Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Diamonds and Sand

I have said:

"People without good karma n merits will see diamonds as sand. Never assume that people know the difference." 

A great reminder for me too.

Many a times, we have to opportunity to meet important people or have valuable things. And due to our lack of merits and karma, we may not appreciate them at that moment. It is after many years later that we realised the "diamonds" in our life. For me it was 34 years later.

I met a very important teacher when he was in Singapore in 1980. During that time, I was still young and Vajrayana practice was so new in Singapore. I merely go through the motion of taking refuge and receiving blessings without any impression or understanding.

It was only last year that I finally knew the 'Lama" that actually blessed me and I took refuge, was actually HH 16th Gyalwa Karmapa. With so much gratitude to this post. Thank you Mr Phey.

Friday, January 24, 2014

When Buddha comes...

A man died and when he realized it, he saw Buddha coming closer with a bag in his hand.

Buddha said: Alright son, it’s time to go.
- Surprised the man responded: Now? So soon? I had a lot of plans...
- I'm sorry but it’s time to go.

What do you have in that Bag? The man asked.
- Buddha answered: Your belongings.
- My belongings? You mean my things, my clothes, and my money?
- Buddha answered: Those things were not yours they belonged to the earth.

Is it my memories? The man asked.
- Buddha answered: Those never belonged to you, they belonged to Time.

Is it my talents?
- Buddha answered: Those were never yours, they belonged to the circumstances.

Is it my friends and family?
- Buddha answered: I'm sorry they were never yours, they belonged to the path.

Is it my wife and son?
- Buddha answered: They were never yours, the belonged to your heart.

Is it my body?
- Buddha answered: That was never yours, it belonged to the dust.

Is it my soul?
- Buddha answered: No there is no soul.

Full of fear, the man took the bag from Buddha and opened it, just to
find out the suitcase was empty.

With tears coming down his cheek, the man said: I never had anything?
- Buddha answered: That is correct, every moment you lived were only yours.
  Life is just a moment, a moment that belongs to you.

For this reason, enjoy this time while you have it.
Don't let anything that you think you own, stop you from doing so.

- Live Now
- Live your life
- Don't forget to be happy, that is the only thing that matters.
- Material things and everything else that you fought for stay here.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Restoring a Buddha

I recently had a chance to receive a batch of old Buddha and Bodhisattva, that were abandoned in a junk store.  The owner, a second hand good dealer, probably got the whole box of statues from a warehouse auction, where it was based on weight and they didn't know what was the content when they auctioned the boxes.

I suspected that someone must have put this statue into storage and forgot to pay for charges (probably passed away) and the warehouse store will auction off the unclaimed and unwanted unpaid items to recover the storage charges.  Unclaimed goods may be usually sold by public auction after a prescribed period from the date on which the goods were placed in the warehouse.

Thoughts went through my mind...  it could be an old temple that had to be relocated to another premises and didn't have enough funds to build a new temple, and thus sent the Buddha statues into storage...  only to be forgotten or abandoned.

When I saw the state of the Buddha, I knew they were used for practice or worshiped.  The condition of the Buddha was dirty and cover a layer of soot and oil as if it had been presented with many years of incense or joss sticks and candles.  A few of them were very artistic, and I know that for vajrayana pieces, some are yidam practices linking back to many hundred years ago.  Some many people had prayed to this Buddha... based on the incense smoke it carried through the years.

The seller didn't say much, but mentioned to me that most people would not want to buy such old abandoned Buddha for fear of "dirty things" or spirits attached to it.  The Buddha are all consecrated, which made people who know about Buddhism even more worried.

My thoughts was a bit more sentimental (as usual).  A certain degree of saddness came to me, as I wondered about those old practitioners who owned the Buddhas;  what happened to them, have they reach enlightenment, what was their practice, where are they now?... and soon asking myself, what is my practice, have I removed my own suffering and have I transformed my mind?

With this thought, I immediately have a sense of duty to bring this Buddha home and give it a good bath and clean it up... and continue my practice...

It is not easy and I am sure nothing is, but I should at least try..

The Buddha had "bronze disease" in many spots and need to be treated.  I clean up the best that I can, without destroying the age and its authenticity, I hope.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Animal liberation or Murder

Animal liberation as an active act of compassion is debatable. 

Like any other acts of compassion, it must come with wisdom and skilful actions. 

In ancient times, we get our food from the nature environment in the wild and forest. Nowadays, our food sources are never from the wild or captured from the forest but from commercial farms and most of the released animals are farmed animals.  Farmed animals do not know how to look for their own food or hunt in the wild. 

Releasing farmed animal in any manner to the nature does not ensure survivability of the animal and is committing murder of the animal because of our intervention.  What difference does it makes if animal are killed by the butcher or eager Buddhists who release them and let them die on their own.  

Animal liberation is a futile and ineffective way of caring for life in this new world.  Buddhists who hope to collect Merits out of this exercise is extremely ignorant and is only feeding the animal traders and encouraging them to import more for the new group of Buddhists customers.  Just ask any traders and even Sheng Siong managers are aware of this group of new customers and stock in more to meet their demand.  

The field of Deep ecology encourage human to stop manipulating nature for their ego and greed.  Buddhists should always use their wisdom in such exercise.  

Active compassion for animals can be channelled to support food for stray animal, stop buying animals for fun and wear its skin or other products, stop fishing as a hobby and care for all animals that we come to contact with.  

Such Buddhists' action on animal liberation is certainly one with good intention but no skillful methods.  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Skillful Means

What should we do when we encounter ungracious people with impolite actions.  Should we just ignore or tell them off?

I recently was queuing for my favorite Fish Ball Noodle.  It is a rather busy stall selling reasonably good Mee Pok with 3 fish ball and some fish cakes slices for $2.50.   There was at least about 10 people in the queue and I was the 3rd to be served.

A group of aunties (probably after their morning "tai-ji") appeared and started speaking to the man infront of me, who was already being served.  And out of the sudden, the order of his one bowl of noodle was increased to 8 bowls.  Obviously, these aunties were jumping queue.  I looked at the people in the queue, to see if anyone reacted to such ungracious behaviours.

None did,  some couldn't be bothered..  Some didn't notice such happening... some pretended that they didn't see.

