but look at the
deeds left done and undone by oneself.” This means holding a mirror
to oneself, constantly reflecting on one’s own conduct; not holding it
out to face others all the time to show them their misgivings. There
is much meaning in this verse because we are already too often
unmindful in checking our own thoughts, words and deeds. The
more time you spend having your vigilant eye on others, passing
unconstructive judgement of contempt, the more are you not being
mindful of yourself. There are few ways to go off track so easily.

If we already have trouble holding just one single pure thought,


why should we keep holding negative thoughts about others? So do
we keep quiet when others are “obviously wrong”? Not necessarily.
The moment someone presents before us a misgiving, we should
reflect whether we make the same mistake before correcting him.
And any “correction” should be apt and constructive, compassionately
offered with no hatred or grudge. Remember—no one is faultless as
long as unenlightened. It is the continual seeing of faults in others
while missing one’s own faults, that become a fault in itself.

101
April 5 | Insight

Never assume or be proud, when you realise a certain spiritual truth,


thinking that you alone had arrived at a unique spiritual insight. The
Truth is not patented by individuals. There is only one reality and
there are countless Buddhas who have realised it fully already.

Be glad that you are one step closer and continue stepping
forward. Do not think that you are one step ahead of others—that is
your ego playing tricks—you are not out to win others in attaining
Enlightenment first. Your Enlightenment is for others—we are all
“one”. Your one “big” step to your personal Enlightenment might
be just one small step to the Enlightenment of all.

102
April 6 | design

Sometimes we miss the significance of intricate designs and details


in everyday life. I was leaning on a glass barricade of a shopping
mall overlooking the basement. There was a fountain below where I
stand, spewing up vertical streams, “threatening” to hit the shoppers
above. Interesting refreshing design. All this was calculated—a minor
feat of human engineering design. It’s no accident that the water
comes so close yet not too close.

So much effort was put in the details of design for the aesthetics
of the place. And all along, I had walked by, not stopping to “smell the
roses”. Poetry is all around us. The world is so complex in detail that
it simply can’t be the design of one creator. This world is conceived
through the collective efforts and karmic manifestations of us all. It
is helpful to remember that there is a reason in the name of the law
of cause and effect (karma) why things are the way they are, and
why the same things appear differently before different individuals.
This increases our appreciation of every physical environment and
mental state we get into—be they positive or negative. Nothing
arises randomly. Take nothing for granted. Everything that we
experience on the individual level, right down to the fine details, are
amazing results of self and collective karmic engineering. We draw
the blueprints of our worlds of experience, and we are constantly
amending the designs through our present efforts.

You, the architect of your life, what kind of world have you
designed yourself to be in? Does it have poetry and fountains? Or
do you pass them by? What is your master plan and what does it
lead to?

103
April 7 | Transformation

The Buddha’s teachings—practise them well. Let the Buddha’s


teachings truly transform your life. Be moved by them. Be a stunning
shining example of a good human being. Evoke curiosity from
your transformation and share the inspiration with your family and
friends. Invite them to ask you what transformed you and answer
them with the Dharma lovingly.

The Buddha was so stunning an example of a “perfected being”


that his personal transformation into a Buddha transformed and
inspired countless people in his time. Today, the inspiration lives
on. It still lives within each individual touched by his teachings.
It is up to us to carry on the inspiration, to sustain its light in the
world today.

104
April 8 | Dharma Doors

Have been learning the Buddha-dharma (teachings of the Buddha)


rather randomly. Stop. Where am I going? It is said that there are as
many as 84,000 different teachings of the Buddha—”Dharma Doors”.
I’d been prying open some doors here and there, entering some,
taking short walks within, before turning back to try new doors.
The journey to Enlightenment isn’t really ever trod yet. Like they
say, “All roads lead to Rome.” Well, in this case, all Dharma doors
lead to Enlightenment. But I won’t be spending the rest of my life
exploring bits and pieces of what is behind each door without really
getting anywhere.

Sit down and meditate, contemplate things over. Then open the
selected door and walk forward without turning back. Better get
going soon—because the journey might be long and life is short.

105
April 9 | Peace All the Time

Deep peace in meditation can be likened to the silence and calm


at the bottom of the sea, away from the torrential winds and waves
at its surface. As we “sink” into the peace, we enjoy it for a while.
Then we start fidgeting, before bursting up and out of the surface,
returning to the waves and storms of everyday life. The peace is
thus short-lived.

It is possible to live everyday life at the state of the bottom


of the sea. Mindfulness is the anchor that will hold you there. The
truest meditation is that done in everyday life—with no concept
of stepping in or out of meditation. Every time is the best time to
keep a meditative mind. The meditation hall has no fixed form. The
world is your hall. Everything that “threatens” to disturb your peace,
urging you to burst through the surface, is a challenge—face it. You
can learn to stay longer “at the bottom of the sea” by meditating for
longer periods of time. Better still, have no concept of time—just
spend more days off in a retreat and meditate on and on to train
the steadfastness of your mind. You don’t always have to fix the
meditation session as half an hour or one hour. As long as you have
grasped the technique, meditate on with no holds barred.

You might notice that as long as you hang on to the anchor


of mindfulness, you don’t ever “need” to go to the surface for a
“breather”. You can live normally in the state of peace, while in a
world of non-peace. This will in fact help to bring peace to the
world! Making peace in this world, after all, begins with making
peace with yourself!

106
April 10 | Human

I seriously believe that the way to Buddhahood is the process of


trying hard to be more and more human, with the belief that a
truly good human is one perfect in thought, word and deed. To be
a good human is to become very humane. And history tells us that
there is no one ever as humane as the Buddha, in the name of his
limitless Compassion and Wisdom.

When many of us Buddhists talk about aspiring to become a


Buddha, we often think about it in the sense that a Buddha is a
transcendental being totally different from us humans. Here is the
good news—let’s be reminded that the Buddhas were humans.
But out of great Compassion for humanity and other beings, these
humans became the most extraordinary beings. They spiritually
“evolved” to become Buddhas—perfected human beings, living
examples for all to see. They became perfected such that they
transcend ordinary humanity. Thus, do we call them by another
name—Buddhas (awakened ones). Neither gods nor humans, but
supreme Buddhas.

Buddhahood—so far yet not so far... It is from this human realm


that we can steadily transform to be Buddhas eventually. It might
take a long time—so keep transforming... and we will leap the line
soon enough, changing our identities from humans to Buddhas.
May all humans aspire towards Buddhahood.

107
April 11 | Thousands

Here are verses hard to find amongst thousands of others—

“Better than a thousand hollow words


is one word that brings peace.

Better than a thousand hollow verses


is one verse that brings peace.

Better than a thousand hollow lines


is one line of the law, bringing peace.

It is better to conquer one-self


than to win a thousand battles.”

—Dhammapada (The Buddha)

108
April 12 | Sutra Surprise

Whenever I feel empty and hollow, down and out, I would flip
open a Dharma book or a Buddhist sutra at random and cast my
eyes upon any passage. It would be a nice “karmic coincidence” if
the passage relates to my present blues and suggests a related
solution. I feel inspired almost instantly. Even when the passage
is irrelevant, it still brings me to calm as I read the Buddha’s
words—his dialogues with his disciples.

I see, in my mind’s eye, myself in the crowd. Sitting upright,


relaxed but attentive. And the Buddha is right before me with my
spiritual buddies all around me. There is no other place I’d rather
be. There is no time and place more right. A sutra around is thus an
“object of solace” already. I guess this is a personal form of “going to
the Triple Gem for refuge”— with the Buddha in front, the Dharma
he’s teaching, and the Sangha surrounding me. All these within my
mind, in my heart.

109
April 13 | Is-ness

The sky is blue.


The grass is green.

The sky never said it is blue.


Neither did the grass say it is green.

So is the sky blue, and the grass green?


Neither did the sky say it is sky, nor the grass that it is grass.

So what is the sky or grass really?


The sky and grass just IS.
Is-ness.

The moment you define it, you are wrong—


that is conceptualisation.
Reality is to be experienced—not conceptualised.

110
April 14 | Demystification of the Buddha

I personally feel that it is very important, that though we place


the Buddha upon a high pedestal out of respect, we should think
of him in a demystified, non-superstitious way. We should bear in
mind that as high as the pedestal may be, we can reach it if we
try hard enough. The moment a person hero-worships him, he is
wrong—because though a Buddha is literally the greatest spiritual
hero the world has ever seen, he never asked to be worshipped,
as in “idolised”.

Constant hero-worshipping is also suggestive that we are


constantly belittling ourselves. A true worshipper is humble and
reverent, and at the same time, knows that deep down, he has the
ability and aspiration to become a Buddha. If the imagery of the
Buddha that comes to mind is nothing more than a being with
mystical supernatural power, one is most likely superstitious. This
is of course discouraged by the Buddha—for he never tried to
present himself as a magical mystical being. The only instances he
displayed his great psychic powers were when there were needs
to humble or inspire.

So how do we see the Buddha? Just see him as the wisest and
kindest person ever. Nothing fancy in that sense. His greatness is his
total ability to connect with us human beings, understanding us all,
and offering us a path that leads to True Happiness. Let us all feel
close to him. The closer you feel you are to him, the closer you are
to your very own Buddha-nature and Buddhahood itself!

111
April 15 | Natural

Though we understand that everything is natural, from fighting of


beasts because of the law of the “survival of the fittest”, to “what
goes up must come down” because of the law of gravity, there are
some things that we feel unnatural about.

Just look deep into yourself honestly. For example, is your sexual
drive always natural? Do you always have to be driven by it? Is your
backstabbing of your colleague natural? Do your animal instincts
justify you to be animal and inhumane? Though man is of the
animal kingdom (as classified by human science), is he supposed to
behave like an animal? Or is there clouded conscience and Wisdom
within that knows exactly what is right from wrong?

Which aspect of your nature do you feel the closest to, that you
are the most comfortable with? I suspect it is your Buddha-nature!
It’s only perfectly natural!

112
April 16 | Little by Little

I resolve to do it all little by little. Am referring to walking my spiritual


path. No, don’t get me wrong, am not being lazy or procrastinating.
I hereby resolve to practise these everyday:

1. Meditate a little (For fifteen minutes to an hour.)


2. Chant a little (As morning and evening puja on the bus to and
from work.)
3. Reflect a little (Realise one important lesson a day, like such!)
4. Help a little (Make sure my day brings joy to at least one person.)
5. Learn a little (Study Dharma books before going to bed and in
my spare time.)

Yes, little by little, here and there, I will work towards


Enlightenment. I will saturate my everyday life with Dharma and
be ever mindful. Steady, steady! Don’t ever get burnt out spiritually!
There is nothing as terrible as that! The hare didn’t win the race by
a mad dash. The tortoise who won was slow but steady, and he
persevered humbly and realistically.

113
April 17 | Opportunity

As the saying goes, “Opportunity seldom knocks twice on the same


door.” We consider others to be fools if they do not realise and
make full use of their open opportunities before their eyes. There
is, however, a golden opportunity right before everyone of us alive
who is able to read this very passage—the opportunity to walk
forth on the path of self-improvement spiritually, the chance to get
closer to perfection of thought, word and deed.

This time round, in this precious life as a human being, is the


very “break” we had been cultivating for—the life in which we can
very well seriously work towards transcending our craving, aversion
and delusion. It is not easy to be reborn in a human life. The odds
are astronomically slim. We had all “struck lottery” already! (But of
course we have worked our way through the rounds of rebirth
to deserve this life karmically.) Claim your birthrights to become
enlightened! Or you would be a fool indeed!

114
April 18 | Sickness, Ageing & Death

Amazing that only yesterday, I was thinking about how curious


it was that I have not been genuinely sick for a long time. I was
wondering if I was fit as a fiddle, such that viruses can’t take over
me. And today, most ironically, I started to feel feverish. Wow! I was
humbled by the law of karma, in the sense that I really can’t tell
what lies ahead karmically.

Today, I’m reminded that:

1. Sickness is sickening!
(It feels terrible and that it can strike anytime.)
2. Ageing is crippling!
(Old age cripples body and mind, and this is ongoing.)
3. Death is deadly!
(Life is a fatal disease we all eventually die of!)

I feel it in my bones. My body will lose the battle someday. The


Buddha advised though, that the body can be sick, but the mind
should not be. No matter how advanced technology will be, there
will be sickness (there are always new viruses appearing), ageing
(can be slowed down but still happens) and death. There is no cure
except spiritual cultivation. I’m saying these to remind ourselves the
reality of sickness, ageing and death.

One who lives without keeping them in mind is most likely to


live a vain life, in vain.

115
April 19 | Bad Mood

Don’t think you have a valid excuse for bad behaviour when you are
moody. Don’t think you can just say something offensive, followed
by, “Sorry, I didn’t mean that. I’m in a bad mood today.” You can’t
just walk away like that. Do you expect others to simply understand
and forgive you—again and again, when you do it again and again?
We can control our moods—we are our masters.

Master your mind


or be
mastered by mind.

Not a single angry word slipped from the Buddha’s mouth even
when the party he was talking to cursed and swore at him. Nope—
no bad moods for he who is ever mindful, a master of his mind.

116
April 20 | Professionalism

These days, there is much talk about professionalism, about being


truly professional in work and related services. We are all impressed
by professionalism. But professionalism is “twisted” when we see it
as an insincere act, even if it is a good act. True professionalism is
sincerity and skilfulness together. And it does not apply to work
only.

We should be sincerely professional in all aspects of life—


without putting up an act. Be a professional child to your parent,
be a professional friend to your friends, be a professional colleague
to your colleagues... The Buddha was the true professional!
Professional as an outstanding student when he was Prince, he
learnt wholeheartedly when he was learning, mastering all subjects
academic and martial like a perfect learner should. And of course,
we have to admit that his teachings and his method of teaching,
coupled with his Compassion and Wisdom, were truly professional
in nature! That’s why we chose to be Buddhists! Is that not so?

117
April 21 | Rationalisation

We all rationalise here and there, now and then, to the world and
to ourselves, to get away. We bend, stretch and re-interpret reality
to excuse ourselves from the unpleasant aspects of our “real”
selves. This is actually breaking the fourth precept, which is about
respecting the Truth.

Rationalisation serves to explain “away” our negatively thought


intentions, spoken words and done deeds. Rationalisation, when
done quickly and habitually, becomes a great enemy of spirituality,
as it becomes a powerful form of subtle self-deception that is
difficult to keep in check when lacking mindfulness.

There is perhaps no rationalisation as devious as that of lying to


oneself—one can actually lie to oneself for years without consciously
recognising it. One can even think one is in the light of Wisdom,
while shrouded in the darkness of ignorance. Rationalisation is not
rational at all. Be honest to oneself and the world.

118
April 22 | Much Ado About Nothing?

I would think much of the world is a case of “much ado about


nothing”. For example, wars are fought and forgotten. What we want
we get sometimes, and we soon forget we have them or wanted
them... Nothing by itself is ultimately important. Things come and
go, and our desires and hates are fickle. Nothing is concrete enough
for you to hold on to, or to give you lasting happiness. And nothing
is concrete enough to hold on to you to give you lasting suffering
either. Letting go of constant wanting leads to True Happiness.

Life is then easy and bearable for the Buddhist who understands
his personal roots of suffering. Why then, is there a “need” to aspire
towards the ultimate fruit of Buddhahood? It is simple—so that you
can save the countless other beings out there, who understand not,
that their craving and hatred, out of their delusions, are “much ado
about nothing”. This need in you that you feel, to become a Buddha,
arises out of Compassion. This is the preciousness of Compassion.
It creates Buddhas—that creates countless more Buddhas. It is not
“much ado about nothing” at all! It has to do with everything that
is precious.

119
April 23 | The SIX Senses

See with your eyes every sight.


Hear with your ears every sound.
Smell with your nose every smell.
Taste with your tongue every taste.
Feel with your body every sensation.
Think with your mind every thought.

Function purely untainted by greed or hatred.


Penetrate deep and mindfully into your experiences.
Relish every experience.
But do not become attached.

Your six senses—


Be forever liberated by learning best you can from them,
or be forever trapped by indulging worst you can in them.

120
April 24 | Spiritual Burnout

There are times when we feel spiritually low and burnt out. While
it is a popular belief that this might mean it is time to “take a
break” from any spiritual training, I personally see that for a mature
enough spiritual practitioner, there is no better time to really put
his spirituality to the test. As the saying goes, “When you hit rock
bottom, the only way is up.” How can anyone who is serious about
seeking liberation actually “take a break” from this goal? Of course
this is a lot easier said than done. But what is truly worth doing
will always require much effort; Enlightenment isn’t going to come
too easily.

Imagine the Buddha as a Bodhisattva in his previous lives


taking breaks from perfecting himself! Is that not absurd? Being
spiritually burnt out is a sign that one has not been looking after his
spirituality well enough, while one might think he had been doing
so all along. There is no such thing as “too much” spiritual practice.
Spiritual practice anyway, is to be integrated into everyday life. It is
simply everyday living with a spiritual touch.

Great effort is needed not only to, say, being able to meditate
with steady calm and insight, it also means living totally down
to earth responsibilities, like being a better son and friend etc.
Spirituality is not up in the heavens, it is here on Earth where you
stand right now. The next time you burn out, remember that your
spirituality was probably never properly “kindled” in the first place!
A good flame burns on unflickering and bright.

121
April 25 | Good Reason

There will forever be 1001 “good reasons” (excuses?) for you to do


something else now instead of striving on the long and difficult
path of spiritual betterment.

But there will also forever be 1 good reason for you to strive on
the long and difficult path of spiritual betterment—so that you can
become truly happy, so that you can bring True Happiness to others.

122
April 26 | One Moment

A lifetime is not
what’s between the moments of birth and death.

A lifetime is the one moment,


between the in and out breaths.
The present, the here, the now.
That’s all the life you get.

If you live each moment in full,


in kindness, with Wisdom, in peace, and without regret,
you thus live your whole life well, and in full.

123
April 27 | Giving Chance

Part of being a Bodhisattva is being able to give oneself (and others)


chances again and again. It means being kind enough to be able
to forgive oneself despite one’s own repeated mistakes, believing
that beneath all the unskilful actions is perfection waiting to surface.
One who aspires to be a Bodhisattva treasures the chances one
gives oneself. One is not to take the chances one gives oneself
for granted—or one subsequently lets oneself, and one’s Buddha-
nature down.

When it comes to others however, even when they do not


treasure the chances you give them, in helping them to help
themselves, you should never give up. This has to be the toughest
part of the Bodhisattva career! This is where the practice of the
perfection of patience comes in. Strive on, all Bodhisattva-wannabes!
Give others infinite chances, but to yourself, it is better to be more
definite and firm!

124
April 28 | Dirty Job

I was at a public toilet bowl, about to pass motion, when I saw this
small winged insect on the surface of the water, fluttering helplessly,
drowning. In a split-second, in my mind, arose the question of whether
to save it or not. There was nothing to scoop it out with—and I didn’t
want to get my hands dirty. In another split-second, I felt an instant
sense of shame at my lack of Compassion—I could simply wash my
hands later! Despite mindfulness of this sense of shame, I still looked
around frantically for some instrument to use.

