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Stonepeace Old Archives Page 14 of 27

Monday, January 13, 2003
The Real Demons

In Buddhism, the relentless efforts of the evil one (Mara) to seduce one into perpetuating the three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance are rendered fruitless the moment we overcome our own three poisons. While the imagery of Mara might be terrifying at times, let us realise that he is the personification of your very own three poisons, which are the real demons. Mara cannot be more powerful than the extent you let the three poisons control you. And he will survive as long as you let the poisons stay in your heart.

Win Factor

Watching "Fear Factor" on TV now. The challenge is to walk a long window ledge on one of the top storeys of a building. The first contestant had a good time, and was so confident that she kept booing the second contestant when he was on his dare, to scare him to making a slip (yes, there is a safety line). It struck me that that was poor sportmanship. A real winner is one who cheers his competitors. One really wins when one even helped others to win oneself- whether there is an actual victory is secondary. And if one really wins, isn't the victory so much more sweet and real? Note that I'm only talking about sports and similar competition here- in battles of good versus evil, don't let or help evil win! Instead, win evil over by transforming it into good! A good sportsman is like a good practising Buddhist- he does not bring hatred into sports. (By the way, she didn't win in the end.)

The Way

The perfect way knows no difficulties
Except that it refuses to make preferences;
Only when freed from hate and love,
It reveals itself fully without disguise.

-Master Sosan (Shinjin-no-Mei - On Believing the Mind)
The twentieth patriarch had said:
"I do not seek the way,
and I do not do the opposite either.

I do not prostrate myself before the Buddha,
but I do not despise him either.
I do not remain seated [meditating] for very long,
but I am not mindless either.

I do not limit myself to a single meal,
but I do not stuff myself either.

I am not satisfied with everything,
but I am not covetous.

When the heart is stripped of all desire,
that is the way."

-The Great Way Is Generous So It Is Neither Difficult Nor Easy

Buddhist Charity "Vs" Dharma Education

I see much of the local Buddhist community doing charity work instead of propagation of direct and systematic Dharma education work. Dharma work in terms of education is not as easy to do as general charity work, but we mustn't forget that the giving of the Dharma is the highest charity- "The gift of Truth excels all other gifts." Yes you can say that doing general charity is part and parcel of Dharma practice, but the Dharma is much more than practising charity, which is mainly doing good and avoiding evil. There is still the purification of the mind to be taught and practised. General charity alone will not purify the mind- it is only compassion at work without the highest wisdom- which is to be realised by purifying the mind. If even Buddhist temples and leaders miss this point and practise only charity, who will be the ones to propagate the complete Dharma which leads to the liberation of all beings? This is not to discourage charitiable works by Buddhist organisations, but a question of priority. In the mean time, it is perfectly alright for the Buddhist individual to do charity for charity's sake, though he too should not miss the ultimate aim of the Dharma.

While it is true that many beings need the gift of basic charity such as food and medicine before they can learn and practise the Dharma, giving someone all the non-Dharma charity in the world will not lead to Enlightenment. We should focus on non-Dharma charity only when we have learnt to integrate it well with Dharma propagation. The Buddha is the perfect example of one who is able to integrate the duo. Even so, the Buddha was focused on teaching the Dharma more than doing general charity. It is Dharma charity that will save all beings eventually, not general charity. There are many categories of the Dharma. By "Dharma" here and above, I refer to the teachings of the Buddha which lead to nothing less than liberation; not just general betterment in this present or future life with no clear advancement towards Enlightenment.

All Your Eggs in One Basket

Some excerpts from one of my favourite Pet Shop Boys song, "Paninaro '95"-

"... Now you've gone, I'm all alone
My heart is broken and I don't wanna go home
You know it's all over, you're out of luck
You feel so low you wanna self-destruct
I needed you and you loved me too
but now I don't know what I'm gonna do
But life moves on, I'm talking history
and now I've got to find someone who'll dance with me...

... You, you were my lover
You were my hope, you were my dreams, my life
my passion, my love, my sex and my money
my violence, religion, injustice and death..."

This is what happens when you put all your eggs in one basket and lose it. First of all, don't have too many unnecessary eggs. Second, don't have just one basket- but don't have too many either. If you want only one "basket", it has to be refuge in the Triple Gem. No other "basket" is reliable and lasting! It is the crucial basket.

