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Friday, September 20, 2002
Mindfully Careful

Tok: Interesting site zeph... just one question, what do u think is the diff between mindful and careful? Let me give it a shot, mindfulness is a technique that the Buddha taught. A person practicing mindfulness watches the raising and falling of the 5 aggregates. The aim is to see the real nature of all phenomenon, which is the 3 universal char. The person is an "active-listener". It is very different from being careful or even being thoughtful, both of which, by themselves lacks right thoughs and right views.

I find the word mindfulness being mis use in situations. Placing your shoes and slippers neatly at a meditation retreat is not mindful, its thoughtful. crossing the road safely is abt being careful, not mindful. tell me what you think..

Zeph: Haha... I agree with you! But to be careful, we have to be mindful too. Let's just say mindfulness is maximum carefulness with our mind!

Beginning with One Good Glimpse

"The Buddha used 84,000 skillful means (teachings)
only to lead us to see the 3 Universal Characteristics in their total reality,
which leads to nothing less than ultimate liberation, total Enlightenment and true happiness."


Once you have a good glimpse (not complete realisation) of the reality of the 3 Universal Characteristics (Impermanence of Mind & Matter, Dissatisfaction of Mind & Matter, Insubstantiality or Non-Self of Mind & Matter) through proper insight meditation or equivalent spiritual practice, your life changes forever. This is a turning point- with which your whole life pivots. Not only do you enter the Dharma, it is as if the Dharma has entered you, making learning and practising the Dharma a matter of fact and greater ease. If you are honest to yourself, you will not need convincing that your life has indeed changed forever after you had glimpsed at the 3 Universal Characteristics. When you doubt, you have not yet seen them. When you see these Universal Characteristics, you are seeing the essence of the Universe itself. Only then do you truly enter the gates of the Dharma and start walking the path to Enlightenment. Sometimes this is called entering the stream- it is the end of the belief that you have a self in terms of mind and /or matter, the end of doubt in the Triple Gem's ability to lead to Enlightenment and the end of belief in the ability of attachment to rites, rituals and precepts to lead to Enlightenment. Insight means Wisdom. We need some crucial minimal wisdom to begin to realise ultimate wisdom in its totality. This is likened to needing some Right Understanding, as in the Noble Eightfold Path, in the first place, to be able to practise the other 7 aspects of the path... leading to the perfection of Right Understanding which is Enlightenment itself. Any other way of learning and practising the Dharma which does not lead to at least a good glimpse of the 3 Universal Characteristics is a waste of time.

There are times you come across fellow Buddhists who are new to the Dharma, but who seem to have a good grasp of the essence of the Dharma through direct glimpsing of the 3 Universal Characteristics in meditation or meditation equivalent practice. They seem to be at ease with even the deepest sutras and are able to instinctively live their life according to the Dharma. On the other hand, there are fellow Buddhists who have learnt the Dharma in bits and pieces for years, going around in circles, attending a talk here, reading a book there, getting advice from different friends with different views... sometimes even mixing up Buddhist culture and ritual with the essential teachings. Usually, these Buddhists are the ones who do not truly see the importance of meditation- which is an indispensable aspect of the Noble Eighfold Path, which they think they are already walking in its entirety. Even the Buddha had to meditate! And He even does so after Enlightenment! These Buddhists usually only agree with the 3 Universal Characteristics in theory. They have not even entered the stream; merely frolicking water by the side of the stream. Why keep thinking that stream-entry is difficult? Realise instead, that it is the bare minimum attainment- the first solid step towards Enlightenment- and take this step. Without taking this step, of what use is this life spiritually? We should not have spiritual procrastination since the human birth, which is ideal for spiritual cultivation, which is difficult to attain, has already been attained.

This is not to ask you to be attached to the idea of attainment of stream-entry- but to urge you to just go ahead and take the real first step. Anyway, stream-entry, like any other spiritual attainments, is an attainment of no attainment. If one is bent on attaining it out of craving, one cannot do so. The word "attainment" tends to lead one to think there is something to get; but in spiritual practice, we do not get anything; we only need to let go of our craving and delusions more and more in order to be more and more free. It is likened to the process of clearing dark clouds of defilements which obscure the bright full moon of our Buddha-Nature hidden behind. There is no need to "attain" or get the moon; just rid the clouds and there it is. The moment one is a Sotapanna, he will not be attached to the fact that he is one- because he knows it is a non-attainment. Since he has had a glimpse of the 3 Universal Characteristics, he is also convinced that his "self" does not really exist- although he still needs to practise further to realise non-self totally as at least an Arahant (even if he is on the Bodhisattva path to be a Buddha). Afterall, this is only the first step to Enlightenment. Thus, a true stream-winner does not make a fuss out of being one- since he knows there is no "one" who is truly a stream-winner. In the spirit of the Diamond Sutra, a stream-winner is not a stream-winner, which is why he is a stream-winner:

"The Lord asked: What do you think, Subhuti, does it occur to the Streamwinner, 'by me has the fruit of a Streamwinner been attained'? Subhuti replied: No indeed, O Lord. And why? Because, O Lord, he has not won any dharma. Therefore is he called a Stream-winner. No sight-object has been won, no sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, or objects of mind. That is why he is called a 'Streamwinner'. If, O Lord, it would occur to a Streamwinner, 'by me has a Streamwinner's fruit been attained', then that would be in him a seizing on a self, seizing on a being, seizing on a soul, seizing on a person."