In another split-second, I realised the insect was dying by the


split-second. It was desperate for something as valuable as its life,
while I was shamelessly desperate for something as unnecessary as
“convenience”. I turned around and saw a toilet roll. I immediately tore
some paper off and used it to scoop the insect out. There was relief.
But there must have been much more for it than me!

True Compassion would usually mean “getting our hands truly


dirty”. Precisely because true Compassion in action is often such a
“dirty job” is it so beautiful when practised! Never hesitate to be
compassionate—but remember to keep it in check with Wisdom.

125
April 29 | A Serious Problem

I want to understand why most of us can live in the shadow of


ageing, sickness, death, rebirth... as if they don’t really exist, as if they
will never come to you and me. I want to understand it so much,
and be spiritually “disturbed” so, that I will be serious enough to
aspire to go beyond ageing, sickness, death and rebirth.

Why is this primary problem not our primary concern? That


we are not really serious enough about this problem, is a problem
really serious.

126
April 30 | No New Dharma

Don’t look for some “new” Dharma teaching here today. There is
already a whole lot of “old” but timeless Dharma teachings that you
already know—that you have yet to put into practice! Right? The
Dharma today is to remind you to practise what you already know
you ought to! No theory today! Practise today!

127
May 1 | effort

About the perfection of effort while practising the Noble Eightfold


Path, have you put in enough effort? If you are asking this question,
then you have most likely not put in enough effort. One who has
put in enough effort is ever at ease and has no need to ask this. If
you are not asking this question, you are either enlightened or are
plain lazy to some extent! Put in more effort then!

128
May 2 | Mess

I don’t want it to be such that I came into this world to mess it up.
There is an ideal “place” for everything and everything should be in
its place.

Many Mothers dread their children inviting their friends home


because they might “touch-touch” everything. Things get “misplaced”
when removed from their original positions. In fact, things get
“depreciated”—the soft drinks stain the sofa, the family photo’s frame
gets fingerprints all over, little brother’s game-set’s joystick becomes
loose, sister’s book collection gets dog ears, bits of snacks are on the
floor... you know what I mean. Mum ends up clearing up the mess for
everyone! Why don’t we just learn to put things back exactly where
we found them? (The second precept—respect for others’ property.)
Also, don’t step on ants on the pavement. (The first precept—respect
for life.) Don’t seduce your friend’s girlfriend into thinking you are
better when you are not. (The fourth and third precept—respect
for truth and relationships.) Don’t get drunk and drive. (The fifth
precept—respect for clear-mindedness.) You get the idea...

We either come into this world and make a difference or we


don’t. A life that makes no difference is rather pointless; and the
differences we can make are either for the better or worse of
the world. Every time I enter a world that is not “mine”, such as
someone’s home or office, even a restaurant, or the streets, I try to
be mindful not to mess it up in any way. That I see as part of basic
morality. Don’t want to make any mess of any form anywhere in
this world or the next.

The next step from not creating a mess is clearing up your own
personal mess. My personal mess is my collection of bad habits
from my greed, hatred and ignorance, which is spiritually harmful
to myself and others.

The next greater step is helping others to realise their personal


mess and the mess they are creating in the world, helping them
learn to clear it all up. This is the Bodhisattva ideal.

129
I think of the Buddha as one major mess-clearer. He cleared
messes perfectly—in fact, he “enlightened”. He came into our
world in a time when humans were seriously “messed up” in their
hearts and minds. It was when dozens of systems of religions and
philosophies were abound, and few really knew what was really
worth living for.

If we are to all clear up each of our own mess, and help each
other do the same, there would be no mess left in this world. This
world will then become a Pure Land.

130
May 3 | Beyond the Horrids of Life

“The secret of happiness is to face the fact that the world is horrible,
horrible, horrible.”

That was a quote by Lord Bertrand Russell, dubbed by many as


the greatest philosopher of the previous century. He seems to be
referring to the First Noble Truth of life in his own way.

The secret of happiness, according to the Buddha, is realising


the Four Noble Truths:

1. Life is full of dissatisfactions,.


2. They have their causes in our wanting (greed) and not-wanting
(hatred), that come from our delusion.
3. The end of dissatisfactions is possible in Nirvana.
4. The way to end dissatisfactions is the Noble Eightfold Path.

I guess that makes Lord Buddha the greatest “philosopher” of


all time. And that was more than 2,500 years ago.

131
May 4 | Repentance

If we are to all be truly repentant, Samsara would disappear in a


flash. Samsara is the manifestation of sentient beings’ delusions.
Repentance has to begin somewhere—within the individual.

True repentance is simply the clear recognition of all of one’s


misgivings, coupled with sincere resolution to never repeat the same
mistakes. With true repentance, your personal Samsara will start
fading, and your wheel of life and death starts slowing down—slow
enough for you to get off.

The common mistake of repentance is the heart of repentance


being “true” only for a while. We might think we had learnt from our
mistakes, when we might have yet to really learn.

132
May 5 | Allergy

An allergy is defined as an abnormal sensitivity to a substance which


is normally tolerated and generally considered harmless. Here are
some facts about allergies:

1. Allergies sometimes run in families.


2. Allergy can develop at any age.
3. Anything can cause an allergy.
4. Allergies are generally harmless.
5. Allergies can be prevented.

I developed this strange rash two days back. The doctor was
unsure whether it was a pox. He told me to apply a prescribed
cream and to see him again if more rashes come up.

I realised that almost everyone has some form of allergy in the


widest sense. An allergy is simply something that makes your body
(or mind) freak out in some way. I don’t know what hit me, but I
guess my body freaked out at something I came in contact with,
thus the rash outbreak. Most people have common allergies like
dust, pollen, animal fur... But some have strange allergies. They might
be allergic to the smell of a new bus seat, a sweaty handshake, a
hug... Some reflections on the points above about allergies:

1. Allergies sometimes run in families because family members are


linked karmically. There are similarities due to collective karma
(as “birds of a feather flock together”).
2. Allergies can develop at any age because we freak out at
different things at different times. E.g. you might have had a bad
experience of tasting a durian at 5 and ever since, you freak out
at the sight and smell of a durian. Another could develop such
a “phobia-allergy” when he first tastes it at, say, 55!
3. Anything can cause an allergy because each of us are karmically
unique. There are countless things under the sun that can make
us freak out because there are so many different things we feel
aversion to.

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4. Allergies are generally (but not always) harmless. Well, what we
feel averse to, is only in our minds—like inner demons haunting
us.
5. Allergies can be prevented as aversion, as one of the three
poisons, along with craving and ignorance, can be eradicated.
Keep an open mind and heart. Learn to embrace all. Mind over
matter! With enough practice, even bodily reactions can be
overcome with control of the mind!

Remember—Buddhas and Bodhisattvas are never “allergic” to


any thing or situation. If they were, they would be unable to help
all sentient beings.

134
May 6 | Ehipassiko

“Ehipassiko” means “Don’t just believe; come and see”. It sums up the
Buddhist spirit of free enquiry. This is the teaching that any teaching
should not be accepted upon face value. They should be thoroughly
investigated before accepting them as Truth.

Many Buddhists are proud that Buddhism lives this spirit. But
some might get carried away such that they use it as a “weapon”
against other religious beliefs, proclaiming faiths without the
Ehipassiko spirit as blind. But they themselves might forget to apply
Ehipassiko in their own Dharma practice. They might end up the
very ones who accept the Buddhist teachings upon face value!

Remember that the Buddha himself beseeched us to test his


teachings for Truth as one would test whether a metal is pure gold!
His encouragement of us to test his teachings is not meant to leave
us impressed with his open liberal attitude such that we end up not
testing his teachings! A healthy Buddhist is a healthy skeptic. As Zen
Master Dogen taught:

Great Doubt—Great Realisation


Little Doubt—Little Realisation
No Doubt—No Realisation

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May 7 | for you

The reason why the Buddha came into our world, though he might
have came before your birth, is for YOU. The reason why the myriad
countless Bodhisattvas are still around to help is because YOU are
still unenlightened, and that they are still hopeful, believing that
YOU can be helped on the path to Enlightenment. And they are
always around, helping you in a million ways unknown by you—in
hope that one day, you will be like them, helping to free all other
beings. This is the unseen power so invisible, yet so potent. This is
the power of Compassion.

The priceless Triple Gem is YOURS. All the sutras were spoken
for YOU. All the venerable Venerables are YOUR teachers.

Everyone rejoice!

136
May 8 | Transgressions

Venerable Huineng said, “The transgressions of others are my


transgressions. But my transgressions are mine alone.”

That others have transgressions (misgivings), is in a way our


fault, as we have not enlightened ourselves, to be able to help them
enough. However, we should never blame others for not becoming
enlightened to help us. Blaming each other never created more
enlightened beings. A truly helpful person never complains about
others, just like the Bodhisattvas do not do so. They just see what
they can do to help the situation, and just do it.

The state of the world lies in the hands of the individual. Don’t
just complain that you don’t know what the world is coming to.
The transgressions of the world belong to the world. The world is
responsible for them all and you are part of the world. You are just
as responsible as anyone else for the state of the world.

137
May 9 | Living Joyously

A “secret” of living joyously is through realising that all is empty of


any lasting nature. It is but a “dream” that everyone lives in, because
though everything seems so real, nothing is real in the sense we
see it to be. Is this not a “real dream” then? All is a constant flux of
changes big and small. Live lightly and gently. I’m not asking you
not to live life seriously. But this is seriously a dream as long as we
are seriously deluded. Have a great wish to wake up. Don’t take life
seriously as in attaching yourself to this and that, as if all were real
and for you to have and hold forever.

Remember that your perception of reality is not really accurate.


Nothing is what it seems. In that sense, take your likes and dislikes,
tastes and biasnesses lightly. Nothing is this world came with labels
and we do not have to label everything. Be glad to receive whatever
you have, realising that it is a gift conditioned by your own karma.
And when you have to, be glad to let it go.

Don’t take anything too seriously—not even yourself! But be


serious about practising the Dharma. Strong craving and hatred are
signs of taking too many things too seriously. The unmindful crave
and hate ceaselessly while the enlightened are ever steady, smiling
graciously. Be gracious because graciousness is a state of happiness.
Who is more gracious than the enlightened? Learn graciousness
from them. Enlightenment is total joy unbounded, but living lightly
is already a joy too. And it is the path of joyous living that leads to
the greatest joy of all, the cool bliss of Enlightenment.

138
May 10 | merry-Go-Round?

The possible reasons why you are still riding in the “unmerry-go-
round” of life and death (Samsara):

1. You have not got sick and tired of the ride yet.
2. You have forgotten how sick and tired of the ride you were.
3. You enjoy it now, not realising you will get sick and tired of it.
4. You are sick and tired of it but don’t know how to get off.
5. You...

a) are in the process of getting off.


b) are actually a great Bodhisattva disguised as an ordinary
being, helping others get off this “unmerry-go-round”.

Well, which fits you? Hope it is a) or b) !

139
May 11 | Birthday

To you, whoever you are, whose birthday is coming… Before you


celebrate, is it now one more year towards your death and rebirth,
or is it one more year towards your liberation from rebirth?

140
May 12 | Ignorance

Don’t ask me where ignorance came from. What an ignorant


question! We are at present too ignorant to answer that. Yes,
ignorance is the root of all our suffering, but if you were to keep
hankering after the “root of the root” instead of ridding it, suffering
you indeed will be. It is enough to know for now that ignorance,
which gives birth to craving in the dual forms of greed (wanting)
and hatred (not-wanting), is the cause of our suffering. The Buddha
didn’t answer beyond that. That was enough.

I have a hunch that the ability to know where ignorance really


from must be from attaining the ultimate Wisdom. It could be so
profound, the answer, that it would be pointless for the Buddha to
explain it to us, seriously ignorant beings—at the moment.

141
May 13 | spiritual Deadlines

Okay everyone! Yes, you too! It is high time that we all give ourselves
some spiritual deadlines. Let us not say we want to be better people
while taking forever (maybe that’s why we are reborn again and
again); let us give ourselves credible real-time deadlines to urge us
to advance steadily on the path of spiritual betterment.

Take stock of your spirituality by the month, week or even day.


Have your defilements lessened over the years since you became
a Buddhist? With the passing of time, are you any truly wiser and
kinder? How’s the level of greed and anger? And how many things
are you attached to now? We need spiritual deadlines because we
don’t know when is our physical deadline (i.e. time of death). And
it must be remembered that at the point of death, nothing in the
whole wide world can help you except your spirituality.

So what if you have a billion bucks, a beautiful wife, many kids


and a big house? None of that can help you. In fact, these things
may well be your impediments if you can’t let them go. You will
die. This is not a curse, but reality. If you are frowning and annoyed
by this, it is better to set some serious spiritual deadlines as soon
as possible. And I can only wish us all that the individual spiritual
deadlines we set for ourselves are before, and not after our physical
deadlines.

142
May 14 | Rush

Only Bodhisattvas and fools rush into Samsara—


the first to save the second.
Which one are you?
Why did you come in?

143
May 15 | Celebration

I was thinking about my birthday. It occurred to me that nothing’s


really great about being reborn into this samsaric world, going one
more round. If you are a Bodhisattva, then you may say you are here
to help other beings. But admit it, most of us are here because of
ignorance and clinging to all worldly attachments. Unless we do
something to cultivate and liberate ourselves from this suffering,
there is no true cause for celebration.

There is surely more cause for solemn reflection than for


celebration. The moment we came was already quite a scene, us
brawling and all! Our birthdays were the very days we caused our
Mothers great pains in delivering us. And we came in great pain too.
Imagine going through this again in your next life.

144
May 16 | Comfort Zone

I was on the subway train when I passed by a station. From the


window opposite, I saw a man at a window in a flat apartment. The
window was grilled and he had one hand on it, clasping. He was
leaning forward half-hesitantly while looking out. He looked fearful
while hopeful at the same time. I felt sorry for him, a total stranger.
There was a wave of Compassion rising in me. He was unkempt and
haggard. It was too far and I could not see his eyes. But his posture
was that of desperation and depression.

Maybe he is jobless. Maybe his family left him. Maybe he had


lost his confidence in himself and society. Maybe all this happened
while he was having a mid-life crisis. We all have our comfort zones.
Maybe he was forced to leave his comfort zone, his former refuge
of happiness, as a victim of karmic circumstances. Maybe he just
broods around all day in despair and pessimism. That is suffering, yet
that might be his next best comfort zone in a deluded sense.

Are we better off than him? We have our comfort zones too.
Sometimes they aren’t obvious at all. It could be someone you keep
confiding in when in trouble. It can be the unchallenging job that offers
no chance for personal growth, that you have been holding for years.
Sometimes we shouldn’t get too comfortable, or we end up imprisoning
ourselves within self-made walls.

When the Buddha was asked what he taught, he once answered,


“Suffering and the end of suffering.” That was a way of stating the Four
Noble Truths. The Buddha taught about the recognition of suffering,
which is the only problem with our lives, and how to end it. There are
two types of suffering. One type is suffering that leads to more suffering,
and the other is that which leads to the end of it. I hope the man will
be brave. I hope we will be brave. Brave to step out of our own comfort
zones to face the challenges and necessary hardships of life that lead to
Enlightenment. That is the only way to grow truly. The Buddha stepped
out of his ultimate comfort zone—the luxurious life of the palace, to
wander in search of the Truth. He was brave, and he succeeded.

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I dedicate this article to the unknown man at the window. And
to all of us at the windows of our self-made prison cells. Let us not
get too comfortable. Let us start stepping out. Any comfort zone
that is not Nirvana is not real comfort.

146
May 17 | Sleeping on It

I have a friend who has a most peculiarly immature way of “facing”


unpleasant problems. She sleeps on them, literally! There were times
we had some serious arguments that were most unpleasant for both
of us. Often, I then leave for home, feeling most disturbed, trying to
figure out how much of it was my fault. I usually don’t hear from her
for quite some time after that. All the while, I feel uneasy and tense
whenever I think of the unresolved argument. When we finally meet
again, usually through an appointment with a few other friends, she
behaves as if nothing happened. Unable to stand it, I once asked her
what she thought of the whole of one such unresolved situation.
To my dismay, she told me she went home that day and slept on
the problem, it being “too confusing” to think! She never gave it
any second thought! She said that it was her method of “dealing”
with difficult problems!

Can we call that wise and forgiving, or plain escapism? The issue
of who was right was not even brought up yet! Some of us sleep on
serious problems—figuratively. Sleep as in plain “don’t give a damn”. But
forgetting about a problem does not resolves it. Doing so is like being
an ostrich that buries its head in the sand, thinking that if it can’t see
what is troubling it, that thing will disappear!

Being a practising Buddhist would mean being constantly


wakeful, facing all problems squarely with courage, just as the
Buddha faced the dissatisfactions of life without hesitation, in order
to discover the path of liberation from all dissatisfactions.

To my friend who sleeps on her problems, I only wish her the


best, that she wakes up soon enough, to the importance of waking
up to difficult situations. I wouldn’t wish her to be reborn one day
into a realm where all the problems that she have been sleeping
to karmically manifest together, so much so, that she would have to
wake up to them, while having neither enough courage nor Wisdom
to face them. I guess we can call such a realm “hell”. And this needn’t
happen in a future life. It can happen here to us as humans—life
can become a living hell.

147
May 18 | Perfect

Don’t look for the perfect time and place to truly begin your spiritual
practice. We should create perfect existence though this might
not “be” perfect existence. Practice is the perfecting of our minds
such that every time becomes the perfect time, and every place
becomes the perfect place. This is the state of perfect existence. It
is not a place or time. It is a state of mind. And this state of mind
is achieved without a perfect place and time, for a perfect place
and time is possible only in the perfected mind. So wherever you
are, whenever it is, already is your “perfect place and time” to begin
your perfection!

148
May 19 | Experimentation

I do some experiments sometimes, mindful ones, just to see what


happens. The things done in the experiments aren’t always exactly
“wise” but sometimes they “have” to be done in order to learn a
important lesson the hard way. For example, I might crave for dark
vegan chocolates so much that I buy a whole bunch of them and
start eating away. My rational mind tells me that it isn’t good for
health to eat so much in one go, while my emotional mind just
wants it all. However, at the same time, my rational mind might tell
me, “Go ahead—follow this blind emotion—but just this once, and
see what happens. You already know something bad will happen,
but you don’t believe it enough! Let reality prove itself!”

And so, as “expected”, I might end up a little sick. This might


sound crazy, but I do feel that such relatively “harmless” experiments
are necessary once in a while. I’ll rather get it over with bravely, with
a hard lesson learnt once and for all, than let the craving linger on
and on, disturbing the mind. The key factors that must be present
are mindfulness, and bearing of responsibility for whatever results.
Never go overboard. Don’t even think of trying dangerous and
addictive things like drugs!