What looked like 3rd in line become 10th in line.. and I was hungry (a Hungry me is an Angry me).

Should I tell them off?  Should I make a remark and embarrass them??  Until normal situations, I would, based on my values of justice and fair play.

But age must have mellowed me..  or hopefully wisdom got a better of me since.  I don't want to quarrel with a bunch of "nothing better to do" aunties and an uncle trying to pick a fight at 8am.. Neither do I want to be the champion or spoke-person of all these ignorant or couldn't be bothered people in the queue.  I also knew that I would be unhappy for at least an hours if I didn't do anything.

I bite my lips to keep quiet, thinking of what I should do next.

When my turn was being served, I ordered my dried mee pok... and took the opportunity to speak to the stall owner who took my order.  I intentionally spoke in a polite but louder than normal voice, so that the aunties and people in the queue could hear, asking the owner why he allowed people to jump queue, and by doing so, he was not respecting those already in the queue.  I even mentioned that if he does not respect his own queuing rule in the future, I would boycott his stall next time.  He apologised.

I turned back and saw every one in the queue looking at me differently.  One uncle even gave me a thumb up..  

I walked home feeling that I have said what I needed to say, to the right person, kept my values, and went home with an extra of 3 fishballs in the bag.

Sometimes, there is a better way to put your points across more effectively.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Can Buddhist "Save My World"?

Compassion, Bodhicitta and Social Responsibility: Can Buddhist "Save My World"?

Social responsibility is an ethical theory that an entity, be it is an individual or organisation, has the obligation to act to benefit the society at large. From the Buddhist perspective, it is very much aligned with the Buddha’s teaching on Bodhicitta, compassion and the skilful practice for the sake of all sentient beings. In Buddhist spiritual practice, a question on how we can reconcile service and responsible action with meditative life based on non-attachment, letting go and realisation for the ultimate emptiness of all conditioned things?
Today, we are confronted by the gravest challenge that humanity has ever faced: the ecological consequences of our collective actions. Taking up Social Responsibility is the first step to resolve this global predicament. During the talk, Robin will discuss on topics such as What role can Buddhism play in our response to this global predicament? Can Buddhist traditions help us meet this challenge successfully? Should we focus on prayer and meditation or social action?

Free Admission

Speaker’s Profile

Mr Robin Chan is a Senior Associate Director of NUS Institutional Review Board and Human Protections Administrator. He is also a member of the Hospital Ethics Committee at Singapore Institute of Mental Health, National Transplant Ethics Committee of MOH, and code of Ethics Committee of Singapore Pharmacy Council. He has published papers in international journals and spoken widely on various topics on bioethics and research ethics to students, healthcare professionals and academics, as well as to the general public. Robin also teaches Buddhism regularly at temples and public venues. He has researched on Buddhist perspectives on death and dying.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Good Bye Elmo, See you again in your next life

Elmo - 2000 to 2 Jun 2013

I received a call from Sally who was cleaning the house where Elmo, Crystal Belle and Tashi were staying.

"I think one of your cat has died.. the big grey one."

I was a bit surprised by the call.  Elmo was well on Saturday 1 Jun 2013 and I was playing with him as I was sweeping the floor..  Cats have this love-hate relationship with the brooms.. as I moved the broom to brush his cloth..

Elmo made his news in this blog by going missing for 3 weeks and found on 3 May 2006.

Elmo is an extra-ordinary cat.. he is really big, strong and friendly.. and he is a lap cat..  The minute you sit on the floor, he will walk slowly and sit on your lap.. and purr himself calmly.

He is not forceful, but always keep every bully in discipline and even the dogs do not dare to mess around with him.

Lately, he is quite old.. and there are some lumps around the neck, which he will not allow anyone to touch.

He died peacefully on Sunday.. or late Saturday night..  May he rest in peace and come back soon.  Hopefully this time as a human being in a Buddhist country.

Now the surviving pets are:

Gucci - black English cocker spaniel
Bodhi, Sutra and Para - the 3 Lhasa Apso
Metta - tibetan spaniel
Tare - the white Spitz
Crystal Belle and Tashi - the last 2 cats.

Soon they will all go when their time is up.. and so will we.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

For a Good Cause!

I am shaving Bald (yes!) on May 1st to support the Hair for Hope Project for Children Cancer Fund.

Date: 1st May 2013 (Labour Day)
Time: 9:30am – 1:00pm (Last registration for walk-in shavee is at 10:30am)
Venue: Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery, Venerable Hong Choon Memorial Hall, 4th Floor, Hall of No Form

Every shaven head represents an understanding by an individual of the ordeals that a child with cancer is subjected to, raise funds and create awareness to support this children.

Pls click this specific link to support this meaningful project and me (for shaving bald):

Sunday, February 24, 2013

My Opera Stage

I recently watched an old Cantonese Opera during the CNY holiday.  I have watched it before but my muml wanted to watch it again.  Strangely instead of focusing on the lead actors, I was looking at all the backup actors, and not so important characters.  Suddenly I realised that in this life, very much like a play, everyone just need to be good in their role, whether as general, or the little soldier standing at the side or the backup dancers or backup singers.

if everyone only wants to be the lead actor, the show cannot go on when the solider wants to be the general.
Thus every role is important for this show to be a success. And if you want to be part of this show, you must play your role and play it well.

if you are the lead actor today, there is nothing to be proud of.. because one day you too will have to step down from this stage of life.
if you are the solider, just do your part.. no need to even think that one day you will be the general.

SO ambition is very different from aspiration.  

Ambition is about ourselves, aspiration is all about others.

I used to wish I am the general, but these days, I just do my best in whatever role I take on.  

May all be well and happy.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Facebook Vs Blogs ~ Robin's Karma

With the entry of Facebook, Bloggers seem to switch spots and enter right into posting in FB, leaving their blogs unattended.

Some of the advantages are:
- more easy to post,
- higher reach to target audience,
- you know your "friends" are reading when they like your post,
- easy to search and
- instant reply.

Bloggers need to do something.. or else there will lost most of the writers.

So join me here.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Winter solstice 21 Dec 2012

This winter solstice is filled with suspense.  Afterall, the Mayan calender did write somewhere that the end of the world is on 21 Dec 2012, depending on which version of the gossips that you have heard.

