An Inconvenient Truth about Inconvenience


Wyn: What do you do on Friday?
Yah: I attend Pureland practice and study sessions (Pureland Practice Fellowship) every Friday. Wanna join?
Wyn: Oh no, it’s too far and inconvenient.
Yah: Us Singaporeans living on this tiny island sometimes exaggerate distance. Talking about inconvenience, do you know many Johorians (from Malaysia) have to travel to and fro on working days?
Wyn: Well, it’s different – that’s for a living.
Yah: Er… Dharma practice and study is for our well-being in this life and the next!

When I started to getting serious with learning Buddhism, I was introduced to a basic Buddhism course in a temple not near my place. It was a 20-lesson course and held on Sunday mornings at 9am. Before signing up for it, I hesitated due to the ‘inconvenient’ distance and the timing. I would need to take a feeder bus to take a train, that requires changing track, before taking another feeder bus to reach the temple! I ran the journey in my head several times just to gauge the time needed.

I couldn’t reconcile with the idea of waking up at 7.30am, but deep down, I knew the importance of attending the class if I was dead serious about changing my mundane and aimless lifestyle. And so I ‘compromised’. Instead of going through the travelling hassle, I sacrificed some allowance and took cabs for 20 weeks to the temple for the class. It is by far one of the most well spent decisions I’ve ever made. The cab money was just a little investment for the priceless Dharma learnt!

Distance should never be an issue (especially in Singapore) if one’s thirst for the Dharma is genuine. Our narrow-minded calculativeness is the what obstructs us from ‘plunging’ into the ‘sea’ of the Dharma. A dying man in hot desert would surely not hesitate to continue walking if he knew somewhere in the distance was a crystal clear lake that would nourish him.

We should see ourselves to be like this dying man – in the barren desert of Samsara lacking the nourishment of the Dharma. The only difference is we are not fully aware that we are dying, that we are running out of time in this lifetime. Thus, going for that ‘extra’ (but actually essential) mile towards that lake ‘becomes’ a ‘burden’ instead of a worthy prize. We can cook up many excuses for not being more diligent… but we need to be mindful to be truthful enough to ourselves – Are our excuses really helping or causing hindrances to our spiritual cultivation?

Sidenote: Although the Pureland group I’m attending is not a short course but a long term commitment I have chosen, it is certainly worth my time. In these sessions, we share more than just Pureland teachings, but on general Buddhism and life issues too. It’s not all just talk; we practise as well – we do sutra-chanting every fortnight and nianfo (chanting of Amitabha Buddha’s name) every session. Basically, we strive to cover the 闻思修 (learning, reflection and practice) aspects of the Dharma. Other than the fellowship, here are some perks about the sessions :

1. No early session – starts at 7.30pm.
2. No late ending – we try to end at 9.30pm sharp.
3. No peak hour charges for drivers and cab-riders.
4. Free parking in the temple.
5. Carpooling might be available – just announce your destination!
6. No work on the following day (for most) – thank goodness it’s Friday!
7. Like beings in Pureland, one can leave any time one wants! Free and easy!
8. Fellowship trips for museum visits and animal liberation etc, available.
9. Retreats organised for and by participants.
10. Your journey to Pureland is not a solitary affair!

2 thoughts on “An Inconvenient Truth about Inconvenience

  1. I have another kind of ‘inconvenience’ – going to Geylang (Singapore’s red light district) at night for meditation class. Initially I’d take a direct bus or train and walk to my destination which is tucked in the farthest corner of a quiet lane. Having to maneuver my way through the noisy, never-ending traffic and crowds of colourful characters out in full-force on a weekend makes me feel like the vulnerable frog in the game Frogger. A lone female walking in the streets of Geylang at night (even in the day) is a nerve-racking experience and I always heave a big sigh of relief when I finally ‘made it’ to my destination in one piece. It didn’t occur to me to take the cab at first since there is a direct bus and I find cabs quite a waste of money. But then I decided my safety should take priority and I started taking cabs to and from class. The monetary costs have been worth it, because what I receive in return, the Dharma is invaluable and exactly the antidote we need to counteract the three poisons of greed, hatred and ignorance that wreck havoc on our well-being and cause us so much suffering. The greatest challenge, I feel, lies not so much in money or distance, but in first making a heartfelt commitment to the cause and sticking to it, because deep inside, you know it is the right thing to do, and then the so-called hindrances will naturally fall by the wayside.

  2. Hi, the “Inconvenient Truth” is indeed a reality. When I lived in Johannesburg , I used to drive to Chinatown , about twice a week, which is about 30 km one-way. Primarily, to bring my children for Chinese Language classes and to lunch with friends at Chinese Restaurants and Chinese grocery shopping. I never felt it a burden because there was no choice.

    It’s not easy to find a Buddhist Temple in Johannesburg and when a Buddhist friend introduced me to a temple in Pretoria , I did not hesitate to drive from one city to another just to explore the temple (where I found some answers to my experiences). On top of that, there is always a high probablity of being car-jacked, happening every minute in Johannesburg . All these did not deter me because I do not believe in living in fear and of course I always pray to Guanyin every morning and evening for every family member to pass each day safely.

    When I returned to Singapore , I heard many Singaporeans complained about distance and I used to tell them the above scenario. Singapore is so small, with reasonably good public transport system, yet people find it a hassle to commute to accomplish important pursuits in life like Buddhism. Thankfully, I always remember my overseas experience and never felt the distance of travelling around Spore. Amituofo, Jenny

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