Come to think of it, the Buddha could in a sense be said to


have been a most courageous experimenter. He wholeheartedly
tried practising asceticism to its extreme. In fact, He almost went
overboard, but he listened to his innate Wisdom and gave it up
in time. It was his experimentation with asceticism, and the later
abandonment of it that led to his discovery of the Middle Way.

149
May 20 | Treasure the Dharma

The more Dharma material there is around now +


The more I ignore it =
The more I do not treasure the Dharma =
The less karmic affinity I will have with the Dharma in future =
The further away I will be from True Happiness.

I’d better treasure the Dharma now!

150
May 21 | Appreciation

I would like to hereby, thank the following who have made my life
a certain success so far. Except for the Buddha, who is number one,
the rest listed are placed in no particular order. They are the ones
who helped made and shaped me to be who I am today:

1. The Buddha... who taught me about True Happiness, who also


taught me about...
2. Many other Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.
3. My Mother and Father, my personal Bodhisattvas who taught
me how to grow up.
4. The bullies I survived as a child, who taught me about fear and
courage against it.
5. The girl who seriously broke my puppy-love heart, who
indirectly taught me what true love was.

As I mature more spiritually, my list will grow and gradually


encompass everyone. Every friend and “foe” is a dear Bodhisattva,
who never fails to teach me something. It is me who often fail to
learn. I feel glad, glad, glad.

All the encounters nasty and pleasant with 101 types of


personalities are precious. The choice is ours—to perceive “enemies”
as Bodhisattvas with the best disguises, with tough lessons to
deliver, or to perceive them as “beings from hell” out to wreck our
lives. The wiser choice is obvious.

151
May 22 | One

When you are all alone...


Do you often seek the company of another?
If so, that means you are poisoned by the Three Poisons already—

1. Craving... for company


2. Aversion... for loneliness
3. Ignorance... that causes 1. and 2.

When alone,
learn to be at one with yourself and the world;
don’t be the loneliest one in the world.

You are complete.


You are whole.

152
May 23 | Next

Which comes next?


The next day,
or your next life?

So what are you doing next?

153
May 24 | Kicking Off Bad Habits

We all know it can be pretty tough to kick off our bad habits.
However, it is important because habits are what “make” us. Every
sentient being’s illusory self is just a bunch of tendencies to do this
or that due to habitual forces. In fact, I think kicking off a habit is
part and parcel of the process of breaking the illusion of a self that
seems so fixed, and condemned by the negativity of the habit.

For example, for habits like smoking, what is the best way
to quit it naturally? We have to first be deeply convinced of the
destructiveness of the bad habit, physically and spiritually, deep
down in our hearts. The next step is to replace that bad habit with
a good one, or at least a neutral one. This is to fill in the sudden
feeling of “loss” and urge. Maybe have a bunch of baby carrots
around to chew? That’s healthy! Vitamins instead of over 400
chemicals in a cigarette!

But as the path to total liberation warrants it that we have to


transcend all habitual forces that create attachment, even the carrots
have to be “given up” someday! One day, you will feel total ease. Ah!
The state of desirelessness—what bliss!

154
May 25 | Secret of Daily Happiness

Once, a king visited the Buddha and was astonished to see how
calm and happy his monks were. So he asked, “Venerable Sir, the
monks of other gurus constantly look as if they’re in pain. But your
monks, Sir, radiate such peace and happiness. Tell me, how do they
did it?”

The Buddha’s answer is one of the most beautiful things I’ve


ever read. He said, “They have no regrets about the past. They have
no worries about the future. They are at peace with the present.”

That’s it. The whole secret of daily happiness is in these three


simple sentences. It’s so profoundly beautiful.

155
May 26 | Bump in the Night

When there is a strange sound, a bump in the night, what do you


do? Do you immediately imagine weird monsters in the closet out
to get you? Do you get goosebumps and does a chill run down
your spine without control? I used to, as a kid... with imagination
too wild and mindfulness too untrained.

Nowadays, I just look in the direction of the sound to see what it


is with an ordinary mind, or even walk straight to it to probe more.
No fear, no fuss, but also no guts involved. Just curiosity about a
simple mystery to solve. I’m not ruling out the possibilities of the
supernatural, but the real monster is usually our unguarded mind
gone wild. This is also the monster that drives some insane.

Master your mind and conquer all monsters! Darkness is a


training ground with hidden inner demons “out” to test you. Enjoy
the challenge!

156
May 27 | Looking for Me

I am looking for me.


I look and look.

Who am I?
I can’t find.
I can’t define.
I can’t see.

Who am I?
I am “looking”.

There is no looker and nothing looked.


There is only the “looking”.
The looker and the looked as one.
Peace.

157
May 28 | Venerable

It is strange to me how some personalities gain more respect and


attention just by their form or appearance. Based on what we see,
we seem to create in our minds certain images of the people we
encounter, and our subsequent interactions with them are based
on those images.

Often, Buddhists pay greater attention to monks and nuns,


simply because they are members of the Sangha. Advice given by
a lay person sometimes (if not, most of the time) does not carry
as much weight—even if the advice is the same as that given by
a monk or nun.

It is praiseworthy to respect the ones who choose to renounce


“worldly attachments”, but people forget that they are sometimes
as much “human” as the rest of us. Also, aren’t the rest of us, the lay
followers, potential Venerables after all? How about venerating the
venerable ones in everyone?

158
May 29 | ORIGINALITY

The egoistic seeks to be creative, to be original...


but nothing is ever original.
“Original”—that which “originates” from others.

The world is interdependent.


The greatest inspiration of the greatest artist
is but a derivation from the common.

The Buddha is one who sees the intricate interweavings of all.


He’s the greatest artist,
being one whose works and deeds are truly appreciated,
being one who appreciates the dependent origination of all.

No ego, no creating, no seeking—


how much more “original” can you get?

159
May 30 | Light

It just takes a flash of light to shatter the darkness of countless


aeons. But it takes more than just a flash of light to destroy the
darkness forever. A little light of the Dharma is good. But just a little
light of the Dharma is not good enough. That much light can only
destroy that much darkness.

Burn on bright the torch of Truth. Light up the countless other


torches that light up other torches. To create a land of infinite light,
of infinite life, with not a moment of darkness, is to create a Pure
Land, a paradise.

160
May 31 | Finger and Moon

I point my finger at the moon and my dog looks at “it”. “It”, however,
as in my finger, not the moon. He sees not that beyond my finger.
I move my finger and he jumps around with it. He only needs to
see where my finger leads to, to see the moon. But he misses it. So
close yet so far away!

The finger represents the sutras and teachings, that point to the
Truth, as represented by the moon. The finger is just a guide to the
moon. The finger is not the moon per se. The teachings are not the
Truth—they are about the Truth.

I think there is a dog in each of us prancing around the finger


of Truth. Being “played” by our own ignorance and attachment to
words, missing the real thing all this while. The Truth is between the
lines, beyond the lines, beyond form. Be freed by the holy scriptures,
not trapped by them!

161
June 1 | Nature

The Buddha was born under a tree.


The Buddha was enlightened under a Bodhi tree.
The Buddha was grateful to the Bodhi tree
that sheltered him before his Enlightenment.
It is said that he gazed at it in gratitude for seven days.
The Buddha taught in the shelter of trees and groves.
The Buddha passed into Parinirvana between trees.

We see that the Buddha was one with nature and saw the
importance of its relationship with us all. Respect nature. We belong
to nature. Nature does not belong to us. Destroy nature and we
destroy ourselves, for we are part of nature too.

Buddhism is a green religion! The next time you see a tree,


be it a Bodhi tree or not, gaze at it respectfully. Realise the grand
possibilities that might just happen because of this one tree. The
most magnificent thing that last happened under a tree was the
Buddha’s attainment of Enlightenment. Imagine that!

162
June 2 | Change

I discovered that there is this trap that Buddhists tend to fall into, as
a result of not seeing things enough according to the spirit of the
Middle Way. Specifically here, I refer to the truth of impermanence.
There is this tendency for us to visualise this truth in terms of death
and decay only. We tend to relate to this truth only in the negative
aspect. We forget the other side of the coin! The rain will come after
sunshine, but sunshine also comes after the rain! Impermanence
means “constant change” of all phenomena. This truth is neutral.
It is what makes possible the transforming of bad situations for
the better (and vice versa). Impermanence thus can offer hope! It
is partly due to this truth that we can transform into Buddhas! No
one is condemned to be unenlightened forever.

Everything arises and passes away.


When you see this,
you are away from sorrow.

—Dhammapada (The Buddha)

“Everything” above refers to all things and situations both bad


and good. When in suffering, know that “This too, shall pass.” Take it
easy and be realistically hopeful for a change for the better. When
in joy (of the worldly), know that “This too, shall pass.” Treasure it,
but don’t be attached. Transcend it if you can, transform it into
unconditioned happiness. Seeing impermanence is not to make us
free from sorrow through glum freezing up of our hearts. It makes
us more true and authentically alive to the flux of all things great
and small!

163
June 3 | Sutra Closing

“When the Buddha preached this sutra, ... and the other Bodhisattvas,
... and the gods..... human and non-human beings, and all others in
the great assembly greatly rejoiced together, and taking possession
of the Buddha’s words, made salutation to him and withdrew.”

Many sutras end with this classic closing. Do we rejoice as greatly


as the audience then? Do we take possession of the Buddha’s words
as much? Do we make the same salutation in our hearts? Or do
we just “withdraw” into our old uninspired selves after reading the
sutras? Be part of the audience. What they heard ages ago from the
Buddha are in the sutras for you. His words are still this near—still
echoing on timelessly, awaiting you to hear and heed.

164
June 4 | Secret Smile

Enigmatic indeed is the smile of the Bodhisattvas and Buddhas. It


is so earthly familiar and friendly while being transcendental at the
same time. A “mysterious” result of their Enlightenment. Magically
alive. Behind the curves of the lips is a quiet whisper that everything
is fine. They seem to say that Enlightenment might seem far, but
actually here. They tell us to be calm, to be silent inside.

The presence of a Buddha or Bodhisattva image is to be felt, to


touch you deeply inside. That is its purpose for its existence. They
are created by the Buddha-nature of humans for “invoking” our
Buddha-nature. Feel the rootedness of the enlightened ones in the
here and now, in all rain and shine.

I gaze upon the facial expression of the Buddha image standing


before me in life size. I thought I saw him move. No—just this
monkey mind of mine twitching. But he is alive, though ever still. It
is as if he is here in the flesh already. Dharmakaya—the body of the
Buddha as the body of truth pervades everywhere. He is here. But
not just out there before my eyes. He is in my calm mind beneath
its “monkeying”. Never gone and never came—Tathagata. That was
the sleeping Buddha alive in me moving, awakening, stretching to
get up.

Upon that realisation, I caught myself slightly smiling that


secret smile of the Buddha. But in a moment, it was gone. And I was
grinning away. Surprised. Delighted. And slightly more enlightened
about the possibility of us all attaining Enlightenment.

165
June 5 | Chains

Don’t think you can just shake it off like that—


that tail of habit trailing behind you, stuck on you.

Though it trails along behind,


not seen too obviously by others, or even yourself,
has it not already grown to be part of you already?
Each day, it holds onto you tighter and tighter, unknowingly.

Quit it now!
Rid that bad habit of yours.

Don’t say you know you know it should be shed


or that you can quit it any time.
Because you are doing nothing to prove you can let it go.
Prove it to yourself if you dare.
Be honest.

Can you let it go for good?


If you should, you should.

Your tail is your chain of addictions and attachment—


your excess fondness for cigarettes, coffee, wine, sex...

An attachment is a weakness.
No matter how small it is,
it is one of the chains that shackle you to Samsara.

Remember—
you have a thousand other chains to free yourself from.
You had better start freeing yourself now.
Out of Compassion,
I dare you!

166
June 6 | Paradox

It’s getting late to cultivate the way.


Death might be near.
It’s not too late.
You have countless more lives.
New life is always at hand.

What do you think, old man?


What do you think, young man?
What do you think, old lady?
What do you think, young lady?

How near is death to you?


Are you coming back to spin “The Wheel of Karmic Fortune”?
Or are you through with the same old game
of “random” losses and wins?

It’s not too late.


It’s too late.
Paradox.

Sometimes you should take your time?


But time is precious—don’t take your time.
Paradox.

Rebirth is a curse—it is torment of an eternal returning of sorrow?


Rebirth is a blessing—it is eternal hope of a better tomorrow?
Paradox.

One thing I know for sure—


It sure tires me out,
even though I do not remember my unimaginable sufferings
in countless past lives.
This one single life is pain enough.
Enough to urge me to transcend all future lives to come.

Nothing paradoxical for me.


I want to break free.

167
June 7 | Happy Buddhist

Personally, I see the ideal Buddhist to be a very happy person. Why


so? Simply because he is one on his way towards Buddhahood. In
short, he is happy because he is going to be VERY and perfectly
happy!

You see, all Buddhists should be incredibly happy people


because they have discovered, and practise the Buddha’s teachings.
A good Buddhist sees clearly his sufferings and their causes (First
and Second Noble Truths). In fact, he sees this so clearly that he is
on his way to True Happiness (Third Noble Truth) by the practice
of the Dharma (Fourth Noble Truth).

So you see, a good Buddhist is a happy one. Don’t be a “half-


sided” Buddhist who is stuck on the First and Second Noble Truths,
who ends up lamenting, only agreeing that life is full of suffering
because of greed, hatred and delusion, without learning how to get
beyond! Be happy. And bring happiness to others!

168
June 8 | Spiritual FrienD

A spiritual friend is a good mirror.


He is frank and sees you not without your faults.
He voices them out to you.
Not out of complaint but of concern for your spiritual well being.

A worldly friend is a stained mirror.


He is not totally frank and sees your faults only sometimes.
He only voices them out to you only sometimes.
More out of complaint than of concern for your spiritual well being.

Sometimes others are spiritual friends to us.


Sometimes others are worldly friends to us.
Sometimes we are spiritual friends to others.
Sometimes we are worldly friends to others.

Have you been a spiritual friend to yourself and others lately?


Learn to be one from the perfect spiritual friend of all,
who was a best friend to all—the Buddha.

169
June 9 | Words

A word
conjures 10,000 different thoughts
in 10,000 different minds.
What do the Buddha’s words conjure in yours?

Is your thought but one in a million?


How is it different?
What makes you so sure that’s what the Buddha really meant?

The world thrives largely on illusions,


conjured by delusions.
Be ever clear.

Even the words of the enlightened


can become deadly paths for those too deluded.
Cling not to words.
Cling not to your perceptions of them.
Words are after all just words—
guides and not the goal.

Whatever it is,
however much,
hope you understand what this means.
Well, these words can only help this much...

170
June 10 | Realisation

A realisation is personal. It makes an aspect of the Truth of all


things part of oneself. That is why it is important to realise the Truth
personally. A thousand readings of the truths in sutras without
realising a single one of them is nothing truly learnt. All readings
should lead to realisations. Too often have the probing into sutras
become intriguing intellectual exercises that end in themselves.

In this sense, we can’t really learn from the realisations of others.


A realisation of someone else is no realisation of ours. It only serves
as a guide, a sharing or a point of reference. The Buddha could not
realise the Truth for all on our behalf. He came and he taught. His
sharing is already complete! Carry on, fellow Buddhists! Realise
what he did!

171
June 11 | Teaching of All Buddhas

The cessation of all evil.


The cultivation of all good.
The purification of the mind.
This is the teaching of all Buddhas.

—Dhammapada (The Buddha)

Nice “simple” sweet summary for what Buddhism is all about.


Even a 3 year old can say that.
But even an 80 year old might not have realised that.
Seems like we are mostly between 3 and 80?

Same old timeless reminder...

As long as you adhere not to it,


you have no right to be tired of it—

PRACTISE!
Get practical.
Practise what you preach.
Practise what the Buddha preached.

Practice makes perfection.

172
June 12 | Sexual Tension

There exist sexual tension between the sexes at every level to some
extent, even if subtle. I do not like this feeling of tension. I used to
feel uneasy when around the opposite sex. But if we were to see
beyond the outer, we would see that we are all simply sentient
beings in search of True Happiness, while harbouring the same
perfect Buddha-nature within. Recalling this brings me a sense of
reverence and peace, rather than excitement or lust.

It was the Buddha who uttered, “There is nothing in this world


that attracts a man more than the shape of a woman... There is
nothing in this world that attracts a woman more than the shape of
a man.” As I learnt more about Buddhism and equanimity, I began
to feel more at ease. I begin to see that sexual tension exists not so
much “naturally” or “biologically”, but more out of our attachment
to superficial appearances. Have we seen the essence beneath the
superficial?

173
June 13 | Me

The packet of blood that I donate from me is not me.


The fingernails and hair that I cut from me is not me.
The sweat that I perspire from me is not me.
The faeces, urine and mucus I excrete from me is not me.

The sense of sight, hearing, smell, taste and sensation that I lose
in an accident is not me. The mind that I lose to insanity is not me.
Or is there a “me” at all? Me—perhaps the greatest conjurer of the
greatest magic trick ever. “Me” created the illusion of “me”.

174
June 14 | Threshold of Pain

We all have our thresholds of pain. It is important to realise that


as ordinary sentient beings without a big heart for tolerance, we
will break down in despair when our thresholds are crossed. The
greatest pain to be experienced perhaps is the moment of our
departure at death. The pain is likely to be both physical and mental,
which comes from us being attached to life and the beloved in
life.

Physical pain is there because of illness. And mental pain is there


due to clinging to wanting another lease of life. Imagine gasping for
breath more and more, when you obviously cannot take in another
breath. Is this not reminiscent of hell? It is this craving, so powerful,
that propels us back to Samsara unceasingly. May we all prepare
to cross this threshold gracefully. The preparation has to start now,
while we can still catch our breath, with ease.

175
June 15 | The Purpose of Life

The purpose of meaningful existence—to discover the wisest


way to exist, and to thus exist wisely. You might have discovered
then, that it is the kindest thing you can do to yourself. This might
bring you so much happiness that you readily “overflow” the
happiness to others by sharing the Wisdom with them on how to
live purposefully.

The whole process is the accumulation and perfection of the


twin peaks of Wisdom and Compassion—the highest goals taught
by the Buddha. All you and all others could ever really want is truly
lasting happiness, and these two qualities are essential for it to be
attained.

176
June 16 | Point

What’s the point?


What’s the purpose?

Be careful—
What seems most purposeful
(e.g. accumulation of fame and fortune)
might be most pointless eventually,
and what seems most pointless
(e.g. renunciation of worldly enjoyments for peace)
might be most purposeful.

So what’s the point of doing what you do?


What’s the purpose of it all?

177
June 17 | LOOK!

Look!
And in that split instant, I caught you off guard.
I got you surprised.
And maybe now I got you a little impatient and irritated.
Because you don’t know what I’m up to.
Is this worth your attention, you might wonder, as you fret a little.

Suffering can be this minor and abstract, yet this real.


Have you mastered your mind to master what it encounters yet?
Or are you a slave to the “world”?
Puppeted by whatever comes along?

