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Stonepeace Old Archives Page 13 of 27

Saturday, February 01, 2003

Uen: Basically, life is boring- doing the same things over and over again.
Zeph: Nope- it is craving for new experiences that make routine boring.

One Taste of Freedom

San: Dharma needs to be imbibed slowly to find its taste.
Sen: Chew the Dharma till it is beyond taste- then the essence has been savoured.

Monday, January 20, 2003
All is Vanity

Saw a book titled "All is Vanity" in a bookshop. I would like to extend that by saying that "All is vanity... if it is for passing happiness for oneself; and not lasting happiness (Enlightenment) for everyone." We are all vain in whatever we do, which we think will bring ourselves lasting happiness, which only passes. The mistake is in assuming True Happiness to be able to be found in the material and mental realm. The mistake is also in having selfishness, having the illusion of self, leading us to seek egocentric happiness in vain. As long as happiness circles around the self, it will not last. Lasting happiness is True Happiness and it possible only in Enlightenment where one realises non-self and is thus willing to selflessly help others realise happiness. Vanity is a result and symptom of continual wanting. True Happiness is making peace with here and now- it is the end of wanting (craving). Living for anything else, we live in vain. (What do you see in the picture? An ugly skull or a beautiful woman looking at herself... in vain?)

Is Child-bearing Natural?

Knowing that I personally do not wish to have any children after marriage, Von, who is a non-Buddhist remarked that married folks should see child-bearing as natural. I replied that saying so is tricky. If child-bearing is considered natural, can we say for instance, that rebirth is natural? Given the fitting efforts and karmic conditions, one might conceive a child just as one might be reborn. The process is natural, yes, but it is not exactly natural when we speak in terms of the highest spiritual goals, which are to attain Enlightenment and to help others do the same. When one is very much bent on attaining Enlightenment and is given the choice, one usually cuts down actively building attachments to kin and things, especially new ones. Likewise, one who is determined to liberate himself sees rebirth as somewhat unnatural and that it is only natural to go against the stream of ignorance to be free from it. Saying rebirth as natural would be equivalent to saying practice to free ourselves from rebirth to be unnatural. Child-bearing is spiritually unnatural on the parental side in the sense that we usually conceive with attachment to sexual pleasure playing a big role. It is spiritually unnatural on the child'[s side as we are all reborn due to our craving for Samsara. Yes, other than disguised Bodhisattvas among us, we are all children of Samsara, born out of the three poisons, born with the three poisons, born by parents with the three poisons, born into this world with the three poisons. Yet it is with this precious human rebirth that we can eradicate the three poisons- be we parents or children.
Von added that we should give opportunities for beings to be reborn as humans to practice the Dharma. Obviously she does not understand the workings of karma- which will find its way despite ourselves and our preference. Whoever deserves the precious human rebirth will definitely receive it somehow. It's not a case of, "Sorry, no vacancy in the human realm on Earth!" Sometimes I hear the perspective of actively giving birth so that we can help bring up many wonderful Buddhist babies, while giving ourselves the golden opportunity to practise being bodhisattvas to the bodhisattva children we have, who continually "test" us. This is very noble indeed. But how far can we extend this nobility? To three children? Five? Ten? So far, I have not heard of anyone giving birth to a dozen children in order to "save" them. Should we all extend this noble action as far as we can?

We have to be honest to ourselves. Do we want children to extend our ego? Do we want children for company and future support? Do we really want children for children's sake? I am not saying this to discourage child-bearing, but to encourage honesty to ourselves and our children. It is also useful to note that the world is facing the problem of over-population. With faith that babies being born according to the law of karma (with us only being birth conditions), plus my personal belief that there are human realms beyond Earth, I do not worry about not actively being part of the process of creating "more" humans. Who knows, I might "accidentally" conceive a child!The main reason I do not wish to have children is because I already find myself a tricky sentient being to take care of. Hey! My hands are full already! But once again, to balance perspectives, it is praiseworthy to have children out of good intention for the children and not for selfish reasons. May you and your children lead spiritually fruitful lives which benefit each other and others, and their children and children's children.


A friend remarked to me, when I was holding up an umbrella under shelter, that it is bad luck to do so, that it will result in people gossiping about you. I replied that that is obviously a superstition with no clear rationale of cause and effect. But on second thought, there might be some not so obvious rationale behind age-old superstitions, which must have arisen for some reason, silly or not. I joked that probably, the gossiping I might get is passers-by pointing fingers at me, calling me crazy to sport an open umbrella under a roof!

