Boarding the southbound train at around 9.45pm after work, an uplifting sight caught my eye. The man with outstretched legs in the photo above was reading a copy of ‘Be a Lamp Upon Yourself‘ (which introduces basic Buddhism with abridged materials from a few good books plus some original sections). First published in 1999 and expanded over the years, the latest edition is the sixth. I happen to be thinking of expanding it further, though there’s the problem of it becoming too thick. To memory, it was the first local ‘one-stop’ introductory free distribution book of my generation designed specifically to be pocket-sized.
I wanted it to fit in ladies’ handbags then, which were small. Who would have known, that handbags would evolve over the years to be huge enough to contain phone books (Yellow Pages)! Over the years, I had looked forward to seeing commuters on trains or buses reading it – the way some would read the Bible or a novel. It took me 10 years to finally see the above. I wonder if the size or contents ‘worked’. A book is a bestseller when more than 5,000 copies are sold. Tens of thousands of ‘Lamp’ have been distributed so far, with a Chinese version (点亮心灯）available too. Does that make it a bestgiver, since it is a gift of Dharma given free? Even if so, there are really many other bestgivers too. Isn’t it wonderful, the Buddhist culture of sponsoring books to share the Dharma? Sadhu!
38 thoughts on “Be a Lamp Upon Yourself”
Me â€“ â€œIn fact, I would think that living in this age, it could be best era to learn Dharma and the chances of getting out of Samsara are very high â€¦ You need to be more positive â€¦
There are something this era have where other periods donâ€™t have, if it can be made full use of, it is definitely helpful..â€
Jilexin – â€œIn fact, Iâ€™m grateful that this era will come. Why? Cos only in this era, will some of us feel the need to cherish and practise the Dharma more wholeheartedly than ever, feel the urgency to let as many people and other living beings hear of and understand the Dharma as compared to other eras.â€
Jilexin inspired me to think further. Let me rant a bit and all of you can see whether it make sense or not â€¦
Why did I feel living in this era, is the best time compare to the past? What do we have in this era that can help?
1. We have great advancement in Technology (transport, IT etc), after Industrialization. We see Dharma printed in the form of books, DVD, CD internet etc at cheap cost, reach out faster and bigger mass. There are Buddhist Forums that allow Buddhist to share and help to advice on each other problems and support each other â€¦. If you canâ€™t attend any Dharma Talks here or oversea, it can be made available at your own time and pace via youtube, CD etc. You can repeat it as many time as you want, or pause to ponder and contâ€™d later â€¦
2. We have education (esp woman), all can read. If we canâ€™t read, there is audio books â€¦ etc
3. We have great advancement in Science that help us to understand our mind work, how meditation is proven to be good, hypnosis to support the belief of reincarnation or even using hypnotism to cure addictions, science research to analyze the dying process and talk about it openly â€¦ Positive psychology and other workshops etc to help us deal with our mind and help us in practicing Buddhism â€¦
4. We understand the problem of earth facing â€“ global warming, that telling us not so good to be reborn as human, we better work something out. And the falling birth rate show that too â€¦
5. We have figure to showing human population is 6 billions and EVERY YEAR 50 billions land animals being killed. And our population is in a way â€˜encouraging â€˜more animals to be born due to our demand. See this great number of reborn into animalâ€™s realms and that sends big signals to us, practice, DO Good and donâ€™t end up here. The suffering of animals in the factory farming and slaughter house tell us this too.
6. We are able to help less fortune people or victims of natural disasters before of our technology (we see news, we can fly there) to do goods and build up our compassionate hearts and merits. All these also telling us, how fragile life is â€¦
7. Even going vegetarianism is so much easier now. We have good vegetarian foods, supports and knowledge on how to live a healthy vegetarianism lifestyle that we can have the choice of living compassionate (follow the â€˜donâ€™t killâ€™ ) compare to living in the past â€¦
8. We have different crises in this world that help us understand what is important in life. We read history to understand, to learn from the past experiences of other which can be useful in the spiritual practices. We can see for ourselves what we are seeking in this world is not the true happiness that we should go for. And this can be shared so quickly which can never happen in other era.
