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"Where there is heat, there must be cold.
In the same way, where there are the three fires (greed, hatred and delusion),
there must also be Nibbana (extinguishment of the fires).

Where there is evil, there must also be good.
In the same way, where there is birth, non-birth can be inferred."

-Jataka Nidanakatha 22-23 (The Buddha)

We tend to think of the opposite of birth as death-
when the opposites of birth and death can be the birthless and deathless- Nirvana.


Blog On!

Let's be realistic-
you might not have enough of your life to write a novel on,
but let's be realistic,
you should have enough interesting enlightening episodes to blog on-
so start bogging- get an account at
and let me know when you have something up and running!

Long Wait for Bus

There's this bus I have to wait for almost every night. An average wait used to be about 5 minutes. Nowadays, it can take up to 15 minutes. But checking the bus schedule, it has not changed. Turned out that I used to be waiting for the bus just 5 minutes before arrival, and now I happen to wait for it about 15 minutes prior. It struck me that this means no one should generalise about a particular bus always taking a long time to wait for. If the bus is timely, then it is us who are untimely. Likewise, we point out the mistakes of others too often too easily. Perhaps there is something on our part that could have accomodated.


If you look carefully at the behaviour of the Buddha, the way He thinks, speaks and acts, or even dresses, you will realise that they are always done in a manner as universal yet minimal as possible, as cultureless as possible. Void of cultural trappings, that is how the Buddha's teachings can easily be assimilated by any culture.

Instant Karma

No, I'm not going to talk about how ,"instant karma's gonna get you." Instead, I'm going to be talking on how we create karma in the instant, which yes, sometimes makes instant karma get you.

I see a woman taking her wallet out of her bag while walking, a piece of used tissue gets brushed out accidentally. She stops for a while, two steps beyond the tissue on the floor, looks back at it, hesitates for an instant, and carries on walking. In an instant, her good and bad selves battled, and her goodself lost, creating bad karma. I snapped my fingers at her to let her know someone else saw the dropped tissue, and am not sure whether she heard it or not, as she walks on by. I feel a sense of rage at her apathy. In that instant, I had created bad karma by letting anger take over me. Instant karma got me.


Beauty is in the eyes-
the way they look, (the way you see things)
the way you look. (the way your eyes are)

Tousled Hair

I find it amusing when I see guys in public restrooms carefully shaping their hair to give it the tousled look. This is a modern day example of "order within chaos", reminds me that nothing happens by chance.

Ringing Phones

I find it hard to understand when 2 differerent phones can ring shortly one after another in a place where it is impolite to have ringing phones. It is as if the owner of the second phone has not heard the first phone ringing, as if he does not see that as a reminder that his phone too had better be turned off. A wise person takes heed immediately when he realises something is wrong, he self-reflects instantly and does not make the mistakes others do.

Easiest Way

The easiest way to carry food is to eat it.
The easiest way to carry clothes is to wear them.
The easiest way to transport a car is to drive it.
The easiest way to know the Buddha is to become a Buddha.

The Buddha's function is not for mere veneration,
it's to inspire you, to let you know that your greatest function, ability,
is to become a Buddha.

True Beauty

Behaving like you are so obviously so beautiful
makes you obviously ugly-
even if you are somewhat beautiful.

It is unassumingness that makes the beautiful beautiful.
So true beauty is never merely physical,
it's an attitude too.

And a beautiful attitude can make physical ugliness totally unobvious.


Self-reflection will save everyone.

The Sixth Patriarch of Zen taught that
"The trangressions of the world are mine,
and my trangressions are mine alone."

We should self-reflect
on why we are unable to help others to self-reflect too.

Monday, July 14, 2003
Why Realisation of Dukkha is Nirvana

While it might be astonishing that Dukkha is Nirvana, it is nevertheless true. So how can Dukkha, which seems so obviously to be the antithesis of Nirvana, arise simultaneously? When we speak of Dukkha (as one of the 3 Universal Characteristics and as the first of the 4 Noble Truths) in the ultimate sense, it is not simply about theoretical agreement with the fact that there is gross physical suffering in life, but that in its most fundamental form, Dukkha can be experienced here and now in the most subtle mental form. In the process of insight meditation, one comes to a point when one watches one's thoughts rise and fall and realises, to his dismay and exasperation (yes- this is Dukkha indeed), that no thought or physical sensation can be grasped on to. At this point, suffering goes beyond merely speculating or visualising that in the "distant" future, we will suffer from ageing, sickness and death. At this point, one faces the most basic of all existential dissatisfactions squarely in the face- the inability to hold on to anything within and without ourselves when we want to. Exactly when one sees this crystal clearly, along with the other two Universal Characteristics of Anicca and Anatta (which are facets of each other), one lets go (the Fourth Noble Truth of relinquishing attachments) of all grasping (the Second Noble Truth- craving that arises from ignorance of the 3 Universal Characteristics) and attains Nirvana (the Third Noble Truth). Thus, the exact moment one realises Dukkha fully is the moment one attains Nirvana!