O Great Relief

O what great relief!
That life is utterly meaningless!
I have no obligation
to be good, evil or pure,
to live or to die...
I get to choose whatever I want-
to go to hell or heaven,
or to stay where I am,
or to attain Nirvana.
All I need to remember is
my choices will have corresponding results.
In this great relief,
I am still not free from the law of cause and effect (karma),
but I can use cause and effect to win freedom from it.
Because life is utterly meaningless,
I choose whatever meaning I see worth pursuing.
Because life is utterly meaningless,
I can choose to be free from life, and death.


It all seems so stupid,
it makes me want to give up!
But why should I give up,
when it all seems so stupid?

-Depeche Mode (Shame, from "Construction Time Again")

I SMS-ed the above to May, and the next time we bumped into each other, she remarked that I probably think too much. Knowing this remark to stem from the message, I replied that I don't think so. Life is a paradoxical existential crisis as described by those lyrics, and it is only those who contemplate deeply about these pardoxes, and either attempt or succeed to resolve them, who truly live. She paused for a few moments, and said, "I agree."


In the book "The Outsider" by Albert Camus, the protagonist was partly sentenced to death for his seemingly socially unfitting behaviour, when there was ethically nothing wrong with his refusal to behave "normally" like the rest of the crowd. He was somewhat deemed a murderer by "virtue" of his unconventionality and the circumstances which seem to point fingers at his apparent but non-existent guilt. It suggests that society easily morally outcasts those who do not behave like itself, despite the fact that the majority is not always right in ts judgement of the minority and its beliefs. For example, mych of the world believed that the Earth was flat, and punished those who believed otherwise for heretical thinking. And the so called heretics are naturally the usual suspects for crime and rebellion. But the majority was wrong- they were the real heretics in the name of Truth. These wrong persecuters of "heretics" still exist in our society today- they are the ones who mistaken the untruthful for the truth and thus base their sense of justice on injustice. The Buddha Himself, was surely considered a "heretic" to the prevalent religions in His time when He started teaching. I told May about the book and she was interested to borrow it.

Later on, at the dinner table in a restaurant, the rest were chatting about a Chinese expression "Bu1 Shi1 Ren1 Jian1 Yan1 Huo1", which roughly translates to "Does not partake of the smoke and fire of this world." This expression describes a person as one who seems otherworldly in his or her ways, not necessarily in a good or bad way. It can range from being cool yet aloof, to original but cold... May silently pointed at me and smiled. The rest didn't understand, but I remarked to her that she just sentenced me to death. It was true. For all at the table, I was the most unconventional- so much so that despite us all being practising Buddhists, I would be the prime suspect for murder should one of us get mysteriously killed. Haha... I shold have scared May but saying, "Now that you have pointed me out, I would have to kill you!"


The ignorant ask ignorant questions and insist on answers, thinking those who cannot answer them are ignorant- when the truth is otherwise. But there are also times when good questions are asked and not answered by the ignorant. How do we know who is wise and ignorant? By continually becoming more wise. There is no other way. It is always safer to think we are ignorant than wise. Because only the truly ignorant and the truly wise think they know enough. Because it is unlikely that we are the latter at the moment. This is one strong reason to practise humility.


After making a choice,
we can always make a choice against it,
and a choice against the choice against it...
At no point are we not free to choose.
There are always at least two choices.
Even in the most dire of situations,
we are free to choose our state of mind.
This is your primary freedom that no one can steal from you,
unless you make a choice to give it up.


When you are in doubt about matters like whether you should yearn for love or not, it means you want it. It also suggests you might need to experience it before you are willing to let go of your craving for it. But it doesn't necessarily means you should just jump the gun. Your doubt probably exists because you think that rationally, you should not crave for it. The suffering can arise from

a) Conflict between reason (rationality) and emotion (irrationality)
b) Conflict between true reason (truth) and your false reason (lack of wisdom)
c) Conflict between positive emotions (useful emotions such as compassion) and negative emotions

So what should you do? What can we do? Other than increase our understanding of true reason and increase our positive emotions- for it is only with perfected reason and emotion (wisdom and compassion) that all our conflicts end.

Regular Practice & Random Practice

Regular meditation practice at a fixed time and place actually simulates situations of inconvenience, which are useful spiritually. What do I mean by this? For instance, because you are scheduled to have a meditation session on Friday evenings at a certain temple, you have to actively block out any other clashes of other activities- even if you are tempted by an attractive fun or social event, and make your way to the appointed place at the (self-) appointed time. This is what I meant by "situations of inconvenience." Learning to overcome each situation is the practising of self-discipline. This is very useful because the crucial moment of death will usually be an incredibly inconvenient time. In learning to overcome minor inconveniences, we prepare for the major ones, especially of sickness and death. In our dying moments, it can be very difficult or easy to muster our spirituality to let go of life- depending on how well-disciplined and used to inconvenience we are. In such matters of life and death, or rather, rebirth versus release, we are faced with the ultimate test of our life.