Adding on to the suspense, the world bank report says Mideast, North Africa Would Be Hard Hit By Temperature Rise and on December 4, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged national delegations meeting in Qatar to try to agree on a new treaty to cut greenhouse-gas emissions linked to climate change.

I stayed up late, watching the sky and the stars in the cloudy night.  Well, it looks normal to me... and how should the night before the end of the world looks like anyway. How can I ever tell the difference anyway?

This morning I woke up to see a ray of sunlight coming through the curtain.  I suddenly have this gratitude which I cannot explain.

So the world didn't end last night.

The sun is bright and sunny this morning, to those alive today, its a new beginning. To those who passed on last night, their world had ended. In fact, every moment by moment someone passed on and their world ended too. It is, thus a constant reminder that this life is impermanence and what are we doing with our time left before our own world ends. 

Most importantly, have we used our time and effort more meaningfully?

Read other related post:

Winter Solstice in 2006
Winter Solstice in 2005

Monday, December 10, 2012

Updates on the Manjushri Educational Project

With the additional money collected, Manjushri Educational Project has recruited more children in Nepal.  So far, we have help 29 Nepali children and 16 Bhutanese children.

We have started a new website and facebook page, to create awareness for this project. A detailed statement of account is also upload, together with the children particulars. Donors can donate via Paypal or through any of our members.

Thank you for all your sponsorship and support.  With your help, we can help more children to provide them with a proper education.

The Gift of knowledge and wisdom is most valuable and meaningful.  This project need your continual support so that more benefits can be generated with the collective wisdom from everyone.

With Gratitude.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Scaling walls

Here is a lady with cerebral palsy since young.. and able to write a book to move, motivate people and inspire them to lead a meaningful life.  

I was at Poison Ivy Bollywood organic farm's restaurant on 11 Nov 2012, after seeing my dogs and cats at the animal shelter, to have a quick lunch and escape for the afternoon sun.  When I sat at the dining table and waiting for my orders, I saw a little paper at the ordering tray introducing Ms Oh Siew May's book -Scaling Walls .. (you know.. I read everything on the table when I am waiting for my food to arrive, including the menu a few times, to keep my restless mind working)

When I went to the counter to pay, the books were at the counter... and I took a copy and glance through.  I decided to purchase one copy to support the author and was pleasantly surprised that it is only 10 dollars.

When paying for my lunch, I told the cashier that I decided to support the author and buy her book..  my friend who was standing behind me, picked up a copy too.. .. and the cashier smiled..  She then said.. "Why don't you ask the author to autograph the book too.."  "Oh, you mean she is here.. and I started to look around the restaurant hoping to find someone there..  "  Yes, she is outside at the vegetable counter"  I paid for the book., eager to go to the book signing counter, like I always do, since I always like an author autographed book, especially if it is meant as a gift for someone.

I walked out of the restaurant and went towards the outdoor sales counter..  I was so happy to see Siew Mei..  in her own words, disabled and not unabled..  In the book and brochure, she looked very ordinary and "normal" after the glamour shots..   BUT in real life, her true colours shown..  and I suddenly felt so much gratitude and empathy.. to meet someone who aspires to be a motivator for other people and sharing her experience on how she went beyond her fear and physical condition with everyone .

Immediately, I saw in her - a strength, a determination and a strong will to succeed..  She smiled so much as we asked for her autograph.. and took her time to write on the books.

We thanked her, said a few word of encouragement and goodbye to her  and walk back to the car.. As I reached the car, I suddenly said "wait..we should go back and take a picture with her to appreciate and congratulate her success..  That would make her happy.. "  As a author, I think it is important that your readers appreciate your hard work, and the best way is to remember you and your book.

So we decided to walk back to her stall and took pictures with her,,   I think she is living wonderfully well against all odds, and I truly  honor her as a hero who won this battle of karma and disability.  In life, she may have lost a battle in Body and Speech.. but she won them all with her mind, with the positive attitude and the strong will to live..  Everyone could learn from her journey and find their meaning in this life.

What did I learn from this incident..
1.  Life is never a bed of of roses and even if it is, roses have thorns too.
2.  One can be physically handicapped, and speech impaired, but definitely need not be mind impaired.
3.  Happiness has nothing to do with your body... it's all in the mind.
4.  We have so much to be thankful for, and definitely no reason to be unhappy over one small obstacle or discomfort.
5.  When life serves you lemon, make lemon juice, lemon cakes, preserved lemons, lemon sauce, tom yam soup.. I think you get it :)
6.  Yes, we must really count our blessings.

Here is the author:

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Panic experience

I was caught in my office lift breakdown alone this morning.. It was a frightening experience.. 

I took the lift from carpark level basement 2 to my office at level 3.  The lift opened at level to let a passenger out at level 1 and I was alone.  When it reached level 3, suddenly there was a cranking sound and the door did not open.  

I immediately panic.. and tried to press the door open button or any button..  the door still did not open and all the buttons were deactivated, from the indicator light, the lift was going down without any indication of the floor level.

I pressed the alarm button and squatted down to prepare for a crash landing in case the cable had snapped.  

Suddenly a frightening thought came to my mind.  I suddenly remembered my childhood experience of being caught in the lift when HDB first launched their new flat behind our old five foot way house.  When the new flat was launched as a pilot project, the show flat had an open house for everyone to view the units.  My mum and neighbours brought me to view the flat..I think I was 4-5 years old then.

As the adults were looking at the size of the rooms, I ran out and got into the lift.  The door closed and ate me up..  and I panic so much.,.. and was sick for the next few days.

And this fear came back to me this morning .. I was amazed how such fear have been in me for so long, that I have forgotten and it suddenly flashback like a lightning and came out of nowhere.  I suddenly realised that there was actually nothing to be frightened about, I have my book with me, and I could work in the lift until I am rescued, and there is still light and air, so why worry?

As I calmed myself down, the lift suddenly indicated that it has reached B2 (the indicator lights were earlier off) and there was another cranking sound.. I pressed the buttons again and the door open buttons many times.  The door finally opened, and I am back where I first started at carpark basement 2.