This is probably why, in Mahayana Buddhism, Nirvana is used to substitute Dukkha as part of the 3 Universal Characteristics- because the realisation of Dukkha IS the realisation of Nirvana. This is also probably why there is the Mahayana saying that "Afflictions (our various forms of suffering) are Bodhi (Enlightenment)"(Fan1 Nao1 Ji1 Pu1 Ti1), and vice versa. Not only does Dukkha or our afflications lead or motivate us to Nirvana (Bodhi), but we have to realise that Dukkha and Nirvana can be ultimately synonymous! This is the ultimate non-duality of Samsara and Nirvana. Any attachment for Nirvana and aversion to Samsara is thus a delusion. Experience Dukkha, I mean Nirvana, now!

Buddhist Fundamentalism?
The Solid Foundation of No Solid Foundation

Fundamentalism: A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism. (Religious skepticism or indifference- the view that religious considerations should be excluded from civil affairs or public education.) [From]

Hey wait! Buddhism isn't by nature fundamentalist. How can there be, as the title suggests, "Buddhist Fundamentalism"? Well, first of all, even though a religion does not advocate fundamentalism, there will be fundamentalists- even in Buddhism- extremists who do not tread the Middle Path of moderation.

But if Buddhism does not advocate fundamentalism or even hint of it, does it mean Buddhism has no fundamental or core essential teachings? Yes there are- or Buddhism would have no standing ground; it would be vague and undefined. There wouldn't even be the need to call Buddhism "Buddhism"! So what are the fundamentals of Buddhism? The foundations of Buddhism are no foundations! What do I mean by that? Didn't I just say that Buddhism has fundamentals? Yes. Here is where it gets tricky...

The Buddha clearly taught us that the 3 Seals of the Dharma mark His teachings. They are seals in the sense that they authenticate the Truth, and differentiates the Dharma from non-Dharma. The trio is also called the 3 Universal Characteristics- as they mark the nature of everything (mind and matter- all mental and physical entities) in the universe. The Buddha discovered that the easiest yet most accurate way to completely describe the universe lies in these 3 characteristics- nothing more or less is needed. Since Truth is the way things are in reality, these characteristics themselves are aspects of the Truth- the fundamentals of Buddhism. But yet we can say these foundations of the Buddha's teaching are not really there in the sense that they are not something solidly "solid". This is due to the nature of the 3 characteristics-

1) Anicca (everything material and mental is constantly changing)
2) Dukkha (everything we grasp to brings disssatisfaction as they, and our attachments change)
3) Anatta (everything is without any fixed self because they change)

If you look carefully, the truths circle around Anatta- the truth of unsubstantiality. Sometimes this is called "soullessness", "egolessness" or "self-lessness". The truths can also be said to circle around Anicca- the truth of constant change. Dukkha is the sentient or human aspect of the two otherwise seemingly cold and unrelatable truths- the complete realisation of which is synonymous with Nirvana (the end of suffering- See next article "Why Realisation of Dukkha is Nirvana") Dukkha has to be stated as a truth in the sense that it is a true problem for us as long as we are unenlightened. If it is not a problem, the Dharma or Enlightenment would not be necessary in the first place. Seeing its "reality" and doing something about it is having Compassion for yourself and others.

Before I digress again, the 3 Universal Charateristics are indeed fundamental foundations of Buddhism, but as they are about unsubstantiality, they are in this way, the foundations of no foundations. This is a supreme "form" of foundation because it is only with this "form" of foundation that religious or doctrinal fundamentalism will not arise in Buddhism. At this point, you might think Buddhism is the nihilist's dream come true. Not exactly, because with the emphasis of Dukkha being a universal characteristic (problem for all sentient life), there is no compromise of the importance of morality. The truth of Dukkha can convert rational nihilists to realise that since they are subject to Dukkha, and that since subjecting others (to bring personal "happiness") to more suffering only compounds personal Dukkha, it is wise to be moral.

What is unsubstantial cannot be clung on to. Fundamentalism is clinging on to what is believed to be substantial. If a Buddhist clings to the truth of insubstantiality substantially, does it make him a fundamentalist Buddhist? So does Buddhist fundamentalism really exists? I would think the best answer I can give you is a Zen question reversed as an answer- The face of Buddhist fundamentalism is your original face before your parents were born!


Everything's got a moral if only you can find it.

-Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)

Jabberwocky* is what you make of it.
Everything is Jabberwockish is you look carefully-
apparently something, not exactly anything, actually nothing.


*See to know what this is.

Emptiness of Definitions

Things lose their definitions when they lose the reference points by which they are defined. Thus, any one thing by itself intrinsically has no meaning or worth. No thing is substantial by itself. In fact, every one thing being unsubstantial in itself does not substantiates anything else at all. It is an illusion. Everything brings meaning into everything else in a web of interdependence. This meaning is actually arbitrary- according to the observer's perception. Here is an example of what I'd been trying to say above-

Where does forehead end? At the hairline?
What happens when the hairline is shaved off?