We are after all “victims” of our own karmic circumstances?


We decide whether we want to be free.

Look!
Aha!
Don’t let me catch you again.

178
June 18 | All-Knowing

“Dharma” means “phenomena”.


But the Buddha also referred to his teachings as the “Dharma”.
His teachings are about phenomena!
The Buddha’s Dharma is this expansive and encompassing.
The Buddha is omniscient in Wisdom after all.

The Buddha beseeches us,


as he teaches out of his omniscience-
Become omniscient!
Understand all!
Be a Buddha too!

From his omniscience,


He knows and tells us that we can make it too.

179
June 19 | Ending all Wars

When we hear news of riots and wars going on throughout the


world, we tend to feel disheartened, sad and helpless. We might feel
rather useless, wanting to help, yet at a loss as to how. We might
think—Who are we after all, to be able to intervene in such complex
matters? We have neither the right skills nor authority to deal with
it. But how true is it? Are we all that totally helpless?

While we alone may not effectively end the wars out there, we
can definitely contribute to world peace... by first ending the wars
within us. Every quarrel, every shout of anger, every gesture of fury,
even if just to another person, is a small war waged. And it only
takes a handful of angry persons to start a riot and more to start
a “real war”. Your family fights and disputes might well be a micro
version of a localised war.

Ensuring the root of hatred in us is extinguished, we would have


already helped make the world a better place. At least, no war will
ever be triggered by you, even in the most drastic circumstances.
And your sense of peace will spread naturally to your neighbours
and to their neighbours.

If reality is such that we “can’t” really lend a hand to actively


help resolve the wars out there, meditate upon radiating Loving-
kindness to the war-ravaged. Trust in the power of Loving-kindness
and Compassion. It touches and transforms, even if in the most
subtle ways. I look forward to the day when enough of us do this
meditation together, such that love truly transforms the world. We
need a threshold amount of love to overcome hatred in today’s
world. And I invite you to join me. Together, we will make up
this threshold. The only revolution needed to end all wars is the
revolution of love. Spread the word... and may love pervade all, in
thought and in action.

180
June 20 | Mountain

Romanticism of the spiritual life


is the dreaming of a lofty renounced life,
up and away in the mists of a lonely mountain,
meditating to attain Enlightenment.

Being realistic is to realise


that one only needs to be a stronghold,
a mountain firm in faith and practice,
an island upon oneself...
Then all living is lofty already,
wherever you are.

You are to be the mountain of steadfastness and mindfulness,


ever rooted, and at ease in the eternal here and now,
for there is no other place and time.

That has got to be the underlying meaning


of the imagery of the mountain
that keeps coming to our minds—
the real magic of the mountain?

181
June 21 | History’s Hero

I remember a Venerable saying that being at a historical site that


was quite a happening place, such as the Great Wall of China,
leaves him quite thoughtful. He would reflect on the wars that were
raged around it dynasty after dynasty in the annals of history. The
brave and ambitious who fought and fought are now all “gone”.
Discounting the fact that there were great heroes who fought
their way through, to contribute to our glorious present, there
were countlessly more pointless and petty struggles, and what
must have been “unending” strife to gain and conquer. But it is all
over now. And most of it was plain ugly and silly. Not really worth
the trouble at all.

That was the big picture. Are we each not right now writing
history with every one of our personal endeavours? Are your
struggles as simple as wanting a promotion or as complex as
wanting to be a world leader? How will our descendents see
us? Would what we have done be worthwhile? Will you make
a worthwhile mark for the betterment of everything? The truly
substantial “stuff” to be achieved in life is not material. It is without
“substance”. For example, being at peace and spreading peace is
formless and strifeless.

What wars are you waging right now? Will it be good for one
and all? How will you stand in history? Be a great hero, a spiritual
one. Visualise being your own descendents and tell me what you
see of your ancestor’s failed and successful conquests. Anyway, you
are your own “descendent”, the heir of your own karma.

182
June 22 | Ease the Heart

When I have trouble in mind,


I try to recall Huike’s encounter with Bodhidharma—
for he had trouble in mind too...

He asked the Master to ease his troubled heart.


And the Master asked that he find it for him to ease.
He could not find it...
And the Master exclaimed:
“There—I have just eased your heart!”

How fickle is this heart in reality!


It is mere attachment to this and that which troubles it.
And the troubles are formless, ever-changing.

Much of our inner torment is simply because we hang on,


giving the formless form.
Making “problems” concrete and brooding over them—
that could be the real problem!
Sometimes, we only have to let go to be free.

183
June 23 | No Need to Judge

It took me so long to realise, having been a Buddhist for years,


the reality of the teaching selflessness (non-self ). I’m not saying
that I understand it all as yet, but am beginning to see its practical
implications.

It used to be habitual for me to mentally label people as they


pass in and out of my life—“A must be type 1 personality... hmmm,
not very good at all! B must be type 2... okay, not bad.” All this
happens naturally in the untrained, wandering and judgemental
mind.

But recently, a few close friends underwent “drastic” changes.


People whom I thought I have known all my life like the back of
my hand suddenly seemed quite incomprehensible. One became
vegetarian overnight simply because he saw a fish splutter to death
at a seafood restaurant. This guy was a “staunch” meat-eater all
along! The positive reasons for being vegetarian were previously
irrelevant to him! And another friend broke up, with whom she and
I have all along thought had got to be her perfect life partner....

It seemed kind of scary that people can change “just like that”.
It kind of jolted me to my senses—I don’t really know anyone at
all! I can’t ever really! (But there is the unchanging Buddha-nature
beneath this all.) Even I myself am a fickle person under the guise
of a “fixed” personality.

Upon second thought, it hit me that this realisation can be


incredibly liberating. I don’t have to label and judge people so
much anymore, since it can hardly be permanently accurate. I
suddenly became much more open and forgiving. There is no fixed
personality in any of us. We change constantly. It is often due to not
understanding this great truth that we are caught in interpersonal
conflicts. Well, people change. Promises made, even during the most
solemn marriages can’t always stand till death does a couple apart.
Realising this makes relationships generous and alive. No one is
“supposed” to be as according to your verdict of his or her character

184
yesterday. We are all literally reborn with every changing thought.
No one self at all persists throughout.

Realising that the law of change applies to all is liberating


indeed. Suddenly, I have “given” the whole wide world and myself
infinite chances to evolve and transform beyond the constraints of
my small conceptual judging mind. No need to be disappointed by
anyone or attached to anyone. You just can’t really define anyone
or anything for good anyway. What great freedom!

185
June 24 | The Old Man and the Child

Be like a wise old man


watching a child play.

The wise old man is your mindfulness.


The child is your wandering mind.

The wise old man is not the child.


But they are family, related.

The wise old man is to be watchful


and understanding of the child.
For he is his one and only worthy guardian.

The wise old man doesn’t have to run after the child
to take care of him.
He only has to watch him.
The stiller he is,
the stiller the child will be.

186
June 25 | Boredom

Boredom...
is a disease subtle,
that eats away time and life.
We “escape” it by filling up the gaps of our life
with essentially empty and meaningless activities—
the eternal search for new external stimulus of the senses...
hear music, see shows, shop, snack, chat, surf the net...

But boredom returns time and again.


I suspect life after life.
And we “escape” from boredom again, life after life.
And we are reborn again, life after life.
Not knowing that rebirth itself is “boring”,
that it is of the very substance of the things we do day in and out.

Sit down.
Meditate... look at your state of boredom...
See its roots.
Suddenly, you see them,
sharp and clear...
and all boredom disappears,
and the world is seen in fresh clear light.

Boredom is the anticipation of the vague future,


wanting something pleasing to happen.
Boredom is the attaching to the gone past,
wanting something pleasing to return.
It is the inability to be rooted in the here and now.
And meditation is the key to bring us back.

Losing this moment of here and now,


is no other than to lose your real life,
and to be reborn time and again,
always looking for True Happiness in the wrong place and time.

187
June 26 | contentment

Don’t need a car, as public transport is good enough. Apartment flat


is big enough. Salary is ample. What’s missing? What is material well
being? It is simply contentment. Am wealthy enough already?

“Contentment is the greatest wealth”, taught the Buddha. How


true! One can have lots of money and still want and want, buy and
buy... Yes, maybe he does get much of what he wants materially,
again and again. But will he ever have “enough”? As long as there is
the wanting mind of greed, one is never “rich” enough, just a “poor”
slave to desire. Of what price is freedom? Can it ever be bought?

The Buddha replied thus to his Father, King Shuddhodana, when


he remarked that “A ‘Prince’ should not beg for his food.” —“It is a
tradition that Buddhas eat only offered alms.” The truly rich are the
free ones, unbounded by ideas of prestige and wealth, who come
and go as they please without obstacles. The Buddha was such a
person. Can we say that he did not inherit his Father’s kingdom,
much as the King wished? Well, he did much more. He “conquered”
much of the world with his Wisdom and Compassion. He is a King
beyond space and time. Even we today two and a half millennia
later as Buddhists, are his loyal “subjects” singing his praises! And yet
he was one who lived a simple humble life! True wealth is spiritual
and immeasurable—the Buddha has got to be the “richest” person
ever to appear in history!

188
June 27 | Mere Feelings

When life is wonderful, harmonious, it is easy for most to be


“good people”. The challenges come when the environment
changes. When times are bad, can you still be just as “good”?

When my colleague was away, I suddenly had tons of his work to


do... I easily lost control of my temper. But when I recognised how it
was hurting me (my head swelled, and hot air gushed up my throat),
I stopped, took a few deep breaths and told myself that this is just
part of learning the uselessness and harm of anger.

With this thought, I felt much better. I realised that our feelings
fluctuate easily when the environment changes. Only now do I really
see how true the Buddha’s teachings are about impermanence and
non-self—everything physical and mental is in constant change.
So much so, that there is no fixed self in anything. No feelings are
substantially real because they change all the time. We express our
emotions in the heat of the moment because our feelings of rage
feel so “real” and justified then. Pause a few seconds in the light of
mindfulness and you will see the anger dissipate as quickly as it
surfaced. Never let feelings control us; we should learn to control
our feelings. Rashness leads to lots of negative karma!

Be unattached to any feeling (good or bad) and you literally set


yourself free from all emotional bondages! So, the next time you feel
bad, see the feeling as just another feeling and let it go. You don’t
have to suppress or express that feeling. Just let it be, but respond
appropriately as the situation requires you to.

Remember—You can choose how you want to feel every second.

189
June 28 | TRUTH

A glimpse of the Truth


is a glimpse,
but a glimpse,
just a glimpse.

Be not proud of catching sight


of a little “ray” of light.
It’s just a glimpse of reality.
For the “sun” of Truth is much more bright—
Reality in totality.

Full Enlightenment is not merely catching sparks of understanding.


It is becoming one with the light of all reality.

190
June 29 | Big Sky Mind

To learn is to keep an open mind and heart. The more open-minded


and open-hearted you are, the more the light of Truth falls into your
life. There was a Dharma friend who popped into my life recently. He
knew lots of Buddhist stuff. I felt intimidated and belittled somewhat,
because I kind of thought that I knew a lot already. Then I realised
it was simply due to my mind and heart being closed. It was as if
I visualised all along, that my “mind” was already quite “full” with
Buddhist knowledge. Then the rude shock came that my mind was
actually relatively “vacant”!

If I kept an open mind and heart, there would be no subconscious


picturing of my mind being a vessel containing knowledge. The walls
of the vessel limited the span of my heart’s openness, which limited
my ability to learn humbly. The mind should be seen as empty, like
the great boundless sky. It is this vast expanse of the sky that allows
infinite things to come in and out of it... clouds, birds, planes...

What ease and freedom! Infinite possibilities abound... Always


keep a “big sky mind”! Be a wide-eyed curious child, not pompously
self-righteous.

191
June 30 | Nature

Buddha-nature* is of nature itself.


It is all natural.
It is our nature.
Nothing unnatural.
Nothing supernatural.**

It is Buddha-nature that awakens.


It is Buddha-nature that becomes awakened.

Be natural then.
No one is as natural as the Buddhas.
And we are unnatural somewhat,
not being one with our true nature,
not being one with the rest of nature.

* The nature in all of us that helps us awake to all of nature.


** The supernatural is only nature not yet understood.

192
JULY 1 | Just Like That

Man loses horse.


Friends console him.
He says,
“I don’t know whether this is good or bad—
it is just like that.”

Horse returns with a wild horse.


Friends congratulate him.
He says,
“I don’t know whether this is good or bad—
it is just like that.”

Man’s son breaks leg while training horse.


Friends console him.
He says,
“I don’t know whether this is good or bad—
it is just like that.”

War breaks out and all able young men have to fight.
Friends congratulate him.
He says,
“I don’t know whether this is good or bad—
it is just like that.”

After sunshine comes the rain;


after rain comes sunshine.
Neither good nor bad;
things are just like that.

193
JULY 2 | Inner Demons

If you look for the Buddha outside your own mind,


the Buddha becomes Mara.

But to think Mara is outside your own mind,


means he is indeed within!

Evil begins at home­—


in your mind!

194
JULY 3 | Blurred Vision

Even if just one of your eyes is just slightly blurred,


all that you see will be distorted, marred.
Much more to say about your mind’s warped perceptions.

Only in realising our flaws


can we begin rectifying them.

This is the First Noble Truth—


recognition that there is a problem.

195
JULY 4 | Being Touched

The ability to be touched is something very human. However,


that which touches us indicates how free from attachment we
are. Do we weep over the departure speech between fictitious
lovers on TV, and not give a second thought to the real life
stray dog limping away painfully? What touches us can be a
sad or joyous moment. But if it does not inspires us spiritually
in terms of Compassion and Wisdom, it is immature emotional
attachment.

Prince Siddhartha, (the then Buddha-to-be) was deeply touched


by the sight of an old man, a sick man and a dead man. He was
stricken with grief at the “inescapable” plight of all beings, but
he saw a Truth-seeker later, in serene search for the solution
to all suffering. Likewise, he was touched, so deeply, that he
renounced his princely status to seek the path to liberation for
all beings.

196
JULY 5 | Only Human

Don’t keep saying it’s only human


that you err again and again,

You shouldn’t want to be only human;


You should want to be a Buddha.

197
JULY 6 | Threshold of Pain

It’s time you made up your mind on what it’s all worth. Your
threshold of pain might well be that which determines when
you truly aspire to step out of Samsara. You decide when enough
is enough, when the time for renunciation from all causes of
suffering is right.

Meanwhile, bear with the necessary pains of life and death,


and never lose your sensitivity to it—for yourself and others.
Don’t be numb—you are a sentient being with feelings. Be kind
to yourself—feel suffering mindfully, and see the need to go
beyond.

198
JULY 7 | FirE

As in the burning house of impending doom


in the Lotus Sutra,
I am to save as many as I can,
with infinite skilful means,
those who know not that they are in a world
burning with the fires of greed, hatred and ignorance.

The first challenge before that


is to put out my own fire—
for I am on fire too.
And one who is on fire
is more likely to spread fire with what he touches
than to put them out!

199
JULY 8 | Different Horror of Rebirth

Half-awake and half-comfortable in a train, still drowsy from lack of


sleep, I suddenly open my eyes wide. I had just discovered a different
horror of rebirth. Could it be that I was a complacent Buddhist in my
past lives, not unlike now? My karma was never negatively strong
enough to propel me to the lower realms of suffering, yet neither
was it positively strong enough to propel me to the higher realms.
And being a fairly okay human, I’m thus reborn human again and
again. I might have confidence in the Triple Gem, but was just never
determined enough to break free from the cycle of birth and death.
I am half-awake and half-comfortable in this realm right here and
now as a human—a precarious position with no definite rise or fall
at the moment.

What is the horror I am talking about? It is neither the horror


of descent into hell-fire, nor descent from the heavens after the
depletion of merits. It is the horror of having to go through the
pointless repetition of routine time and again. This train ride does
not really lead anywhere. No matter how many times I take it, it’s
a loop. This is a cycle dangerous to get used to, leading nowhere
closer to liberation.

200
JULY 9 | Empty Boat

You are cruising down a river.


Another boat comes opposite towards you—
right at you, faster and faster.
You get upset and start yelling.
But it only comes faster and faster.
As it gets closer, you suddenly see clearly that it is empty.

This is how we make ourselves suffer—


by seeing the world out to get us,
by not steering clear of what is “natural”—
your delusions and your negative karma’s rebound.

201
JULY 10 | Responsibility

It is the responsibility of the more mindful


to “mind” the mindless, unminded and unmindful,
with Compassion and Wisdom.
If it’s not you, then who?

The perfectly mindful awakened Buddhas


awaken the unawakened;
they do not wait for anyone else to do so –
because there is no one else.

202
JULY 11 | My Teacher

Everybody hates my teacher. 


He is strict, unkind, unfriendly and unforgiving.
He never hesitates to give anyone the most severe,
the most “unfair” punishment at precisely the worst time.

He is, at the same time, the best teacher I’ve ever had.
He has taught me everything I know...
about dissatisfaction, greed, hatred, and ignorance.

During those quiet moments when we’re alone,


he taught me about myself, my mind, my cultivation,
and how I can save myself.
Simply, he taught me salvation
and gave me constant encouragement to walk the path.

When I get enlightened, he probably gets the most credit.


He is, of course, “Pain”—a powerful teacher.
When one maintains mindfulness,
mental stability and clarity in times of pain,
one’s own dissatisfactions and Nirvana reveal themselves
without reservation.

The insight one gains is tremendous.


The key to salvation can be found there,
within the insight, within the pain.

203
JULY 12 | Six Perfections by Mindfulness of Buddha

In true mindfulness of the Buddha,*


letting go of attachment to one’s body, mind and the world
is the Great Perfection of Giving.

In true mindfulness of the Buddha,


not giving rise to any thought of greed, hatred or ignorance
is the Great Perfection of Morality.

In true mindfulness of the Buddha,


not being attached to conflicts or hearsay of others and oneself
is the Great Perfection of Patience.

In true mindfulness of the Buddha,


having neither a slight break of continuity of mindfulness
nor any confused thoughts in between
is the Great Perfection of Effort

In true mindfulness of the Buddha,


neither giving rise to,
driven by nor chasing after stray thoughts
is the Great Perfection of Concentration.

In true mindfulness of the Buddha,


not being tempted by any delusion
is the Great Perfection of Wisdom.

—Venerable Ou Yi (The Ninth Patriarch of Pure Land Buddhism)

* Mindfulness of the Buddha—Mindful verbal or silent recitation of the Buddha’s name,


or remembrance of the Buddha.

204
JULY 13 | Greatest Resource

The greatest resource of our collective human resources


is that of our individual spiritual resources—
which should never be compromised.

Our spirituality should never remain stagnant or decrease;


but only increase—
or our Dharma learning, practising, realising and sharing
will not increase.

205
JULY 14 | Freedom

Everywhere, freedom is sought.


But only from within, can freedom be found.

Hence, Buddhism is the inward path.


