Bursting the Bubbles by Dr David Loy
Buddhist Parenting by Sumi Loundon Kim
Balancing Faith with Wisdom by Ajahn Sucitto
Understanding & Managing Stress
by Professor Lily de Silva
Pointing out Oneâ€™s Individual Wisdom
by Ven Phakchok Rinpoche
Forty Years Turning the Wheel of Dharma Forty years have passed since the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM) was formed on July 29, 1970 in Kuala Lumpur. During that time, YBAM started its Dharma work with modest resources but with enormous dedication and determination. In forty years, YBAM grew its membership to 270 Buddhist youth organizations throughout the country from less than 10 societies initially. As a Dharma-based organization, it has given priority to organizing lectures, workshops, seminars, and conferences in both English and Chinese to educate the Buddhist community on Buddhist teachings and practices. As a socially-engaged body, it is in the forefront in carrying out various social and welfare activities throughout Malaysia as well as in other countries struck by natural calamities and wars. It also participates regularly in multi-religious forums and inter-faith dialogues with members of other faiths, always mindful of Malaysia being a plural society. As a non-sectarian organization, it has supported the publication of Eastern Horizon which conveys the richness of all three Buddhist traditions in its many articles over the past ten years. As a leading Buddhist organization, it is accorded a status as the legitimate voice of the Buddhist community by the Government on all matters affecting Buddhist customs and traditions as well as the rights of the Buddhist community. More recently, YBAM has also adopted a pro-active socially-engaged approach towards issues of social justice and human rights within Malaysia. As YBAM celebrates its fortieth birthday this year, it is with profound gratitude that it is able to host world renown Buddhist teacher, Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh, on his first visit to Malaysia, and to deliver a Keynote Address at the World Buddhist Conference (www.wbc.my) scheduled for September 25-26, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur. It is truly a very rare but auspicious occasion to have someone like Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh address the Buddhist community in person in Malaysia. It is through such meaningful Dharma activities that YBAM will be always be remembered by the Malaysian Buddhist community. Just as YBAM is forty years old this year, Eastern Horizon will be celebrating its 10th year of publication. As its editor, I would like to thank all those kind and dedicated people who have helped sustain the magazine for the past decade. Also, a respectful bow to all those wise and compassionate dharma masters and friends who have so kindly agreed to be interviewed by this magazine. Thanks to their sharing of the wonderful Dharma, our readers have benefitted tremendously from their writings. YBAM is still young. So letâ€™s give all of us a big cheer and then continue working towards another forty years of spiritual excitement! EH
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Face to Face: In Engaged Buddhism, Peace Begins with You
News: Spain’s semi final hero fascinated by Buddhism, met Dalai Lama in 2007
Face to Face: Pointing out One’s Individual Wisdom
by John Malkin
Lead Article: Bursting the Bubbles An Interview with Dr David Loy
by Ven Phakchok Rinpoche
Face to Face: Dharma – my motivation in life
by Dr Christie Chang
Teachings: Understanding & Managing Stress
by Venerable Fa Xun
News: Malaysian Institution Bestowed World Renown Pāli Tipitaka
Face to Face: Balancing Faith with Wisdom
by Professor Lily de Silva
Teachings: The Precious Necessity of Compassion by Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD
Teachings: Purifying Karma: The Four Opponent Powers by Venerable Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron
Face to Face: Taking the “Other” Path
by Ajahn Sucitto
Feature: Buddhist Business Network
Feature: A successful performance by the All-American Boys’ Choir
radiating the light of dharma
Teachings: Buddhist Parenting by Sumi Loundon Kim
September 2010 Issue No. 32 (Published 3 times a year)
eastern horizon publication board chairman Liau Kok Meng editor B. Liow <Bennyliow@gmail.com>
Story: Ringu Tulku’s story, “The Tail”
sub-editors Tan Yang Wah / Dr. Ong Puay Liu manager Teh Soo Tyng art director Geam Yong Koon publisher YBAM <email@example.com> printer Vivar Printing Sdn Bhd(125107-D)
Lot 25, Rawang Integrated Industrial Park, 48000 Rawang, Selangor, MALAYSIA. Tel : 603-60927818 Fax: 603-60928230
Book Reviews: by Lau Kean Lee
Cover Design: Geam Yong Koon
Books In Brief
eastern horizon is a publication of the Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia (YBAM). A non-profit making project, this journal is non-sectarian in its views and approach. We aim to inspire, stimulate and share. The opinions expressed in eastern horizon are those of the authors and in no way represent those of the editor or YBAM. Although every care is taken with advertising matter, no responsibility can be accepted for the organizations, products, services, and other matter advertised. We welcome constructive ideas, invite fresh perspectives and accept comments. Please direct your comments or enquiries to:
Dharma Aftermath Social business – making it work for humanity by Rasika Quek
Young Buddhist Association of Malaysia 9, Jalan SS 25/24, Taman Mayang, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, MAlAYSIA Tel : (603) 7804 9154 Fax: (603) 7804 9021 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org or Benny Liow <Bennyliow@gmail.com> www.ybam.org.my website :
In Engaged Buddhism, Peace Begins with You An Interview by John Malkin with Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh
I met with Thich Nhat Hanh recently at the Kim Son Monastery in Northern California. I was happy to be seated on a zafu drinking tea with him, but I was also glad when he motioned with a simple gesture towards the page of questions sitting at my side: otherwise the lunch bell might have sounded an hour later without the interview having begun. Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967, after playing a central role in the Vietnamese peace movement. He is the author of over one hundred books, including Love in Action, Peace Is Every Step, The Miracle of Mindfulness and No Death, No Fear. He currently lives at Plum Village Monastery in France. - John Malkin
Venerable Thich Nhat Hanh will make his first visit to Malaysia and deliver his Keynote Address at the World Buddhist Conference (www.wbc.my) on Sept 25-26, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur. He will also conduct a Mindfulness Retreat from Sept 15-19 at Tiara Beach Resort, Port Dickson, and a Day of Mindfulness on Sept 24 at TAR College, Setapak. (www.thichnhathanh.my). In Penang, he will give a public lecture at the Hor Tay High School on Sept 21 at 8 pm.
John Malkin: Will you describe the origins of Engaged Buddhism and how you became involved in compassion-based social change? Thich Nhat Hanh: Engaged Buddhism is just Buddhism. When bombs begin to fall on people, you cannot stay in the meditation hall all of the time. Meditation is about the awareness of what is going on-not only in your body and in your feelings, but all around you. When I was a novice in Vietnam, we young monks witnessed the suffering caused by the war. So we were very eager to practice Buddhism in such a way that we could bring it into society. That was not easy because the tradition does not directly offer Engaged Buddhism. So we had to do it by ourselves. That was the birth of Engaged Buddhism. Buddhism has to do with your daily life, with your suffering and with the suffering of the people around you. You have to learn how to help a wounded child while still practicing mindful breathing. You should not allow yourself to get lost in action. Action should be meditation at the same time.
John Malkin: Why did you come to the United States for the first time in 1966, and what happened while you were here? Thich Nhat Hanh: I was invited by Cornell University to deliver a series of talks. I took the opportunity to speak about the suffering that was going on in Vietnam. After that I learned that the Vietnamese government didn’t want me to come home. So I had to stay on and continue the work over here. It was not my intention to come to the West and share Buddhism at all. But because I was forced into exile, I did. An opportunity for sharing just presented itself. John Malkin: What did you learn from being in the United States during that time? Thich Nhat Hanh: The first thing I learned was that even if you have a lot of money and power and fame, you can still suffer very deeply. If you don’t have enough peace and compassion within you, there is no way you can be happy. Many people in Asia would like to consume as much as Europeans and Americans. So when I teach in China and Thailand and in other Asian countries, I always tell them that people suffer very deeply in the West, believing that consuming a lot will bring them happiness. You have to go back to the traditional values and deepen your practice. John Malkin: What did you learn from Martin Luther King, Jr. and the civil rights movement in the United States? Thich Nhat Hanh: The last time Martin Luther King and I met was in Geneva during the peace conference called Paix sur Terre —”Peace on Earth.” I was able to tell him that the people in Vietnam were very grateful for him because he had come out against the violence in Vietnam. They considered him to be a great bodhisattva, working for his own people and supporting us. Unfortunately, three months later he was assassinated. John Malkin: What is your view of the current peace movement in the United States? Thich Nhat Hanh: People were very compassionate and willing to support us in ending the war in Vietnam during the sixties. But the peace movement in America did not have enough patience. People became angry very quickly because what they were doing wasn’t bringing about what they wanted. So there was a lot of anger and violence in the peace movement. Nonviolence and compassion are the foundations of a peace movement. If you don’t have enough peace and understanding and loving-kindness within yourself, your actions will not truly be for peace. Everyone knows that peace has to begin with oneself, but not many people know how to do it.
John Malkin: People often feel that they need to choose between being engaged in social change or working on personal and spiritual growth. What would you say to those people? Thich Nhat Hanh: I think that view is rather dualistic. The practice should address suffering: the suffering within yourself and the suffering around you. They are linked to each other. When you go to the mountain and practice alone, you don’t have the chance to recognize the anger, jealousy and despair that’s in you. That’s why it’s good that you encounter people—so you know these emotions. So that you can recognize them and try to look into their nature. If you don’t know the roots of these afflictions, you cannot see the path leading to their cessation. That’s why suffering is very important for our practice. John Malkin: When the World Trade Center was destroyed, you were asked what you would say to those responsible. You answered that you would listen compassionately and deeply to understand their suffering. Tell me about the practice of deep listening and how you think it helps in personal situations, as well as in situations like the World Trade Center attacks. Thich Nhat Hanh: The practice of deep listening should be directed towards oneself first. If you don’t know how to listen to your own suffering, it will be difficult to listen to the suffering of another person or another group of people. I have recommended that America listen to herself first, because there is a lot of suffering within her borders. There are so many people who believe they are victims of discrimination and injustice, and they have never been heard and understood. My proposal is very concrete: we have to set up a group of people—a kind of parliament—to practice listening to the suffering of America. It’s my conviction that there are people in America who are capable of listening deeply, with compassion in their hearts. We have to identify them, and ask them to come and help us. Then we will ask the people who suffer to come forward and tell us what they have in their hearts. They’ll have to tell us everything, and that won’t be easy for those listening. If America can practice this within her own borders, she will learn a lot. The insight will be enormous, and based on that insight, we can start actions that can repair the damage done in the past. If America succeeded in that, she could bring that practice to the international level. The fact is that people know America has the capacity to hit. To hit very hard and make people suffer. But if America does not hit, that brings her more respect and gives her more authority.
John Malkin: After the World Trade Center was attacked, even people who believe in nonviolence said, “This occasion requires some action and some violence.” Thich Nhat Hanh: Violent action creates more violence. That’s why compassion is the only way to reduce violence. And compassion is not something soft. It takes a lot of courage. John Malkin: In Western psychology, we are taught that if we’re angry, we can release that anger by, say, yelling or hitting a pillow. In your book, Anger: Wisdom for Cooling the Flames, you offer a criticism of this method. Why do you feel that this doesn’t help get rid of anger? Thich Nhat Hanh: In Buddhist psychology, we speak of consciousness in terms of seeds. We have a seed of anger in us. We have a seed of compassion in us. The practice is to help the seed of compassion to grow and the seed of anger to shrink. When you express your anger you think that you are getting anger out of your system, but that’s not true. When you express your anger, either verbally or with physical violence, you are feeding the seed of anger, and it becomes stronger in you. It’s a dangerous practice. That’s why recognizing the seed of anger and trying to neutralize it with understanding and compassion is the only way to reduce the anger in us. If you don’t understand the cause of your anger, you can never transform it. John Malkin: Many people have the view that happiness and enlightenment are things that happen only in the future, and that maybe only a few people are capable of experiencing them. Enlightenment can seem like a very unattainable thing. Thich Nhat Hanh: Happiness and enlightenment are living things and they can grow. It is possible to feed them every day. If you don’t feed your enlightenment, your enlightenment will die. If you don’t feed your happiness, your happiness will die. If you don’t feed your love, your love will die. If you continue to feed your anger, your hatred, your fear, they will grow. The Buddha said that nothing can survive without food. That applies to enlightenment, to happiness, to sorrow, to suffering. First of all, enlightenment is enlightenment about something. Suppose you are drinking some tea and you are aware that you are drinking some tea. That kind of mindfulness of drinking is a form of enlightenment. There have been many times that you’ve been drinking but you didn’t know it, because you are absorbed in worries. So mindfulness of drinking is already one kind of enlightenment.