Lesson learned:

1.  Panic will naturally come when we encounter danger.
2.  Fear will definitely be there, and it could come from our 8th consciousness or storehouse of memories, no matter how long ago.
3.  With practice, we can use panic and fear to generate greater wisdom and peace will return once we can reason ourselves out.
4.  Our practice help us go through dangers without panic and fear, and using wisdom to solve the problem.
5.  Drama can be less dramatic with wisdom practice, and this include better survival chance and even better rebirth at dying and peaceful death.

6.  Obstacles and pain are wonderful opportunity to learn something, I am sure after this incident, I will have no fear when taking lift.
7.  When I re-experienced my fear and trauma,  I made a shift in my mind and overcome my fear.
8. Always remember your mantra (suggested by Loving Kindness@samsara)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Understanding Death

Topic : Understanding Death & Positive Living
Date : 20 Oct 2012
Time : 3pm – 5 pm
Venue : Karma Kagyud Buddhist Centre 38 Lorong 22 Geylang
Tel : 67491103

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

"Preparing for A Good Death"

My 24th Public Talk on "Preparing for a Good Death" - if you are interested. 

11 Oct 12/ Thur 7.30pm @

TEL 6336 5067

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Some lessons from my car accident

On 29 Sep 2012, I had a car accident which I wish to share with you.

Well what I am going to share is not about who is right and who is wrong. But how I found peace and lesson from a simple  taxi driver.  

On Sat night after a dinner, my car reversed and hit the front bumper of a taxi resulting in some scratches on the bumper. It wasn't very serious as my back bumper remained normal except some minor scratches.

I apologized for the accident just before he started shouting. As we reversed to him, I was willing to repair his car even though there was no reason why he accelerated when he saw us reversing.

Anyway that was not the issue. After we offered to settle privately, he said that we needed to compensate his rental and loss of income and inconveniences on top of repairing the scratches   In short, he wanted money and quite a unreasonable amount.

In the end, we have decided to pay him. As a lawyer and ethicist, paying a "road bully" should be wrong. As a Buddhist, finding the most peaceful solution without troubling anyone else, is the best approach.  I know no matter how I repair his car, he will never be satisfied as he only wanted money.

So I gave him the money and decided to share with him some dharma when he came and collected the money at 2am, 1 Oct 2012 after his night shift.  

The lesson learned.. 
1.  If money can solve a problem, it is not a problem.
2.  If money can end suffering, that's a good deal.
3.  If my way of solving the problem may not be beneficial to the other parties, my way is not important.
4.  If money can buy peace, it's a bargain.
5.  Holding on to principles and justice sometimes brings suffering.
6.  If we like peace, we can start with letting go of our attachment to principles and money.
7.  Always look at the problem from the other person's point of you.  
8.  Always find peace in yourself after giving, even for the most silly reason.
9.  Never resort to harsh words or action, if you are serious about your practice.
10.  Keep a heart of peace.. and put peaceful resolutions as a lifelong priority.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Manjushri Educational Project

I just returned from Nepal last week and would like to seek your consideration and help on a new charity project for children in Nepal.

Recently, Channel News Asia shown a documentary about abandoned children "Left In Kathmandu" by the parents and ended up as beggars, glue/drug addicts or prostitutes, with not much support from government, though some NGOs are doing their best. 

Since we have planned a short trip to Nepal in Sept 2012, we were hoping to be able to help in whatever ways we can.  The problem is bigger than anyone can imagine.  We realized that it would be too late if unwanted children were abandoned by parents and saving street children would be difficult. Our prayers were answered when we met our Buddhist teacher - Khenpo Namdrol Rinpoche, who is starting the Manjushri Educational Project to help poor Nepali families improve their lives by providing quality education support for their children. 

I have enclosed a short write-up for this meaningful Manjushri Educational Project, (Manjushri is the Bodhisattva of Wisdom) with a donation form, only if you are keen to help.

A donation of USD1 a day can help 1 child fulfill his/her educational needs regardless of the race, caste or religion.  No administrative charges will be used from the donation as the foundation is operated by monks and volunteers, and no cash will be directly given to the families.

So far, 20 children have been recruited this year, and any amount of your donation will be used for continuity of sponsorship for the next 9 years and to recruit more children into this project.

I hope you can consider helping this project and share this consideration with your friends.  You may donate via Paypal on the site, though Paypal charges up to 10-15% + fixed fees per donation.  We are also collecting and compiling the donation on behalf of this project and we can send all the donations to Rinpoche on Oct 15.  Receipts will be issued in Nepali rupees by post (abt 6 weeks).

Please contact me via email if you would like more information and willing to help.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

My talk to cancer survivors

On 6 July 2012 @ 8pm, I was invited to deliver my lecture on “A Good Death” to a group of cancer survivor from Singapore.

The organizer had earlier written to me one year ago to ask and double check with me on the sensitivity of my lecture before they scheduled me for the talk.  They were afraid that my talk will stir up negative feeling and that talking about this to a dying population may be too cruel.

Honestly it did stress me quite a bit and this let me reflect what exactly I should share with cancer survivals that they already know and are not too sensitive.   I have counseled many dying patients on a one to one basis  but this is indeed a first time to speak to so many of them at a public talk. It is my privilege to be able to help and learn from everyone.

This kept me thinking.    I even changed all my slides to make sure my talk last nite was meaningful and had my psychiatrist friend going through them so as to reduce the sensitivity and possible risk of harm. 

In the end, I am  glad everyone enjoyed the talk and all walk out laughing and relieved.  All this effort is worth it.

My talk at the cancer support group was well received. During the lecture, I realised that amongst 96 survival .. only 7 did their will.   All didn’t much dare to face death and didn’t have much time to even think about it.

After 25 public lectures on a good death,  I suddenly have reached a group which may really need my help (well, my intention in the beginning was to help).... and some found my talk enlightening, relevant, and have the urgency to speak to me or get some assistance.  Some members even asked how they could consult  and how they can make appointment to see me, which I actually do not qualify for any consultation and have never charged anyone.  I worked as a volunteer and use my free time to help others in need (never for fame or money, which I never need).  
Besides, with my current health condition, I cannot help all of them now that my energy is so weak, I felt like I have opened a Pandora box and yet not able to help them.

