Friday, December 21, 2007


I was overwhelmed with anxiety and depression when I heard the dreaded "C" word – my mom was diagnosed with colon cancer.

I realized that, even after years of meditation, I still couldn’t cope with fear, the fear of losing my loved ones.

It also shows that the practice of meditation alone is insufficient. We still need to have Right Understanding, the understanding of anicca (impermanence) and dukkha (unsatisfactory).

Fortunately, my mom was diagnosed at the early stage of cancer, and she is recovering after undergoing a surgery to remove the tumor.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Some Questions on Metta Meditation

Metta Meditation, as many of us already know, is a practice commonly used to develop loving-kindness and compassion.

In practicing Metta, we first direct loving-kindness to ourselves; as we are at peace with ourselves, we proceed to extend the goodwill to others – not just people, but all living beings.

Rev Sujiva of Malaysia suggested that we develop metta in the following stages, by directing loving-kindness to these people:

  1. oneself
  2. lovable person (e.g. parents, teachers)
  3. intimate person (e.g. family members)
  4. neutral person
  5. repulsive person
  6. inimical person

(Reference: Sujiva, Divine Abodes – Meditation on Loving Kindness and Other Sublime States)

Traditionally, we are told that lovable person cannot someone of opposite sex. This is to avoid turning goodwill into lust. While we can, and are supposed to, direct our goodwill to all people in the subsequent stages, we should never do so to a person of opposite sex in Stage 2.

But I always have one doubt: can’t a man select his mother to be that lovable person? Or, can’t a woman direct her loving-kindness to her father at Stage 2?

How about gay men and lesbians who practice Metta Meditation? Should they actually direct loving-kindness to a person of opposite sex???

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Wat Chetawan

Wat Chetawan is a Thai temple located at Petaling Jaya, Malaysia. Here are some photos taken there...

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What is Metta

Metta is a Pali word which means loving-kindness, or good will. Its Sanskrit equivalent is maitre. Metta is one of the Four Divine Abodes which Buddhists are expected to practice. The other three are karuna (compassion), mudita (appreciative joy) and upekkha (equanimity).

Buddhist meditation masters have conceived of a method to cultivate loving-kindness. It is called Metta Meditation or Loving-kindness Meditation. In practicing Loving-kindness Meditation, we repeatedly recite, in the mind, these verses:

May [someone] be free from enmity and danger

May you be free from mental sufferings

May you be free from physical sufferings

May you be well and happy

(Note: there are many variations of these formulae.)

A teacher told us to add an additional step at the beginning of meditation:

If we have done something that has upset another person, mentally say, “Please forgive me.”

But I can’t help but wonder: Wouldn’t it be better to actually apologize to that person, rather than doing it silently?

I notice that many Buddhist meditators have come to equate metta to Loving-kindness Meditation. This misconception is more evident following the anti-junta demonstration led by monks in Burma recently.

Some Buddhist teachers in Malaysia believe that the monks should not confront the junta, but should, instead, send metta to the generals. They also advised us to send metta to the demonstrators. In other words, we should recite the four loving-kindness formulae and do nothing else.

It looks like metta is all about right thoughts. But do we need right actions?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Who Inspired Me

[This post is a response to PeterAtLarge’s question: Who inspired you? I only touch on spiritual side here, even though Peter allows a broader scope.]

Who inspired me? That's a tough question to answer.

I am a Malaysian of Chinese origin. Chinese traditionally practiced a religion which combined Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. I knew a little bit about Buddhism when I was young. When I was studying in the university, I learned that the Buddhist Society organized a meditation retreat, and I grabbed the opportunity. The rest was history.

One teacher whom I respect very much is Rev Sujiva – a Malaysian monk who was trained in Mahasi Sayadaw tradition, and founded the Santisukharama Hermitage. He told us not to fear the pain when we sat. “If you cannot bear the pain in meditation, how can you bear the pain when you are dying?”

Then, I had a chance to work as a contract engineer in California. I went to Thanissaro Bhikkhu’s Metta Forest Monastery a couple of times. Thanissaro Bhikkhu, more commonly known as Ajahn Geoff, was a Theravada monk whose works can be found in Access To Insight. While he taught meditation, he also regularly stressed the importance of discipline and letting go. One influence he had on me was that I started to think beyond Vipassana.

Now I am back to my home country.

Since my university days I mostly associate with Theravada groups, or, more specifically, Vipassana groups. One shortcoming I feel is that we are not so close to the teachers. To the average practitioners, interview in a retreat is about the only time we can have dialogue with them, and the topic is strictly on meditation only. I can’t tell them my career is at a cross-road. I can’t tell them I had relationship problems… I know some of the advanced meditators will dismissed these issues as trivial, but I am a slow learner.

Sometimes I do wish that we have the kind of teacher-student relation so common in Tibetan Buddhism...

Monday, October 8, 2007

Dongzen Temple

Dongzen is a branch temple of the Taiwan-based Buddha Light International Association (BLIA). It is located in the state of Selangor, Malaysia.

Entrance to the temple...

The Hall of Mahavira. Mahavira was actually the founder of Jainism. For some unknown reasons, Chinese Buddhists mistook him for the Buddha, and the name stuck...

Inside the Hall of Mahavira is a statue of the Buddha...

University students attending a Dharma class guided by a nun...

Some interesting statues...

A picturesque garden...

The Chinese character reads Chan (Zen). The signature reads Hsing Yun, i.e. founder of BLIA.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Monks’ Protest – Right or Wrong?

Anti-junta demonstration led by Buddhist monks in Burma recently has caught the attention of the world. From Asia to Europe, people wore red shirt to show their support. In my country, Malaysia, it turns out that some of the people least concerned with the plight of Burmese are Buddhists.