If you can focus your mind on the act of drinking, then happiness can come while you have some tea. You are capable of enjoying that tea in the here and now. But if you don’t know how to drink your tea in mindfulness and concentration, you are not really drinking tea. You are drinking your sorrow, your fear, your anger—and happiness is not possible. Insight is also enlightenment. To be aware that you are still alive, that you are walking on this beautiful planet—that is a form of enlightenment. That does not come just by itself. You have to be mindful in order to enjoy every step. And again, you have to preserve that enlightenment in order for happiness to continue. If you walk like someone who is running, happiness will stop. Small enlightenments have to succeed each other. And they have to be fed all the time, in order for a great enlightenment to be possible. So a moment of living in mindfulness is already a moment of enlightenment. If you train yourself to live in such a way, happiness and enlightenment will continue to grow. If you know how to maintain enlightenment and happiness, then your sorrow, your fear, your suffering don’t have a lot of chance to manifest. If they don’t manifest for a long time, then they become weaker and weaker. Then, when someone touches the seed of sorrow or fear or anger in you and those things manifest, you will know to bring back your mindful breathing and your mindful smiling. And then you can embrace your suffering. John Malkin: In meditation practice, it is very common for us to feel that our minds are very busy and that we’re not meditating very well. What do you have to say about this? Thich Nhat Hanh: Meditation is a matter of enjoyment. When you are offered a cup of tea, you have an opportunity to be happy. Drink your tea in such a way that you are truly present. Otherwise, how can you enjoy your tea? Or you are offered an orange—there must be a way to eat your orange that can bring you freedom and happiness. You can train yourself to eat an orange properly, so that happiness and freedom are possible. If you come to a mindfulness retreat, you will be offered that kind of practice so that you can be free and happy while eating your orange or drinking your tea or out walking. It is possible for you to enjoy every step that you make. These steps will be healing and refreshing, bringing you more freedom. If you have a friend who is well-trained in the practice of walking, you will be supported by his or her practice. The practice can be done every moment. And not for the future, but for the present moment. If the present moment is good, then the future will be good because it’s made only of the present. Suppose you are capable of making every step free and joyful. Then wherever you walk, it is the pure land of the Buddha. The pure land of the Buddha is not a matter of the future. 9!}!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!TFQUFNCFS!3121
John Malkin: You have wondered whether the next Buddha will come in the form of a single person or in the form of a community. . . Thich Nhat Hanh: I think that the Buddha is already here. If you are mindful enough you can see the Buddha in anything, especially in the sangha. The twentieth century was the century of individualism, but we don’t want that anymore. Now we try to live as a community. We want to flow like a river, not a drop of water. The river will surely arrive at the ocean, but a drop of water may evaporate halfway. That’s why it is possible for us to recognize that the presence of the Buddha is the here and now. I think that every step, every breath, every word that is spoken or done in mindfulness—that is the manifestation of the Buddha. Don’t look for the Buddha elsewhere. It is in the art of living mindfully every moment of your life. John Malkin hosts a weekly radio program on Free Radio Santa Cruz, focusing on social change and spiritual growth. EH Source: In Engaged Buddhism, Peace Begins with You, John Malkin, Shambhala Sun, July 2003.
Are you searching for a spiritually challenging work? Do you enjoy meeting fellow Dharma practitioners, Buddhist leaders, and Dharma masters? Would you like to introduce the latest Buddhist book you read recently? How about researching into the latest web-sites on Buddhist activities around the world? And of course, what about telling us how you first came in contact with the dharma and what the dharma means to you today. Well, if you find all of these interesting, we can make it spiritually challenging for you too! In every issue of EASTERN HORIZON, we publish special chat sessions with leading Buddhist personalities, essays on all aspects of Buddhism, book reviews, and news and activities that are of interest to the Buddhist community. We need someone to help us in all these projects. If you are keen to be part of this exciting magazine, please e-mail to the editor at Bennyliow@gmail.com, and we will put you in touch with what’s challenging for the next issue! Let us share the dharma for the benefit of all sentient beings!
Bursting the Bubbles
An Interview with Dr David Loy
Dr David Loy will be speaking at the World Buddhist Conference (www.wbc.my) in Kuala Lumpur on Sept 2526, 2010. He will also give a presentation on the Buddhist Global Relief (www.buddhistglobalrelief.org) on the second day of the Conference. Dr David Loy studied philosophy at Carleton College, Minnesota and Kings College, University of London. A Vietnam War draft resister, he later decided to spend some time in India. That trek never got further than Hawaii, where he eventually met Robert Aiken Roshi and began Buddhist practice. With Aiken’s encouragement, he went to grad school at the University of Hawaii, and eventually ended up at the University of Singapore, where he taught philosophy and earned his PhD. His dissertation became his first book, Nonduality: A Study in Comparative Philosophy. Having sat sesshin with Yamada Koun Roshi in Hawaii, his next stop was to continue Zen practice with him in Japan, where David and his wife, also an academic, had a son. After many years in Japan, he returned to the U.S. in 2006 as Besl Chair Professor of Ethics/Religion and Society at Xavier University in Cincinnati. He studies Buddhist and comparative philosophy/religion and his other books include Lack and Transcendence, A Buddhist History of the West, The Great Awakening, Money Sex War Karma, Awareness Bound and Unbound, and The World Is Made of Stories (forthcoming). He is also co-editor of A Buddhist Response to the Climate Emergency. A Zen practitioner for many years, David is qualified as a teacher in the Sanbo Kyodan tradition.
Insight Journal: So at what point did you find your work moving into what we now call socially engaged thinking? Dr David Loy: I think that dimension was always there, but was not always the focus. Nonduality is about subject-object nonduality in Buddhism, Vedanta and Taoism. By the time it was published I was reflecting more on the existential and psychological implications of Buddhism, due to some close encounters with death: my father suddenly got cancer and died about the same time as my teacher Yamada Roshi. I was very impressed by Ernest Becker, especially his last books The Denial of Death and Escape from Evil, which look at the connections between death repression and social issues. What Becker says is similar to Buddhism in many ways. But if death is something that threatens us in the future, Buddhism is saying, in effect, that right now the lack of a secure, comfortable self is experienced as the feeling that “something is wrong with me.” I think this is an insightful way to understand anattā (not-self )—that one’s sense of self is shadowed or haunted by a sense of lack. But that is understood differently according to the kind of person you are and the society you are part of. Today we are usually conditioned to think that our lack is “not enough money…” Even if you are already a millionaire. I love something Nisargadatta said: “When I look inside and see that I am nothing, that is wisdom. When I look outside and see that I am everything, that is love. Between these two, my life turns.” That’s brilliant! But if there is no inside, there is no outside. The outside is not really outside us. The delusive sense
Our economic system institutionalizes greed, our militarism institutionalizes ill will, while the media institutionalize delusion.
of a separate self inside will always be experienced
if Buddhism is about popping my bubble, so we see
as ungrounded and therefore insecure, so there is
things as they really are, can we really just focus on
also going to be this sense that something is missing.
the small one? Don’t we need to find ways to address
I think that helps explain our obsession with things
the larger bubble too? There is not only my own
like money, fame, appearance, and so forth. Thanks to
dukkha, from my own bubble, there are also powerful
this gnawing sense of lack, we never feel rich enough,
social forces creating enormous amounts of dukkha
famous enough, or beautiful enough.
in the world. To wake up from my own suffering is to become more aware of all the other suffering in the
It is an important and useful word, “lack.” You
world, which is not separate from “my own.”
coined that usage yourself, didn’t you? The guidelines from the classical tradition are that As far as I know. But I have a poor memory!
the problem is greed, hatred and delusion—primarily delusion. Anything that works against delusion,
Two caricatures are the Zen practitioners facing
through more honesty and clarity of being, is good.
the wall, and the academics in the ivory tower,
Personal practice is to see more clearly, and that
intellectually massaging each other’s backs. What is
is why education is a good thing. But it seems
the connection between those two caricatures and
important that we do everything with kindness and
what we are calling socially engaged Buddhism?
generosity. Fighting fire with fire, anger with anger, just multiplies the hostility. Would you agree?
When we practice we realize that our perceptions are being filtered, as if we are inside a mental fog,
The Buddha did not say much about evil itself, but he
or a bubble that distorts everything. But we do not
said a lot about the three poisons or “roots of evil”
just suffer from this individual bubble, we are also
you mentioned: greed, ill will, and delusion. When we
together inside a group bubble that today is largely
are motivated by them, the result is dukkha. Today,
maintained by the media, which have become our
though, our situation seems somewhat different
collective “nervous system.” The two bubbles interact
from what the Buddha faced, because we have much
and work together, in fact they are really parts of the
more powerful and impersonal institutions that take
same deluding Big Bubble, which feeds on our sense of
on a life of their own and use us. In other words, the
lack. Consumerism is so addictive because advertising
three poisons are also functioning institutionally:
persuades us that the next thing we buy will make us
our economic system institutionalizes greed, our
happy—it hooks onto our sense of lack.
militarism is institutionalized ill will, while the media institutionalize delusion. And the three work together
If the two delusion bubbles are not really separate, and
and reinforce each other.
Buddhism does not teach us what kind of political or economic system to set up, but how to let go of delusions.
Look at how the stock market works, for example.
has any simple answers. Neither does anyone else,
I think it has become an ethical “black hole” that
though, so far as I can see.
dilutes responsibility for the collective greed that now fuels economic growth. Investors are focused on
Buddhism does not teach us what kind of political
increasing returns, but on the other side of that hole
or economic system to set up, but how to let go of
their expectations become an impersonal but constant
delusions. Yet it is delusions that keep us from being
pressure for profitability and growth, which pressures
able to tackle these questions in a conscious and
all CEOs, no matter how well-intended. Globalization
cooperative way—especially the delusion of a separate
means that this emphasis tends to overwhelm
self whose well-being is apart from the wellbeing of
everything else, including the quality of life. The
biosphere is converted into “resources,” and people into “human resources.”
Actually, Buddhists do not need to start a new movement for peace, justice, and ecology—that
So, who is responsible for this growth obsession?
movement is already happening. Paul Hawken’s book
This system has a life of its own. We all participate
Blessed Unrest points out that today there are many,
in it, as workers, employers, consumers, investors,
many thousands of small groups all over the planet
and pensioners, without any personal sense of moral
devoted to such issues. I think, though, that Buddhism
responsibility for what happens—that awareness is lost
does have something to offer this larger movement:
in the anonymity of the economic system.
a better appreciation of how religion can play an important role in the transformation that is needed.
Is there a workable path of transformation in all
In the past big social movements such as socialism
this? On the one hand, we describe the problem—
and Marxism have usually been anti-religious—and
because of this, that is happening— but it is another
for good reason. The history of all the major religions,
step to say, this piece here can be changed. Are you
including Buddhism, is pretty embarrassing when
working toward a set of guidelines, or are you mostly
you look at how often they have rationalized the
observing and describing?
authority of oppressive rulers. But I doubt we will be able to solve the problems with our social, economic,
The Buddhadharma shows us how to work on our own
and political systems unless we also come to a new
personal predicament—how to address our own sense
understanding of what the self is—not something
of lack, how to transform the three poisons in our own
separate from other selves, but one node in the big net
lives. But when you get to the larger collective issues,
that includes all other selves too. And that is where
about how to address corporatedriven consumerism,
Buddhism may have a role to play.
for example—well, frankly, I do not see that Buddhism
Personal practice is essential, yes, but there also are powerful, dukkhacreating systems of delusion continuing to limit our possibilities.
Social transformation has to start with personal
The economic crisis—and I think it is just beginning—
transformation. There is no shortcut.
is quickly educating a lot of people about where this country is headed, and I sense a groundswell of protest
That is the point of Buddhism, isn’t it? We have plenty
as national and state politicians lose legitimacy in the
of 20th century examples like Lenin and Stalin, the
eyes of more and more people.
Khmer Rouge, all these idealists with monstrous egos who had the idea that you just get rid of the old
Of course, that dissatisfaction can go different ways.
order, and create a new one from the ground up. What
We cannot discount Sarah Palin and the Tea Parties.
happens, of course, is they became a new gang of even
But if enough people wake up to what the corporate
more ruthless thugs, because people did not realize
system is doing, and really want to change it, there
that it is not enough to take power and reform the
are ways to do it. Corporations have an umbilical cord:
system, we also have to take personal responsibility to
their charters, which can be re-structured to make
them more socially responsible.