Freedom is not free—earn it.

206
JULY 15 | Before & After

Before practising the Dharma,


Passion* > Compassion**

During practising the Dharma,


Compassion > Passion

After perfecting practice of the Dharma,


Compassion = 100%
Passion = 0%

* Passion—Love for someone with attachment.


** Compassion—Love for everyone without attachment.

207
JULY 16 | The Teaching of All Buddhas

To avoid evil.
To do good.
To purify the mind.
This is the teaching of all Buddhas.

—Dhammapada (The Buddha)

This is the cause and origin


of all Arahants, Bodhisattvas and Buddhas.

What is evil?
It is that which causes suffering, for one and/or all.
It is our thoughts, speech and actions,
that arise from the three poisons—
Attachment (Greed/Craving), Aversion (Hatred/Anger)
and Ignorance (Delusion).

What is good?
It is that which causes the end of suffering;
Nirvana; Enlightenment; Emancipation;
Liberation; Freedom; True Happiness, for one and/or all.
It is our thoughts, speech and actions,
that arise from the three antidotes to the three poisons—
Generosity, Loving-kindness and Wisdom.

What is a purified mind?


It is a mind mastered to avoid evil without Aversion to it;
but with Loving-kindness instead.
It is a mind mastered to do good without Attachment to it;
but with Generosity instead.
It is a mind which mastered Insight
into the Three Universal Characteristics of mind and matter—
Impermanence (Anicca or constant change),
Dissatisfaction (Dukkha or suffering) and
Non-Self (Anatta or non-personality),
ending Ignorance, attaining perfect Wisdom; Nirvana.

208
JULY 17 | Renunciation

To renounce is not to get rid of what you treasure or are attached


to; but to accept that they pass away eventually, that they are not
the sources of True Happiness.

Above merely letting go of material things, renunciation is the


letting go of greed, hatred and ignorance. It so happens that letting
go of material things is one of the natural results of renunciation;
the mere letting go of material things alone is not necessarily true
renunciation.

209
JULY 18 | Sandcastles

Some children made sandcastles,


keeping theirs separate from others’.
When the castles were completed,
one kicked over another’s.

The owner flew into a rage and hit him,


yelling, “Come and help punish him!”
Others came to his help,
beating the child...

Then they carried on playing their sandcastles,


each saying, “This is mine!”

Evening came,
and the children thought they ought to go home.
No one now cared about his castle.
One stepped on his, and another pushed his over.
Then they turned away and went back, each to his home.

—Adapted from Yogacara Bhumi Sutra

What are your sandcastles?

210
JULY 19 | Bliss

Any sensual bliss in the world,


any heavenly bliss,
isn’t worth one sixteenth-sixteenth
of the bliss of the ending of craving.

—Udana (The Buddha)

Sensual bliss < 0.00390625 (1/16/16) of the bliss of Nirvana!

211
JULY 20 | Hope

If you are only hopeful,


you are totally hopeless.

No need to hope—
if there is something you can do about it, just do it;
if not, just accept it gracefully.

212
JULY 21 | Holding On

Nothing physical or mental allows itself


to be held permanently by you,
as hard as you may try.

What you hold on to changes,


and even you, the holder, changes.
Where is the clung then?
Where is the clinger?

You don’t have to free yourself!


Just realise that you are already free!

213
JULY 22 | Rise & Fall

When a music instrument is played, a sound arises.


There is no place where it comes from.
And there is no place it disappears to.

In the same way, all things and their parts,


material and mental, rise and fall.
There is only rising and falling;
there is no riser or faller.

Likewise, there is Enlightenment but no one enlightened—


it is one who has no self,
who realises non-self,
who frees one-“self”.

214
JULY 23 | Sentiments

If you have sentimental feelings about the Dharma,


it becomes worldly.
If you have no sentimental feelings about worldly things,
they become of the Dharma.

It is feeling sentimental about this and that,


feeling attachment,
that renders us stuck in Samsara.

Even the way (the Dharma) out of suffering


can become the reason why you do not get out
if you are unmindfully sentimental about it!

215
JULY 24 | Letting Go

Letting go is letting go. It is not trying to let go. The element


of trying suggests attachment. The more you try, the more you
might suffer. If you cannot let go your trouble in mind just yet,
try resolving it another way. Maybe it is not to be let go just
like that.

When you want to forget, you might recall. When you recall,
you might want to forget. I guess this is the anguish of mental
suffering, of not being with the beloved, of departing from the
beloved.

To all lovers out there... it is stuff like these that keeps us as


lovers loving each other, in the name of love that might be pure
attachment, trying to return to Samsara to each other repeatedly,
thinking it is True Happiness, while evading Nirvana, which is
True Happiness.

All lovers have to part some time in life, in death. Letting go


will not be easy but it will have to be done. Is your love for each
other a process of becoming more and more attached, or more
and more liberated from each other while cherishing each other?
Remember—the only true way we can all stay united as one in
the truest of all love is to become equally liberated Buddhas.

216
JULY 25 | Centre of the Universe

What is in the centre of the universe?


No—not a black hole or a super sun,
or any other heavenly body.

Wherever you are,


whoever you are,
as long as you are unenlightened,
the centre of the universe will always be “you”.

For the entire infinite world “revolves” around


your unenlightened egocentric “self”—
your world of selfishness full of “I”, “me”, “my” and “mine”.
This is the opposite of the selflessness of the enlightened,
who are one and at peace with the unbounded centreless
universe.

In a way, the centre of every Buddha’s universe


is every single sentient being—
the focus point of their infinite compassion.

217
JULY 26 | Why Gratitude?

I was wondering why I have to be grateful for anything at all—


since the blessings I receive I deserve,
in the name of my good karma.
I discovered I didn’t have to feel gratitude—
there is no obligation...

But to feel gratitude to all does good to all.


It makes me treasure the goodness others do for me.
It makes others feel appreciated, motivated to do more good.
It makes no one take anything for granted—
not even your own good karma,
your own goodness that harvested goodness.
It makes goodness a privilege, a treasured gem.
It perpetuates goodness in the world.
It is goodness itself.

The more gratitude you feel,


the more blessed your life is.
Imagine feeling gratitude even to the air, the sun and wind,
your loved ones, your friends, your neighbours, cats and dogs...
A life without gratitude is a punishment instead—
it becomes a miserable life with no heartfelt blessings.

While we feel gratitude for our blessings,


it is a blessing itself to be able to feel gratitude—
for it is the ability to appreciate goodness,
to feel good, to feel goodness,
to want to return goodness, to want to generate goodness,
into this world so scarce of it.

Let us be reminded, to be grateful to all beings,


to the enlightened ones,
for teaching us the path,
to the unenlightened ones,
for letting us have the opportunity to practise the path.

218
JULY 27 | Ladies & Gentlemen

Ladies and gentlemen!


Lend me your ears!

Ladies!
Do not be ladylike!

Gentlemen!
Do not be gentlemanly!

Ladies and gentlemen!


Be Buddha-like!
Be Buddha-ly!

Go beyond all gender pretentiousness—


cultivate “Buddha-ish” etiquette!

219
JULY 28 | Be Centred

When walking, just walk.


When sitting, just sit.
Above all, don’t wobble.

—Zen Master Yunmen

Watch your mind—


if it doesn’t wobble,
your speech and actions won’t either.

Don’t wobble at all—


stay centred in the here and now.

220
JULY 29 | The Lake of Your Mind

The Noble Eightfold Path consists of three aspects,


which can be practised sequentially and/or concurrently.

The first is Moral Conduct.


It is the clearing of the garbage
floating on the surface of the lake of our mind.

The second is Mental Development.


It is the stilling of the lake of our mind.

The third is Wisdom.


It is the looking into the depths of the lake of our mind,
to realise what it is all about—
to clearly see the reality of mind and matter.

221
JULY 30 | Mud Bodhisattva

In wanting to save the world,


remember you are part of it.
In fact, you are the part of the world
most immediate to yourself.

If you cannot even save yourself,


if you do not even start with yourself,
who should you start saving first?

The mud Bodhisattva who crosses the river does not get across.
He needs to toughen himself spiritually,
much more so if he wishes to bring others across suffering,
to the other shore of liberation.

222
JULY 31 | Change

Being Buddhist is simple.


Understand impermanence of everything
and continually change for the better.

223
AUGUST 1 | An Appropriate Statement

A monk asked Zen Master Yunmen,


“What are the teachings of a whole lifetime?”
He replied said, “An appropriate statement.”

Nothing is ever more appropriate


than just the right thing at the right time.

224
AUGUST 2 | Love

False love is selfish—


“I’m so unhappy that you are so happy with someone else,
who is not me!”
Thus is the ordinary being bound.

True love is selfless—


“I’m so happy that you are so happy, even if it is not with me!”
Thus is the enlightened being free.

Where does your love lie?


Somewhere between true and false love?
Work in the right direction...
Let your love grow unconditionally, boundlessly.
Ah... sweet sublime sacred Bodhisattva love!

225
AUGUST 3 | Chains

Is there something that binds you?


Or is the thought that you are bound
that which binds you?

You are not bound by any chains now.


Only your thoughts bind you—
there are no metal chains, only mental ones.

Any mental chains have to be broken,


let go of, by mental effort.

226
AUGUST 4 | Freedom

Samsara, this unceasing cycle of life and death, this struggle, is


about being caught up in a living paradox, a dilemma, a trap.
And Nirvana is about being free from these all.

And true freedom needs not be about being out of Samsara


physically. It also means being able to be truly free in Samsara—just
like the Buddha was like an unstained lotus grown from muddy
water. He was not a heavenly flower that dropped in from the sky.
He had his roots on the same earth as that below our feet—this
very earth that “fouls” us, that also “nourishes” us.

227
AUGUST 5 | Reason

The only reason you are still here


is because you believe
there is a reason to be here.

So why are you still swimming in the sea of Samsara?

Not knowing the reason you are here


is the reason you are here.
This is your fundamental ignorance.

228
AUGUST 6 | Precepts

The first precept’s essence is not merely about not killing—


it is about protecting life,
it is about being as harmless as possible to any being,
both mentally and physically.

Killing happens to be the worst harm you can do.


All the other precepts elaborate upon this precept of non-harm.

229
AUGUST 7 | Embrace Your Karma

In the film “Little Buddha”, there is the opening scene where a


monk tells the story of a priest who sacrificed goats for offerings.
One day, he encountered a goat that laughed. The priest asked
him in shock, “Why are you laughing? You are going to be killed!”
The goat replied that he had been a goat for five hundred lives,
and that in his next birth, he will be human again.

Then the goat cried. And the priest asked, “Why are you in
tears?” The goat replied, “Five hundred lives ago, I was a priest like
you, killing goats for offerings!” Of course, karma does not always
operate so simplistically.

Whenever there is suffering in our lives, we should be happy that


we are clearing our previous “karmic debts”. We should be grateful
and joyful, rather than sad and grumpy. It is much better to clear our
negative karma as humans, than as beings in the lower realms—as we
get to accept the effects of our karma more graciously and mindfully.
This is important because it can lead us to better comprehend the
law of karma, and to transcend it ultimately in liberation.

230
AUGUST 8 | Pure land

If a sentient being lacking spiritual cultivation


can create real hell for oneself out of ignorance,
why can’t a perfect Buddha
create a real Pure Land out of perfect Compassion for all?

Thus, the Pure Lands definitely exist.

231
AUGUST 9 | Wrong

There is only one thing wrong with you—


you can be truly happy, fully enlightened—
but you do not want to be... badly enough.

232
AUGUST 10 | Enjoy

Treading each step on the spiritual path properly


is much more important than reaching the destination fast,
since it is only a matter of time that the path will end.
In fact, only with each step well taken care of,
can we ensure we get home.

In the mean time,


enjoy your great Bodhisattva career here and now!

233
AUGUST 11 | What’s the Point?

What is the point of life


if there is the point of death?

It is death that makes life not pointless.


It is death that makes us reflect,
that brings meaning.

It is the wake-up call—


not to kill yourself,
because you will only return in rebirth,
but to ask, “What do you want to do with your life?”

Death is the great mirror,


in which all of your life reflects in.
What do you see in it?

234
AUGUST 12 | Surprise

Your first glimpse of Truth


will leave you speechless.

First,
because of surprise.

Second,
because words fail to describe it.

Even these words.

235
AUGUST 13 | Sustenance of Realisations

A small realisation is only a seed of awakening sown,


not a flower fully blossomed,
if its lesson is easily forgotten in unmindfulness.

While you condition yourself to have realisations,


condition yourself too,
to have deep realisations,
or realisations that will deepen,
that can change your life for better­—for life;
not just for the spark of the moment.

Rather a blazing realisation that sheds much light,


that can clearly shine forth the path out of the darkness,
than merely sparks that hardly make a steady guiding lamp.

The Buddha’s realisation lasted for life and beyond.


How long did your latest realisation affect you?

You’ll be surprised...
how simply being mindful from moment to moment
can keep the light of your realisation
from flickering or extinguishing.
Be aware, be awake!

With increasingly deep realisations,


be increasingly wakeful, increasingly awake.
And the final realisation will not be far!

236
AUGUST 14 | Laziness

I know what’s bothering me.


I know why it’s troubling me.
I know when it’s disturbing me.
I know I am responsible.

I know all that—which makes it worse!


Makes it really bothering.
Makes it really troubling.
Makes it really disturbing.
I know how to stop all this.
Yet I do not really stop it!

And I know this too—that I lack the effort—


which makes it even worse!
Makes it even more bothering.
Makes it even more troubling.
Makes it even more disturbing....
that I still do not stop it.

Not practising what I had learnt of the Dharma.


Plain plain dead plain laziness.
My fault of faults.
Practise!
Hesitate no more.
Just do It!

237
AUGUST 15 | By the Second

You are dying


now
by the second.

So you had better start living


now
by the second.

238
AUGUST 16 | A Hundred Years Later

In the film “Little Buddha”, a monk was looking thoughtfully at


the evening scenery when he exclaimed, “In less than a hundred
years from now, we will all be gone.”

Whatever we do now—is it worth all the trouble? Where


will what we do now lead us to? Is the anger you have for the
person you hate now going to matter? Is the infatuation you
have going to matter?

What is important and truly substantial at the end of the


day? “The end of the day” being the end of this very short life
of ours. What is more real than walking solid steps towards
Enlightenment? What is more valuable than liberation from
all suffering?

239
AUGUST 17 | Conquering Mountains

How can anyone ever conquer a mountain?


It never meant to be an obstacle,
and you reaching its summit never impressed it.

The mountain remains silent


as the mountaineer yells “Victory!”

The higher the mountain is,


the greater your feeling of victory is,
the higher your mountain of ego is.

Which mountain do you want to conquer?


Which is harder?
Which is more challenging?

240
AUGUST 18 | Alone

The person spiritual


alone
is happy that he can face himself.

The person unspiritual


alone
is unhappy that he “needs” someone or something else.

Being alone is just being alone.


Being lonely is being unhappy about being alone.

241
AUGUST 19 | Spiritual Hero

“I” am the...
unsung, unrecognised, unknown hero
of my own small proud and self-centred world.
Why is it that there are never enough people
who know and appreciate me,
for all I’m worth?

This is so sad—
sadly egoistic!

Buddhas’ and Bodhisattvas’ names


are sung, recognised, known by countless sentient beings.
They are famous, worshipped in fact.
And they did not even seek this kind of “fame” in the first place.

No ego,
No swelling pride.
They are the real heroes—
spiritual heroes who inspire us to be heroes like them.

242
AUGUST 20 | Confession of Faults

Why do you always lament of your inadequacy,


your “un-Buddhistic-ness”?
Could it be that you blame yourself and stop there?
That is incomplete repentance.

Full repentance is—


the deep realisation of the wrong of what was done,
and the deep resolution to never repeat the mistake.

“What I have done with my body,


What I have uttered with my voice,
What I have thought with my mind,
These ten unwholesome deeds I have done.
May I avoid them from here on.
May I practise the ten wholesome deeds.”

—The Sutra of Golden Light

243
AUGUST 21 | Rebirth

Rebirth is about life after death—


it is the promise of a new day, again and again...
which can be hope for us all,
which can be a curse for us all.

Rebirth is the continual struggle of good and evil in us.


Rebirth is good and evil.

Go then!
Beyond good and evil—be pure,
beyond life and death,
to the other shore of Nirvana.

244
AUGUST 22 | Bodhisattva Mother

Guanyin Bodhisattva
does not cling on to the fact
that she is Guanyin.

My Mother
is “being” Guanyin
to me,
by praying to Guanyin
for me...
without thinking she is “being” Guanyin.

Guanyin, my Mother;
My Mother Guanyin;
Guanyin Mother.

245
AUGUST 23 | Scenery

Don’t look at the Dharma through books


like you look at the “scenery of reality” through a window.
The window scene is to give you a glimpse
of the wondrous Truth out there,
it should entice you to join and celebrate
in the reality beyond the window.

Step through the window.


Being at the window all the time is like
gazing out of a prison cell’s window—
only looking out at freedom,
not being free.

246
AUGUST 24 | Sanity

Sheer insanity, sheer madness, is


not seeking greater sanity,
not striving for higher Enlightenment.

247
AUGUST 25 | Mosquito Bite

Scratching
a mosquito bite
is pleasure,
is pain
altogether...
Mini Samsara!

How paradoxical!
Makes me think
that
peace
is neither.

This has been my mini “Nirvana”.

248
AUGUST 26 | Mercy

The Truth is merciless;


so have mercy on yourself—
realise the Truth for yourself,
and be one with it.

249
AUGUST 27 | Pass You By

You are in a car getting somewhere.


You look out of the window
and see the whole world passing by,
as you remain stationary.

No scene, no feeling about any scene


can be hung on to,
yet you relish the moment,
in its the very passing.

The passing scene can be enjoyed best,


when you are not “passing”.
Learn to be still,
centred where you are.

Almost meditation—
driver meditation,
passenger meditation.

250
AUGUST 28 | Setting Free

This setting you free...


has set me this free.

251
AUGUST 29 | Letting Go

Someone once said that all the teachings of Buddhism can be


summarised by one line—“Nothing, whatsoever, should be clung
to.” This is one major teaching that each and every one of us has to
master before we can attain Enlightenment. However, since “nothing,
whatsoever, should be clung to”, even this teaching should not be
clung to. That is to say, we should not cling to “not clinging”. In other
words, let go, and let go of letting go. This is not playing with words.
Neither is it a paradox. It can be done and has to be achieved in
order to attain ultimate freedom.

There are two forms of clinging—that which leads to more


clinging, resulting in swirling in the rounds of Samsara in a vicious
cycle, or clinging that leads to the freedom of non-clinging—like
hanging on to a life-saver, for only long enough. Just ensure any
clinging you have at the moment is of the latter.