I don’t know how this could happen. Perhaps they thought monks should not be involved in politics. Perhaps they thought that was the karma of the Burmese. A respected teacher told us that democracy might not be good for the Burmese. But the unrest in Burma was not about democracy. It’s about human rights!

Hong Kong did not have democracy before 1997, but Hong Kongers generally were happy with the British-installed governors. In Bhutan, the ex-king called for election in the Himalayan Kingdom, but his subjects loved him so much that they actually preferred absolute monarchy! Unfortunately, I don’t think many Burmese would tell you that they love General Than Shwe.

Thai monks also took to the street a few months ago when they demanded an official religion status for Buddhism. I do NOT agree with them. The protest in Burma, on the other hand, was not for Buddhism or Buddhist monks. It was for the general public. It was also, in principle, a peaceful one, even thought it ended up in violence after the police crack-down. The Burmese monks also did not set themselves in fire, like what a Vietnamese monk did in Saigon back in 1960s.

In Thailand, King Bhumibol keeps a watchful eye on the junta that ousted ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra. Burma does not have a monarchy. If the monks don’t defy the junta, who else can???

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Temples in Thailand

Wat Phra Singh, Chiang Mai...

Wat Santikiri, Mae Salong...

Wat Chedi Luang, Chiang Mai...

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Anti-meditation in Buddhism

The above picture shows the statue of Bodhisattva Maitreya, the future Buddha. Have you ever wondered why Bodhisattva Maitreya is usually depicted as sitting on chair rather than sitting cross-legged?

In a Mahayanist Sutra – which I don’t trust – we are told that the future Buddha “doesn’t practice meditation; doesn’t want to end suffering.” (不修禅定,不断烦恼。) I guess that explains the posture of Bodhisattva Maitreya.

In the West, Buddhism is synonymous to meditation. In Asia, however, a small number of Buddhists actually think meditation is a selfish act! These misguided people, rather than striving for awakening, vow to “suffer together with all beings in the universe”.

I have seen many Chinese monks and nuns, while compassionate, lack the wisdom I had expected. They want to help the people, but often it is like blind leading the blinds.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Standing Meditation

According to Buddhist scripture, meditation can be practiced in 4 postures: sitting, walking, standing and lying.

Sitting posture is most common. Traditionally yogis sat cross-legged. Today many sit on chairs. Walking meditation is popular among some traditions. Standing posture is less common because it is tough. Lying posture is also seldom used because one can fall asleep easily. The Japanese, of course, added the kneeling posture.

One year ago, I started to practice standing meditation regularly. I had not been very healthy. I hope that, by meditating in standing posture, I would be fitter.

Today, I don’t fall sick as often as I did a year ago. But I am still not sure if it is a result of standing meditation, or the healthy supplements I take.

Anyway, I will continue to do standing meditation.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Shaolin Monks

To the Buddhists, Shaolin Monastery in China is known as the birth place of Chan (Zen) Buddhism. To non-Buddhists, it is famous for its Kungfu monks.

A Shaolin monk can break pieces of bricks with a single chop of his palm. He can withstand the attack of a spear without getting injured. The question is: monks are supposed to be peace-loving people. Should they practice martial art?

To be sure, martial art of Shaolin Monastery isn’t of the ‘soft’ type, like Taiji or Aikido. Rather, it belongs to the ‘hard’ type. A kick by a Shaolin monk can be fatal.

And I am never so sure if they are genuine monks in the first place. China has been ruled by the Communists since 1949 and majority of Chinese are atheists. Perhaps these ‘monks’ are just Kungfu-loving youths who, in order to learn the art, don the robes reluctantly. Outside the monastery or affiliated martial art academies, they may live a life that bring disgrace to the Buddhist community.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Dharma, not italicized

I came across an article on BusinessWeek with the title ‘In China, Dharma Confronts the Dollar’.

While this article describes commercialization of Buddhism in China, I found the title interesting. It seems to suggest that ‘Dharma’ is no longer an alien word in English.

Heck, I still remember a sitcom called ‘Dharma and Greg’. And, as I am typing, Microsoft Word hasn’t drawn a red curvy line below the word which means ‘teaching of the Buddha’ or ‘the Law’.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Death Penalty

I have published a post regarding the effectiveness of death penalty in my main blog.

Please click here to read.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

False Speech?

A few days ago I bumped into my lecturer. He asked me, "How are you doing?" I wasn't in good mood, but out of formality, I replied, "Good."

Was I lying? If I didn't want to lie, how should I reply?

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Refuge Taking Ceremony

A few years ago, a Buddhist friend of mine told me that there would be a refuge taking ceremony, and encouraged me to take part. Upon hearing that, I nearly fell on floor laughing.

I had taken refuge in Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha countless of time. I could even recite the relevant verses plus the Five Precepts in Pali, one of two languages in which Buddhist scriptures were written. (The other one was Sanskrit.)

Many Buddhists have the perception that refuge taking is a one-time process, not unlike baptism in Christianity. Without formally taking refuge in the Triple Gem, one is not considered a Buddhist. A monastery in California even issued ‘certificates’ to participants of its refuge taking ceremony!

The truth is: we can take refuge in the Triple Gem over and over again. Well, at least this is the case in Theravada Buddhism, the tradition I am most familiar with. Each time we take refuge, we strengthen our faith in the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha.

The same goes for Five Precepts. We are not perfect. We occasionally lie due to lack of security. We drink because of peer pressure. Each time we recite the Five Precepts, we remind ourselves the importance of virtue.

On the other hand, if we haven’t formally taken refuge, are we Buddhists? I guess that intention, rather than outward form, is most important. Ceremonies or rituals are therefore unnecessary. They do, nonetheless, signify our commitment to the path of wisdom.