Yet it is not enough just to sit and think in vague terms
Is there really such a thing as socially engaged
about raising the collective consciousness. Personal
Buddhism, or is it more about Buddhists who
practice is essential, yes, but there also are institutions
become socially engaged?
to be addressed. As sociologists like to say, humans create society, but society creates humans, makes
Well, Buddhism in Asia had to be careful. It often
us human. There are very powerful, dukkha-creating
depended on royal support, and it could be, and
systems of delusion and social control that are
sometimes was, squashed. There was no democracy,
continuing to mold us and to limit our possibilities.
no bill of rights to protect you. Now we are in a new situation: the Dharma meets Western democracy,
Are you getting any glimpses of how to work on
freedom of speech and religion, human rights, the
those institutional kinds of changes?
Internet. There are many more ways to spread the Dharma. We are much freer, in that way at least.
I think it has become obvious that the major obstacle today is the way mega-corporations own the political
On the other side, though, there are also very
system. The militaryindustrial- media complex has
sophisticated institutions of mental manipulation.
pretty much taken complete control. Running for
Alex Carey, an Australian academic, said that the
public office has become incredibly sophisticated and
twentieth century was characterized by three
expensive, and corporations provide the big bucks you
important political developments: the growth of
need—but you have got to play their game.
democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the
Let’s not forget the soup kitchens, but we also need to examine the social, economic and political forces that create so many homeless people.
growth of propaganda as a way for corporate power
A lot of engaged Buddhism is very local, personal,
to protect itself against democracy. Add television
right-here-and-now: here are these homeless people,
and advertising and we are faced with new types of
how can I help? And that is needed, so let’s not forget
“collective attention traps” that the Buddha never
those soup kitchens. But we also need to examine the
social, economic and political forces that create so many homeless people. Buddhist focus on mindfulness
What is the difference between that and the kings
right here and now encourages us to center our energy
that the Buddha talked with, who coopted the people
on the street corner we are walking by. We do not want
around them, who wanted their largess as a king?
to become abstract and overlook the people who sleep there because there is nowhere else for them to go.
It is the impersonality of the institution as a
But we also need to be aware of the larger social forces
legal entity. In 1886 there was a famous Supreme
complicit in this situation. Why are so many people
Court ruling from a case in California* that gave
losing their jobs and mortgages right now? We cannot
corporations the same Bill of Rights protections that
ignore that question.
people have, which is quite ironic given that they are also in principal immaterial and immortal. The new
Correct me if I am wrong, but socially engaged
Supreme Court Justice, Sotomayor, has been raising
Buddhism is a relatively recent phenomenon, isn’t
some questions about how that ruling has been
it? The monks were not working the soup kitchens,
interpreted, but look at the direction taken by the
Court’s most recent rulings. There have been important exceptions, such as monks Does acting from similar views about the consumer
and monasteries sometimes responding to natural
society suffice to make one an engaged Buddhist?
disasters, but in general you are right.
Or, if not, what would an engaged Buddhist be doing?
So how do we as lay people engage with the push and pull of the world in a way that can bring
I would say that an engaged Buddhist is someone
some Buddhist understanding and some Buddhist
aware of the connection between the two bubbles,
modeling of behavior into the world, somewhere
the bubble of personal and collective delusion. And
between the selfishness of personal awakening and
so is concerned to address both bubbles, not just the
the rhetoric of doing everything for everybody?
smaller, personal bubble.
*Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad 25!}!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!TFQUFNCFS!3121
If awakening means overcoming our dualistic sense of separation, the bodhisattva path is simply a further stage of practice.
I wonder if we should understand the bodhisattva path
needing each other often bring out the best in one
in a new way. Usually it is about sacrificing or delaying
another. As happened in New Orleans during and after
your own final enlightenment to help everyone
Katrina, government intervention can interfere with
else enter nirvana first, but maybe that misses the
our natural inclinations to want to help each other
important point. If awakening means overcoming our
in such situations. In the notso- distant future we are
dualistic sense of separation, the bodhisattva path is
going to need new kinds of localized communities, and
simply a further stage of practice—a natural, perhaps
it will be interesting to see how they develop.
even inevitable stage—where you learn to live in a way that puts into practice what you have realized, so that
I do not spend a lot of time thinking, “We don’t have
you overcome selfpreoccupation by working for the
a chance,” or “The Age of Aquarius is coming.” It does
wellbeing of everyone. Today it is clear that we need
not make any difference as far as what I do, day by
new kinds of bodhisattvas, devoted to the well-being of
day. In either case I am challenged to do the best I can.
the whole biosphere, for example.
None of us really knows what the effects of our actions will be. Maybe it is like the question of life after death:
Are you optimistic about the future? Are we going
will “I” be reborn in some way? For me that is not the
to figure out a way of this sooner or later, before it
important issue. The challenge is to live in such a way
that it does not make any difference. The same is true for the political and ecological challenges that confront
The biggest challenge, of course, is ecological. It is very
us, which, admittedly, can look pretty overwhelming
hard to know yet how that is going to shake things
up, but it is obviously going to happen, one way or another. Ecological limits challenge our basic modern
What are your own future plans?
orientation toward growth and progress—that “more is more” is always better. It seems to me, though, that
My position at Xavier University is a visiting one that
our collective response to the coming crisis can go
ends this summer, and I am wondering whether to
either way. When times get hard, people get afraid,
focus more on Dharma teaching—talks, workshops,
and generally fear does not help people make the best
maybe Zen retreats. It is such an exciting time to be a
decisions. But there is another side to it: when disasters
Buddhist, and I feel very fortunate to take part in this
happen, people left to themselves can come together
great dialogue between the Buddhist tradition and the
and community can develop very quickly.
modern world, each transforming the other. EH
ife l n i n o i t a v i ot m y e Chang m – a y Dr Christi b m r a Dh
the left). (2nd from o m o Ts e Leksh Dr Karma Venerable h it w ) ft le from the Chang (3rd lds a B.A. in Dr Christie an. She ho
Taiw nd an 21, 1969 in y a M y, Taipei, a n o it s n r r e o iv b n s a U Ling w l Taiwan lulu, Chang Yu m Nationa noa, Hono o a fr M e t r a tu ii Dr Christie a a r nd Lite y of Haw Foreign nguages a e Dept. of e Universit th th t a m s o c fr ti Foreign La s is guistic r of Lingu she was a h.D. in Lin t Professo n ta is s s ior to that M.A. and P r A P s, n . y a it y s tl r e n Univ nd Archive curre a n is a m e u iw h e a s S T . u l ii Hawa , Nationa Chinese M u Chi Literature Hawaiian d e n a th s r Dean of Tz e fo g ic a r m te e e d r a p c Langu r A r/Inte r of cipal and r/Translato ent Directo ked as Prin id r s o e R w e o Researche ls th a e has as been g) in Hawaii. Sh 2001, she h ww.ciee.or e c (w in e S g . n Honolulu, ii a a h Haw onal Exc y visits to Honolulu, nal Educati of her man o e ti n a o n r g Academy in te in r In ist. Christie du as a Buddh Council on t e s d n e m s o a n ti o a -b v iz S r ti the U d her mo astern Ho ddhism an y Liow of E u n B n e to B in i. e e Taip she cam asked how d n a ia s y Mala
Eastern Horizon: How did you come to know about Buddhism? Like many people in Asia with a Chinese background, I was exposed to Buddhist concepts such as ‘karma’, ‘samsara’, and ‘nirvana’ at a very young age but that did not really make me Buddhist. I had no real connection with the Dharma. I encountered Buddhism again in 1995 in Hawaii where I had just completed an MA program in Linguistics at the University of Hawaii and was about to start my Ph.D. studies. While studying in Hawaii, I visited a Chinese Buddhist temple. Though I had been in Honolulu for two years, I had not heard of the temple until I saw a Qigong announcement on a community TV channel. The temple offered Qigong lessons, and as I was suffering from back pain, I decided to visit the temple.
At the Temple, I not only met a group of wonderful Buddhists and listened to the most beautiful Buddhist chanting from a nun, but also met my first Buddhist teacher, Venerable Bhikshuni Rui-Miao. She is the most compassionate, sincere, and generous person that I have ever met in my life. After the Qigong practice, she invited me for lunch and we later watched some tapes on Buddhism. I was impressed with the lecture by Venerable Chin Kung about the relationship between Buddhism and Science. Later, I also attended the chanting sessions which I liked very much. Then I participated in the eight-precepts retreat. Everything happened so naturally for me.
Were you also exposed to other religions? Before I became a Buddhist, I actually envied my Christian friends. As Christians, they were able to leave everything to an All-Mighty Savior God, fully embrace the idea of heaven, enjoyed singing beautiful hymns and the fellowship with Christian friends. My parents’ house was just next to a Christian Church, so to a certain extent, I could almost claim that I grew up in a church! As I grew up, I attended many Christian activities, including those conducted at Catholic and Mormon churches. I enjoyed them but I somehow could never make much sense out of the salvation idea – there’s something more to that, I always thought. I knew that I went to church because I enjoyed the fellowship rather than due to my belief. I remember once confessing to a priest that I did not want to be baptized because I could not accept many of the Christian beliefs. When I finally took refuge in Buddhism in September 2005, I had no doubts about the teachings of the Buddha at all. Becoming a Buddhist was like coming home. In Buddhism, I found the answers to all my questions and doubts, which I could not find in Christianity.
As a Buddhist, do you consider yourself following a specific tradition? I consider myself a non-sectarian Buddhist although this does not mean that I know all schools equally. I do have much to learn about the different schools of Buddhism. I am open to all the Buddhist traditions as I believe the core teachings are the same and so is the path that leads to supreme enlightenment. I have two groups of spiritual teachers. For those in the first group, I only know them mostly through reading their writings. As for the other group who are mainly Buddhist nuns, I have personal contact with them. My teachers thus include Venerable Rei-Miao, with whom I took refuge; Venerable Karma Lekshe Tsomo, who opened my eyes to a different world; Venerable Heng-Ching Shih, who is always so sharp in pointing out to me what is “not Dharma” per se; and Venerable Renlang Shi, who is always cheerful, serene and peaceful. These Venerable nuns are special in that their lives, practices, and teachings are always clear, transparent, and accessible to me. As females, they also share similar experiences as I do. They are spiritual friends who truly inspire me. From these teachers, I can understand how Bodhisattvas live.
So what keeps you motivated as a Buddhist? There are three levels of motivation. Firstly, I simply cannot think of a more sensible way to understand “being” and “suffering” as that found in Buddhism; the Dharma always answers my questions about life. Secondly, it is a sense of mission to spread the teachings of the Buddha; and thirdly, it is the joy and inspiration that I experience while trying to inspire others in the Dharma.
How do you apply Buddhist principles in everyday life? I think mindfulness is the first step. I try to stay mindful and be aware of what I do. I ask questions like “do I have the right intentions”? I always try to check my own motivation so as to make sure that it is not selfish and to check whether the five poisons have arisen in me. As a scholar and researcher, I enjoy making observations, and I find the kind of observations I make by applying and/or proving Buddhist principles (for example, the principle of karma) are most fruitful and enlightening. Nothing escapes karma - the law of cause and effect. By applying (and proving, practicing, or “re-living”) Buddhist principles in my research and my job, it makes everything more interesting, meaningful, and inspiring.
Do you have the support of your family in your practice of Buddhism? My husband became a Buddhist before I did, although his approach is quite different from mine. This is natural as we all have different karma. My mother became a pious Buddhist in Taiwan around the same time I became a Buddhist in Hawaii. It was a happy coincidence because it allowed us to discuss and participate in Dharma activities in Taiwan. My father and other siblings - a younger sister and two younger brothers all consider themselves Buddhists although they are not as active as my mother and myself.
What type of Buddhist activities are you involved in today? I have been mostly active in activities with Sakyadhita (International Association of Buddhist Women). I am also a consultant to the Chinese Young Buddhist Association and several local Buddhist groups back in Taiwan where I helped out with translation works and leadership training programs. Through past connection with Tzu-Chi Foundation, where I was involved in the Tzu-Chi Chinese School while studying in Hawaii, I have continued to be involved in some of their activities.
How do you see the future of Buddhism in Taiwan? I think the future of Buddhism in Taiwan is good, although there are many challenges as well. Buddhism in Taiwan has a great potential because Buddhist teachings have much to offer to the younger generation. Many young people in Taiwan today suffer from depression and have anxiety problems, including those who study in top universities, such as National Taiwan University. Once when I asked my students to tell me privately how to improve their English pronunciation, unexpectedly, 13 out of 15 students asked me questions like “Ms. Chang, are you always so happy?” “Are you able to smile all the time?” “Did you ever feel frustrated?” “How do you face difficulties?” “Did you know what you would do at our age?” I believe Buddhism has much to contribute in this area. On the other hand, the challenge is also for Buddhism to be meaningful to the younger generation and to be able to relate to their everyday life.