9. Meeting Truth Teaching and Great Teacher is, so much HIGHER because of technology compare to the past. They can â€˜flyâ€™ or they be in the form of CD, Books etc â€¦
10. And the list goes on â€¦ you can help to add on â€¦
Yes, technology makes Dharma propagation much more of a breeze these days. I use to refer to http://www.TheDailyEnlightenment.com as the way through which ‘Guanyin Bodhisattva’ can spread the Dharma via ‘thousands of hand-delivered’ Dharma mails in one go. I can’t imagine life without the net now. So much of my life centres around it. However, the net also makes propagation of non-Dharma (e.g. ideas of hate) spread easier too. 😮
Shi an, I canâ€™t help hijacking this post :p hope you donâ€™t mind â€¦ a crazy woman turned so :sick: :bandit: :alien: â€¦ sorrie â€¦
Jilexinâ€™s post in the old moonpointer was going round and round in my brain this morning â€¦
â€œAt present, I’m just concentrating on one to get a better feel of how Buddhism is being promoted to the masses there â€¦ I hope what I do will eventually contribute to helping people understand what is Buddhism truly about and how it can benefit them even if they do not wish to take refuge in the Triple Gems yet. â€¦ â€œ
Out of sudden, I have a different thinking, just to share the thought, and I think it is already working silently in the society â€¦ It is working from the opposite direction â€¦
We would always think spreading Dharma via the name of â€˜Buddhismâ€™ (that is one way), but can spreading of Dharma not really using the name â€˜Buddhismâ€™. Is name so important? ç®¡å®ƒæ˜¯é»‘çŒ«ç™½çŒ«,ä¼šæ‰è€é¼ å°±æ˜¯å¥½çŒ«!
Our current society, our habits/desires and Dharam donâ€™t go hand in hand. If the Buddhist Teaching donâ€™t resonate the public thinking and temperaments, it will be very difficult to work miracle â€¦We also understand that we need certain â€˜criteriaâ€™ be it sufferings or something else to enter into Buddhism â€¦So, maybe work backward from there â€¦
Buddhism teaching let call it â€˜Truth Valuesâ€™ does not have to appear in Buddhism Materials, it appears as nameless and yet it can help other and push them onto the right path â€¦slowly guiding them, changing their thinking toward the positive and right way. And eventually, their thinking and Buddhism Teachings go hand in hand, and able to move forwards from there â€¦
Even if it does not push them over to Buddhism, they are living the right way and thus creating more positive karma then negative karma â€¦ It benefits themselves (good rebirth) as well as the society on the whole â€“ moving to the direction of creating a pureland on earth. A harmony society where you are practicing the Buddhist way even your religion is something else â€¦
I guess to Bodhisattas, the important thing is help other to end sufferings (ç¦»è‹¦å¾—ä¹), name is not that important â€¦
I derived this, after I pick up and open the Andrew Matthewâ€™s book and read a page â€¦ this content of this page is â€˜actuallyâ€™ like what Ajahn Brahm talked about how his own experience, on how to quiet his mind (via letting go etc) and then he was able to go into meditation â€¦
Two different topics but on the SAME Concept and it reaching different masses and benefiting others â€¦
And presentationzen is also one way help other to see some lights â€¦ and there are many other books and materials too â€¦
So, there are many options available â€¦ maybe, the enlightened ones are â€˜hiddenâ€™ in the society doing things in another ways that help people progress â€¦ maybe I am wrong …
:sleep: :sleep: :sleep:
Actually, it is important to brand Buddhist teachings as Buddhism – because it lets the public know where to go to for more similar and relevant teachings. Here are more details as to why branding matters:
But I agree that Buddhist teachings don’t always have to be branded as Buddhism directly and straightaway – but it should be – eventually – lest people get half-truths and benefit only halfway. The Dharma can be skilfully packaged at first – to attract.