Where does face start? At the hairline?
What happens when the hairline is shaved off?

Where does scalp end? At the hairline?
What happens when the hairline is shaved off?

The Pointless Deja Vu of Rebirth

Was telling a friend something
but she claims I told it to her before,
but that I'd forgotten- scary!

Maybe how many times must we repeat something
before we realise we have been repeating it?
What is the point of repetition for repetition's sake?

Reborn here and there,
been everywhere, done "everything"-
other than attain Enlightenment- Darn!

The point of rebirth
is to drive home into our thick deluded heads
that rebirth is pointless.

You are not here to save all beings, are you?
Then what the hell are you doing here?
Save yourself first for goodness' sake!

Follow Not the Followers

It makes no sense to follow the followers of a teaching and not the founder itself. Do not mistaken intepretations of a teaching to be the teaching itself. Do you take refuge in the Buddha or the fellow "average" Buddhist? Followers try to follow the founder, but it is inevitable that more often than not, you will come across followers who are less than perfect than in following the founder's perfect example. To fellow Buddhists who sometimes lament that they fail to find exemplary model Buddhists who genuinely practice what they preach, or rather, what the Buddha preached... well, let us remember that the Buddha Himself IS the genuine "Buddhist" already. The Buddha should be our first inspiration. This is not to discount the importance of less than perfect teachers, but let us remember it is the founder we aspire to emulate. He is the one we should take reference from primarily. If a teacher can teach you the path, if not part of it, to perfection, even if he is apparently not perfect, the onus is on you, not him, to attain perfection. No fellow teacher or Buddhist's glaring or even subtle imperfection should ever discourage you. Remember that the fact that you do not have inspiring model fellow Buddhists in your life is a karmic effect of your own creation. What you do not deserve you do not get. This should encourage you instead, to put in greater effort in cultivation- to be your own model Buddhist- a Buddha!

Grasping Precepts & Practices

The third fetter to Enlightenment (as an Arahant) is sometimes translated to be "grasping to precepts and practices." We should realise that the precepts are moral guidelines, not hard and fast rules to stick by fundamentally. Here's an example- the Buddha as a Bodhisattva once killed a man on a boat, who was going to kill over 100 people onboard. Did he break the first precept of abstaining from killing? No. The spirit of the precept is not simply not to kill any being, but to protect life. He killed one person to save 100- the effects of goodness heavily outweigh the evil. In fact, not killing the potential murderer in this case leads to the murder of 100. If one grasps at the letter of the precept blindly, one might just freeze and let the massacre happen without any action. Is this not truly breaking the first precept 100 times over?

Another example of how one can wrongly grasp the precepts is the case of Angulimala, probably history's most infamous single-handed serial-killer, who killed 999 people before repenting his ways. He doubted his potential for Enlightenment or even spiritual progress, having broken the first precept through and through so many times before. But the Buddha assured him of his genuine spiritual transformation. Later, he attained Arahantship. In both cases of the Bodhisattva and Angulimala, they still experienced the "inescapable" karmic consequences of their voluntary actions. The Bodhisattva was reborn into hell for an instant only though, before ascending to a heaven, since his act of killing was of altruistic intention. Angulimala was stoned to death by villagers who did not realise his true repentance. In both cases, the "suffering" was inconsequential in the sense that it did not disturb their minds. As Sylvia Boorstein puts it, "Pain is inevitable, but suffering optional."

What is grasping to practices? This is also sometimes translated as "attachment to rites and rituals." For one to break the third fetter, one would have realised the basic insight knowledges and know that all Buddhist rites and rituals, or even practices such as observation of precepts, meditation and chanting, are to lead to realising the 3 Universal Characteristics. All practices are not yet the "real" thing, not the substance of Truth (the Dharma) yet- they are merely skillful means to the ends of attaining insight realisation. In this sense, they can be arbitrary in nature though essential. Grasping to them thus becomes a fetter.

Every Gesture of Love

When you kiss and or hug, or show any gesture of love, do it properly and fully each time. Such that if it turns out to be the last time, you won't regret not having put your heart into it. Even if it was not the last time, at the end of your life, you would be able to look back and be glad that you were always wholehearted throughout your life. Are there any gestures of love you have been "owing" someone? This might be the last time you have a chance to express your love.

Wake-up Call

I was reading in the subway train. There was a guy standing nearby. He holds a plastic bag- that he keeps banging it onto my knee accidentally. For about 3 times, I shuffled my foot to bang it back a little- just to let him know it's in the way. Each time, he held the bag away in "repentance" but repeated the mistake again shortly after. The fourth time it happened, I grabbed the bag with a hand and gave it a brief but sustained tug- before returning to reading- as if nothing happpened- no signs of anger. Throughout, I did not look up. But from the corner of my eye, I saw him give a hand gesture of apology. I thought it was funny. Sometimes, a lesson of mindfulness can be taught in a sudden Zen way- to stun, to wake someone up.

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