What about the role of the monastic Sangha in today’s modern society? The role of monks and nuns is changing, just as everything is. Well, impermanence, of course. Nevertheless, I think the essence is still the same. In Chinese, we address the monks and nuns as “Fa-shi”, which literally means “Dharma Teachers”. Nuns and monks are determined full-time practitioners, for which they do deserve all our respect. However, as this is an era in which equality is valued, authoritative teachings are no longer well received, and actions become more transparent and naturally weigh more than words. Monks and nuns are shouldering even greater responsibilities and face much more challenges these days. But so far, I think the ones that I know are doing a great job adjusting to these new changes, and I think it is equally important that we lay people understand that the sangha members are also practitioners and are not necessarily fully enlightened yet, and it is very important that the two groups, sangha and lay, should learn to respect and support each other.
Do you feel the monks and nuns today are working towards educating the lay community? I think they are trying their best, although I also believe that before being able to take that responsibility of educating the lay community these days, the sangha members need to be well educated, trained, and prepared. The lay Buddhist community, on the other hand, should also play an important role in facilitating and supporting Buddhist education as a whole, because after all, education - or more precisely, the “education of awakening” as Venerable Sheg Hiu-Wan puts it - remains the core in Buddhism. Every Buddhist is responsible for educating oneself, sharing the Dharma education, and making it accessible to all. EH
Understanding & Managing Stress by Professor Lily de Silva
Dr. Lily de Silva is Professor of Pali and Buddhist Studies at the University of Peradeniya in Sri Lanka. A regular contributor to Buddhist scholarly and popular journals, she is also the editor of the Digha Nikaya Tika, published by the Pali Text Society. Her previous publications include One Foot in the World (Wheel No. 337/338), The Self-Made Private Prison (Bodhi Leaves
Stress is a term adopted from engineering science by psychology and medicine. Simply defined, stress in engineering means force upon an area. As so many forces are working upon us in the modern age, and we find it extremely difficult to cope under so much pressure, stress is called the â€œdisease of civilization.â€? Phillip Zimbardo in his Psychology and Life traces four interrelated levels at which we react to the pressures exerted upon us from our environment. The four are: the emotional level, the behavioral level, the physiological level, and the cognitive level. The emotional responses to stress are sadness, depression, anger, irritation, and frustration. The behavioral responses are poor concentration, forgetfulness, poor interpersonal relations, and lowered productivity. The physiological responses consist of bodily tensions, which may lead to headaches, backaches, stomach ulcers, high blood pressure and even killer diseases. At the cognitive level one may lose self-esteem and selfconfidence, which leads to feelings of helplessness and hopefulness. At worst such a person may even end up committing suicide.
No. 120), and Radical Therapy (Bodhi Leaves No. 123) by the Buddhist Publication Society of Kandy, Sri Lanka.
In order to understand stress let us consider the various environmental factors which exert pressure on modern man. In this atomic age the very survival of the species is threatened. Nuclear war threatens every single human being on earth, irrespective of whether one lives in a country with nuclear weapons or not. Population explosion threatens man with severe food shortages; at present even a large segment of human population is undernourished while still others are dying of starvation and malnutrition. Environmental pollution causes severe health hazards and mental and physical retardation. Unemployment among the skilled is a growing global problem. The pace of life has become so hectic that man is simply rushing from one task to another without any relaxation. This is really paradoxical in an age when labor-saving devices are freely available and are in use to an unprecedented degree. Competition for educational and employment opportunities is so severe that it has contributed a fair share to increase the rate of suicide. Enjoyment of sense pleasures has grown to obsessive that it has become like drinking salt water to quench thirst.
Constant stimulation of the senses is today considered a necessity, and thus pocket radios with earphones, chewing gum and cosmetics are marketed every where. Sense stimulation goes on unrestrained but satiation is far from achieved. It is no wonder that man caught up in all this, is terribly confused and frustrated, and his life is intolerably stressful. This is the situation Buddhism describes as “tangles within and tangles without, people are enmeshed in tangles.” While the above observations were made from the point of view of modern studies and contemporary conditions, Buddhism makes similar observations from a psychological perspective. Man experiences stress and suffering because of five psychological states which envelop his whole personality. They are called ‘nivarana’ in the Pali language, meaning hindrances. They hinder happiness and cloud man’s vision of himself, his environment and the interaction between the two. The thicker and more opaque these hindrances, the greater the stress and suffering man experiences. The thinner and more sparse these hindrances, the less his suffering with a corresponding increase in happiness. These five hindrances are the desire for sensual pleasures, anger, indolence, worry and doubt. The Pali Canon illustrates the effect of these hindrances with the help of five eloquent similes. The mind overpowered by the desire for sense pleasures is compared to colored water which prevents a true reflection of a thing on the water. Thus a man obsessed with the desire for sense pleasures is unable to get a true perspective of either himself or other people or his environment. The mind oppressed by anger is compared to boiling water which cannot give an accurate reflection. A man overpowered by anger is unable to discern an issue properly. When the mind is in the grip of indolence, it is like moss covered water: light cannot even reach the water and a reflection is impossible. The lazy man does not even make an effort at correct understanding. When worried, the mind is like windtossed turbulent water, which also fails to give a true reflection. The worried man forever restless is unable to make a proper assessment of an issue. When the mind is in doubt it is compared to muddy water placed in darkness which cannot reflect an image well. Thus all the five hindrances deprive the mind of understanding and happiness and cause much stress and suffering.
A man overpowered by anger is unable to discern an issue properly. When the mind is in the grip of indolence, it is like moss covered water: light cannot even reach the water and a reflection is impossible.
Buddhism puts forward a methodical plan of action for the gradual elimination of stress and the increase of happiness and understanding. The first step recommended in this plan is the observance of the Five Precepts comprising the abstention from killing, stealing, illicit sex, falsehood and intoxicants. Stress is
greatly enhanced by guilt, and these precepts help man to free his conscience of the sense of guilt. The Dhammapada says the evil-doer suffers here and hereafter; on the other hand, the man who does good deeds rejoices here and hereafter. Buddhism firmly believes that evil increases stress while good increases happiness. In addition to the observance of the Five Precepts throughout life, Buddhism advocates the periodical observance of the Eight Precepts by laymen. These additional precepts attempt to train man for leading a simple life catering to one’s needs rather than one’s greed. A frugal mode of life where wants are few and are easily satisfied is highly extolled in Buddhism. It is the avaricious and the acquisitive mentality that is responsible for so much stress that we experience. The second step in the process of training is the control of the sense faculties. When our sense faculties are uncontrolled we experience severe strain. We have to first understand what is meant by being uncontrolled in the sense faculties. When a person sees a beautiful form with his eyes, he gets attracted to it; when he sees an unpleasant object, he gets repelled by it. Similarly, with the other senses too. Thus the person who has no control over his senses is constantly attracted and repelled by sense data, as during waking life sense data keep on impinging on his sense faculties constantly. When pulled in different directions by sense stimuli, we become confused and distressed.
When a person sees a beautiful form with his eyes, he gets attracted to it; when he sees an unpleasant object, he gets repelled by it.
Our sense faculties have different spheres of activity and different objects, and as each sense faculty is a lord in its own sphere, and as they can severally and collectively dominate man, they are called in Pali indriyas, meaning “lords” or “masters”. If we allow the sense faculties to dominate us, we get terribly confused. If we assert ourselves and control our sense faculties, we can have unalloyed pleasure (avyasekasukha), so called because this pleasure is uncontaminated by defilements. It is also called adhicittasukha, meaning spiritual pleasure. Whereas sense pleasures increases stress, this type of spiritual pleasure reduces stressfulness and increases peace of mind and contentment. The third step in the management of stress is the cultivation of wholesome mental habits through meditation (bhavana). Just as we look after and nurture our body with proper food and cleanliness, the mind too needs proper nourishment and cleansing. The mind is most volatile in its untrained state, but when it is tamed and made more stable it brings great happiness. Buddhism prescribes two fundamental meditative methods of mind-training called samatha and vipassana, calm and insight. The former is the method of calming the volatile mind, while the latter is the method of comprehending the true nature of bodily and mental phenomena. Both methods are extremely helpful for overcoming stress.
The Samannaphala Sutta explains with the help of five appropriate similes how meditation reduces the psychological stress caused by the five hindrances. The man who practices meditation gains a great sense of relief and it is this sense of unburdening oneself that the similes illustrate. They are as follows: A man who has raised capital for a business by taking a loan, prospers in business, pays off the loan and manages his day-to-day affairs with financial ease. Such a man experiences a great sense of relief. The second simile portrays a man who has suffered a great deal with a prolonged chronic illness. He gets well at long last, food becomes palatable to him and he gains physical strength. Great is the relief such a man experiences. The third simile speaks of the relief a prisoner enjoys after being released from a long term in jail. The fourth is the slave who gains freedom from slavery. The fifth simile speaks of a well-to-do man who gets lost in a fearful dessert without food. On coming to a place of safety he experiences great relief. When the stress caused by the five hindrances is eliminated from the mind, great joy and delight arise similar to the relief enjoyed by the men described in the similes. The best and most effective way of overcoming stress is the practice of meditation or mental culture. But as a prelude to that at least the Five Precepts must be observed. The cultivation of positive emotions such as loving kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita) and equanimity (upekka) is the fourth step in conquering stress. Strained interpersonal relations is one of the common causes of stress in household life and in the work place. Loving-kindness is the positive wholesome attitude one can cultivate with benefit for oneself and other in all interpersonal relationships. Compassion is the emotion with which one should regard and help those in distress. Sympathetic joy is the ability to rejoice in the joy of another. It is difficult for a man of mean character to entertain this attitude as the joy of another brings jealousy to the mind of such a person. Where there is jealousy there is no unity, and where there is no unity there is no progress. The cultivation of these positive emotions stands for both material and spiritual progress. Equanimity is the attitude to be adopted in the face of the vicissitudes of life.
We cannot change the world so that it will give us happiness. But we can change our attitude towards the world so as to remain unaffected by the stresses exerted by events around us.
There are eight natural ways of the world that we have to face in life. They are gain and loss, fame and lack of fame, praise and blame, happiness and sorrow. If one trains oneself to maintain an equanimous temperament without being either elated or dejected in the face of these vicissitudes, one can avoid much stress and lead a simple life with peace and contentment. We cannot change the world so that it will give us happiness. But we can change our attitude towards the world so as to remain unaffected by the stresses exerted by events around us. Buddhism teaches the way to bring about this wholesome change of attitude. EH
The precious necessity of
by Roshi Joan Halifax, PhD
Dr Joan Halifax Roshi, an anthropologist by training, is the Founder, Abbot, and Head Teacher of Upaya Zen Center, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. She has worked in the area of death and dying for over thirty years and is Director of the Project on Being with Dying. For the past twenty-five years, she has been active in environmental work. She is also Founder and Director of the Upaya Prison Project that develops programs on meditation for prisoners. She was appointed Honorary Research Fellow at Harvard University, and has taught in many universities, monasteries, and medical centers around the world. Recently, she was appointed a distinguished invited scholar to the Library of Congress and the only woman and Buddhist to be on the Advisory Council for the Tony Blair Foundation. Her teachers included Zen master Seung Sahn, and she was also teacher in the Kwan Um Zen School. She received the Lamp Transmission from Thich Nhat Hanh, and was given Inka by Roshi Bernie Glassman. A Founding Teacher of the Zen Peacemaker Order, her work and practice for more than three decades has focused on engaged Buddhism. Roshi Joan will be in Malaysia on Sept 25-26, 2010 to speak at the World Buddhist Conference (www.wbc.my) in Kuala Lumpur.
“Compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for the human being to survive.” (1.) His Holiness the Dalai Lama “I’m up late admitting patients to the inpatient hospice unit. Just when I think I’m too old for these late nights without sleep, a person in all their rawness, vulnerability and pain lays before me and as my hands explore the deep wounds in her chest and my ears open to her words, my heart cracks open once again.... and this night a sweet 36 year old woman with her wildly catastrophic breast cancer speaks of her acceptance and her hope for her children, and she speaks with such authenticity and authority. And her acceptance comes to me as the deepest humility a person can experience and then again, once again, I remember why I stay up these late nights and put myself in the company of the dying.” (2.). Gary Pasternak, MD
The words of the palliative care physician, Dr. Gary Pasternak, exemplify the compassion and commitment that is essential for those who care for dying people. The skillful and kind care of those who are dying is about actualizing compassion for self and other, and about endeavoring to reduce or end the “total pain” and suffering that is often experienced by those who are dying and those who survive, as well as those who give care, including family and professional caregivers.