It’s true that names are not that important, but names are useful and guideposts too. Without appropriate labels, it is hard to identify and connect further.
Buddhism is interested not just in leading people to better lives – but eventually to enlightenment too. That’s why full refuge in the Dharma is crucial at some point.
About Matthew’s ‘meditation’, unless he realises a path totally in sync with the Dharma that leads to enlightenment, what he experienced might just be part of the path. If he lacks further wisdom (without Dharma guidance), there might be no further progress. The Dharma is always found in bits and pieces in different philosophies and even some religions. But the value of the Buddhadharma is that we see that it is already complete in itself – this is why the one-stop that is Buddhism deserves good branding. ^_^
What I am saying is â€¦
â€œWe would always think spreading Dharma via the name of â€˜Buddhismâ€™ [b](that is one way)[/b], but can spreading of Dharma not really using the name â€˜Buddhismâ€™. â€œ
This is to suit some others, as there are many different â€˜categoryâ€™ of people â€¦ There is also a need for Truth Buddhism which I always talk about â€“ I am hoping that Monastics could guide in this direction, this is their mission â€¦ The world is looking at them â€¦
Andrew Matthewâ€™s book is not on â€˜meditationâ€™ and it is something else, the thing is if the concept can used in some other things and proven useful, it might be easily for some to enter into Buddhism Teachings, as they can find something proven and similar, thus might have faith in continuing â€¦
That is what I think â€¦ only proven things have the power, that why in school, we have theory and practical class.
In fact, we donâ€™t really lack theory, there are so many Dharma talks/books/teachings etc in this era, theoretically it is suppose to have a quantum leap, but â€¦ I don’t know …
Actually, currently, there is increasing good news of measuring happiness scientifically attained via Buddhist practice. This is a good balance of Buddhist branding and scientific research!
Here are some recent news: http://tinyurl.com/dhpkdd (About the happiest man in the world being a Buddhist monk) 🙂
Although I have similar views as shian with regards to the views crystal had expressed here about one of my posts in old moonpointer, I have also been thinking along other lines like crystal. So I can sort of understand where crystal is coming from.
Indeed there is no need to be too uptight on spreading Dharma via the name or label ‘Buddhism’. However like what shian had said, branding and packaging still plays an important role in guiding youths or free-thinkers working adults to start to get interested in understanding what Buddhism really is.
What you are talking about is actually the skillful means of spreading Dharma, crystalbymail.
All Bodhisattvas and Buddhas have great wisdom in applying skillful means to guide every sentient being to start getting interested in realising the true path to lasting happiness and peace within ourselves. They do not need to say what I am teaching is Buddhism or will lead to Nirvana in this lifetime. They teach things according to the needs and levels of understanding of each and every sentient being.
However, most Buddhists now, though they have compassion and patience of varying degrees, they are unable to maintain it towards every sentient being they meet in the long run. This applies to me as well. One of those factors is the karmic affinity with each sentient being, second is that the people they meet can be stubborn, lazy, very slow in understanding or even wicked and twisted. Hence they back off by comforting themselves the time is not yet ripe, but actually it also shows their lack of conviction in cultivating further compassion and patience.
As such we need to make consistent sincere efforts to develop and maintain deep spiritual connection with every sentient being, and at some point (maybe this needs to be carried forward to countless future lifetimes for some), we need to challenge ourselves to approach people who we don’t like or are afraid of due to various reasons.
I’m still very far away from helping people I like, much less those that I don’t. So there could be such a group of Buddhists like me among the local or international Buddhist community, wherby their own insecurities, subtle biasness etc, prevents them from reaching out to more people and maintaining their spiritual friendships with both old and new faces of the community.
Intiating a spiritual friendship can be easy or difficult, depending on the individual’s mindset, personality, aspiration etc, but maintaining one is almost definitely more difficult.
Ok, thank you 🙂 . I think I find the answer and know whatâ€™s next, maybe there is a gap â€¦
I think I am too naÃ¯ve again too think that for those that I donâ€™t like or canâ€™t really help, I hope others or other means can help them.