Sunday, January 12, 2003
Path to Perfection

It all boils down to practice-
only practice makes perfect-
nothing else can.

Reply 1 : Sweeping Leaves

The leaves you sweep represent the defilements in your mind.
If you are impatient,
sweeping endless leaves day after day
will sweep away your impatience.
If you are patient,
sweeping endless leaves day after day
is not a problem.
It is something that has to be done anyway!
No excuses not to sweep!

Beautiful Ugliness

In seeing a good portrayal of ugliness,
it becomes beautiful,
and you transcend the duality of beauty and ugliness,
by seeing it as it is.
This is truly appreciating art.
This is the way of the enlightened artist and art connoisseur.

Hope for the "Hopeless"

I am constantly shocked whenever fellow Buddhists proclaim with exasperation about certain folks they have come across, to be "hopeless". They would rant on and on about how they have tried their best to help the persons in question, but to no avail. I think they have forgotten in the instant, that the Buddha taught us that all beings can attain perfect Enlightenment due to our inherent Buddha-Nature (Buddha seed). It can be detrimental to the person you are trying to help when you express exasperation before others. What message goes across? That you are a lousy helper? Or that the "help-ee" is a lousy person that everyone should give up helping? All they should say, is that they had run out of skillful means for the time being- due to personal lack of wisdom!

An Ill Couple

Two of Lynn's good friends, a married couple, were down with high fever at about the same time. They were so seriously down that they had to get Lynn to escort them to consult a Chinese physician. This incident kind of shook me to my senses with regards to the illusion that two people living together will definitely be able to take good care of each other. At the end of the day, we are still living out our own personal karma, even if it is closely entwined collectively with those we love, and hate.

At the end of the day, our salvation is "self-vation", a matter of self-reliance- even if it means using our efforts to get others to help. Two spiritually unwell people can only take care of each other as well as they are well- that is why we go to the Enlightened beings and their teachings as the highest refuge, as they are the spiritually perfect with teachings of spiritual perfection.

Saturday, January 11, 2003
Breaking Wind

Was in a cab when the driver broke wind silently… unless it was me unmindfully! Just as silently, I rolled down my window a little to discreetly let the stench out. I wasn't sure if he knew I did that. But it doesn't matter. I can understand the need to, yup, fart, suddenly- what's more is that it would be somewhat strange to pull over and step out for a moment on the highway just to break wind! And I can understand if he was too embarrassed to apologise- so he behaved as if nothing happened. These things sometimes happen "unwittingly" in the sense that we might not think it would smell at all when we let out just a little gas!

What is the moral of this incident? Well, kindness can sometimes be expressed silently. I did not blame him for the "accident" and he was probably glad for that. I was being kind both to him and myself- I let him "off" and I let myself "off" by letting the air out. Sometimes there is just absolutely no need for words.

Diamond Sutra Story with Twist in the Tail

A monk came to an old woman's home to ask for food. She said, "I've just prepared this blueberrry pie and tea. If you can answer a question about the Diamond Sutra, I'll give it to you. The monk said, "Dear lady, I study the Diamond Sutra all day long. Of course I can answer any question! The old the lady asked, "Are you eating this bueberry pie with the mind of the past,the mind of the present or the mind of the future?

The monk could not think of any answer so he pulled out his book and began reading. Ater an hour,the old lady took pity on him and said, "You foolish monk! You are eating this pie with your mouth! Please partake of some pie and tea!"
-Tranquil Standing Mountain