It is often an illusion of mastery and ease when those who do not practice regularly proclaim that they can meditate anywhere anytime they wish. It might be true while they are alive and well, but the catch is when they meditate as and when they wish, they are often not facing inconveniences; they are choosing convenient occasions instead. In not being used to making peace with inconveniences, death might not be adequately prepared for. By the above, I am not discounting the value of "convenient" practice versus "inconvenient" practice, but am encouraging regular practice in addition to irregular practice, especially since there are the possible side-effects of having only "inconvenient" regular practice becoming "used to routines" which are taken for granted. Worse still, one might be attached to the time and place to meditate such that it becomes convenient instead! In such cases, irregular practice at unfamiliar times and places becomes inconvenient instead!

Stimulation of the Senses

Saw the following in a comic strip. The following are numbered according to the sequence of boxes in it-

1. A pig by himself feels bored. (low)
2. A machine arm extends to stimuate him physically and he feels slightly high, as he yearns for more and higher highs.
3. More arms extend to stimulate him and he gets super high, till he gets tired of it and yearns for his original state.
4. All the arms retract and he realises the state without any yearning for any high is a high too. But this realisation is short-lived due to habitual craving.
5. Note below box 4.- See box 1 again! (The cycle from 1-4 repeats.)
What a brilliant depiction of the entire substance and cycle of samsaric highs and lows!

Wednesday, January 15, 2003
A "Love Letter" to a Friend

Dear Xin,

To sum up Aster's view on love stuff, which I want to share with you, I am now writing on her behalf...

Aster is single, almost middle-aged, and sometimes finds herself craving for company in the form of a lover. On the other hand, she sometimes encounters friends who lament about being married, who are envious of her being a swinging single. She realised that just as singles sometimes crave to be married, the married sometimes crave to be single. Our feelings tend to alternate, our hearts fickle... in a seemingly endless cycle of attachment and aversion, of love and hatred. Being in love does not mean being in love all the time. Love in life alternates in wanting and not wanting. Such is the nature of us "Samsarans." True Happiness is breaking free from letting our desires control our happiness. True Happiness is neither guaranteed in singlehood or marriage; it is only guaranteed in letting go of wanting. This we have to understand, whether we wish to stay single, get married or "see how it goes."

True Happiness cannot be in having found love- for the dream of being in the bliss of love forever is an illusion, as nothing is permanent- it is only constant attachment to the idea that love brings constant happiness. This constant attachment is the cause of great suffering in due time instead. When one experiences the bliss of love most of the time (while being "naturally" attached to it), the moment of departure will be proportionately painful- be you are the one dying or the one watching your loved one die. It is unrealistic for unspiritual people to think they can have their cake and eat it- when they think they can be deeply in love and let it go easily when the final moment comes. If one can let go so easily, one wouldn't have clung on to love so strongly throughout; one would not even have chosen to be attached in love in the first place.

All we have now is this moment to relish, to live in. Aster realised how silly it was to wish the moment was other that what it presented. Why fret being single when single? Why fret being married when married? If the situation can be changed to what your heart desires, do it. If not, enjoy this moment without lament. Live happily in each moment, moment to moment. This is your life- now. Don't let it slip away. Any fantasy of another fantasy moment with a fantasy person is giving up happiness in this moment. So she resolved to be happily alone when alone, and happily with company when with friends... to be happy wherever whenever (hey Shakira haha) she was.

Sometimes I think you are in a win-win situation when it comes to love, though you are likely to disagree. You are on the path to Enlightenment, of relinquishment of all attachments. And you have the privilege of not being currently attached to anyone! Does this not make your spiritual path easier? Not being attached makes your practice harder only when you are attached to wanting to be attached! Not being attached also means you do not have someone you are committed to to relinquish (which can be very tricky due to attachment on both sides and other complicated feelings). Because of the above, you have a win-win situation! Then again, you do not need to have to be attached. All it takes is the desire to have something that you don't have at the moment. That is already attachment. The strongest attachments are to things you do not have yet. This desire to acquire.

