Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ajahn Brahm’s Joke

Ajahn Brahmavamso, the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Western Australia, is a monk who likes to joke. Here is one from him:

In 2005, it was reported that US interrogators in Guantanamo flushed a Quran down the toilet, causing uproar in Islamic world. After the incident, Australian journalists interviewed Ajahn Brahm. They asked him, “What is your reaction if someone flushes Buddhist holy books down the toilet?”

Guess what is Ajahn Brahm’s answer?

“I’ll call the plumber.”

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Right Stillness

Samma samadhi, one of the factors in the Noble Eightfold Path, is usually translated as “right concentration”.

Ajahn Brahmavamso, the abbot of Bodhinyana Monastery in Western Australia, visited Malaysia recently. He mentioned that he no longer referred to Samadhi as “concentration”, but preferred the term stillness. Concentration, according to him, gave us an impression that one has to put in a lot of efforts, which was not so accurate.

Now this is my personal opinion:

“Concentration” may also imply focusing one’s attention to one point. Many meditators don’t focus on a single point, but instead mentally note whatever which arise in their mind. As such, “stillness” may really be a better term in this context too.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Happiness is Contagious

Several years ago, I had a retreat in Metta Forest Monastery in Southern California. It lasted just three days, which was quite short. Retreat in Metta was also pretty relaxed. Nonetheless, I felt very peaceful and happy.

Now, some people would tell me, “You were mindful, therefore you were happy.” This is certainy true, but I still think that there was something else. I believe observing the Eight Precepts helped too. On top of that, I was associating with happy people…

Scientists from Harvard University and University of California, San Diego, conducted a study on 5,000 people and concluded that the happiness spreads through social networks.

The study found that:

Knowing someone who is happy makes you 15.3% more likely to be happy yourself. A happy friend of a friend increases your odds of happiness by 9.8%, and even your neighbor's sister's friend can give you a 5.6% boost.

(Read the story here.)

Back to my retreat at Metta: The monks were happy. The Thais/Lao who offered food to the Sangha were happy. So were the other yogis. No wonder I was happy too.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Images of Wesak

More photos can be found here.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Sutta for Mother's Day

And Father's Day...


I tell you, monks, there are two people who are not easy to repay. Which two? Your mother & father. Even if you were to carry your mother on one shoulder & your father on the other shoulder for 100 years, and were to look after them by anointing, massaging, bathing, & rubbing their limbs, and they were to defecate & urinate right there [on your shoulders], you would not in that way pay or repay your parents. If you were to establish your mother & father in absolute sovereignty over this great earth, abounding in the seven treasures, you would not in that way pay or repay your parents. Why is that? Mother & father do much for their children. They care for them, they nourish them, they introduce them to this world. But anyone who rouses his unbelieving mother & father, settles & establishes them in conviction; rouses his unvirtuous mother & father, settles & establishes them in virtue; rouses his stingy mother & father, settles & establishes them in generosity; rouses his foolish mother & father, settles & establishes them in discernment: To this extent one pays & repays one's mother & father.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Food Crisis – can Buddhists help?

Buddhists who follow Theravada tradition often fast on Uposatha Days (full moon, new moon, half moon), or when they are having a retreat in monasteries.

The world is facing a food shortage problem, as a result of poor harvest and the use of biofuels to replace crude oil. Perhaps Buddhists should fast more often now.

Of course, we can only slightly reduce our food consumption if we fast a few days a month, but we can raise awareness in wider society. Many people have been too wasteful during good times.

Please also read a related post in my other blog.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Noble Silence

In Vipassana meditation centers, we often come across signs which read, “Noble Silence”. We are told that we should avoid talking whenever possible when we are in a retreat. If we talk, we lose mindfulness.

However, a meditation instructor and a Dhamma friend of mine interpret the phrase in a different way. According to him, Noble Silence doesn’t mean “shut up”. Instead, it means “no mental chattering”.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

American Buddhists

The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life recently conducted a “religious landscape survey”. Here are some interested facts about American Buddhists:

Percentage of Americans who identified themselves as Buddhists: 0.7%

The U.S. has a population of slightly more than 300 million. That translates into about 2.1 million Buddhists.

Racial composition of American Buddhists: 53% White (non-Hispanic), 32% Asian, 6% Hispanic, 4% Black, 5% other/mixed.

It is tempting to think that most American Buddhists are Asian immigrants or their children. This survey result suggests otherwise.

Percentage of American Buddhists with tertiary education: 22% with college degrees, 26% with post-graduate degrees.

Only Hindus and Jews have higher percentage of postgraduates. National average is 11%

Marital status of American Buddhists: 45% married, 12% divorced or separated, 31% never married, 8% living with partners, 4% widowed.

Unlike many other religions, marriage is neither sacred nor a duty in Buddhism. No wonder only 45% of Buddhists are married. (National average is 54%.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Commercialization of Shaolin Temple

On Aug 23, 2007, I wrote a post, Shaolin Monks, in which I asked a question: Should Shaolin monks practice deadly martial arts.

On Jan 29, 2008, I came across an article on which scrutinizes commercialization of Shaolin Temple. Excerpt:

Many believe the Shaolin have abandoned their monastic traditions of leaving the world and severing worldly desires and pursuits, and have become a tourist recreation center obsessed with money and reputation.

Full article is here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Cross – religious symbol or fashion statement?

We all know that Thailand is a predominantly Buddhist country. More than 90% of Thais are Buddhists. About 3-4% of the population are Muslims. Less than 1% of them are Christians.

Yet in my recent trip to Thailand, I saw many young Bangkokians wear crosses, including one who prayed at the famous Erawan Shrine.

Is cross a religious symbol or a fashion statement? Do Thais understand the religious significance of it? Do missionaries purposely mislead Thais into believing that Christianity is trendy???

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

You never own your children

I came across the tagline of Swiss watch Patek Philippe, which reads, “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”

But I am thinking of something else:

You never really own your children. You merely look after them until they can be independent.

There have been many tragedies whereby depressed women killed their children before committing suicide. They probably thought that they owned their children, and therefore have the right to ‘destroy’ them. What surprise me is that, these tragedies, also known as filicide-suicide, happen not just in Asia but in Western countries as well. (Read, for example, here and here.)

The fool worries, thinking, “I have sons, I have wealth.” Indeed, when he himself is not his own, whence are sons, whence is wealth?

- Dhammapada verse 62