252
AUGUST 30 | Success

There was a majestic temple laid with marble flooring. Inside its
hall was a marble Buddha image. One night, the floor asked the
Buddha image, “You and I were made from the same material.
How is it that I’m on the floor, stepped on by humans, and you are
sitting up there being respected?” The Buddha image answered,
“Remember when we were both just two pieces of marble? When
the stone carver was trying to carve you, you complained of the
pain and discomfort it will cause. For me, I was able to take the
pain, and went through the process of being carved and polished.
Hence I became an exquisite statue admired by many, while you,
being afraid of hardship, were laid on the floor.”

We tend to complain of the present situation we are in and


feel jealous of others’ success. Why not ask ourselves, “Are we
willing to undertake the hardship and challenges needed for
success? The ultimate success is the attainment of Enlightenment.
Have we put in the required effort? Let us not grumble about
our present state. We are the karmic results of our very own
(in)actions!

253
AUGUST 31 | One Crucial Realisation

There is one crucial realisation to have


at your deathbed—

Not the realisation that


you are not ready to let go—
but the realisation that
the time is just fine,
that you are ready to go,
to be free,
not just from life or death,
but life and death...
gracefully.

254
SEPTEMBER 1 | Release

Realise this—
such a simple thing
as easing yourself at the loo,
you have to do by yourself.
No one else can do it for you.

Much more you have to do,


by yourself,
to release yourself,
totally,
from all unease.

255
SEPTEMBER 2 | Mind

The way for making anything really happen


is to imagine it happening first.
Reality begins by willing it into existence,
even if subtly,
even if unmindfully.

What do you have on your mind now?


Do not let your imagination run wild—
for your mind is the precedent of reality,
the forerunner of all things good, evil and pure.

256
SEPTEMBER 3 | Being Single

The news article read half-jokingly, “If all else fails, perhaps the
best way to get singles to marry and have babies is to drum into
them the loneliness of being single and childless.” Will it work? I
am a single career woman. Am I afraid of lonely twilight years?
Do I need to worry that I might die enveloped by insecurity and
loneliness? Honestly speaking, I used to. Until I realised what my
supreme teacher, the Lord Buddha, had compassionately and
painstakingly told me, his disciple—that life is uncertain, likened
to a bubble that can burst any moment. I cannot “prevent” the
bubble from bursting. Nor am I able to bring along with me
my beloved ones, be it my spouse or children to my next life.
What is there right here and now that can guarantee I will die
happily with someone by my side? And for that matter, must it
be a husband or my children?

If society were to instill the above fear in me, would it drive me


to get married tomorrow? Can matters of the heart be forced? It
would be pathetic to society, women in particular, to succumb to
such negative intentions. Life is suffering enough to not inject this
extra fear factor. Any mindset of loneliness or happiness cannot
be dictated by someone else. It must be determined by me and
me alone.

What is insecurity in life? The truth is, my short life span should
be what I am mindful about. And this mindfulness continually
inspires me to treasure everyone and everything in my life right
here, right now. It is needless to anticipate or speculate about the
unknown future when I do not even know whether I can live to see
tomorrow. The harsh reality is that I cannot even hold on to this very
moment, which continually slips away.

In the end, would I be happier and more secure with a family? I


honestly do not know. But by cherishing what I have right now, by
appreciating what I have so far, and by focusing on others’ happiness
more, I know for sure that I have nothing to fear.

257
This day is a special day,
It is yours.

Yesterday slipped away.


It cannot be filled with more memory.
About tomorrow, nothing is known.

But this day, today, is yours.


Today, you can make someone happy.
Today, you can help another.

This day is a special day.


It is yours.

—Ancient poem

258
SEPTEMBER 4 | Brakes

Living your life without observing the precepts


is like driving a car without brakes.
It is dangerous to yourself the driver,
and to everyone out there.

Like brakes, the precepts are for control, safety and protection;
they were never meant to restrict or restrain you.
A car without brakes can never come to any good use.
The same goes for a person who has no moral guidelines.

259
SEPTEMBER 5 | True Love

We all look for true love out there,


just like we seek personal Bodhisattvas.
While you might not find true love,
you can always love truly, be a Bodhisattva.

When you love truly, unconditionally,


will you still need the one(s) you love,
to love you unconditionally too?

260
SEPTEMBER 6 | Flinch

Your slight physical and mental flinching


betrays your unease, your “dis-ease”,
whether you are unmindful of it or not.

Your “unflinching-ness” however,


might mean you suppress your unease,
whether you are mindful of it or not.

It is not easy to be unflinching


within and without.
It is about learning to be still,
embracing unease,
not seeing it as unease,
making unease ease,
making peace with all “bugging-ness”.

261
SEPTEMBER 7 | Ignorance

Do not be ignorant
about who or what is right or wrong—
Blame the ignorance, not the ignorant!

262
SEPTEMBER 8 | A Buddhist Management Style

The leader of a group that works together is like a Buddha. He has


to see “all”, be as wise and compassionate as possible, constantly
upgrading himself in these aspects, equipping himself with IQ, EQ
and whatsoever-Q’s, be well-balanced, unbiased... as he is supposed
to be the most enlightened of the team.

His team members are like his proteges—Bodhisattvas (future


Buddhas)—his helping hands through which things happen. And
those who the Bodhisattvas help are of course all other beings, the
beneficiaries of the team’s efforts. All Buddhas train all Bodhisattvas
to become Buddhas. And all Bodhisattvas train all beings to become
Bodhisattvas.

The Buddhas will enter Parinirvana and the Bodhisattvas will


attain Nirvana, which is why other beings will have to take over
their tasks in time. This is spiritual evolution—dynamic management
that is never at a standstill. This is also the working towards the skill
development of all—leadership-training or eventual enlightening
of all beings.

All Buddhas are the best leaders (capable ultimately, of leading


us towards the ultimate goal, which is Enlightenment)—which is
why they can be teachers of humans and gods, leading by perfect
example, not commandingly autocratic, but openly democratic,
though firm in principle. All beings are given the best advice by the
best possible skilful means. This means the Buddhas are blameless.
Thus, for all leaders and would-be-leaders to be blameless, they have
to actively work towards perfecting themselves, working towards
Buddhahood.

263
SEPTEMBER 9 | Conflict

Because there can never be two of you,


expect conflict with anyone else.

But since there is no “you” (as “you” are always changing),


and no “anyone” (as everyone is always changing),
how can you have any conflict with “anyone”?

264
SEPTEMBER 10 | Teacher

The teacher is never at fault—


for everything and everyone good and bad is our teacher.

The good teaches us to be good.


The bad teaches us not to be bad.

The student is always at fault—


for failing to understand
that everything and everyone good and bad is his teacher,
for failing to understand that he is a student
of everything and everyone good and bad.

265
SEPTEMBER 11 | Escapism

Any life that does not takes the effort


to progress spiritually
is worldly escapism.

Any life that does not attempt


to face the reality of life and death,
to escape from life and death,
is spiritual escapism.

266
SEPTEMBER 12 | Be Blameless

All the Buddhas have already given you


all the teachings about Enlightenment.
The fact that you are still unenlightened
is entirely your own misgiving.
There is absolutely no one else to blame.

But don’t keep blaming yourself;


become blameless instead...
by relentlessly becoming more and more enlightened...
until you become fully enlightened.

267
SEPTEMBER 13 | Nose

How do you know


whether you smell that which is before your nose,
when you could be merely smelling your own nose?

Whatever smell your nose smells,


reeks of the smell(iness) of your own nose.

Thus, one who truly knows smells in themselves


must first truly know one’s nose in itself.

268
SEPTEMBER 14 | Truth Hurts?

The Truth hurts,


sometimes.
But it only hurts you
as much as you refuse to accept it.

Not seeing the problem,


of not facing the Truth,
that you have a tooth decaying away,
will only cause you more pain.

269
SEPTEMBER 15 | Procrastination

One of these days


is
none of these days.

One of these days


is
your last day.

Today
is
your last day?

270
SEPTEMBER 16 | What Truth?

What Truth do you seek...


when you lie?

Everyday,
You smile and say “yes” to an invitation you do not want.
You say “no” to a piece of cake which you want.
You cower when something wrong is going on.
You dare not speak up,
and so on and on...

271
SEPTEMBER 17 | Be Better

We are seldom as good as we think we are.


No matter how good we reckon ourselves to be,
we can always be better.

However,
we are seldom as evil as we think we are.
No matter how evil we reckon ourselves to be,
we can always be better.

In the mean time,


others are seldom as evil as we think they are;
they are usually better than we think,
though like us,
they can always be better too.

272
SEPTEMBER 18 | Self-Entitlement

You are fully entitled to your numerous personal delusions.


But you are also fully entitled to the one impersonal Truth,
which necessarily uncovers the truths about your delusions.

We choose our entitlement by ourselves.


This is the meaning of self-reliance.

273
SEPTEMBER 19 | Quarrel

Knowing that we all will die one day,


will you still quarrel?

—Dhammapada (The Buddha)

Knowing that we all will die one day,


will you still bear a grudge?
will you still not forgive and forget?

274
SEPTEMBER 20 | Light

There are three ways of spreading the light of Truth.

One is to be a candle.
One is to be the mirror reflecting it.
One is to share your light with other candles.

275
SEPTEMBER 21 | Boring

There is essentially nothing out there,


or here,
that is boring.

There are no boring times and places,


no boring people,
no boring books,
no boring movies,
no boring songs,
and no boring poems...
not even this one,
no matter how dry this might seem.

There is only the bored state of mind –


that fails to mindfully appreciate,
to enjoy...
this moment,
no matter what it presents.

The bored mind yearns to get away,


to an ever elusive better time and place,
that is always somewhere else,
that is always “missing” here.

Don’t kill boredom.


Don’t kill time.
Don’t kill the moments of your life.
Realise the richness of now—NOW.

276
SEPTEMBER 22 | You Are Responsible

Who is responsible for all the suffering


of all the people in the world?
You are.

If you do not take responsibility,


and neither does your neighbour,
nor your neighbour’s neighbours,
then is it no one’s responsibility?

It is useless to keep pointing fingers at the rest of the world


when the rest of the world
simply point their fingers at the rest of the world.

The point is then,


to point inwards,
to point at ourselves.

You are responsible


for not relieving suffering (including yours).
You are responsible
for not being a Bodhisattva fast enough
to be able to help all beings fast enough.

Yes—no doubt about it.


It’s all your fault!
Nobody else’s!

But of course,
by that,
I mean...
it is entirely MY fault—
not yours—at all...

if you know what I mean.

277
SEPTEMBER 23 | Law

Do not confuse the law of impermanence


with the law
that this law is permanent.

It is permanent—
it applies to you,
as long as you are not above the law—
not enlightened.

278
SEPTEMBER 24 | Open-Mindedness

We tend to think that being open-minded is about being open to


the possibility that something we disbelieve is true. That is only half
of the picture; being open-minded also means being open to the
possibility that something we believe is false.

The Truth is that we tend to believe what we want to believe.


And as long as we merely want to believe something to be the
Truth, we will never know the Truth.

You can choose to believe your ex-lover left you because you
were too good for her. But it is just a belief; the truth might be that
you were not good enough for her. And because it might hurt you
to ask, and that she might hurt you in telling you, you will never
know the truth. Yet it is an assumption that you will be hurt—an
assumption that the truth will not set you free, when your false
belief keeps you prisoner from reality.

When we speak of seeking spiritual Truth, it is not about a vague


mystical concept that explains everything. It is about discovering
aspects of reality in everyday life, such that one lives in greater and
greater light of clarity, such that one becomes more and more down
to earth in a non-mystical way.

The day we are so down to earth that we are rooted in the here
and now, is the day we awaken to all truths that already lie naked
before us, another collective name for which, is “the Truth”.

279
SEPTEMBER 25 | Letting Go

By plucking a flower,
you do not grasp its beauty.

By clinging,
you do not get.

By letting go of everything,
what of this world is not already “yours”?

280
SEPTEMBER 26 | Freedom of Choice

We either go with the choice we want or against it.


Either way, we still actively choose,
and are thus responsible for all choices we make.

Even not making a choice is actively choosing to be passive—


for better or for worse.

Which is your real choice?


Unhappiness (suffering), happiness (worldly happiness)
or True Happiness (Enlightenment)? 

Why aren’t you really working towards it?


Is it your real choice after all?

281
SEPTEMBER 27 | Liberation

Tao-Hsin came to Seng-Ts’an and asked,


“What is the method of liberation?”
“Who binds you?” replied Seng-Ts’an.
“No one binds me.”
“Why then”, asked Seng-Ts’an, “should you seek liberation?”
And this was Tao-hsin’s awakening.

What is yours?

282
SEPTEMBER 28 | Trying 

A Zen saying says,


“When the Mind TRIES, the consciousness flickers.”

Yoda, the Jedi Master from “Star Wars” says,


“Do or not do—there is no TRY.”

Morpheus, Neo’s trainer in “The Matrix” says,


“Stop TRYING to hit me and hit me!”

Stonepeace says,
“Hold something and TRY to drop it. Can you?”
“TRY not to think about a blue dog. Can you?”

Zeph says,
“TRYING is the uncertainty,
the fickleness of the heart,
the half-heartedness of intention.

No one became enlightened by trying.


You have to be wholehearted to attain it.”

283
SEPTEMBER 29 | Make & Break

It is a happy heart that breaks, a sad one that heals.


Make and break, break and make.
Your “happiness” might not be True Happiness after all.
But neither is your sadness true.

What do you make of it all then?


Break free from “making and breaking”!
That is True Happiness, real peace.

284
SEPTEMBER 30 | Deaf Ears

“Don’t listen to the tone of my voice!


Just hear my message!”
Inevitably, these words fell on deaf ears.

“Your tone is too harsh, too deafening


for me to hear your message!”
Inevitably, these words fell on deaf ears.

The moment we hold a one-sided mirror to show others


their reflections,
is the moment we fail to use it to reflect upon ourselves.

Let us use our mirror of mindfulness wisely,


to be more mindful of our rights and wrongs than others’.

The Dharma is like a mirror—


for reflecting upon ourselves more than upon others.

285
OCTOBER 1 | The Laughing Buddha

Zen master Hotei is sometimes known as “The Laughing Buddha”.


He used to walk the streets with a big bag into which he puts candy,
fruits and other goodies, generously giving them to children who gather
around him—somewhat like a Buddhist Santa Claus!

Once, another Zen master inquired, “(1) What is the significance


of Zen?” Hotei immediately plopped his sack onto the ground. “(2)
What is the actualisation of Zen?” At once, he swung the bag over
his shoulder and continued on his way.

An interpretation of Hotei’s answers—(1) The significance of Zen


is letting go off all worldly burdens and be free without question
(save oneself ). (2) The actualisation of Zen is to pick up the burden
of helping the world be free without question (save others).

286
OCTOBER 2 | Wonderful Karma

You can have wonderful things


happen to you by creating wonderful karma—
by bringing wonder to others,
especially the most wonderful Dharma.

287
OCTOBER 3 | Buttons and the Six Perfections

A good Bodhisattva does not take “himself” seriously—because he


realised he has no self. You can push his buttons all the way—and
he stays cool. He takes it in good nature—because he realised his
empty nature. In fact, he has no real buttons at all, and he helps
others understand they have none too. An unenlightened being
takes himself too seriously—as if he has a real self to protect
from the rest of the world. You need only gently nudge a button
or two—and he loses his cool. He takes it personally—because
he had yet to realise non-self.

We are somewhere in between. We are beings trying to realise


the ultimate reality of the ultimate unreality—of us and our
buttons. This is cultivating Wisdom. We are trying to be button-
free, practising to react less and less easily, by the button-pushing
“other” beings. This is cultivating Patience (Forbearance).

And in practising, we push less buttons of others, especially as


part of our practice of refraining from reacting from button-pushers
pushing our buttons. This is cultivating Morality (Precepts). When we
know what buttons pushed bring happiness to others, even if it is
only relative happiness (not absolute), we practise pushing them, to
bring them happiness, to urge them towards True Happiness. This
is cultivating Generosity (Giving). 

And even if others do not respond to our kindness kindly, we


carry on our practice relentlessly, no matter how hard others’ right
buttons are to push. This is cultivating Energy (Effort). But at the end
of the day, there has to be some inner practice, looking within to
realise the Wisdom of selflessness, of the buttonlessness of all. This
is practising Meditation.

288
OCTOBER 4 | Versed in the Dharma

One is not versed in Dharma


because he speaks much (of the Dharma or otherwise).
He who, after hearing a little Dharma,
realises its Truth directly
and is not heedless of it,
is truly versed in the Dharma.

—Dhammapada (The Buddha)

That was a verse of the Dharma.


Are you well-versed in that aspect of the Dharma?

289
OCTOBER 5 | Wave-Rider

From here, he tries to ride and surf on waves,


towards the other shore of True Happiness...
which quickly crash, bringing him back to square one.

But he wades out again and again, to ride the waves.


But the higher they are, the harder they crash.

This is the common man’s ups and downs of emotional


happiness,
while the wise one relaxes on the shore,
knowing True Happiness is not attained
through emotional waves of high,
knowing that the other shore of liberation is to be reached
by a change of mind, via mental cultivation.

290
OCTOBER 6 | Steal

Robbers can only rob what is not “you” or yours.


How can he steal “you” from you?                      
How can anyone steal anything that is truly yours?
What is truly “you” or yours?

291
OCTOBER 7 | Is There Something Wrong?

There is an easy way to discover


if there is something wrong with your spiritual practice—
Ask yourself and others,
“Am I becoming a wiser and kinder person?”
If the answer is no, or if you are unsure of the answer,
there is something wrong—practise harder.

If you think you are becoming better but others do not,


or vice versa,
there is still something wrong—practise harder.

Ask whether your Wisdom and Compassion is good enough


for one and all, just as the Buddha’s was.
In this way, make peace with yourself and the world.
In the end, you are only asking and answering yourself,
your Buddha-nature.

292
OCTOBER 8 | The First Existential Question

When we begin questioning about our existence,


perhaps the question to begin with is—
“Do we exist at all in the first place?”

Our existential crisis,


or suffering from not understanding our existence,
begins from grasping to the illusion that we exist in a solid way.

What are we...


but a collection of shifting feelings, perceptions,
mental formations and consciousnesses...
in a body of constantly changing elements?

If there is no real self, who is the questioner?

293
OCTOBER 9 | Home Sweet Home

Our real home is not a fixed place;


It is wherever and whenever you feel at ease.
Why delay coming home?
Why not feel “home sweet home” here and now?

294
OCTOBER 10 | Imprints

Seeking traces of the mind


is like looking for footprints of birds flying in the sky.

They cannot be found,


though intangible karmic imprints exist.

Likewise, when we pass through life,


may we leave no unnecessary traces,
no trails of mental or physical destruction;
but only good karmic imprints.

295
OCTOBER 11 | Uncertainty

I am sometimes as sure...
that today is my last day...
as you are sure it is not yours.
Who is the fool?