But I plan to conduct a workshop with all of them and using collective wisdom to enhance the group mutual support. 
I am just one person and this needs more efforts.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Talk@FGS SG 16 June 2012 8pm

With Gratitude to friends@Fo Guang Shan Singapore for the recording of my Chinese talk on 16 June 2012 at 8pm.

The talk can now be viewed at youtube:

Part 1

Part 2

The well written report is at:

Saturday, June 16, 2012

“Letting go of Death?” 16.06.12

Fo Guang Shan (Singapore) & Buddha's Light Association, Singapore. 16 June 2012, 8 to 9.30pm 
“Letting go of Death?” 

Sunday, June 03, 2012

“How do we face Death?” 03.06.12

Medicine Buddha Hall I Level 2 I Pagoda of 10,000 Buddha, Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Tosca ~ 1999 to 2.05.2012

Tosca passed away peacefully at 9.31pm 2 May 2012.  No struggle. She just took her last few breaths and went away as if sleeping.  In her own pretty way, gracefully and calm.

She developed Thrombosis over the weekend and both legs couldn't walk.  We brought her to the vet on 2 May 2012. The vet was a kind lady who offered to keep her for the day so that we can finish our work.  I have requested not to euthanize her if she is not in great pain and suffering.   I am pro-Life, but anti-suffering.  She survived the day at the vet receiving palliative care of fluid in a lavender aroma nebulized cage and was eager to go home when we were there at 6pm.

Back at home, I took out a nice soft pet bed, and layered it with a few warm pretty towels.  As she looked comfortable, she suddenly vomited all the food and medicine over the bed and towels.  I have to repeat the whole procedure laughing at myself that palliative care was not about looking pretty but must be practical of the situation.  After all the changes, she looked comfortable and breathing normally.

I went for a shower and had some dinner before I decide which sutra I should recite with her.  I decided to recite the Voices of Compassion of Chenrezig and put her in front of me as I recite.

She waited for me to finish reciting the whole sutra at 9pm. She then swallowed some of the mani pills and honey water.  She even stared at Buddha picture with full concentration until her last breath. Amazing. I am sure she can also reach higher rebirth. Rejoice

Yes indeed.  A wonderful lesson from our "mother in law" cat.   Her face is like smiling in her sleep. This to me, is a good death. A learned teacher to send off...   No struggling.  Just peaceful breathing. And finished all the homework.  Tosca just taught me a new lesson on good death..  That death can be Simple and beautiful

Her little coffin laced with sandal wood incense coil.

when she was fierce and irritable

We got Tosca for 220 ringgit on 25 Feb 2000 in a crowded pet shop at Giant JB.  She was caged in a Bird Cage stack in corner with a cage of chickens and birds.  When we got her. She had bird flea and lost all her fur because of skin problems and flea infestation.

Yes. 220 ringgit for 12 years of mother in law cat. Haha. She was not an easy cat  to deal with.

When she has mating in her fur, she would not allow anyone to comb her hair and will scratch me every time she bath. Fussy with food, she didn't like to be carried and touch. But still she is a good cat.  She likes to hide in a corner minding her own business.  Many a times, she hide under the bed and refuse to come out and a morning ritual is to chase her up and down the house to catch her back into the cage

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Order of Interbeing

1. Do not be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory, or ideology, even a Buddhist one.
2. Do not think the knowledge you presently possess is changeless absolute truth.
3. Do not force others to adopt your views, whether by authority, threat, money, propaganda, or even education.
4. Do not avoid contact with suffering or close your eyes to suffering.
5. Do not accumulate wealth while millions remain hungry.
6. Do not maintain anger or hatred.
7. Do not lose yourself in distraction, in-wardly or outwardly.
8. Do not utter words that can create dis-cord or cause your community to split apart.
9. Do not say untruthful things for the sake of personal advantage or to impress people.
10. Do not use the Buddhist community for personal gain or profit, or transform your community into a political party.
11. Do not live with a vocation that is harmful to humans or nature.
12. Do not kill. Do not let others kill.
13. Possess nothing that should belong to others.
14. Do not mistreat your body.

Monday, April 23, 2012

The Flower in the Mirror

Reflecting on the impermanence of this life is important.

My niece recently taught me a game on my iPhone.. Since I have little personal interaction with them on a one to one basis, I thought it was a good idea to be trendy as a in-thing, in addition to the uncle-nieces interaction.

Its called draw something, which awards coins if u guess what the other person is drawing.  With the money, you can buy additional bombs (to get rid of some alphabets to give u a closer guess) or additional colours to make your pic more beautiful.

Soon, everyone is playing this game when they are free.. and we continue to laugh at each other's drawing of bagpipes, frodo, dark vader and lady gaga.  It is all virtual and unreal, just for fun, and a sheer waste of time if you are addicted.

I suddenly realised something from this game.. it is a total reflection of impermanence, and this life too.  While we are in the pursue of wealth, fame and success, are we not in the virtual world too?

Are we not feeding our greed, desire, anger, and ignorance in our games in life too?  The fact that it looks so real, it is real?

Perhaps all is the flower in the mirror and moon in the river..  It is just a reflection.  Not knowing the true purpose of this life, one falls into attachment to reflections rather than the "real thing"

But what then is the real thing? 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Why am I volunteering in Palliative Care?

Someone asked me why I am volunteering in hospice and deals with the topic of death.

Being a hospice volunteer is tough.. every time a patient dies, a part of you die with the person, even when u hardly know this person for a long time.
I have seen volunteers come and go, because of this problem.. commonly known as Compassion Fatigue.

For me, I think I have a few objectives..

1. Through the death of these friends, I am more open to impermanence of this life and constantly remind myself to let go of anything not important. You know about letting go .. everyone talks about it.. but hardly anyone is doing this well.. we have so many attachments, so many wants, so many ideas that we think we are right.. so many Me, I and Myself.

2. Someone must do this job, I see people continue to remain helpless in their last days, alone and bored.. and those patients that have a connection with me, I will try my best to help. I know that I cannot help everyone, just those who have connection with me and dun mind me helping out.. and those who will listen and change for the better to have a peaceful death.

3. I am dying myself.. I know my time is limited. haha..  But using whatever time I have, I want to make a difference... a self project that I know I can contribute.