First, let us look at five core challenges that effect caregiver well-being, including burnout (cumulative work demands and stress), secondary trauma (dysfunction from prolonged exposure to the pain and suffering of others), moral distress (caregiver knows what is right to do; cannot act on it), horizontal hostility (behavior that controls, devalues, disrespects or diminishes another peer or group), and structural violence (systemic discrimination against an individual or group).
The term “total pain” refers to physical, psychological, social, and spiritual pain, and is a term that was coined by the founder of Hospice, Dame Cicely Saunders. Dr. Saunders wrote: “I realized that we needed not only better pain control but better overall care. People needed the space to be themselves. I coined the term ‘total pain,’ from my understanding that dying people have physical, spiritual, psychological, and social pain that must be treated. I have been working on that ever since.” (3.)
In the case of those who work with the dying, these core challenges are compounded by the possible denial of death; the angst around pain, suffering, and death; the inability to discuss interventions and death; the inability to communicate about stresses in caregiving; workaholism, self-neglect, and perfectionism; guilt for avoiding or abandoning the dying individual; engaging in negative cognitive appraisal; moral conflicts and distress; and futility with: patient demands, clinical errors and feelings of inadequacy, institutional demands, and interventions not benefiting patients.
This work then is about alleviating the suffering or total pain of the dying and gravely ill, as well as being with the suffering of family caregivers and survivors, and addressing the suffering of clinicians and professional caregivers. Perhaps we could coin the term “total care” or compassionate care to exemplify the type of care that addresses physical, spiritual, psychological, and social pain and suffering of dying people and caregivers, and is based on a compassionate response to total pain. The intent of this article is to address primarily the challenges caregivers face in caring for the dying, the need for self-compassion on the part of caregivers, and the importance of cultivating compassion for others. It as well endeavors to explore some of the neuroscientific underpinnings of compassion and meditation, the value of compassion in supporting caregiver resilience. Finally, the article explores some categories of compassion that might deepen our understanding of the richness in the expressions of compassion.
According to Drs. Ron Epstein, Mitchell Krasner, and colleagues, in a recent article in JAMA, (4.) up to sixty percent of practicing physicians report burnout symptoms, which include emotional exhaustion, depersonalization (treating patients as objects), and a low sense of accomplishment. Epstein, Krasner, and colleagues go on to note that physician burnout is linked to poorer quality of care, including patient dissatisfaction, increased medical errors, lawsuits, and a decreased ability to express empathy. The question then arises in how do we address caregiver suffering, and what are some relevant spiritual and contemplative perspectives and practices that might give relief to caregivers and foster greater resilience and compassion in those who care for the dying? I think it is good to begin with the question of what do we mean by the term “spirituality”, since compassion and spirituality are often felt to be related. In 1997, Gallup (5.) did a survey on Americans’ views of death
and dying. In the report, it was quoted that “American people want to reclaim and reassert the spiritual dimensions of dying.” Spirituality is indeed integral to a dying person’s realization of the developmental task of transcendence and to caregiver values and behaviors. Moreover, spirituality is a deeply personal matter. In the report by Dr. Christina Puchalski, Betty Ferrell and colleagues (6.), the word spirituality was explored by a group of 40 professionals in the end-oflife care field. The consensus was that: “Spirituality is that aspect of humanity that refers to the way individuals seek and express meaning and purpose, and experience their connectedness to the moment, to self, to others, to nature, to the significant, or sacred.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama has defined spiritual in the following way: Spirituality addresses qualities of the human spirit that include love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, a sense of responsibility, which bring happiness to self and other. It as well includes a basic concern for the well being of others. And it has an emphasis on contemplative practices cultivating ethics, stability, and prosocial mental qualities. (7.) The Mayo Clinic (9) in Rochester, Minnesota states: “Spirituality is an integral dimension of compassionate care and an important aid to healing for patients, their families, and caregivers.” Another renowned medical school, the University of Virginia Medical School (10.) says that “A good practice of medicine depends upon physicians’ awareness of both their patients’ and their own spirituality.” The contemplative dimension is somewhat different than the spiritual but is inter-related. The world’s contemplative traditions, for example, encompass shared wisdom in moral and ethical virtues and values as well as reflective practices that cultivate the mind. It is the cultivation of the prosocial mental quality of compassion that is the primary subject of this article.
In the work that the Upaya Institute in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has done over the past fifteen years in training of end-of-life care clinicians, we have, among other things, explored six core contemplative strategies, reflective practices, or meditation techniques that support caregivers in compassionate and mindful caregiving. These include: focused attention; insight practices; practices that assist caregivers in presencing pain and suffering; practices that develop prosocial mental states (kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, equanimity, altruism, empathy); imaginal processes that track the psycho-physiological aspects of dying; and open presence. In the extensive neuroscience research on meditation being done around the world at this time, mental training has demonstrated the following benefits: • Attentional balance: The capacity to have a sustaining, vivid, stable, effortless, and nonjudgmental attention (the base of presence and executive control) • Emotional balance: The cultivation of prosocial mental states, including altruism, empathy, compassion, kindness, joy, equanimity • Cognitive control: The ability to guide thought and behavior in accord with one’s intention The ability to override habitual responses and to down-regulate The cultivation of mental flexibility, insight, meta-cognition, and reappraisal. • Health and resilience: Stress reduction, relaxation, Enhanced immune response, decreased inflammation In exploring compassion meditation, for example, we see that the base of compassion practice includes mindful attention to the present moment. The meditation teacher Jon Kabat-Zinn (10.) has defined mindfulness as “… moment-to-moment, non-judgmental awareness, cultivated by paying attention in a specific way, that is, in the present moment, and as non-reactively, as nonjudgmentally, and as openheartedly as possible.”
Mindfulness is associated with self-reported positive affect (11.); less anxiety and depression (12.); greater relationship satisfaction and less relationship stress (13.); and specific profiles of brain activity associated with greater emotion regulation during affect labeling (14.). All these qualities form a base wherein compassion can unfold. We have seen through research, as well as our direct experience that mindfulness is a process making the regulation of emotion possible. It creates a stable mental state where insight is possible about the distinction between self and other, without which we would experience empathic over-arousal, and move into personal distress. Over-arousal, leading to personal distress, would inhibit healthy compassion. Thus, mindfulness is an essential component of compassion. (15.). Mindful and compassionate caregiving entails listening with full attention; emotional awareness and self-regulation while caregiving; prosociality and positive regard for self and other; the ability to prioritize and be attuned to one’s surroundings; and bringing compassion and nonjudgmental acceptance to interactions. (16.) To support these qualities, clinicians and caregivers need to: value well-being, insight, compassion, and self-respect. They as well need to recognize challenges and stress. The commitment to physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, and relational balance is essential. And finally, caregivers need to engage in strategies supporting compassionate action toward the dying person, community, colleagues, and self. The three main types of meditative techniques currently studied in various neuroscience labs include Focused Attention (Concentrative) Meditation; Open Presence (Receptive) Meditation; and Compassion Meditation. (17.). In this article, we concentrate on research on empathy and compassion. To begin with, the neuroscientist Dr. Tania Singer (18.) found that a capacity to be aware of one’s own visceral processes is related to empathy. Our ability to read our body’s visceral experience, for example,
sensing our heartbeat, our digestive processes, and so forth, appears to prime us to be able to feel into the experience of another. Singer’s work on empathy was enriched by her investigation of alexithymia. Those who suffer from this disorder have impaired interoceptive awareness, which is linked with a deficit in the capacity for empathy. Empathy is a building block of compassion. This of course has some interesting implications in the health care field where caregivers can be burned out, out of touch with the body, and essentially numb. We can then ask what do clinicians and caregivers need to do to engender empathic concern and compassion? Note that in looking at this data, we begin to put together a simple equation with regards to some of the elements that comprise compassion. They include the ability to be interoceptive (somatic awareness), which can prime for empathy. Empathy, positive regard for others, kindness, and insight, form a basis for empathic concern or compassion. In the 1980’s, Dr. Daniel Batson (19.), the social psychologist, noted that there were two distinct emotions that motivate people to help others. The first he termed: empathic concern. He reported that empathic concern is an other-focused, congruent emotion that is produced when an individual witnesses another’s suffering. This experience of concern is accompanied by feelings such as tenderness, sympathy, or compassion. Batson called the other emotion “personal distress.” The focus here is on one’s self, and is prompted by the need to relieve one’s own uncomfortable feelings in response to the perceived suffering of others. Since Batson’s pioneering work on altruism and empathy, we have learned that it is essential to nourish two qualities in order for there to be healthy empathic concern and compassion. First is the ability to be self-aware, in other words to know/sense/feel what is happening in the body/mind, as we encounter the suffering of another. Somatic sensitivity mirrors the process by which we can also sense into the experience of another. It as well signals us when we
are going into an over-aroused state and are about to experience personal distress. Through our sensitivity to what the body is saying, we can choose to downregulate our arousal level. Mindfulness is key here, for it allows us to be aware of what is going on in our body/mind. Through the experience of emotion regulation facilitated by mindfulness, an individual can more easily differentiate between self and other, the second ability that is important in cultivating healthy empathic concern or compassion. Otherwise the physiological activation of shared experience can lead to burnout, secondary trauma or moral distress. More recently, the social psychologist Dr. Nancy Eisenberg (20.) elaborated on Batson’s work. She has noted that empathy or emotional attunement, combined with perspective taking or cognitive attunement, plus memory, combine to give rise to an arousal level that is sufficiently uncomfortable that one feels motivated to “do” something to alleviate the suffering of the so-called “object of awareness.” If the arousal level is not regulated, then the subject experiences “personal distress” which leads to selfish prosocial behavior or avoidance behaviors. In other words, one can feel acutely distressed about the suffering of another and engage in behaviors that appear to be helpful to the suffering person, but if he or she is motivated, consciously or unconsciously by the need to reduce his or her own distress, this is then selfish prosocial behavior arising from personal distress. Our own observation is that personal distress can lead to the three common fear responses of fight (moral outrage), flight (abandonment), or freeze (numbing). We can ask the question: how does one regulate emotional responses, so compassion can be nurtured, and caregivers don’t fall into reactions of avoidance, abandonment, numbness, or moral outrage? Clearly, one of the most powerful interventions is mindful focused attention, the ability intentionally to guide the mind in accord with our intentions and to stabilize the mental continuum in order to have insight about suffering, its origins and how to transform suffering.
In this regard, it seems important to turn to some of the neuroscience research on compassion meditation practices in order to get a picture of what is going on in the brain and minds of advanced practitioners of compassion meditation. Note that all practitioners of Buddhist meditation engage in some form of mindfulness meditation as a base for all other meditation techniques. This is done to stabilize the mind and to relax the body, so the reflective dimension of the mental experience can be fostered. When mental stability is present, then the practitioner can proceed to deconstruct the ego through compassion practices that can lead to a nonreferential or unbiased orientation. Drs. Antoine Lutz, Richard Davidson, and their colleagues at the Keck Laboratory (21.) in Madison, Wisconsin, mounted research experiments comparing adept meditators (with 10,000 plus hours of meditation practice) with novice practitioners. There were a number of results that were quite interesting. First, areas of the brain associated with emotion sharing and empathy, particularly the anterior insula and anterior cingulate cortex, were shown to be activated during compassion meditation in response to emotionally charged sounds (i.e. baby cries, screams) in both adept and novice meditators. The advanced meditation practitioners had greater activation of these areas, as well as the somatosensory regions of the brains associated with body sensations and interoception. Dr. Lutz and team (22.) also saw that compassion meditation increased emotional cardiovascular arousal in experienced meditators, but not novices. Identified was neurovisceral coupling of the brain and heart, where there was an increase in heart rate that was linked with the activation of brain regions during compassion meditation. This was found in only the adepts. The left insula cortex, associated with empathy and response to strong emotions like love and disgust, was activated, as was the pre-motor cortex, associated with the intention to act or move the body, and the somatosensory region, associated with body sensations and interoception.