In my chat with Aster, I concluded by posing a koan (a paradoxical Zen riddle used as a tool for attaining enlightenment upon its resolution), which she did not answer. A good koan is a realistic koan which relates to real life. Here it is... Now that you know you should try your best to relish the moment whatever it brings (meaning you open yourself to "all possibilities"), should you consciously open up your social circle to meet more guys? As you are very busy, not consciously opening up your social circle will hardly increase your chances of meeting potential boyfriends. In not opening up, you are as good as consciously ending your chances (narrowing "all possibilities" to "less possibilities")? Thus is the paradox- you should treasure the moment as it is; yet you have to make the effort to seek love if you wish to find love. But in the seeking, you are no longer treasuring the moment as it is- you are wanting otherwise. We talk about sui1 yuan2 (letting conditions be natural), but love does not always karmically arrive without some conscious effort. What should you do? My answer to this confounding koan is simple- it all boils down to whether you want love or not. I also have another equally simple answer- all this speculation is pointless. The fail-proof way to attract love is to be a loving person to everyone, even strangers. People love loving people; the unloving are more "unlovable." If someone is attracted to you in the moment because of your loving-ness (lovingkindness/ compassion...), relish the moment of being loved and make the next decision from there...

Relish the moment, yes. Relish being loved. Relish my love, my friend. Relish our friendship in the moment [ok ok I know you do :-] As you read this now, know that this is the only real moment. I write this lengthy letter of love and friendship because of love for you my friend. I have been all along offering you all I can except that which separates lovers from friends. It saddens me a little when you feel sad you have "no one". But what is love? What is friendship? I ask again... what is the difference? Is the difference that important? Can it be forgotten? Done away with? Even if there is a whole world of difference to you, make the best of this moment!

What fools we be for love! Maybe great perfect Bodhisattva equanimous love of all starts somewhere from imperfect loving of one person other than ourself? May we grow great in our selfless love. Whatever your decision is on love matters, whenever you have love-blues, I will support you best I can :-]

Metta, Zeph

Principle of Universal Importance

The Anthropic Principle says that the universe centres around man in the sense that it is naturally shaped such that it allows man to exist- which is why we can be here now talking about this principle. This seems to make sense at first thought. But does it really? Yes and no. Man inevitably dies. With the death of a man, does the principle still hold true for him? Or do we say it ends with him- for him? This principle is only saying the obvious- though it conjures the illusion that man is special and central in the universe. The Anthropic Pinciple is simply the law of karma- the universe of causes and conditions will support the survival of the individual according to his just deserts- till he does not "deserve" to live anymore. In this sense, the universe does indeed "revolve" around this individual. However, through careful thought, you will realise that the universe in reality "revolves" around each and every thing and being. There is simply no other way for things and beings to exist if the universe does not allows it. For example, we can say the conditions of the universe revolves around a sapling to condition or "allow" it to grow into a great tree- before it gets chopped to be timber. I can call this the flora principle! Likewise, there is the canine principle, which revolves around dogs, and the feline principle, which revolves around cats... you get the idea! What does this imply? It means that contrary to the single belief of the Anthropic Principle, that man is central in the universe as an observer and participant, other things and beings are of just as much central importance in the universe- or the universe would not have "taken the equal amount of trouble" to bring them into existence and sustain their existence. Everything in the universe are participants in the universe we share. The fact that any particular thing or being exists means the entire universe is naturally "taking care" of it in the moment. Thus, we have to uphold what is natural- speak up for animal rights, preserve the rainforests, etc...

Because everything and everyone is central in the universe, there is no specific centre. How can this be? Here is a slightly abstract yet exact example to let you get the idea. Imagine the Earth as a perfect sphere. Any point you stand, your feet point straight at its central core. All creatures and things great and small are likewise centrally bound passionlessly by gravity to the same core, with no particular like or dislike by the great Earth. Now expand this concept in all directions to cover the whole universe to see the big picture. The universe is like a macro Earth system, a gargantuan but single tightly cohesive unit of intricate interdependence, with equal "respect" for everything in it. The "respect" is not a particular slant of preference towards any particular thing or being but in a (w)holistic (complete and singular) way. Because the universe is holistic in nature, it is just. It does not side the doom or teeming of any lifeform- it only plays out in the moment, effects created by causes and conditions set by the particular lifeform in the past. This non-sentient nature of the universe means we should be all the more mindful of the repercussions of our actions to the universe and ourselves, who are part of the universe.