So much said, what are you waiting for? Truly begin walking the path to Enlightenment now- by truly taking the first step.

God Loves You - Buddha Loves God

Hi D,

I'm sure Jesus loves me. On the other hand, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas loves all too- even those in hell :-] Their love include Jesus and "God", whom we call Maha Brahma (See last section of Kevatta Sutta, "Conversations with the Gods": I have confidence in the infinitely compassionate.

I believe we create and re-create ourselves in every moment- no one makes us. Why did God create, if there was one? If He is already perfect and complete, why?

May you be well and happy. Please see to know what's so wonderful about Buddhism :-]


----- Original Message -----
From: "D"
Sent: Friday, September 13, 2002 9:02 AM
Subject: God Loves You

> I am in no way wiser than you guys..And i am not sure about ultimate emptiness kinda stuff..

> But what I know is, The Lord, God who created Everything, Loves you more than anything else in the world and knows your every name and thoughts. In spite how we all don't give a crap about Him and deny him.. Jesus Loves You too..more than any living creature can ever imagine..

Juz dropping a line, me no troublemaker..sorry..

God Bless You, ur Friends, and Families!!

D :)

Thursday, September 19, 2002
An "Un-Daily" Diary

I was thinking... am I so undisciplined that I can't keep a daily-updated diary? It's been 6 days since the last entry! On hindsight, not really. Afterall, a diary has to reflect real life. If I don't feel like writing for a certain day, or if I can't find the time, well, that's it! That's the way it goes. I think it is common assumption that a good diary has to be as the word "diary" seem to imply- written on a daily basis. Well, that's not the way I define it now. A good diary is an honest one- that has blanks when there are blanks, that fills in the blanks when they should be filled in. What's important is that the significant thoughts and events are recorded... not necessarily on time, but in good time- in time that is true, not real time! See the subtle difference? This reminds me of the quote of the day by Alfred Hitchcock I saw at Library@Esplanade on Saturday, "Drama is life with its dull parts cut out." Here you are then! My "dramatic" diary which spares you the unnecessary monotony of mundane life! Haha... does it sound like an elaborate excuse for my lack of discipline? You decide! (By the way, this was written and blogged not at 1.35pm on 9/19. It is now 12.18am on 9/20!)

Friday, September 13, 2002
Theory on Sharing of Merit

Theoretically, when we try to dedicate our merit to someone who has already passed away, and who is already reborn into another life, with a new identity, this person cannot receive the merits. This is probably because we cling to the certain being in a certain form, which is no longer relevant to the person in reality.

What can we do then, in order to let our merit reach this person? We can instead dedicate merit to all beings, one of whom is naturally the being you wish to dedicate merit to. You might think there is not enough merit to go around for all beings. But is this true? The motivation of wishing one's accrued merit to benefit all in the first place magnifies the merit! Thus, paraodxically, the more merit you share with more beings, the more merit the being who was the initial cause for the merit making and dedication gets, in comparison to dedicating merit to him alone. This works whether he is already reborn or not. This is the power of generousity, of sharing goodness.

The Humble Shall See the Truth

A: I am always right. No one corrects me these days.
Z: You right because no one corrects you? Or are you so wrong to think you are always right, that no one wishes to speak against you anymore? If you are always right, you are a Buddha already. We hide the Truth from ourselves by ourselves. Maybe your self-righteousness and over-confidence about the Truth is shielding you from the Truth. No one hides the Truth from us- we cause it to be hidden by our attitudes, one of which is arrogance. A true Truthseeker begins by convincing himself that he is more often wrong than right, that he needs corrections from many people. In this way, he unshields himself from the Truth and gets closer to it. It is thus an essential quality that all earnest Dharma practitioners should be humble. After all, only the Buddha has no need to be humble. But even so, He does not put on any airs, radiating only Compassion to all, be they humble or proud.