There was also significant activation of the temporoparietal junction, which is associated with the capacity to distinguish between self and other, and in perceiving the mental and emotional states of others. Both the insula and temporo-parietal junction are linked to emotion sharing and empathy. According to Dr. Richard Davidson, the Director of Madison’s Keck Laboratory, the combination of these two effects was much more noticeable in the expert meditators as opposed to the novices. Neuroscientist, Dr. Tania Singer (23.) notes that there is accumulating evidence that highlights a crucial role of the insular cortex in feelings, empathy and processing uncertainty in the context of decision making. In the experiment at Keck Laboratory, Dr. Lutz noted that expert meditators had greater activity in the left prefrontal cortex, which is active in positive emotions such as happiness, and that this overshadowed activity in the right prefrontal area, which is more active in negative emotions and anxiety. The adept meditators also demonstrated a dramatic increase in synchronous gamma-band oscillations in the electroencephalograph (EEG), but this was not present in non-meditators. Synchronous gamma waves are high-frequency (25-70 Hz) brain electrical oscillations associated with neural integration, linking functionally different parts of the brain. It was discovered that gamma waves increased during non-referential compassion meditation, and that the magnitude of gamma waves is directly correlated with the amount of prior meditation practice. (24) In another compassion study that was conducted by Dr. Charles Raison and colleagues (25.) at Emory University, novice meditators, who were taught a compassion based meditation over six weeks, were divided into high and low practice groups. This study focused on the effects of compassion meditation on a biological immune functioning marker, interleukin (IL)-6, and self-reported psychological distress in response to a laboratory psychosocial stressor, compared to the low practice and control groups.
We can summarize these results on compassion meditation research in the following ways. Compassion meditation appears to specifically enhance brain-heart communication and resonance (in other words, heart-rate variability or “vagal tone” and emotion response/regulation; the vagus nerve carries information between the brain and the heart, and the pattern of variability in heart-rate provides an indication of the nature of a person’s emotion response and their ability to regulate emotion; positive emotions and integrative brain electrical activity (gamma) are also increased, as is brain response in related regions to emotional stimuli; and there is a reduction of inflammatory and negative mood response even following relatively brief meditation practice. There is thus evidence for the power of compassion meditation to produce positive emotional states and neural integration, as well as enhanced biological immune responses. Certainly, the practice of compassion meditation has significance for clinicians but might have interesting benefits for patients as well. Finally, we need to ask if there are different types of compassion? From the perspective of traditional Buddhism, for example, two main streams of compassion are identified: referential compassion and non-referential compassion. Referential or biased compassion is compassion, which has an object. Nonreferential or unbiased compassion is compassion that has no object. Referential compassion has a number of sub-categories. These include: biologically based compassion, which includes: instinctual compassion (the parent/child bond); unripened compassion, where compassion is present but compromised (unwanted infant); and attached compassion (existing in the case of family members or through a sexual bond). Then there is compassion through identification, which is a form of referential compassion that arises through the identification with suffering of another who has similar suffering to one’s own.
Reasoned compassion has two sub-categories: The first is ethically based compassion, where compassion is a moral imperative. The second category is conceptually based compassion, where the subject has a profound insight into the nature interdependence, nonduality, cause and effect, and selflessness. Nonreferential or unbiased compassion is the type of compassion that the researchers at the Keck Laboratory investigated. Non-referential compassion or universal compassion is a form of pervasive compassion that is not directed toward one’s self, or toward another being. Compassion begins with the profound aspiration to bring an end to suffering, because we have at some level realized that we are not separate from any being or thing. Through this experience of interconnectedness, we naturally wish freedom from suffering for all, thus we respond to suffering in order to transform or end it. Finally, we endeavor to free ourselves from any thought as to the outcome of our actions, as we cannot really control what happens, but we do our best; we wish for the best. There are near and far enemies of compassion. The far enemy is cruelty. This enemy is easy to detect. But the near enemies of compassion are often difficult to recognize. They include fear, grief, pity, anxiety, and righteous anger, all expressions of personal distress.
The so-called “near enemies” can drain or destroy us. Thus, we must look truthfully at our own experience and see if our response to suffering is healthy; we then evaluate our choice in how we are responding, and let go of blame and judgment. Our work as caregivers of those who are dying is never to deny the truth and presence of suffering, impermanence, and death. As we are touched by these realities of existence, we realize that compassion is a moral, social, psychological and spiritual imperative. That is why one trains in compassion meditation to have the strength and perspective to acknowledge the pain and suffering in others and ourselves and to develop an appropriate and transformative relationship to suffering through insight and the regulation of our emotions. This is a profound path for those who care for the dying. It is the path that the great healers and teachers of the past have walked. And it is a path of sanity that clinicians and caregivers can discover, day after day, as they care for the dying. It is also beneath the feet of every human being. Fortunately, we live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages: that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival. May we see into the life of things, and may we have the courage to actualize compassion in our lives for the benefit of all those who suffer.
“With an eye made quiet by the power of harmony, and the deep power of joy, we see into the life of things”. (26.) William Wordsworth
REFERENCES AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS: 1. 2. 3. 4.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama Personal communication from Dr. Gary Pasternak to Roshi Joan Halifax1 Dame Cicely Saunders 1Michael S. Krasner, Ronald M. Epstein, Howard Beckman, Anthony L. Suchman, Benjamin Chapman, Christopher J. Mooney, Timothy E. Quill. Association of an Educational Program in Mindful Communication With Burnout, Empathy, and Attitudes Among Primary Care Physicians JAMA. 2009;302(12):1284-1293
7. 8. 9. 10. 11. 12. 13. 14. 15.
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19. 20. 21. 22. 23. 24. 25.
Gallup From: Improving the Quality of Spiritual Care as a Dimension of Palliative Care Consensus Conference Recommendations EXECUTIVE SUMMARY Puchalski, C.M., Ferrell, B., Anderson, M.B., Virani, R., Otis-Green. S., Baird, P., Bull, J., Lyons, L. From: Ethics for the New Millennium, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, 1999 Mayo Clinic University of Virginia Kabat-Zinn, J. (2005). Coming to our senses (pp. 143-161). New York: Hyperion. p. 108 Brown and Ryan 2003 Baer et al. 2006, 2008; Brown and Ryan 2003 Barnes et al. 2007 Creswell et al. 2007 Decety, J. (2007). A social cognitive neuroscience model of human empathy. In E. Harmon-Jones & P. Winkelman (Eds.), Social neuroscience: Integrating biological and psychological explanations of social behavior (pp. 246270). New York: Guilford Press. Epstein 1999; Connelly, 1999; Connelly, 2005 Lutz, A., Dunne, J. & Davidson, R. (2007). Meditation and the neuroscience of consciousness. In P. Zelazo, M. Moscovitch & E. Thompson, eds., The Cambridge Handbook of Consciousness, Cambridge University Press E Klimecki, O., & Singer, T. (in press). Empathic distress fatigue rather than compassion fatigue?: Integrating findings from empathy research in psychology and social neuroscience. In B. Oakley, A. Knafo, G. Madhavan, & D. S. Wilson (Eds.), Pathological altruism. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Batson, C. D., Fultz, J., & Schoenrade, P. A. (1987). Distress and empathy: Two qualitatively distinct vicarious emotions with different motivational consequences. Journal of Personality, 55(1), 19-39. Eisenberg,N. (2002). Empathy-related emotional responses, altruism, and their socialization. In R.J. Davidson & A. Harrington (Eds.), Visions of compassion (pp. 131-164). Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press) Lutz A, Brefczynski-Lewis J, Johnstone T, Davidson RJ. Regulation of the neural circuitry of emotion by compassion meditation: Effects of meditative expertise. PLoS ONE. 2008; 3(3): e1897.] Lutz A, Greischar LL, Perlman D, Davidson RJ. BOLD signal in insula is differentially related to cardiac function during compassion meditation in experts vs. novices. Neuroimage. 2009; 47(3): 1038-1046. Singer, T., Critchley, H. D., & Preuschoff, K. (2009). A common role of insula in feelings, empathy and uncertainty. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 13, 334-340. Lutz A, Greischar LL, Rawlings NB, Ricard M, Davidson RJ. Long-term meditators self-induce high-amplitude gamma synchrony during mental practice. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. 2004; 101, 16369â€“16373. Pace, T.W.W., Negi, L.T., Adame, D.D., Cole, S.P., Sivilli, T.I., Brown, T.B., Issa, M.J., & Raison, C.L. Effect of compassion meditation on neuroendocrine, innate immune and behavioral responses to psychosocial stress. Psychoneuroendocrinology (2008), doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2008.08.011) Wordsworth, William
Gratitude to Dr. Alfred Kaszniak and Dr. Susan Bauer-Wu for assistance on the interpretation of neuroscience content in this paper, to Drs. Tony Back and Cynda Rushton for collaboration on the Professional Training Program on Contemplative End-of-Life Care, to the Upaya Institute, Ann Down and John and Tussi Kluge, and the Hershey Family Foundation for funding my work in the end-of-life care field, and to the Mind and Life Institute, Dr. Richard Davidson, Adam Engle, and Francisco Varela for introducing me to the neuroscience of compassion. EH
Purifying Karma: The Four Opponent Powers by Venerable Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron Venerable Bhikshuni Thubten Chodron graduated with a B.A. in History from the University of California, Los Angeles, and did postgraduate work in Education while working as a teacher in the Los Angeles City School System. In 1975, she met the Dharma and ordained in 1977. In 1986, she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. She has studied under H.H. The Dalai Lama, Tsenzhap Serkong Rinpoche, Zopa Rinpoche, and other Tibetan masters. She directed the spiritual program at Lama Tzong Khapa Institute in Italy for two years, was the spiritual program coordinator and later the director of Dorje Pamo Monastery in France, and was resident teacher at Amitabha Buddhist Center in Singapore. For ten years she was resident teacher and spiritual advisor at Dharma Friendship Foundation in Seattle, USA. Active in interfaith dialogue, she also works with prison inmates and is the author of several Dharma books, including Buddhism for Beginners, Working with Anger, and Open Heart, Clear Mind. Seeing the importance and necessity of a monastery for Westerners training in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, she founded and is the abbess of Sravasti Abbey in Eastern Washington State, USA. Venerable Chodron is a speaker at the World Buddhist Conference (www.wbc.my) on September 25-26, 2010 in Kuala Lumpur.
The Four Opponent Powers are as follows: 1
Power of Regret
Power of Reliance/Repairing the Relationship
Power of Determination not to Repeat the Action
Power of Remedial Action
Purification is done by means of the four opponent powers. The first one is the power of regret for having acted in a harmful way. Note: this is regret, not guilt. It’s important to differentiate these two. Regret has an element of wisdom; it notices our mistakes and regrets them. Guilt, on the other hand, makes a drama, “Oh, look what I’ve done! I’m so terrible. How could I have done this? I’m so awful.” Who is the star of the show when we feel guilty? Me! Guilt is rather self-centered, isn’t it? Regret, however, isn’t imbued with self- flagellation. Deep regret is essential to purify our negativities. Without it, we have no motivation to purify. Thinking about the suffering effects our actions have on others and on ourselves stimulates regret. How do our destructive actions hurt us? They place negative karmic seeds on our own mindstream, and these will cause us to experience suffering in the future. The second opponent power is the power of reliance or the power of repairing the relationship. When we act negatively, generally the object is either holy beings or ordinary beings. The way to repair the relationship with holy beings is by taking refuge in the Three Jewels. The relationship with the holy beings was damaged by our negative action and the thought behind it. Now we repair that by generating faith and confidence in our spiritual mentors and the Three Jewels
Deep regret is essential to purify our negativities. Without it, we have no motivation to purify.
and taking refuge in them. The way to repair the relationships we’ve damaged with ordinary beings is by generating bodhicitta and having the wish to become a fully enlightened Buddha in order to benefit them in the most farreaching way. If it is possible to go to the people we have harmed and apologize to them, that’s good to do. But most important is to reconcile and repair the broken relationship in our own mind. Sometimes the other person may be dead, or we have lost touch with them, or they may not be ready to talk with us. In addition, we want to purify negative actions created in previous lifetimes and we have no idea where or who the other people are now. In other words, we can’t always go to them and apologize directly.