I am forever grateful to my friends who shared with me their last days, and used their experiences to teach me more about death. Afterall, we only go through death once. and dying is a unknown and sometime a long process.

These days, I use a lot of my time and efforts training volunteers, getting people to think about death through public lectures, teaching them how to prepare for a good death and teaching students and healthcare professionals on helping a good death. But I do get tired out more... and I have to be careful to keep this precious life for my own practice and continue to help out.

As long as my energy continues, I will continue. Incidentally, I will be having my next public lecture at Fo Guang Shan Singapore on June 16 and Jun 30. I am also speaking at Nose cancer group and lung cancer patients in NCC and TTSH in May and July.. and in Dunman High School in Apr.. I restrict myself to once a month, so that I can spread my time.. and stress.. haha..

Yes, It has been a long but fulfilling journey... sometimes, sad, sometimes happy that you have made a difference in someone life.

I am sure you can find a gap somewhere where you too have made a difference.
It need not be hospice care.. we just do our parts, and not like some who only criticise and not do anything..

Monday, February 13, 2012

聖嚴法師108自在語 Wisdom from Venerable Master Sheng Yen

◎聖嚴法師108自在語: 提昇人品 Uplifting Character
1. 需要的不多,想要的太多。
Our needs are few; our wants are many.

2. 知恩報恩為先,利人便是利己。
To be grateful and repay kindness—this is first; to benefit others is to benefit ourselves.

3. 盡心盡力第一,不爭你我多少。
Devote wholehearted effort without calculating who does or gains more.

4. 慈悲沒有敵人,智慧不起煩惱。
Kindness and compassion have no enemies; wisdom engenders no vexations.

5. 忙人時間最多,勤勞健康最好。
The busy make the most of time; the diligent enjoy the best of health.

6. 佈施的人有福,行善的人快樂。
Those who give selflessly are blessed; those who do good deeds are happy.

7. 心量要大,自我要小。
Cultivate a big heart—but a small ego.

8. 要能放下,才能提起。提放自如,是自在人。
To take on anything, one must first be able to let go. One is truly free who can take on and let go of anything in peace.

9. 識人識已識進退,時時身心平安;知福惜福多培福,處處廣結善緣。
Know yourself and others, and the ways of the world, so as to have a peaceful body and mind. Recognize, cherish, and nurture your blessings, and seize every chance to be of service.

10. 提得起放得下,年年吉祥如意;用智慧種福田,日日都是好日。
For those who can take things on and let them go in peace, every year is an auspicious year. For those who can sow with wisdom the seeds of blessings, every day is a good day.

11. 身心常放鬆,逢人面帶笑;放鬆能使我們身心健康,帶笑容易增進彼此友誼。
Maintain a relaxed body and mind, and meet and greet with a smile. Relaxation enhances physical and mental health, and a smiling face promotes friendship.

12. 話到口邊想一想,講話之前慢半拍。不是不說,而是要惜言慎語。
Before you open your mouth to speak, think twice and chew your words carefully. The point is not to hold your peace, but to speak with discretion and prudence.

13. 在生活中,不妨養成:「能有,很好;沒有,也沒關係」的想法,便能轉苦為樂,便會比較自在了。
Try to cultivate this attitude in life: if I can have what I want, that’s good; if I can’t, that’s fine too. This will help us turn our suffering into joy, and live a happier life.

14. 四安:安心、安身、安家、安業。
To uplift our character, begin with cultivating peace in mind, body, family, and activity.

15. 四要:需要、想要、能要、該要。
In dealing with your heart’s desire, ask yourself these questions: Do I need it, or do I want it? Can I acquire it? Should I acquire it?

16. 四感:感恩、感謝、感化、感動。
To get along with others, we must feel grateful for events that help us grow, feel thankful for chances to hone ourselves, reform ourselves through the Dharma, and inspire others through exemplary behavior.

17. 四它:面對它、接受它、處理它、放下它。
When faced with any difficulty of life, resolve it by following these four steps: face it, accept it, deal with it, and then let it go.

18. 四福:知福、惜福、培福、種福。
To increase our blessings we need to recognize blessings, cherish blessings, nurture blessings, and sow the seeds of blessings.

19. 能要、該要的才要;不能要,不該要的絕對不要。
Pursue only what you can and should acquire. Never pursue what you can’t and shouldn’t acquire.

20. 感恩能使我們成長,報恩能助我們成就。
Gratitude can make us grow, and the resolve to return favors can help us succeed.

21. 感謝給我們機會,順境、逆境,皆是恩人。
Feel thankful for the chances to hone ourselves: both good and ill fortune are our benefactors.

22. 遇到好事,要隨喜、讚嘆、鼓勵,並且虛心學習。
When good things happen, we should rejoice in, praise, encourage, and then learn from them in modesty.

23. 少批評、多讚美,是避免造口業的好方法。
To criticize less and praise more is a good way to avoid creating negative karma of speech.

24. 平常心就是最自在、最愉快的心。
An ordinary mind is a mind of utmost freedom and unsurpassed joy.

25. 踏實地走一步路,勝過說一百句空洞的漂亮語。
A solid step forward speaks louder than a hundred empty, fair words.

26. 知道自己的缺點愈多,成長的速度愈快,對自己的信心也就愈堅定。
The more weaknesses you discover in yourself, the faster you will develop, and the more self-confident you will be.

27. 多聽多看少說話,快手快腳慢用錢。
Keep your ears and eyes wide open, but mouth tight shut; be quick with your hands and legs, but slow to spend.

28. 唯有體驗了艱苦的境遇,才會有精進奮發的心。
Only after encounters with hardships will one be roused to vigorous diligence.

29. 踏踏實實做人,心胸要廣大;穩穩當當做事,著眼宜深遠。
Be a down-to-earth person with a broad mind; be a sure hand with piercing foresight.
◎聖嚴法師108自在語:享受工作 Enjoying Work

30. 忙而不亂,累而不疲。
Be busy without being disorganized, and weary without being dispirited.

31. 忙得快樂,累得歡喜。
Be busy but happy, and tired but joyful.

32. 「忙」沒關係,不「煩」就好。
It’s fine to be busy: just don’t let it get on your nerves.

33. 工作要趕不要急,身心要鬆不要緊。
Work swiftly, but don’t tense up; relax your body and mind and never tighten up.