Dharma Flower

Uen: The Dharma is beautiful. It unfolds like a blooming lotus. May I see the heart of this beautiful flower.
Zeph: The heart of the Dharma is Prajna Paramita (The Perfection of Wisdom) as in the Heart Sutra! With it perfected, all the other five of the Six Paramitas are perfected and Buddhahood is attained! Buddhahood attained is the realisation of the Buddha-Nature, which is the heart of this flower. Wonderful! Your beautiful analogy reminds me of "The Wonderful Dharma Lotus Flower Sutra" (Lotus Sutra:, in which the Buddha expounds on the universality of Buddha-Nature within us, the wonderful potential to blossom into the perfect lotus-like purity of the Buddha!

The More the "Merit-ier" (Merrier)

Derrick: Can merit be multiplied by the numbers of Dharma or good emails we forward?
Zeph: Why not? Karma works everywhere! Cyberspace is not virtual samsara; it is part of it! Real! So the law of cause and effect still works online! If you forward an email thoughtfully to many friends with the motivation of sharing the gift of Truth, you can get good karma multiplied by the number of people you CC! But if you spam everyone in your address book carelessly, without consideration of whether they will appreciate such a mail, you are likewise multiplying your negative karma just as easily by leaps and bounds!
Derrick: This seems to make the accumulation of merit easy in this internet age! Good karma creation at the speed of broadband at the click of a button!
Zeph: Is it so? It depends. Good karma by way of email- might be a case of easy come, easy go. Too many cooks spoil the soup! Everything in moderation! The Middle Path! A person sharing the Dharma skillfully offers the right dosages at the right time to the right people in the right way. Email is not necessarily the best way and is definitely not the only way!

White Hair

Sophie: Sob... Sob... found a strand of white hair. This will probably be the first of many.
Zeph: Don't worry- it's not the first... we'd been there, got that, too many times for too many lives already. Maybe if we truly dread old age enough, along with the suffering of (re)birth and (re)death, and set a firm resolution to break free of the cycle of life and death, we'll end our sad sob story once and for all!

Instant Karma's Gonna Get You!

A Lunchbreak SMS Dialogue Yesterday

Uen: WHAM! BAM! CRASH! car accident. First time. I passenger
Zeph: Wow you must be alive and kicking to be able to msg. And you must write an article on it! Any casualties?
Uen: No casualty except car. Maybe I'll write a short sms for friends.
Zeph: There are no accidents- only the exact unfolding of karma. This make accidents more frightening than ever. It means for every close shave we have with death- we almost killed ourselves by ourselves! Be it out of unmindfulness (still karmic cause and effect at play) or serious heavy karmic payback.
Uen: Death can be just around the corner. Are you ready? Or will you be sorry?

Selflessness Vs Selfishness

All happiness in the world arises from the wish for others' happiness.


All the unhappiness in the world arises from the wish for the illusory self's happiness.
How can oneself be happy when one does not have a self?
Happiness then, must come from the realisation of non-self,
and its functioning of selflessness, as in opposition to selfishness.
This means the practice of compassion for the happiness of others.


Motivation & Consequences

If my acts mirror the intentions of my mind,
no matter where I go,
respect and honour will be offered me,
the fruit and recompense of merit.

-HH the 14th DL

Even if your intentions or motivation is good, out of compassion,
you should ensure that their results or consequences, born of wisdom, are good.
Too many people are attached to the importance of motivation over its consequences-
as if it is only the thought that counts,
when the good results are just as important if we genuinely wish to be helpful to others.


The Mindful Charioteer

He who holds back arisen anger as one checks a whirling chariot,
him I call a charioteer;
other folks only hold the reins.

-The Buddha (Dhammapada)

It is the whirling chariot that needs the charioteer the most-
to hold it back there and then.
It is the steady chariot that needs the charioteer just as much-
as long as there is the horse with latent anger,
ready to send the chariot whirling any time.


Test for Gold

O monks, just like examining gold in order to know it's quality,
you should put my words to the test.

-The Buddha

Words above by the Buddha tested and examined as if for gold...
passed with flying colours!



Despite occasional startling "accuracies" of astrological stereotyping of Virgoan character traits, I believe in Anatta (Non-Self: Truth of the Constantly Changing Mind & Body) more than Horoscope- that's why I'm Buddhist!

Thursday, September 12, 2002
Ad 2 for!

Thanks to u oso. for discovering such a website. i always have wanted to publicise some of my diary entries. so this blog site comes in time. -10

Karma Komplexities

J: A kills B. Is that karma?
Z: It is fresh creation of an evil karmic seed for A while the receiving of evil karmic fruit for B.
J: If B had killed A in a previous life, I would understand it as karmic retribution.
Z: It need not be that B killed A in a previous life. However A must have done something evil enough to deserve murder- either in this life or one of his previous lives. It just happens that B is the means or condition through which A's evil karma ripened.
J: But when B killed A in a previous life, what was A's karma that caused him to be killed?
Z: If B did kill A in a previous life, A must have done something evil enough to deserve murder in that previous life or prior.
J: B was producing a "cause" in killing A. Why did A has to die?
Z: No- A created the cause (seed) in being killed. B was only the condition through which the seed ripened and bore fruit.