Therefore, what’s most important is to restore the relationship in our own mind. Here, we generate love, compassion, and the altruistic intention for those whom previously we held bad feelings about. It was those negative emotions that motivated our harmful actions, so by transforming the emotions that motivate us, our future actions will also be transformed. The third of the four opponent powers is the force of determining not to do it again. This is making a clear determination how we want to act in the future. It’s good to pick a specific and realistic length of time for making a strong determination not to repeat the action. Then we must be careful during that time not to do the same action. Through making such determinations, we begin to change in evident ways. We also gain confidence that we can, in fact, break old bad habits and act with more kindness towards others. With regard to some negative actions, we can feel confident that
Through making such determinations, we begin to change in evident ways. We also gain confidence that we can, in fact, break old bad habits and act with more kindness towards others.
we’ll never do them again because we’ve looked inside and said, “That’s too disgusting. Never again am I going to do that!” We can say that with confidence. With other things, like talking behind other people’s back or losing our temper and making hurtful comments, it may be more difficult for us to say confidently that we’ll never do again. We might make the promise and then five minutes later find ourselves doing it again simply because of habit or lack of awareness. In such a situation, it’s better to say, “For the next two days I won’t repeat that action.” Alternatively, we could say, “I will try very hard not to do that again,” or “I will be very attentive regarding my behavior in that area.” The fourth opponent power is the power of remedial action. Here we actively do something. In the context of this practice, we recite the names of the 35 Buddhas and prostrate to them. Other purification practices include such activities as reciting the Vajrasattva mantra, making tsa-tsas (little Buddha figures), reciting sutras, meditating on emptiness, helping to publish Dharma books, making offerings to our teacher, a monastery, Dharma center, or temple, or the Three Jewels. Remedial actions also include doing community service work such as offering service in hospice, prison, volunteer programs that help children learn to read, food banks, homeless shelters, oldage facilities – any action that benefits others. There are many types of remedial actions that we can do. EH
Phayul, July 10, 2010
Spain’s semi final hero fascinated by Buddhism, met Dalai Lama in 2007
Puyol, seen here with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Barcelona, Spain, 2007. Also seen on the right is Ven. Thupten Wangchen. Dharamsala, India -- Barcelona and Spain defender Carles “Tarzan” Puyol who scored the only goal of the semi final against Germany to send his country into the first ever world cup final has a keen interest in Buddhism, according to his friend Ven. Thupten Wangchen of the Casa del Tibet, Barcelona. Ven Wangchen told VOA that Puyol’s interest in Tibetan culture and Buddhism started after reading Sogyal Rinpoche’s book, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying which helped him deal with death of a family member. Puyol, Ven. Wangchen said, has a Tibetan tattoo on his left arm which reads “Power is inside the Mind. The strong can endure.”
Puyol, also an admirer of the Tibetan leader has met His Holiness the Dalai Lama during the latter’s visit to Barcelona in 2007. Ven. Wangchen said Puyol has also expressed his interest in helping the Tibetan national football team in the future. Puyol made his senior national-team debut in November 2000, shortly after playing his part in the Olympic squad which picked up silver at the Games in Sydney. Since then his name has been a constant in the Spain squad list, including appearances at two FIFA World Cups and two UEFA EUROs. Indeed, Puyol’s tigerish defending was another key factor in La Roja’s long-awaited success at the Euro 2008. EH Source: Buddhist Channel TFQUFNCFS!3121!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!46
Pointing out One’s Individual Wisdom by Ven Phakchok Rinpoche Recognized by the Kagyu regents and ordained by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Phakchok Rinpoche is one of the Supreme Heads of the Taklung Kagyu Lineage. Rinpoche is also the Vajra Master of Ka-Nying Shedrub Ling Monastery and the Abbot of Dongak Nyida Zungdrel Sherab Raldri Ling Monastery. Born in 1981 to Chokling Rinpoche and his wife Dechen Paldron, Phakchok Rinpoche is the grandson of the late Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche who also happens to be one of Rinpoche’s root gurus. An enthusiastic and vibrant young lama, his teachings are direct, accessible, and always fresh, opening up our minds in a playful and inspiring way. Besides his monastic duties, Rinpoche participates rigorously in a number
of charitable activities. At present, he is directing the development of the Vajra Varahi Free Clinic, which provides free Tibetan, Chinese, Homeopathic, and Ayurvedic health care to the disadvantaged and also a yearly weekly dental camp in different villages across the Kathmandu Valley. Phakchok Rinpoche received the “Khenpo” title (similar to a PhD) from H.H. 14th Dalai Lama and H.E. Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. He completed in seven years the traditional nine-year curriculum of Buddhist philosophy at the Dzongsar Institute of Advanced Buddhist Studies in Bir, Himachal Pradesh, India.
EH: What is the difference between a monk, yogi, and lama? Phakchok Rinpoche: The term “Sangha” in the context of the Vinaya (monastic law) refers to those who are ordained and observe monastic vows. Members of the ordained Sangha could be novices or fully ordained monks, who are called bhikshus. The word Sangha can also be a collective term that refers to four or more fully-ordained monks.
At present, he also serves as a Professor of Buddhist Philosophy at Rangjung Yeshe Institute, a center for Buddhist studies affiliated with the Kathmandu University. He has been a guest-lecturer at various centers in Denmark, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Belgium, United States of America, and Canada, and he recently established several new Buddhist centers in Malaysia. Phakchok Rinpoche was in Malaysia in May 2009 to give a series of teachings in various cities and towns in West Malaysia. On May 15, 2009, Hee Cher Sun interviewed him for Eastern Horizon journal.
In the Bodhisattva path (Mahayana path), the vinaya is important as it is the basis for Mahayana monks and nuns to live their way of life. For lay practitioners, they observe the Five Precepts, which are not too different from the vows of the monks. For monks, they have the precept against sexual activity (abrahmacariya) while there is a similar precept against sexual misconduct (kamesu miccacara) for lay followers. When lay practitioners take the five precepts, they have a choice as to which precept(s) that they want to observe. But for monks, they do not have a choice – they must observe all their vows.
In the Vajrayana path, the yogi tradition in Tibet was started by Guru Padmasambava and in India it began with King Indraputri. Other great teachers who continued the yogic tradition include Shantarakshita and Vimalamitra. Shantarakshita was the first monk who brought the Vinaya to Tibet. At the same time, he was also a practitioner of the yogi path. Both Shantarakshita and Vimalamitra went to Tibet to start monasteries, and the first monastery they built in Tibet was Samye monastery. There are two types of yogis. The first category comprises yogis who are ordained. They are high level practitioners and they follow both Mahayana and Vajrayana practices. There are also female yogis known as yoginis who are capable to teach both monks and nuns. Secondly, there are lay yogis with families. They wear white robes and usually keep long hair. Some other yogis do not wear white but wear different precept robes when giving empowerments and teachings. These yogis take the Five Precepts. Without observing these precepts, they cannot take the Vajrayana yogic vows. Besides, they also need to practice both the Mahayana (Bodhisattva) and Vajrayana vows. Lama is a more general word. A lama can be ordained or not, but must have more experience in practice. Can a layperson also practice the Dharma or must he become a monk or yogi? Once when the Buddha was giving a teaching, King Indraputri told the Buddha that he wanted to be enlightened but was unable to give up his material possessions, kingdom, and family. King Indraputri explained that this was because he had a duty to fulfill to society. So he wanted to know if he too could be a Buddha. This is the same question many people are asking today. The Buddha replied that if as a King he could rule his kingdom without any attachment, then he would be able to attain realization like a Buddha.
In the same way, it is explained in the Vinaya that if a monk has detachment, it makes no difference whether he wears beautiful and expensive clothes, stays in the cemetery, or goes on alms round for his food. This is because the mind is pure. The Buddha emphasized the middle path. How we follow the middle path is not just based on conduct, but on how our mind reacts –with attachment or detachment. In Malaysia, most Buddhists follow either the Theravada or Chinese Mahayana tradition. Recently, more Malaysian Buddhists have shown interest in Vajrayana Buddhism. What is your advice to these Buddhists with regards to where, what, and how to have a better understanding of Vajrayana Buddhism? My advice is not to read just any books that you like about Vajrayana Buddhism. Make sure you know that the authors of these books are authentic teachers. It is very important to understand the Vajrayana teachings correctly. Also, a good master is crucial to help you understand the teachings. It is also very important to understand the doctrine of Theravada teachings first as they provide the foundation for Vajrayana Buddhism. We should study the core teachings of the Buddha such as moral conduct, meditation including shamatha and vipashyana, and the path to becoming an arhat. The next step then is to understand the Mahayana teachings by studying the key points taught there. The most important teaching in Mahayana Buddhism is buddha-nature, which is not very much highlighted in Theravada. So it is important to understand this Mahayana teaching. For books, I recommend “The Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The Wish-Fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings” by Gampopa. This is a root text and it covers the Mahayana teachings extensively and also some aspects of Vajrayana Buddhism. Shantideva’s “The Way of a Bodhisattva” is also an excellent Mahayana text.
What are the preliminary practices that a new student to Vajrayana Buddhism should follow? Usually I suggest four categories or ways one should start practicing Vajrayana Buddhism. First, a serious practitioner should start with mind training (lojong) and then practice the four foundations – refuge and bodhicitta, Vajrasattva meditation, mandala offering, and guru yoga. These are preliminary practices.
Many Buddhists in Malaysia are exposed to shamatha and vipashyana meditation as taught in the Theravada tradition. However, is there a similar meditation in the Vajrayana tradition? When you say Vajrayana it can be confusing as each level of Vajrayana has slightly different techniques. There are six levels of Vajrayana practices. So I will talk about the highest (Ati Yoga) and the second highest level (Anu Yoga).
Second, if one wishes to study more about Buddhist philosophy, then one should study the middle way texts, such as commentaries on Chandrakirti’s Introduction to the Middle Way, The Root Text of Middle Way by Nagarjuna, and Aryadeva’s Four Hundred Stanzas on the Middle Way.
There are two levels of meditation to start with: shamata and vipashyana. Some of the shamatha meditations are similar to the Theravada tradition where we learn mindfulness and one-pointedness to arrive at clarity of mind. The body postures during meditation are also similar.
Third, for those with inclinations to meditation, one should start with shamatha meditation, and then gradually train in objectless meditation, vipashyana meditation, and emptiness meditation.
Beginners are taught to close their eyes. The advantage of closing the eyes is that it leads to less distraction. But the disadvantage in closing eyes is that it can lead to drowsiness and sleepiness. When the eyes are opened, there is more distraction, but there is also greater clarity and less sleepiness. It is somewhat similar to how the Buddha looks in meditation posture – eyes not fully closed or not fully opened.
Fourth, for those attracted to Vajrayana teachings such as mantras and visualization, one should take a deity that one has an affinity for as one’s main practice, because all deities embody the Buddha’s activities. One chants the mantra, learns a short visualization, and continues this practice the entire life. However, the above practices all require a teacher. Is it necessary to follow one particular teacher? It is better to learn different aspects of the Buddhist teachings from different teachers in the beginning. Then after we have understood the core teachings, we can take a teacher who we feel more connected with. But would a new person be confused with many teachers? In the beginning, we should first read extensively to have a foundation and basic understanding of Vajrayana teachings.
The other reason why the eyes should not be closed is because the five senses should be opened, not closed. Meditation training is to train our mind – by training, we may face external distraction, but we do not get distracted. However, if you run away from distraction, you will not be able to tame your mind. In the Varjayana tradition, there are also many other types of shamatha meditation. For instance, there is a type of shamatha meditation focused on breathing that is called the vajra breath. You alternate three syllables in one breath. When inhaling, focus on the syllable “Om”, in between inhaling and exhaling focus on the syllable “Ah”, and then when exhaling focus on the syllable “Hung”. Within that brief period of time, you change your focus three times. If you focus on one thing/object, you will master that particular focus but you may not be able to focus on other objects/things.
One of the most common but also the most difficult kinds of shamatha meditation is objectless meditation where there is no object to focus on. One just relaxes and lets be in one’s natural state. After this meditation is completed, one must examine oneself – “Who am I? Am I my body? Am I my mind? Am I my speech?” When you do not find yourself, then you relax again. This is a kind of vipashyana meditation. One examines one’s negative emotions such as anger, jealousy, and pride – when they arise, and when they cease. That is why the Buddha said in the Heart Sutra, “the mind is emptiness; emptiness is mind”. But how does one meditate? The Buddha said in the Prajnaparamita Sutra, “Non-meditation is the meditation of Prajnaparamita.” But merely the state of non-thought does not mean that one is practicing the meditation of Prajnaparamita. We need to learn the natural state – that is the highest level of meditation, supreme vipashyana meditation.
the student, whether they are ready or not. For some it can take a whole lifetime. For others, just a few minutes. It is therefore important to have a welltrained teacher. Nowadays, we do not have as many good masters around like in the past. Of course there are still good masters around, but the problem is that when a teacher is requested to give teachings at many different places it reduces his meditation time. Right now we have highly realized masters who are the pillars of the Vajrayana path, but who knows about the future. I am worried about what will happen 30 years from now. I received the pointing out from my grandfather when I was 14 years old, and again a year later. I also received teachings from about 10 other masters. It is very difficult to explain the pointing out instructions, but they are very funny experiences. What are the pre-requisites to being a student of Vajrayana shamatha/vipashyana? Is finding the right teacher one of the pre-requisites? Yes.