34. 應該忙中有序的趕工作,不要緊張兮兮的搶時間。
Work swiftly in an orderly fashion; never compete with time in a nervous flurry.

35. 不要以富貴貧賤論成敗得失,只要能盡心盡力來自利利人。
Don’t measure success and gain by wealth and rank: to benefit ourselves and others as best we can is all that matters.

36. 任勞者必堪任怨,任事者必遭批評。怨言之下有慈忍,批評之中藏金玉。
To take on tough tasks, one must prepare to tough out complaints, and to be in charge is to be in for criticism. Yet complaints help foster compassion and patience, and criticism often holds golden advice.

37. 隨遇而安,隨緣奉獻。
Stay at ease under all circumstances, and give whenever conditions allow.

38. 成功的三部曲是:隨順因緣、把握因緣、創造因緣。
The tripartite formula for success is: go with the causes and conditions, seize them as they come, and create them when they don’t.

39. 見有機緣宜把握,沒有機緣要營造,機緣未熟不強求。
Grasp opportune conditions when they come, create them when there are none, and ere conditions ripen, never force a thing to be done.

40. 人生的起起落落,都是成長的經驗。
All the ups and downs of life are nourishing experiences for our growth.

41. 用智慧處理事,以慈悲關懷人。
Deal with matters with wisdom, and care for people with compassion.

42. 以智慧時時修正偏差,以慈悲處處給人方便。
Rectify deviations with wisdom; accommodate others with compassion.

43. 慈悲心愈重,智慧愈高,煩惱也就愈少。
The deeper our compassion, the greater our wisdom and the fewer our vexations.

44. 面對許多的情況,只管用智慧處理事,以慈悲對待人,而不擔心自己的利害得失,就不會有煩惱了。
Simply deal with matters with wisdom and treat people with compassion, without worrying about personal gain or loss. Then we’ll never be plagued by vexations.

45. 心隨境轉是凡夫;境隨心轉是聖賢。
To let the circumstances dictate one’s state of mind is human; to let the mind dictate the circumstances is sage.

46. 大鴨游出大路,小鴨游出小路,不游就沒有路。
A big duck cuts a big wake; a small duck cuts a small wake. Big or small, each duck will paddle its own way to the other shore—but only if it paddles.

47. 山不轉路轉,路不轉人轉,人不轉心轉。
If the mountain won’t move, build a road around it. If the road won’t turn, change your path. If you are unable to even change your path, just transform your mind.

48. 「精進」不等於拼命,而是努力不懈。
Diligence doesn’t mean stretching beyond our limits. It means displaying unremitting persistence.

49. 船過水無痕,鳥飛不留影,成敗得失都不會引起心情的波動,那就是自在解脫的大智慧。
A passing boat leaves no trace upon the waters; a bird’s flight leaves no trace in the sky. When fleeting success, failure, gain, or loss leaves no trace upon the heart, the great wisdom of liberation has been achieved.

50. 給人方便等於給自己方便。
To be accommodating to others is to be accommodating to ourselves.

51. 甘願吃明虧,是仁者;受辱吃暗虧,是愚蠢。
Who is willing to be openly exploited is noble-minded; who is insulted and insidiously exploited is dim-witted.

52. 壓力通常來自對身外事物過於在意,同時也過於在意他人的評斷。
Pressure usually stems from caring too much about externals and other people’s opinion.

53. 用感恩的心、用報恩的心,來做服務的工作,便不會感到倦怠與疲累。
Offer your service with a heart of gratitude, as if repaying a kindness, then you won’t feel weary or tired.

54. 隨時隨地心存感激,以財力、體力、智慧、心力、來做一切的奉獻。
Always feel gratitude in your heart, and give unstintingly of your wealth, physical strength, mental effort, and wisdom.
◎聖嚴法師108自在語:平安人生 Living Life in Peace

55. 生命的意義是為了服務,生活的價值是為了奉獻。
The meaning of life lies in serving; the value of life in giving.

56. 人生的目標,是來受報、還願、發願的。
The purpose of life is to receive karmic results, fulfill old vows, and make new ones.

57. 人的價值,不在壽命的長短,而在貢獻的大小。
Our value depends not on how long we live, but on how much we contribute.

58. 過去已成虛幻,未來尚是夢想,把握現在最重要。
As the past has faded into misty memories, and the future remains a dream unrealized, seizing the present is most important.

59. 不用牽掛過去,不必擔心未來,踏實於現在,就與過去和未來同在。
There’s no need to be concerned about the past or the future. Live fully in the present, and you are connected with both the past and the future.

60. 智慧,不是知識、不是經驗、不是思辨,而是超越自我中心的態度。
Wisdom is not knowledge, nor experience, nor dialectical excellence, but a selfless attitude.

61. 積極人生,謙虛滿分;自我愈大,不安愈多。
A positive life pivots on modesty; the bigger the ego, the greater the insecurity.

62. 上等人安心於道,中等人安心於事,下等人安心於名利物欲。
The noble pursue the path, the average pursue their duties, and the misguided pursue fame and fortune.

63. 你是有那些身分的人,就應該做那些身分的事。
Live up to your role and status, and fulfill your required duties.

64. 在安定和諧中、把握精彩的今天,走出新鮮的明天。
In peace and harmony, seize the promise of today, and live out a fresh tomorrow.

65. 擔心,是多餘的折磨;用心,是安全的動力。
While worry fuels unnecessary torment, carefulness breeds security.

66. .財富如流水,佈施如挖井。井愈深,水愈多;佈施的愈多,財富則愈大。
Wealth is like running water, and giving like digging a well. Just as the deeper the well, the more water it holds, the more you give, the more wealth you have.

67. 面對生活,要有「最好的準備,最壞的打算」。
In life, we must make the best preparations, and be ready for the worst.

68. 只要還有一口呼吸在,就有無限的希望,就是最大的財富。
As long as we still have breath, we have boundless hope, and the breath we have is the greatest wealth.

69. 救苦救難的是菩薩,受苦受難的是大菩薩。
Those who aid and deliver the suffering are bodhisattvas, and those in the throes of suffering are great bodhisattvas.