K: Tell you an open secret... I have been reading your writings and always think to myself : finally here's one balanced person with superb knowledge of the Buddhadharma and abundance of creative brain juice! Just like how you articulate the thoughts, your literary skill and your application of Buddhist principles in daily life.. and with such a refined sense of humor. So, even if I can't last long here, at least, I have no regrets, for I have met THE Zeph. Just some frank personal opinions, not meant to lift u up sky high.... by the way, I am convinced you are already enlightened...therefore, have compassion on me ...helpppppppp...... : )
Z: Thanks for the support! No la I am not enlightened. Let us all save each other!
ZhiYi: Just read this. Can't help but smile- these pieces truly are more digestible, absorbable and connectable. Keep it up - err . . coming.
U: I like the blog website though...
Purplestar: I have been reading your article and was very touched by your efforts to create a new breakthrough online diary to enhance readers to give a thought of our daily happenings in in life. The thoughts after digest helps me to be SUI YUAN (let unchangeable situations be) in the positive manner. The cream that I really learn is how to forgive others with an open mind. It really help me to be calm in handling matters. However, at times I have to take many tablets to digest your dairy. Kindly put a note on the Dharma terms you use so as to save time for people like me still attending the kindergarden class in Dharma reading. Zeph, the contents are really good enough to be published. To me, the diary actually brings out the three poisons in life and methods to be detached from these toxins on the way to enlightenment. Really hope to see your 366 articles in town for reading. Cheers!!!
Z: Thanks! I will put bracketed short glossaries after difficult terms.
SehNee: (on publishing this stuff) Go for it. I don't think it's crappy ... i think it would be good.

Reply 1 : The First Taxi

V: "The first taxi" is a lousy example on our perception being relative. When we think someone has cut queue while we've waited hideously long for an unhired/un-oncalled taxi, we are talking about who came first. It's got nichts to do with the queue being in front or behind. It's basic civilised behaviour to let someone who was there earlier than us have the coming taxi. That's what I'd do whether or not I'm standing in front or behind that person. As long as she/he is there first, the taxi is theirs.It's COMMONSENSE!Already I'm appalled with the people here for the lack of this basic courtesy! It's happened to me one time too often. Especially annoying when I've stood under the hot sun for more than half hour.
Z: I understand your frustration from the encounters. However, notice that the article had the words "we tend to think he cut queue- be it intentionally or not." There are many cases when people "cut queue" without noticing they are doing so. There are also times when we come out of a building and head straight for the kerb in front, not realising there are many people behind where we stand. There can be so many that you can't even see clearly where is the "last"- does it mean you will walk all the way to the "end"? (This is especially true for busy roads like Orchard.) Or should we just head for a proper queue as in a taxi stand?

Double-Ended, Double-Started

Was eating sweets from a stick of Mentos on and off when I reached the last sweet in the paper tube. For a few seconds, I found myself struggling to squeeze it out of the tube- as there was no "leverage", with it being the last sweet. Then I realised my foolishness in clinging to the illusion that there is a proper one-way "exit" for the sweet. Why did I have to see the sweet as being the last in the tube? I turned it around and voila! It had become the first sweet. I only had to give it a slight push, with the "leverage" of the tubing, to pop it out! Sometimes, things are not single-ended but double, especially when things like front and back, left and right, and up and down are relative truths. When "stuck" in a situation, reverse the situation by seeing a close-ended situation as an open-ended one- think out of the box. In fact, the box is usually an illlusion- there might be none at all!

Really Love & Hate

I think a problem with parental love is that sometimes parents really love and really hate. What do I mean by that? Sometimes parents love their children to the extent of clinging- this is really loving (in contrast to truly loving unconditionally). And at other times, they sometimes hate their children to the extent of inflicting physical punishment- this is really hating. But parents being parents, in most cases, despite having a real love-hate relationship with their children, the love is more, though unfortunate- since it is of the clinging nature- it can be so apparently unconditional... till the day the children break their hearts. In Samsara, even the unenlightened love closest to true love is afterall, not enlightened love. I write this not to discredit the greatness of parental love, but to warn of the greatness of the suffering we can give our parents when we are unfilial.

Spiritual Mumbo Jumbo

I was at a fair where all kinds of new age methods for well-being were publicised. With all due respect to many of these methods which sometimes work very well, some of them, in my opinion, is mumbo jumbo in the sense that it is not close enough to be truly spiritual. It is only toying with mind and matter and not transcending them for real Enlightenment. Even psychic power is just playing with mind and matter. But it's okay afterall, if it all leads directly or indirectly to the path to Enlightenment.