296
OCTOBER 12 | Why Buddhas are Still Bodhisattvas

It is sometimes said that Manjusri Bodhisattva, being the


personification of the perfect Wisdom energy of all Buddhas, is
actually an ancient Buddha—in the sense that he had already attained
perfect Enlightenment many aeons ago. However, out of great
Compassion, like countless other Buddhas, he chose to re-manifest
as a Bodhisattva to help other beings attain Enlightenment. The
following is a short adapted dialogue that shows his Compassion
and Wisdom.

Disciple: Dear Manjusri Bodhisattva, it is said that you are in Truth


a Buddha already, aeons ago. Why then, are you still a
Bodhisattva now, aeons later?
Manjusri: Dear disciple, how many more times do you have to ask
this question?

Where’s the punch line? Are we not sometimes like this disciple?
Do we not keep asking irrelevant questions that keep us from
attaining Enlightenment? Maybe the disciple had asked the same
question time and again life after life—which shows his ignorance,
not being on the right track to Enlightenment. Manjusri Bodhisattva
answers in the form of a question—which shows that it is out of
Compassion that he chose to manifest as a Bodhisattva, for as long
as it takes, as long as we ask the wrong questions, to guide us onto
the right path to Enlightenment!

297
OCTOBER 13 | Heat of Anger

Holding on to anger is like grasping hot coal


with the intention of throwing it at someone else.

You are the first to get burnt.


And you might miss the person it was intended for.

If you hit him,


he might hurl another piece at you,
and it goes on endlessly.

What stupidity!

298
OCTOBER 14 | Birthright

Why do you want anything less than Enlightenment,


when it is your birthright to go beyond birth and death?

Then again, it is also your birthright not to do so.


Have you not exercised this right in this way
for too many lifetimes already?

Then again, it is also your birthright to carry on doing so.

299
OCTOBER 15 | The Key Difference

The total amount of happiness


that exists in the world has come from
wanting to make others happy.

The total amount of suffering


that exists in the world has come from
wanting to make yourself (alone) happy.

What need is there for many words?


The children of the world work for their own sake;
the enlightened ones do their labour for the sake of others.

Come and see the difference.

—Shantideva (A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life)

Come and make the difference!

300
OCTOBER 16 | Refuge

True refuge
is taken in the Triple Gem
from moment to moment,
every moment.

The refuge ceremony
we go through
merely marks the moment
it wholeheartedly and formally begins.

301
OCTOBER 17 | Gratitude to the Buddhas

What is “Gratitude to the Buddhas”?


It is repaying their immeasurable kindness
by helping to fulfil their only wish—
by becoming Buddhas like them,
freeing ourselves of suffering,
and helping others do the same.

It is all the Buddhas ever wish of us.

302
OCTOBER 18 | Discipline

An undisciplined state of mind gives rise to delusions


which propel one into negative actions,
which create the negative environment in which he lives,
which might not encourage disciplining of the mind.

It is a vicious cycle—
only to be stopped by first disciplining the mind.

303
OCTOBER 19 | Moment

Treasure everything you have in the moment,


because it is only here in the moment.

Be unattached to everything you have in the moment,


because it is only here in the moment.

Balance these in the moment


and you are on the Middle Path in the moment.

304
OCTOBER 20 | Just See

The Truth cannot be conceived.


It can only be experienced.
Do not think you can think of the Truth.
All you can do is see it.

The Buddha did not imagine or concoct the Truth;


He saw it.

Thus, in meditation,
do not think, just see.
Meditation in the end, is just two things—
stilling your mind so that you can look at it so clearly,
that you realise the naked Truth about everything.

Once you think about the Truth,


it is just a thought about it,
not Truth itself.

When you seek Truth like a thing,


all you get are traces of it,
but not it.

305
OCTOBER 21 | Karma

Someone said,
“Your karma is your Dharma.”

How true.

All we can learn from is what we “involuntarily” experience,


and what we voluntarily experience...
karmically.

Your karma is your best teacher.

306
OCTOBER 22 | Retrospection

To know what you want to have achieved


by the end of this life,
do some introspection and “retrospection”.

What do you want to have on your mind on your deathbed?

Any last wishes?


Why not fulfil them now?

Any last regrets?


Why not resolve them now?

Time is not on our side.


We are running out of it.

307
OCTOBER 23 | Desire

Any desire that leads


to undesirable effects
or to more desires
is undesirable.

The only “desire” that leads


to the totally desirable,
to the end of all desires,
is the aspiration for Enlightenment.

And even that has to be let go of in good time,


for Enlightenment to be attained.

308
OCTOBER 24 | Dedication

Throughout our countless lifetimes in the past,


we have been born as each others’ parents, children,
brothers and sisters...
May we remember that we are family,
interdependent on each other
for our collective happiness and well being.

May we happily take care of our one big family.


May we learn to love each other boundlessly,
just as a Mother loves her only child.
May Loving-kindness to all bring happiness to all.

309
OCTOBER 25 | Nature

The ground you fall upon


is hard not to punish you.

The ground that supports you,


as you lift yourself up
is hard not to help you.

The resistance in the air


is not there to slow down your flight.

The resistance in the air


is necessary for you to fly.

Nothing in nature is out to punish or help you.


You decide what it does to you.
You decide what to do with it.

310
OCTOBER 26 | Emptiness

Emptiness refers to all mind and matter being empty


of any inherent unchanging characteristics;
it does not imply the non-existence of everything.

Emptiness affirms the existence of existence;


Emptiness negates the existence of self-nature.
Emptiness encompasses these two Truths.
The Middle Path is in the centre.

311
OCTOBER 27 | Mind Over Matter

You are nothing but mind and matter.


But “mind over matter”.

The matter might be unwell,


but the mind should never be.

The body can be sick,


but the mind should not be.
In fact, a healthy strong mind can help heal a sick or weak body.

But even so, life will end,


and rebirth will begin...
in time...
as long as unenlightened.

312
OCTOBER 28 | Life & Death

Sometimes we forget
that life and death
is a matter of life and death.

It is so much more serious than we can ever imagine.

We are not talking about one life and one death at its end;
We are talking about countless lives and deaths from rebirths.

313
OCTOBER 29 | ing

If you look carefully,


there is no solid unchanging waterfall;
there is only water falling away.

If you look carefully,


there is no solid unchanging river;
there is only water “rivering” away.

If you look carefully,


there is no solid unchanging reader;
there is only the reading.

There is thinking without a thinker.


There is speaking without a speaker.
There is action without a doer.
There is becoming without a being.

Realise this and be free.

314
OCTOBER 30 | Laugh

If you can laugh at yourself,


there is some possibility of Enlightenment.

Take yourself seriously, yes,


but don’t take your “self” seriously.
Because “self” is an illusion,
a joke, a trick that we play on ourselves,
that we have not been catching all this time.

Feel amusement at your “self”


when your realise non-self.

Thus the Zen masters guffaw away—


it is catching the obvious but missed joke—
the joke that we are “real” and fixed.
What joy in catching the joke!

315
OCTOBER 31 | Perception

Be careful of how you perceive,


of how you interpret the world.
Because your world is exactly the way you want to perceive it!

The world is your perception.


You personally endorse
each and every one of your delusional perceptions.
You live and die by them!

316
NOVEMBER 1 | First Thought

The first thought is the best thought.


It is the second thought that taints it.

The first thought is like the camera


that snaps an objective picture of the scenery.
The second thought is the unnecessary commentary
on the beauty or ugliness of the picture taken.

The scenery, your experiences,


are just as they are,
neither beautiful nor ugly.
It is our judgement based on attachment and aversion
that spoils every picture we see.

317
NOVEMBER 2 | Path

Student: Show me the way to Enlightenment.


Master: Do you hear the trickling stream?
Student: Yes.
Master: Enter there.

The path starts from awareness—


mindfulness of the here and now!

318
NOVEMBER 3 | Change

People are always changing—


how can anyone be yours to have and hold forever?

We can only love in the moment.


We can only “seize” the moment.

But do not be misled…


this moment is also not for you to have and hold forever.
It slips right through your hands
like sand falling through clasped hands.

If the passing is going to happen whether you like it or not,


why not learn to enjoy it?
Enjoy change,
learn to be one with change.
Enjoy love in the moment.

319
NOVEMBER 4 | Getting it Right Fast

One word—to a wise man;


One lash—to a bright horse.

How many words or lashes do you need?


Aren’t these enough already?

320
NOVEMBER 5 | Birth

The most important task


after attaining the precious human rebirth,
which is ideal for progressing towards Enlightenment,
is to ensure the precious human rebirth,
or a better birth,
can be re-attained—
as long as we are not yet enlightened.

The cause of urgency


is the fleeting nature of life,
the unpredictable but impending arrival of death.

321
NOVEMBER 6 | Nature

All things flow freely in nature­—


not unlike the waters in the rivers,
the fishes swimming in the waters.
Even storms come and go freely, unimpeded.
Nature is at ease with all, naturally.

To be enlightened is to become natural,


to become at ease with everything,
to resist nothing in the world, but not feel hurt,
to embrace everything in the world, but not feel attached.
to flow unimpeded, free.

322
NOVEMBER 7 | Sound

I asked a friend,
“When a tree falls in a forest,
and no one is there to hear it,
does it make a sound?”

He replied,
“There was a sound
when I was thinking of the question.”

I replied,
“I just said there is no one there to hear it,
why did you put yourself there?”

Sound is defined by the hearer.


It is the vibration of air in your ear, in your mind,
that gives rise to hearing.

Reality is “defined” by its experiencer.


Delusion is “shaped” by its experiencer.

323
NOVEMBER 8 | Eye

One should not consider the faults of others,


nor their doing or not doing of good or bad deeds.
One should consider only
whether one has done or not done good or bad deeds.

—Dhammapada (The Buddha)

The eye that sees


does not see
that eye which sees.

The eye that sees


others’ faults and blindspots,
in this sense,
is too at fault.
It is too, a personal blindspot.

324
NOVEMBER 9 | Truth

If you spend most of your life,


lying to yourself and others,
your life is basically a lie,
self-deception­—
not a true life,
not truly living.

It is the sustenance of delusion,


that only propels you into greater delusion.

But the moment you snap out of it,


you seek the Truth,
you become true to yourself
and your whole life turns around.

The Truth is always there—


you only need to turn around.

325
NOVEMBER 10 | See the Buddha

Some friends have visions or dreams of the Buddha,


where he is all magnificent,
smiling, beckoning…

But what would you do if you see the Buddha in person?


After bowing, paying respects?
Do you just gaze on in a daze of amazement?
Do you just bask in his glory?

Truth is,
if you do not ask for the Dharma,
you are not a true Buddhist, not a Truth-seeker;
you are merely a Buddha worshipper.

326
NOVEMBER 11 | Black & White

Most things are within the infinite spectrum of grey;


they are neither black nor white.

But it is our duty to discern


whether there is more white or black
in each shade of grey we see,
and to avoid the blacker grey best we can,
if we cannot whiten it after trying our best.

327
NOVEMBER 12 | Precepts

Why is it important to receive the precepts? Does it make any


difference? If you have not taken the precepts and “break” them, is
it okay to think, “Luckily, since I did not take the precepts, I did not
break any!” Does it imply you have not done any wrong?

The law of karma applies to everyone—whether one has taken


the precepts or not. There is advantage for those who have taken
the five precepts, as they know the need to repent if they break
any. In fact, it helps to dilute the ill effects of negative karma to
a greater extent, while acting as a reminder to exercise greater
mindfulness in thought, speech and deed.

328
NOVEMBER 13 | Enlightenment

Anything you pursue


that is not geared to the Enlightenment of one and all,
be it directly or indirectly,
is an utter waste of time.

Even so,
avoid taking the indirect path,
unless you are sure it does lead the right way,
eventually,
and fast enough.

329
NOVEMBER 14 | Solace

Must solace only be found in something unchanging,


since everything is changing?

Abide in constant change,


be mindful of impermanence.

This shall be your solace too,


till you abide so well
that you fully understand and transcend change.

330
NOVEMBER 15 | Smile

Behold!
And hold—
the Buddha’s smile!

Smile as the Buddha would—


on your face and in your heart.
Visualise how he thinks and feels.

Perfect this art


and you will be a real smiling Buddha in good time,
as you learn to embody his Compassion and Wisdom too.

331
NOVEMBER 16 | Truth

In seeking the Truth,


do not imagine it is something out there to be found.
It is not a ray of light from the heavens that hits you suddenly.

The discovery of the Truth


is the discovery that you are part of it.
It is the discovery that the Truth is everything,
including yourself.

It is the discovery that you are but an embodiment


of the Three Universal Characteristics.
You are physically and mentally impermanent.
You are existentially dissatisfied due to lack of Enlightenment.
You have no substantial self.

The more deeply you discover this,


the more in line with Truth you are,
the more enlightened you become.

332
NOVEMBER 17 | Wind

Sometimes the wind speaks to me.


I am the wind when it speaks to me.

As I am walking,
no longer do I know time.
For the sound sounds the same
as it has always been.

Oh!
What bliss!
Self—
No more.
Time—
Don’t know!

Only Truth, Truth, Truth.

333
NOVEMBER 18 | Lust

There is no desire in the world as powerful


as that of for sex (“combined” sensual pleasures).
If there was one more such desire in this world,
it would be impossible for anyone to cultivate the path.

—The Sutra of 42 Sections (The Buddha)

There is nothing like lust.


Lust may be said to be the most powerful passion.
Fortunately, we have but one thing which is more powerful.
If the thirst for Truth were weaker than passion,
how many of us in the world
would be able to follow the way of righteousness?

—Alternative translation

Are you lustful?


It can be subtle,
but enough,
to impede your spiritual progress,
to keep you bound to life and death.

334
NOVEMBER 19 | Dear Ma

I regret being born the way I was. I can almost imagine myself as a
baby just out of your womb, howling and screaming like the whole
wide world owes me much. It’s so sick that I came crying madly,
even though I don’t remember. I regret having been a bad baby,
kicking around wildly when still within you. I have no one to blame,
I got myself into the prison of the womb. I got myself born into the
prison of this world of suffering. No one owes me anything.

I am indebted to this world. Forgive me, Ma, for the shameless


crying. I was not used to this world, even though I came into it the
same way countless times. I was never used to being reborn, in
Samsara. From what I know, Prince Siddhartha (the then Buddha-
to-be) arrived without tears. He came into this world not to trouble
anybody; he came to save the world from its troubles.

I will be brave. And one day, I will return—without tears,


like him.

335
NOVEMBER 20 | Interbeing

The dead cow lying in India is rotting.


It “exhales” carbon dioxide,
which drifts to your country,
where it is “inhaled” by the trees,
which “exhales” oxygen,
which is mixed with the air,
which is drawn in by the air-conditioner into your office,
which is breathed in by you.

Where does the cow or you begin or end?


Are you not the cow too?
In this way and so many more ways,
we are interconnected to everything.

We exist interdependently;
we are dependently-originated and sustained.
We do not exist independently.

336
NOVEMBER 21 | Love

What is the difference between the two relationships?

1. Deep friendship between two best friends


2. Love between two lovers

Other than a mix of physical attachment (including lust) and mental


attachment? Can’t friends be just as committed to each other
as lovers are?

If you are unsure,


it is time to reflect
on the meaning of spiritual love,
on the meaning of spiritual friendship,
on the meaning of worldly love,
on the meaning of worldly friendship.

337
NOVEMBER 22 | BlessingS

If we go to Sangha members for blessings,


to whom do they go to for blessings?
To the Buddha?
Then to whom does the Buddha go for blessings?

Blessings ultimately, are best self-created,


through practice of the Dharma.

338
NOVEMBER 23 | So Close

Some say the Buddha did not merely smile


when he attained Nirvana—
He laughed.
Because the Truth is so near,
yet he had seeked it too far away.

It is already here now,


all around us not unlike the way the air is.
We just have to be mindful enough to discover it.

339
NOVEMBER 24 | Fundamental Questions

Who are you?


What are you doing?
Where are you going?
Why?
How are you getting there?
When?

How many times have these questions surfaced?


How many times have you brushed them aside?

Miss the fundamental questions


and you miss the point of being human,
the chance to answer them, to awaken.
Miss them and you will miss Enlightenment.

340
NOVEMBER 25 | Purpose of Living

As yet,
I live not because I have found my purpose of living.
I live in order to find it.

As long as it is not found,


I am not truly alive...

How about you, my friend?


Are you now just living or truly alive?
Or had my remark just brought you new life?

341
NOVEMBER 26 | Prophecy

We are our own self-fulfilling prophecies.


We are what we believe we are,
with all our imagined limits—
till proven wrong.
This is the limited power of our delusion.

We are our own self-fulfilling prophecies.


We are what we believe we are,
with our perfect Buddha-nature,
till proven right.
This is the unlimited power of our innate Wisdom and potential.

342
NOVEMBER 27 | Middle Path

Blow and you can extinguish a fire.


Blow and you can stir up a fire.

Everything we do is like the blowing—


a double-edged sword that can cut both ways.
For better or worse,
it is entirely up to you.

Too much or too little of an action


and its intended results can become the opposite.

Walk the Middle Path.

343
NOVEMBER 28 | Justice

Karma will deliver justice, yes,


eventually, with or without you.
But sometimes, justice can be delivered through you too.

Have confidence in karmic justice then,


and have the right sense of justice—
for delivering justice with Compassion and Wisdom
is the way of the Bodhisattva.

344
NOVEMBER 29 | Creativity

The use of ingenious skilful means to help sentient beings


is the way of the Bodhisattva.

It is spiritual creativity—
the realisation that as many kinds of delusions there are,
there are as many means appropriate to eradicate them.

It is the implementation of Wisdom with Compassion,


the manifestation of Wisdom with Compassion.

Think in the box, out of the box, and without the box.
You can be spiritually creative too.

345
NOVEMBER 30 | Fill in the Blanks

In this space,
pen your personal realisation:

346
DECEMBER 1 | No Prejudice

If you find Truth,


in any religion, philosophy, science or whatsoever,
accept that Truth
without any prejudice.

Truth is after all universal, all over the place,


though in bits and pieces at times,
disguised, hidden here and there,
not unlike traces of gold mixed with impure minerals.

Use Wisdom to distil for more Wisdom.

347
DECEMBER 2 | Good & Evil

In avoiding evil,
the aversion to evil is itself evil (not good).

In doing good,
the attachment to good is itself not good (evil).

The line that defines good and evil is fine.


It is the Middle Path of balance beyond extremes.

348
DECEMBER 3 | Heed This

Heedfulness is the path to the deathless.


Heedlessness is the path to death.
The heedful die not.
The heedless are as if dead already.

—Dhammapada (The Buddha)

Are you fully alive?


Or are you the walking dead?
Or are you waking up?

Heedfulness happens only here and now.


It is mindfulness of the here and now,
mindfulness of its preciousness.

Welcome to here.
Welcome to now.
Welcome to your life.

349
DECEMBER 4 | Mind Garden

Two people are waiting for a late bus.


One is frustrated,
while the other takes it easy.
Thus, the real source of frustration cannot be the bus.

Is there an evil bus-driver out there to be angry at?


The seed of anger lies within.
The “late buses of life” are only conditions which ripen our anger.
In the end, it is you who cause your state of mind.