The Heart of the Heart Sutra

Chanted the (Prajna Paramita) Heart Sutra ( in Chinese seven times at the temple yesterday with colleagues as our weekly group practice. I had an illuminating new discovery... The sutra is about seeing the ultimate emptiness of everything, including the Dharma. It culminates in the mantra "Gate Gate Paragate Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha", which means "Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond, O what an awakening, all-hail!" This is interesting because it sums up the teaching of ultimate Wisdom as the going beyond of emptiness (and form), the letting go of emptiness itself! This is true total liberation! It is because Bodhisattvas can let go of attachment to both form and emptiness that they are able to stay at ease in Samsara to help all beings, without being tainted by it, "producing the continual thought (of Bodhicitta) without abiding anywhere". ("Ying1 Wu2 Suo3 Zhu4 Er1 Shen1 Qi1 Xin1"- From the Diamond Sutra, the next greater summary of the essence of 21 years of teaching- some 600 scrolls of Perfection of Wisdom teachings by the Buddha.)

Suddenly, the following verses make a lot of sense, "Therefore know that Prajna Paramita (Perfection of Wisdom) is a Great Spiritual Mantra, a Great Bright Mantra, a Supreme Mantra, an Unequalled Mantra. It can remove all suffering; it is genuine and not false." Indeed! What can be more powerful than liberation from realising emptiness plus letting emptiness go!

If the Heart Sutra is the heart of the Perfection of Wisdom teachings, the heart of the Heart Sutra then, is not really Emptiness, as it is so often mistaken. The heart of the Heart Sutra is beyond emptiness and form- in other words, truly beyond everything! It is the indescribable essence of the highest Enlightenment. So indescribable is it that it is not described in the sutra; there is instead a powerful mantra which is a direct instruction to the experience of Enlightenment! This brings us back to the beginning of this Sutra, "When Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara was practicing the profound Prajna Paramita, he illuminated the Five Skandhas (Five Aggregates of Form, Feeling, Perception, Mental Formations and Consciousness) and saw that they are all empty, and he crossed beyond all suffering and difficulty." This is another direct instruction on how to "cross beyond" to where the mantra describes (See above bolded mantra again)!

Bro.Richard commented similarly during a Sutta discussion class. I remember being stunned. Never saw this incredible sutra in this light before! This is a personal breakthrough for me- this "enigmatic" Sutra, especially its ending, is finally demystified! Wonderful!
I am very happy to learn about your emptiness-realisation & or letting-go's breakthrough yesterday while chanting the heart sutra. Form is no different from emptiness & emptiness is no different from form. Form is emptiness & emptiness is form... So the Buddha says Dharma, is not Dharma, so it is named Dharma.

Since about ten over years ago, I had been chanting the heart sutra without knowing or understanding what it is talking about, though it is only about 260 words. Then I switched over to the Diamond Sutra thinking this must be better as it contains more than 5 thousands words. It was getting "worse"! Then, I almost gave up & eventually went for retreat-meditation (vipassana). As time goes by, one day, when I chanted the Heart Sutra, suddenly I found my heart was smiling. I was full of joy with tears. Then later on, I went on to chant the Diamond Sutra, gradually rock-solid-peacefulness emerges in my heart/mind. BUT still I have to walk the path as I begin to understand!


Wednesday, September 11, 2002
Hell is...

"Hell is other people." -Jean Paul Satre (One of the founder of Existentialism

"Paranoia is Hell-
the deeply gnawing suspicion that others are out to get you;
when it is you getting yourself, relatively or ultimately." -Zeph

The demons tormenting one in hell are as real as the people giving you hell in life now.
But they are only as real as you choose to see them to be.
Everything is mind-made.
Everything starts resolving from the mind.

See them as wrathful Bodhisattvas training your patience, exhausting your ill karma,
and their demonic-ness disappear.
It doesn't even matter whether they are really demons or not.

But of course, stand up to the demons when they do you wrong,
when the situations permit.
For they might be neither demons nor bodhisattvas,
but ignorant sentient beings like us,
creating hell of a lot of bad karma,
creating future hell for themselves,
for creating hell for you.

They will get their just deserts,
just like the hell you go through now are yours!

911 : 1 Year On

I'm taking a train to KL at the time of your memorial service (, but could I please add this thought:

As we pause to remember those who died on September 11, 2001, let us also think about the much larger number who, according to United Nations statistics, die every single day of the year from the twin terrors of malnutrition and dirty water. For details, see the websites of the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization ( and the United Nations Environment Programme ( -George Jacobs
In Samsara, any tragedy is not the only tragedy.
In Samsara, everybody needs Compassion.
In Samsara, when there is enough Compassion,
it ceases to be Samsara;
it becomes Pureland.


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