70. 超越生老病苦三原則:活得快樂、病得健康、老得有希望。
To transcend the sufferings of birth, old age, and sickness, keep to the three principles: live happily, face illness with a healthy mind, and embrace old age with hope.

71. 超越死亡三原則:不要尋死、不要怕死、不要等死。
To transcend the suffering of death, keep to the three principles: never seek death, never fear death, and never wait for death to come.

72. 死亡不是喜事,也不是喪事,而是一件莊嚴的佛事。
Death is an occasion for neither mourning nor celebrating, but one for solemn Buddhist practice.

73. 每一個孩子,都是幫助父母成長的小菩薩。
Every child is a little bodhisattva that helps the parents grow.

74. 對青少年:要關心不要擔心,要誘導不要控制,用商量不用權威。
With adolescents, we should care, but not worry about them; guide, but not control them; and communicate with, but not command them.

75. 愛你的孩子,與其擔心,不如祝福吧!
To love your children, rather than worry about them, just give them your blessings!

76. 夫妻是倫理的關係,不是「論理」的關係。
The relationship between a husband and wife is governed by marital ethics, not logic.

77. 現在所得的,是過去所造的,未來所得的,是現在所做的。
What you have results from karmic causes that you created, and what you’ll gain hinges on karmic causes that you’re creating.

78. 眼光,是你的智慧;運氣,是你的福德。
Vision is derived from wisdom; luck, from blessings.

79. 喜愛的就想佔有,討厭的就會排斥,患得患失,煩惱就來了。
To crave your likes but reject your dislikes will plunge you into constant anxiety. Once there, you are prey to vexations.

80. 經常少欲知足的人,才是無虞匱乏的富人。
Those content with few desires will never want.

81. 心不平安是真正的苦,身體的病痛不一定是苦。
Bodily ailments do not necessarily constitute suffering. An unsettled mind does.

82. 明知心不平安是苦事,就趕快以持念「南無觀世音菩薩」來安心吧!
To eliminate the suffering induced by an unsettled mind, just start reciting Guanyin’s name to restore your inner peace.

83. 現在擁有的,就是最好的。擁有再多也無法滿足,就等於是窮人。
What we have now is the best. He who can never be satisfied is a poor man, no matter how much he owns.

84. 不要用壓仰來控制情緒,最好用觀想、用佛號、用祈禱,來化解情緒。
Don’t try to control your negative emotions by suppressing them. Rather, dissolve them through contemplation, reciting the Buddha’s name, or praying.

◎聖嚴法師108自在語:幸福人間 Building a Pure Land

85. 好話大家說,好事大家做,好運大家轉。
May good words be spoken by all; may good deeds be done by all; then may the fortunes of all be transformed.

86. 大家說好話,大家做好事,大家轉好運。
May all speak good words; may all do good deeds; then all may transform their fortunes.

87. 每人每天多說一句好話,多做一件好事,所有小小的好,就會成為一個大大的好。
If everyone can just say one more good word or do one more good deed every day, all the small good will add up to a great good for society.

88. 急須要做,正要人做的事,我來吧!
If an urgent task is waiting to be done, come forward and say, “I’ll do it!”

89. 我和人和,心和口和,歡歡喜喜有幸福。
In harmony with self and so with others, both in mind and in speech, one is full of joy and happiness.

90. 內和外和,因和緣和,平平安安真自在。
In harmony with the inner and so with the outer, with causes in harmony with conditions, in peace and well-being one is truly free.

91. 自求心安就有平安,關懷他人就有幸福。
To seek inner peace is to enjoy peace in life; to care for others is to attain happiness.

92. 人品等於財富,奉獻等於積蓄。
Virtues are equal to fortunes, and giving is equal to saving.

93. 奉獻即是修行,安心即是成就。
To give of oneself is to cultivate the path; to achieve inner peace is to succeed on the path.

94. 擁有的多,不一定讓人滿足;擁有的少,不一定讓人貧乏。
Possessing much won’t necessarily make one satisfied; possessing little won’t necessarily make one want.

95. 能不亂丟垃圾,隨時清撿垃圾,都是做的功德。
By just picking up litter and refraining from littering, we are doing meritorious deeds.

96. 好人不寂寞,善人最快樂,時時處處助人利己,時時處處你最幸福。
The good are never alone, and the kindhearted are the merriest. Those who help others and so benefit themselves are the happiest.

97. 若希望人際關係相處得好,就要把心量放大,多接納人,多包容人。
To develop good interpersonal relationships, one needs to broaden the mind, and be more affable and tolerant.

98. 只要自己的心態改變,環境也會跟著改變,世界上沒有絕對的好與壞。
Change your mind-set, and you will see the world differently: there is no absolute good or bad in this world.

99. 人與人之間的相處之道,需要溝通,溝通不成則妥協,妥協不成時,你就原諒和容忍他吧。
Building good interpersonal relationships requires communication. When communication fails, try compromise. And if attempts at compromise also fail, then forgive and tolerate.

100. 大的要包容小的,小的要諒解大的。
The larger should tolerate the lesser; the lesser should understand the larger.

101. 以全心全力關懷家庭,用整體生命投入事業。
Put your heart and soul into the family, and your whole life into your career.

102. 戒貪最好的方法,就是多佈施、多奉獻、多與人分享。
The best way to abstain from greed is to give more, contribute more, and share more with others.

103. 包容別人時,雙方的問題就解決了。
Tolerance is the best solution to differences.

104. 學佛的人,有兩大任務:莊嚴國土,成熟眾生。
Buddhists have two great missions: one is to glorify the buddha land, and the other is to bring sentient beings to spiritual maturity.

105. 要做無底的垃圾桶,要學無塵的反射鏡。
Be a bottomless trash can that can never be choked by others’ mental junk; be a dustless mirror that reflects the world as it is with no distortion.

106. 煩惱消歸自心就有智慧,利益分享他人便是慈悲。
To dissolve vexations within the heart is wisdom; to share interests with others is compassion.

107. 用慚愧心看自己,用感恩心看世界。
Scrutinize ourselves with a sense of shame, but view the world with a sense of gratitude.

108. 淨化人心,少欲知足,淨化社會,關懷他人。
To purify the mind, start by reducing desires and knowing contentment; to purify society, start by extending loving care to others.