The causes of (un)happiness are within your mind.


Take care of your mind then.
It is a garden—
you decide what seeds to plant and nurture.

350
DECEMBER 5 | Perception

We do not run on reality,


but on our perception of reality—
which is delusional to some extent.

As long as you have failed in your judgement even once,


why should you ever trust your perception fully?

If you keep running on perception,


you keep running away from reality.

The only way to perceive the delusion of your perception


is to gain Wisdom—
to learn to see things exactly as they are.

It is an inward reflection—
learn to look at your thoughts.
Seeing how perceptions rise,
and how they fall away,
Wisdom arises.

351
DECEMBER 6 | Retaliation

The worse of the two


is he who, when abused, retaliates.
One who does not retaliate
wins a battle hard to win.

—Samyutta Nikaya (The Buddha)

In retaliating,
you would had become like the abuser.
And it becomes a lose-lose situation.

So do you let yourself be bullied?


No.
Stand up for the Truth,
defend with the Truth,
with Compassion and Wisdom.
With nothing more or less.

352
DECEMBER 7 | Have a Good Time

“Having a good time—


wish you were here!”
So reads the postcard sent to you by a friend on holiday.

Here’s mine to you—

“Have a good time.


Do not wish you were there.
Be here, wherever you are—
because you are not anywhere else!
All you have here and now
is this here and now.”

353
DECEMBER 8 | It is Time

I think it is time
to face yourself again.

But please do not mistaken me...


I’m not talking about “now” alone.

Because
it is always time
to face yourself.

354
DECEMBER 9 | Hell

Going through “hell” now


is not going to hell forever.
We only pass through.

Terrible as it might be,


it is only part of the long learning process;
the long but “needed” detour taken
on the way to Enlightenment.

Your personal hell is not a personal punishment;


it is an urgent wake-up call.
It is spiritual training—
which is only as tough as it is necessary for you,
in the name of your personal karma.

355
DECEMBER 10 | Mistakes

Two mistakes one might make along the way to


Enlightenment—

Not starting now,


as if there is a better time,
as if there is plenty of time.

Not going all the way,


as if there is a better goal elsewhere,
as if it is better to give up.

356
DECEMBER 11 | Delusion

The Truth you know is only as real


as your delusions allow it to be—
just as the full moon is only as bright
as the dark clouds hiding it allow it to shine.

It is only either this or that—


Do you want more light of the Truth,
or do you prefer the darkness of ignorance?

We make this choice all the time—


from moment to moment.

357
DECEMBER 12 | Truth Within Oneself

If you do not expect


to find the Truth where you are,
where do you expect to find it?

The more you search for the Truth outside yourself,


the “further” you get.
If Truth can be found outside of oneself,
the richest and strongest would have gathered it by now.

The Truth cannot be out there,


because your delusions which cloud the Truth is within.
All you have to do is to look within,
clear your delusions,
and there the Truth is!

358
DECEMBER 13 | Everyone Everywhere

Anything anyone does anywhere


affects everything everywhere.

Things derive their nature by mutual dependence


from each other,
and are nothing in themselves.

One person is nothing in himself


because his existence is supported by the whole world,
yet he too alone can destroy much of the whole world.

The world’s existence depends on everyone.


Everyone plays a part.
What part do you play?

359
DECEMBER 14 | Share

Sharing a joy is a happiness doubled, not divided.


It is a win-win situation.
Share then—why not?
Nothing to lose—other than selfishness!

360
DECEMBER 15 | Evil

There are no evil people—


the real evil is the ignorance within our minds,
which makes us think there are evil people out there,
which makes us not realise that the real evil
is the ignorance within our minds.

It is this collective evil within our minds,


that manifests as all the various forms of evil we see in our world.

Thus, it is collective mental purification


that will save the world from evil.

361
DECEMBER 16 | Die Young

How do you train yourself to truly live your life?

Train your “self” to die


before your actual death.

With the death of the egoistic self,


comes freedom in this very life.

362
DECEMBER 17 | Hidden Reality

Buddha images conceal the real Buddha.


Do you see Enlightenment embodied
in the magnificence of the Buddha’s “body”?

Scriptures conceal the real Dharma.


Do you see beyond the finger (of teachings)
that points at the moon (of Truth)?

Robes conceal the real Sangha.


Do you see the Truth
in their noble intentions, speech and actions?

The true Triple Gem is beyond form.

363
DECEMBER 18 | The Gift of Truth

The gift of food is useful only till hunger returns.


The gift of clothes is useful only till they are torn.
The gift of a house is useful only till it is dilapidated.
The gift of medicine only delays sickness and death.

But the gift of the Dharma protects a person


throughout his rebirths—
it even helps him break free from rebirth altogether.

364
DECEMBER 19 | Meaningfulness

Life is meaningless
in the sense that there is no obligatory purpose in life.

Death is meaningless
in the sense that there is no specific purpose in death.

This means that


the only meaningful thing to do,
is to get out of life and death,
out of the cycle of rebirth,
to advance towards Enlightenment.

Only when we are liberated


can we most effectively help to liberate other beings.

365
DECEMBER 20 | Estimation

Do not underestimate your ability—


you can be nothing less than a perfect Buddha.

Do not overestimate your ability—


you are but an unenlightened being now.

The Middle Path is striking the balance


between spiritual confidence and arrogance.

366
DECEMBER 21 | Ambidexterity

Perhaps all enlightened beings are perfectly ambidextrous. To be


ambidextrous means to have equally efficient ease of using both
hands. Most of us are either only right-handed or left-handed. This
physical bias of ease in control and strength comes from habitual
one-sided mental biasness.

There is the belief that right-handed people tend to be more


narrow-minded and rational while the left-handed are more creative
and emotional. How does an enlightened being come into the
picture? He is evolved spiritually, and thus physically (as “mind over
matter”)—to perfection. Thus, his rational and emotional aspects are
equally perfected as Wisdom and Compassion respectively. He is a
balanced individual with no unhealthy biasness in body or mind. In
this sense, he is ambidextrous!

We all have our personal particular “handedness” or biasness


mentally and physically. Being a right-hander does not imply you
are more “normal” than a left-hander. In a sense, both are equally
unbalanced. We should learn to be more and more balanced
mentally, without any form of prejudices. The attempt to balance is
practising the Middle Path itself.

367
DECEMBER 22 | Mara

Without “me” ,
Mara and his minions would amount to absolutely nothing!

Sounds like an egoistic statement?


Look again—
It is an anti-ego statement!

368
DECEMBER 23 | Live In the Moment

Live in the moment,


from moment to moment;
not moment with moment.

Living “moment to moment” is to live from point to point,


with each point full of awareness in the present instant.

Living “moment with moment” is to live with attachment


to the bygone past or yet-to-come future.

Crossing the river of time,


we move from one stepping stone to another.
If we can only be physically on one stone at a time,
so should we be so mentally—
to prevent slipping off.

369
DECEMBER 24 | Fool

By depending on the human boat (vehicle),


be freed from the great water of suffering (sea of Samsara).
As such a vessel (human birth) will be hard to find in future. 
There is no time to sleep, you fool!

—Shantideva (A Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life)

You, fool too?

370
DECEMBER 25 | Conquer

Conquer the angry man by love.


Conquer the ill-natured man by goodness.
Conquer the miser with generosity.
Conquer the liar with Truth.

—Dhammapada (The Buddha)

Conquer yourself by realising the illusion of self!

371
DECEMBER 26 | Indirect Dharma

There is “direct Dharma” and “indirect Dharma”.


Direct Dharma are the teachings
from the Buddha’s spoken words.
Indirect Dharma are the teachings “unspoken”,
from everywhere else:

The birds are singing the Dharma.


The noisy neighbour screaming into his karaoke set
is saying the Dharma with his meaningful lyrics.
The television is playing the Dharma in a cartoon show.
The tippity-tap of the keyboard is dancing some Dharma.

Everything around us is a display of the reality


the Buddha taught us to see.
All phenomena are illustrations
of karma, dependent origination, emptiness...

Learn to go beyond the direct Dharma


and learn from the indirect Dharma directly.
How far you can do this is a measure
of how far you have come to realise reality.

The real holy sutras are everywhere,


not just a collection of books in the library.

372
DECEMBER 27 | Concentration

“Hey! Stop that that racket! I’m concentrating!” In the very next
moment, I realised the foolishness of the remark. How can I be
distracted if I’m truly in concentration?

Spiritual cultivation can be paradoxical—we need a quiet


environment to have adequate peace in the beginning. Yet we are to
be free from relying on the environment ultimately. How dependent
should we be in the present stage of our Dharma practice? How
much is enough? How much is too much? Must we always be the
victims of circumstances?

So many questions... all the answers lie in mindfulness. Knowing


what goes on in your mind, the answers will surface.

373
DECEMBER 28 | The State of the World

“What is the world coming to?”


All of us might ask this in exasperation.
Don’t ask each other that!

If only we all ask ourselves instead,


“What should I be coming to?”,
we might find some good clues for the original question.

Whether the state of the world


is hell or Pure Land,
it begins and ends with us individuals.

374
DECEMBER 29 | Forgiveness

A friend realised something rather amusing yet enlightening. He


became a more forgiving person when he realised that he had
been letting himself off repeatedly, too readily forgiving himself
for his own misdeeds to others big and small, while being easily
unforgiving and grudge-bearing towards others for their little
mistakes. He realised how fat his ego was. It was as if he alone had
all the right in the world to be wrong and forgiven, while the rest
of the world should do him no slightest wrong.

Being a forgiving person is part of the path of practice towards


Enlightenment. Forgiveness liberates both pain and guilt. It unties
knots of tensed negative karma, and stops ill seeds from growing
into greater hatred. Being unforgiving is nurturing our sense of
hatred—which is no less than one of the three poisons that keep
us swirling in Samsara’s vicious cycles.

However, to forgive does not mean we allow the same wrong to


be repeated to us. We have to realise that while it could due to our
negative karma that we are wronged, we should put in the effort to
prevent the person who did us wrong from doing more harm, which
creates more negative karma for himself. By being complacent, we
could well be creating more negative karma through selfishness!

Remember—forgiveness is “for giving”. It is a gift of reassurance—


it sets both parties’ hearts and minds at ease, as a priceless but free
gift of peace.

375
DECEMBER 30 | Complacency

It is terrifying to think that one is advanced in spiritual cultivation


when all the peace that one is experiencing might be due to the
external peacefulness around. One might be deluded into believing
he is steadily advancing towards Enlightenment.

All that one is be experiencing might be the ripening fruits of


positive karma. This might lead to spiritual complacency as one rests
on one’s laurels. In the mean time, one’s good karma drains out. This
is like experiencing misdirected gods’ lives in this human life. Once
the good karma is depleted, the latent ill karma might surface.

After the heavenly holiday, even the gods can fall—and all “hell”
might break loose. Are you a “god” now? Be careful!

376
DECEMBER 31 | Integration of the Dharma
into Everyday Life

A girl practising Loving-kindness meditation at home during her


daily practice session is disrupted by her small brother’s tugging,
begging her to play with him. The girl screams, “Leave me alone! I’m
practising Loving-Kindness!” Her shocked brother replies, “How can
that be? You are angry at me now!” The girl is stunned.

What is the moral of the story? Some fellow Buddhists do not


integrate their Dharma practice enough into their everyday lives.
Solid lines are unconsciously drawn to separate practice sessions (for
meditation, chanting, studying Dharma...) from the rest of the day:

Practice Session | Rest of the Day

Because of the clearly demarcated differentiation, practice


sessions often end in themselves, and the results of the practice,
such as increased mindfulness or Loving-kindness, do not readily
overflow into the rest of the day.

Here is another example of a “Dharmically” disconnected


Buddhist—A busy executive rushes unmindfully after work to
practise mindfulness meditation at a Dharma centre for half an
hour, only to rush off again, just as unmindfully, to fulfil another
appointment.

We have to see that practice sessions are for none other than to
benefit the rest of the day. We should make continual mindful efforts
to let the positive effects of regular practice sessions seep into the
rest of the day, permeating it thoroughly, genuinely transforming it
for the better. The bulk of time for practice is beyond, and far more
than that of spent in practice sessions. The rest of the day is the real
test of whether your regular practice has been done correctly. In fact,
every moment is a new test. There is no mock test or rehearsal for
life. Every single thought, word and deed results in the creation of
fresh new karma, for better or worse, whether you like it or not.

Regular practice sessions are likened to deep studying and/or


377
revision of the Dharma, while the rest of the day is when you are
continually tested—by how well you respond with the Dharma,
while facing the challenges of changing circumstances in everyday
life—be it at work, play or doing the most mundane task of trying
to get on the busy subway train.

Regular practice, such as daily morning, evening chanting


and/or meditation sessions are nothing more than concentrated
or intensified practising of the Dharma, as compared to the rest
of the day, which is just as important ground for Dharma practice.
Practice of the Dharma is after all a 24/7 “job”—whether you are
employed or not! For instance, a good Buddhist does not take
“holidays” or “off days” from observing the precepts, even if he goes
for a tour in a country without Buddhist culture. Thus is there the
saying, “Be it raising your foot, or putting it down, you are still in the
Dharma-practising place.” We should thus draw, instead, a dotted line
between practice sessions and the rest of the day:

Practice Session : Rest of the Day

Only so can our practice seep through all other periods of time.
Only when we integrate the Dharma into everyday life can there be
accurate assessment of our spiritual well being. For example, if I had
been practising Loving-kindness meditation daily for a whole month
and still find myself flaring up at my kid brother over his “request”
for some Loving-kindness, something must be very wrong with my
practice; more so than with my brother! It is then time to look into
how well I have been doing my regular practice, and whether it had
been integrated well enough into everyday life.

Only with proper Dharma integration in everyday life can there


be real-time and real life feedback to yourself—as to whether you
had been practising the Dharma steadily, in the right direction, such
that it truly benefits yourself and others.

378
Glossary

Bodhisattva : One who aspires to save all sentient beings from


suffering, while saving oneself.

Buddha : An aspect of the Triple Gem—the Awakened or Fully


Enlightened One. A Buddha is one who has attained liberation from
all suffering, attaining True Happiness, perfect Wisdom and perfect
Compassion, among all other virtues, for the sake of helping all
sentient beings. “The Buddha” refers to the historical Shakyamuni or
Gautama Buddha, who is the founder of Buddhism in our world.

Buddha-nature : The potential of becoming a Buddha in all of


us—the “Buddha” within us.

Compassion : The quality that makes us aspire to help others be


free from suffering and unhappiness.

Defilements : Our negative qualities—chiefly the Three Poisons.

Delusion : See Ignorance.

Dharma : An aspect of the Triple Gem—the teachings of the


Buddha or the general teachings of Buddhism.

Dukkha : Mental and physical dissatisfactions in life.

Emptiness : The truth that all mind and matter are constantly
changing—thus being empty of any fixed unchanging self.

Enlightenment : The realisation of the reality, of all things as they


truly are; Nirvana. True Happiness is a result.

Four Noble Truths : The core teachings of the Buddha which


summarise His teachings. They are:

1. The Truth of life being of many dissatisfactions.


2. The Truth of these dissatisfactions being caused by Greed,
Hatred and Ignorance.
3. The Truth of the end of dissatisfactions being Nirvana.

379
4. The Truth of the path to Nirvana being the Noble Eightfold
Path.

Greed : Attachment; wanting; craving.

Guanyin : Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva; the Bodhisattva who


personifies the perfect Compassion energy of all Buddhas, who hears
and heeds the cries of the world.

Hatred : Aversion; not wanting; anger.

Hell : The mind state of fear and hatred. Also refers to a world one
might be born in, as influenced by these negative mind states.

Ignorance : The quality of lacking Wisdom, not seeing the reality


of all things.

Karma : The moral law of cause and effect, that what we experience
is the result of what we have intentionally done in terms of thought,
word and deed, and that what we do will result in what we will
experience.

Mara : The personification of evil, of the Three Poisons.

Middle Path (Way) : The balanced path beyond all extremes of


attitudes and views. An example is moderate living, which avoids
miserly and extravagant living.

Mindfulness : An aspect of the Noble Eightfold Path—the quality


that enables us to remember, and keep our awareness and attention
on what is beneficial to one and all in terms of thought, word and
deed in the here and now.

Nirvana : The attainment of True Happiness, of release from


suffering and rebirth; Enlightenment; liberation.

Noble Eightfold Path : The Fourth Noble Truth of the Four Noble
Truths, the path to Enlightenment and True Happiness. It includes
the practice of:

380
1. Right Speech
2. Right Action
3. Right Livelihood
4. Right Effort
5. Right Mindfulness
6. Right Meditation
7. Right Understanding
8. Right Thought

Non-Self : See Selflessness.

Precepts : Guidelines of moral conduct.

Pure Land : A world without defilements created by a Buddha out


of Compassion, for all beings to seek birth in, to perfect the practice
of the Dharma, so as to help all beings attain Enlightenment. The
best known being Sukhavati (the Western Paradise) created by
Amitabha Buddha (Amituofo).

Reality : See Truth.

Rebirth : The continual cycle of birth and death; Samsara.

Renunciation : Letting go of the Three Poisons.

Repentance : The recognition of misgivings and the resolution to


rectify and never repeat them.

Samsara : The world of Rebirth and suffering.

Sangha : An aspect of the Triple Gem—the holy community of


monks and nuns, and realised practitioners.

Selflessness : (Non-self or Anatta) The Truth that there is no fixed


self within our constantly changing body and mind.

Sutra(s) : The recorded scriptural teachings or discourses of the


Buddha.

381
Three Poisons : The roots of evil and all suffering—Greed, Hatred
and Ignorance.

Triple Gem : The Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha collectively—
the subjects of the Threefold Refuge.

Truth : The exact way things are in their true nature.

Wisdom : The quality of knowing all things as according to the


Truth; the end of Ignorance.

Zen : A Mahayana tradition of Buddhism.

382
The Merits of Producing
Buddhist Teachings and Buddha Images

1. One’s light karmic misgivings will dissolve, while heavy ones


lighten.
2. One will be protected by devas, and be unharmed by natural
and man-made disasters.
3. One will always be free from the suffering of hatred and vengeance.
4. One will be unharmed by yaksas, evil spirits and wild beasts.
5. One’s mnd will be at peace, free from harm and nightmares.
6. One’s complexion will be radiant.
7. One will be full of auspicious energy.
8. One who practises the Dharma wholeheartedly will have
adequate living necessities.
9. One’s family will be harmonious and be blessed with fortune
and Wisdom.
10. One who practises what one preaches will be respected and
loved by all.
11. One who is dull-minded will gain Wisdom.
12. One who is ill will gain health.
13. One who is poor will gain wealth.
14. One will be free of being reborn in the lower realms.
15. One will be able to help others grow in Wisdom and gain great
merits in doing so.
16. One will always be able to learn the Dharma, till one’s Wisdom
and spiritual penetrations are fully developed and becomes a
Buddha.

Namo amituofo
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