Friday, December 27, 2002
All the Time in the World

Suddenly, while taking a break on this day one afternoon, after hours of meditation on day one of a seven day retreat, there seems to be all the time in the world to attain Enlightenment. In fact, there is the feeling that there is too much time- too much for comfort. It is disturbing that the retreat feels too long in the first day. It really highlights two facts- that I have been procrastinating progress while being impatient at the same time. It's a paradox. Maybe I shouldn't be taking this break now, to think these thoughts and just do it and lose the illusion of time. Feeling the retreat to be too long also means I'm already longing to get back to worldly life. But here I am now. And all these nonsense about wanting out is nonsense indeed. This is none other than training- going against and thus breaking the grain of habit. Not the usual case of too much to do given too little time. Here at the retreat is the case of only one thing to do given ample time to have no excuses not to do it well. That one thing is to meditate well and to be as mindful as possible at all times. Feeling that I have too much time also means I find the sitting a drag. Back to basics- take and live one moment at a time. If there is indeed too much time in the world, I would be attaining Enlightenment by the fifth or sixth day? Er... not an impossibility... we'll see how haha. Or at least, I would have improved by leaps and bounds.

Whether in a retreat or not, we have all the time in the world . We have already taken countless lives with countless opportunities for retreats and regular practice. This is an admonition, not words of comfort- if you see what I mean.


Ryan- yes the toddler nephew, without fail howls and howls when his favourite kid tv show "Hi-5" goes into a commercial break. Mum would have to come around and comfort him, telling him in words he doesn't understand that it's ok, that "Hi-5 will return shortly after these messages!" This show is on form Monday to Friday and he still doesn't realise the behavioural pattern he has fallen trap to. But, we might say, "Hey! He's just a kid for goodness' sake!" Ok... if so, then what excuses do we have? How many times have we lamented at a temporal dismal situation, forgetting that the sunshine will come after the rain? How many times have we got carried away by temporal "happy" occasions, forgetting that the rain will come after the sunshine? The trick to be happy most of the time is to make peace with both the sunshine and the rain. I'm waiting to see Ryan smile at TV commercials haha.

Imprints & Impact

I used to keep hearing fellow Buddhists talking about creating positive karmic imprints with the Triple Gem. That's fine. But the disturbing part is I don't hear much beyond that. Let's not stop at creating imprints and create impact! Let's not stop at planting seeds of Enlightenment and nurture the fruits of Enlightenment! A seed that does not bear fruit is well, for lack of a better word, fruitless!

Monday, December 23, 2002

Feeling feverish from a relapse of my assumed begone for good fever. I can't even tell for sure if it's a relapse- it might be a brand new bout of fever that struck. I kept teling Lynn that doing stuff like bathing to lower my temperature was only a temporary measure- creating an illusion of the fever subsiding. She measured my temperature regularly and I kept saying, "It's not real!" Then it hit me that we never truly recover as long as we are in Samsara. Illness will strike again and again before we die- again and again. All states of wellness in Samsara are illusory; true wellness is Nirvana- void of the three poisons of greed, hatred and delusion that bring about trouble in mind and body. Come to think of it, "rebirth" is synonymous to "relapse".

Friday, December 20, 2002
Cure for Pain in Sitting Meditation

How to deal with physical pain, such as that in the crossed legs, during sitting meditation on the floor? Here are 2 methods I discovered. They seem to be opposite remedies but they both work similarly using mindfulness.

1. Don't "Care" about the Pain

Keep your mindfulness on your original object of meditation. The mind can only be in one "place" at one time. The fact that you are feeling the pain means your mindfulness has been drifting off from the object of meditation to the pain again and again, toggling to and fro. What the mind does not "mind", it does not mind- and the body will not feel it. In fact, if you do your meditation well, you should not even feel your body (if the object of meditation is not of the body).

2. "Care" about the Pain

Watch the pain mindfully... till it disappears. It will be surprisingly faster than you thought it would be. The pain will disappear because all feelings, physical and mental rise and fall. But in watching the pain, do not magnify it with your imagination. Just see it clearly and accept is as it is. It is amazing how easily mental acceptance creates physical peace.

I recommend the first method if you do not wish to shift mindfulness away from the original object of meditation in the first place. But it can be intriguing to see the moment the pain dissipates in the light of mindfulness. Did you experience the disappearance of your last headache? Probably not- but it definitely did disappear- or you would still be having that headache now! The second method also happens to train our patience and increase our ability to stand physical discomfort. Real tolerance is not having the thought of tolerating. Just be. Just accept, and watch.

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