Let me call my above elaborated theory to the Anthropic Principle the "Principle of Universal Importance." This principle also speaks of interbeing (interdependence) as the fact that the universe allows all that exists to exist means co-existence is possible between man and nature, and man and man of different natures. Yet thus co-existence does not always imply harmony. On closer look, much global disharmomy between man and man and man and nature is caused by man. (Other sentient beings have their own conflicts too.) Man can both actively create and resolve conflicts. Only with the understanding of the Principle of Universal Importance (which is just my fancy term for "Dependent Origination" as taught by the Buddha, or "Interbeing" as coined by Thich Nhat Hanh) will man see the need for universal peace.

Sooner or Later

A colleague caught chicken pox, and another suggested that those who havn't got it before might wish to visit him to get it over with. There is the prevalent belief that everyone will get it once, like it or not, and just once, as the body naturally becomes immune to it subsequently. I find this funny- because it's totally different from saying, for example, that in this life, we will get to die once and just once. It is not an absolute law like that at all. Chicken pox is transmitted through its contagious air-bound (I think) virus. This is the play of cause and effect. If you do not come close to someone infected for your entire life, you won't catch it even if you live to a ripe old age. But given countless lives, our ill karma probably caught up with us countless lives before- with chicken pox and other ailments! As long as we are in Samsara, we will be caught with birth, ageing, illness and death... again and again. True sickness is then, not being sick in Samsara, but to not get out of it.
This catching chicken pox thingie reminds me of this theory of "chance" (in Buddhism, there is no such thing as "chance"; everything occurs as a result of intricate interdependent web of cause and effect) that says that if a hundred monkeys were given enough typewriters and time, one of them will inevitably bang out a Shakespearean play by chance. That is, given ENOUGH time. Yes. Given enough time, probably anything and everything that can happen will, due to causes and conditions constantly changing and latching onto each other, resulting in countless effects. Given enough time, we will all become Buddhas. Of course, enough effort is a crucial criterion for that to happen. Time is just a factor. This is no hundred-monkey "by chance" hit the jackpot case- if you keep monkeying around endlessly, you will never make it. Given forever, we forever have chance to attain Enlightenment. But if you take forever, you forever won't. Wanting out of samsara fast to save oneself is wisdom. And wanting out of samsara fast enough to save others is compassion. Which do you have? The first, the latter, both or none?

The End of the World

The world's end can never be reached
by means of traveling through the world,
Yet without reaching the world's end
there is no release from suffering.
Therefore, truly, the world-knower, the wise one,
gone to the world's end, fulfiller of the holy life,
having known the world's end, at peace,
longs not for this world or another.

-The Buddha, "The Connected Discourses of the Buddha"

You can travel all the way around the world,
but where does it get you to?

-Pet Shop Boys, "Love Comes Quickly" (Actually)

There is no physical end of the world as long as the phenomena of mind and matter is not relinquished. In letting go of both,
we become free from the world, ending worldly suffering. Yet at the same time, we can remain in the world out of compassion.


Dharma Master Cheng Yen said, "A chipped cup still looks intact if viewed from another angle." Hmmm... does that mean we should be careful when seeing someone or something, to see if there is another side of the picture to see the complete picture? Or does it mean to see the good in the bad and the bad in the good? Or does it mean what you see is all a matter of perspective? Hmmm... well, here is what I have to say- "A partly chipped cup is a partly intact cup."

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

I discovered an interesting phenomenon. It is near impossible for the most people to feel lust towards handsome Buddha images and beautiful Bodhisattva images. This is because they are "designed" to be spiritually awe-inspiring, not physically "lust-inspiring." Their beauty is that to the extent of being majestic, magnificent; instead of "gorgeous" in the street sense of the word. This very interesting- true beauty does not spur lust; it puts it at rest. Whenever I see someone who has this similar effect (eg. the picture above- I don't know her, but this particular pose has that effect to some extent), I'm reminded of the truth that the truly physically beautiful are so because of their true spiritual beauty. It's the real definition of "cool"! I have seen many friends who in certain instances look incredibly magnificent- these are glimpses of the brilliant Buddha-Nature within. On the other hand, great spiritual beauty is sometimes not shown physically- external changes can take time to catch up internal changes! It would be a great misgiving of mine if you were to take the message of this article to mean it is okay to judge by appearance, for nothing is further from the truth.


There are many pseudonyms (pen-names) used in here- to uphold the "privacy policy" of strangers and friends. But they are also appropriately used in another sense- we are changing all the time- into different persons... so much so that using changing pseudonyms seem to be the fair thing to do- so that we do not mentally and unfairly pigeon-hole dynamically evolving persons into fixed personality types. It is as if we constantly put on and off countless different defiled masks... which mask the universal Buddha-Nature within.

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