At the highest level (Ati Yoga), everything else is effort, including thinking. When one makes an effort, how is one going to reach the “effortlessness”? When everything is focus, how is one going to reach “focus-less”? When everything is based on thought, how is one going to attain “thought-free”? That is why in the highest level of teaching it is most important for the guru (master) to point out the nakedness of one’s individual wisdom. Then one can take that individual wisdom pointed out by one’s master and train in it. That is why Vajrayana is called the wisdom path. But we need devotion, clear understanding, and a great master to point out the wisdom. My grandfather, Tulku Urgyen, was wellknown for pointing out one’s individual wisdom. How long would it take for a master to point out one’s individual wisdom? This depends on many different factors. How does one know if one has the right conditions or not? For example, past good karma, merit, a qualified teacher, genuine devotion, compassion. And with regards to the time, you really cannot say. It depends more on
How do we find the right teacher? The qualities of the teacher are very important. The teacher must be learned, compassionate, patient, and possess few negative emotions. So one needs to check how many negative emotions the teacher has. One should investigate the teacher thoroughly. That is very important. How about lineage? Lineage is very important. One should refer to the texts on lineage to determine the lineage that a teacher belongs to. One should determine which school the teacher belongs to and who the teacher’s master is. But most important is to have an affinity with that teacher. How does this initial training in meditation relate to Mahamudra and Dzogchen? Is it a MUST for one to study Vajrayana shamatha/vipashyana first before proceeding to Mahamudra and Dzogchen training?
Yes and no. Mahamudra has its own system, which includes shamatha and vipashyana, and which leads on to Mahamudra. Vajrayana Dzogchen also has its own preliminaries practices, but the focus is not on shamatha and vipashyana. So Vajrayana has its own preliminary practices, but again it all depends on the individual student.
by Venerable Fa Xun
Have you trained in Mahamudra and Dzogchen? Yes.
Do you teach others Mahamudra or Dzogchen? Yes. I do teach Mahamudra teachings. Mahamudra is easier as it is a systematic kind of path. I do not teach Dzogchen now, but will teach it after I am 45 years old. My uncle, Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, and my father, Chokling Rinpoche, are very good Dzogchen teachers. There are also many other Dzogchen masters. Dzogchen is very unique. Each individual is different. Hence, there are different pointing out methods for different students. EH
Venerable Fa Xun was born in 1965 and studied Business at the Ngee Ann Polytechnic in Singapore where she became President of its Buddhist Society in 1988. In 1992 she was ordained in Taiwan by Venerable Wu Yin of Luminary Bhikshuni Sangha, where she also went through five years of monastic training in the institute. Upon completion of her monastic training, she returned to Singapore where she served the Sagaramudra Buddhist Society in Singapore (1997-2001) and Sagaramudra Buddhist Association in Perth (20012008) cum taught at the Manjushri Secondary School in Buddhism Program. She studied for her B.A. in Education and B.A. in Arts at the University of Western Australia in Perth where she graduated with Honors in 2009. She was invited to Malaysia by the Shah Alam Buddhist Society to give a series of lectures on Buddhism in conjunction with Wesak Day in May 2010. Loh Yit Phing interviewed her for Eastern Horizon about her decision to become a Buddhist nun.
EH: Could you tell us about your background and why you chose to become a Buddhist nun, particularly in the Chinese Mahayana tradition, and in Taiwan? I grew up in Singapore. My parents migrated from China and they are Taoists who worship deities. So, my strong Chinese background is due to my parents. I am the youngest in my family and the only child sent for English education. Most of my teachers and friends were Christians. In the 1970s and 1980s, evangelism was very strong in Singapore and Buddhism was not so popular at that time. But I was most happy when I visited a temple or met some monks or nuns – it must be my past affinities with the Dharma! When I was in primary school, I started to read about Buddhism when I go to the national library. My real encounter with Buddhism happened when I joined the Buddhist Society in the Polytechnic where I was studying. I found that the teaching was good, but wondered why the presentation of Buddhism at the time seemed geared toward the old and the deceased. One day, my master and I discussed about my goals in life. As I was still a college student, I said that my goal was to get my Diploma and then get a good job. My master probed me further by asking “then?” No matter what I answered, he probed further by asking “then?” Ultimately, my answer was “then I die”. From there, I decided that instead of climbing the social ladder, I wanted to cultivate myself and create good karma as these things are more important to me. Later, I made an aspiration to become a nun, so that I can contribute more especially in the way Buddhism is presented to the people. As there were no proper institutions to train nuns in Singapore or Thailand at that time, I went to Taiwan. I was in Taiwan for 5 years. I spoke Chinese all the time to the extent that my English became rusty. Even when I went back to Singapore, I spoke Chinese with the lay community. When I looked at the trend of the society, I thought that English is very important especially for the younger generation. Hence, I decided to leave Singapore to get my education in Perth.
I also went to study in the West so that I can learn their teaching methods and apply it in my Dharma teachings or presentations. I believe that Dharma should be taught in a more lively and interactive manner so as to facilitate the students’ learning and to be more relevant to them for them to relate it well to their live experiences. We need to be more open and to give more space to the students, especially the younger generation.
You wrote a short dissertation called “The Other Path: The Bhikkhuni Quest for Liberation” when you studied at the University of Western Australia. What do you mean by this “Other” Path? The word “other” is used in Sociology to denote the disadvantaged group, the minority or the less privileged group. Traditionally, Buddhist nuns or bhikkhunis were marginalized and had a very low social status. People often have the misconception that they are socially rejected and physically defective, and they became nuns because nobody wanted to marry them. If we look at the Bhikkhunis in the Therīgāthā, there were female patricians who joined the order and worked very hard on the spiritual path. Interestingly, this “other” path provided them an alternative to household life which leads them to liberation. For me, living in a modern society where marriage is no longer a necessity, I chose this “other” path believing it will lead me to liberation and to benefit all other beings.
In your study you cited the Therīgāthā and contemporary Taiwanese bhikkhunis and said that the reason many young women become nuns was to liberate themselves and not to “escape” from society. For someone not familiar with Buddhism, can you explain what you mean by “escapism” and what is it that these nuns wish to liberate themselves from? Generally, society has the misconception that nuns are people who have failed in their lives and therefore wished to escape from society. But if we look at the
heart of the Buddha’s teachings, i.e. the four noble truths, we don’t run away from our suffering. We look at it and understand it, and then gradually we try to solve it. I didn’t reject society and my family nor did society reject me. I am walking on the path of liberation. As human beings, we all have greed, hatred and delusion. We are trying to liberate ourselves from all of these.
As you said in your dissertation, many young and educated women in Taiwan are joining the Sangha of late. Why do you think the Bhikshuni Sangha is so vibrant in Taiwan? We should look at the social, historical and economical context of this development. In the 1970s, education became common in Taiwan and was compulsory and secular for both male and female whereas, whereas previously education was only for males. As a result, many females became more educated and were able to read the sutras for themselves. The monks also gave opportunities to the nuns to teach lay people. This would mean that the nuns are able to learn and teach. By teaching they gain support from the lay people thereby becoming independent both spiritually and financially. Modernization and gender equality in education have made nuns in Taiwan more vibrant. Today, nuns in Taiwan are very active in Dharma work and social welfare. They are actively involved in education, music, teaching in schools, radio or television broadcasting, training of volunteers, etc, and have been very successful.
Perhaps the most well-known Buddhist nun today is Ven Cheng Yen, founder of the Tzu Chi movement. What inspiration can younger nuns today learn from her? She is a good role model for the lay people and nuns. Tzu Chi is known internationally. They are not only doing charity work, but also diligently work on education too. Traditionally we think that females only work in the kitchen, or that nuns only do chanting.
Venerable Cheng Yen demonstrates that nuns can also contribute to education and social work.
There is an argument that since the Bhikkhuni Sangha in the Theravāda has been discontinued a long time ago, and to revive it you need a “fully-ordained” Bhikkhuni who is non-existent, there is no way the Bhikkhuni Sangha can exist today. Can the Chinese Mahāyāna bhikhunis help to overcome this problem? The only surviving Bhikkhuni lineage is in the Mahāyāna tradition. Hence, the Mahāyāna Bhikkhunis have a very important role to play in passing the bhikkhuni order to other traditions and reviving the Bhikkhuni Order. If we look at the history of Buddhism, it originated from India. King Ashoka enrolled his daughter, Sanghmitra into the Order. Sanghmitra brought Buddhism to Sri Lanka and from Sri Lanka, Buddhism spread to China. From China, Buddhism spread to other East Asian countries such as Taiwan, Korea and Japan. So, the first bhikkhuni ordination in China was passed from Sri Lanka. The Chinese Mahāyāna Bhikkhuni lineage follows the Dharmaguptaka tradition. In the Vinaya, there are three different traditions. But if we do a comparison of all the three traditions, they are very similar with only slight variations. So, it is possible for the Mahāyāna Bhikkhuni to bring the bhikkhuni order back to the Theravāda tradition. But then, there is the issue of whether the old orthodox monks are able to accept it. In 1997 there was a Bhikkhuni ordination (in Mahāyāna tradition) at Bodhgaya and many Sri Lankan nuns (Theravāda) received their full Bhikkhuni precepts in Mahāyāna tradition. So they had the ordination from the Mahayana tradition, as there are no fully ordained bhikkhuni in Theravāda tradition. When they went back to Sri Lanka, they wore the Theravāda robe and they got the support from the
lay community. However, at the national level, they did not get the recognition from the old orthodox monks. Technically, there are many things that need to be discussed and there are many discussions going on. We have to be open enough to discuss it and make relevant changes.
The Buddha was a revolutionary in allowing the Order of Nuns to be established and yet we read of the “Eight Special Rules” for nuns to follow. Some scholars argued that these rules are not the actual words of the Buddha but added in later by monks. Do you see this as a result of a male patriarchal society in the context of ancient India 2600 years ago rather than actual words of the Buddha? There are lots of controversies as to whether the “Eight Special Rules” were set by the Buddha. After much research and arguments, there is still no conclusion. When we read the sutras about Indian society 2600 years ago, it is clear females have no education. The first ordained bhikkhuni, Mahāprajāpatī Gotamī, led 500 people to be ordained and most of them were the wives or ex-wives of the royal families, and their husbands had already been ordained. Some people argued that the “Eight Special Rules” were actually set for Mahāprajāpatī Gotamī as she was from the royal family to protect the monks from the lower caste. It’s based on the ancient societal context of India. Until to date, it is only speculation, and we cannot make firm conclusions. In my opinion, it is important to learn to respect each other mutually. Why are there so many controversies surrounding this? The monastics have no issues with the monks walking in front of nuns or the other way round. I have been in a monastery where the junior monks walk behind the senior nuns. Being a nun for 18 years I haven’t encountered any monk who imposes these “Eight Special Rules” on me. In fact it’s more of the scholar’s argument (usually laity) for gender equality which has been influenced by the West. In
view of gender equality, I would think that a female is female, a male is male. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. Instead of fighting for rights and equality, we should focus on mutual respect and harmony.
In our increasingly materialistic world today, how can the bhikkhunis continue to have special relevance for society, particularly in Singapore where you reside? It is precisely because the world is getting more materialistic today that the Bhikkhunis continue to be relevant in today’s society. It has been scientifically proven that material things cannot bring lasting happiness and from our own experience, we can also see that it cannot bring long term and complete happiness. So the Bhikkhuni order brings the spiritual aspect to society to make it more balanced. Unlike the olden days where females have to rely on males financially, marriage is no longer a necessity. There is a trend now where many choose to be single. Hence, for people who are more spiritual, the Bhikkhuni order points them to another “path” that they can walk on. When the society gets more materialistic and people lose hope in capitalism, spirituality brings hope to society. Therefore, the Bhikkhuni order actually offers a spiritual path as a balance to the increasingly materialistic society.
Any final advice to inspire our readers who are nuns or intending to become nuns in the near future? Value yourself as a female or as a nun for we have our own good qualities. There are things that males can do better but there are also things that females can do just as well. By having confidence in ourselves, we can do many things to help ourselves and society. The Therīgāthā is a good testimony; it said that everyone can gain enlightenment. Value yourself as a female and respect yourself so that you will walk the path of liberation. EH
Ufbdijoht Ofxt }!Malaysian !}!!Njoegvmoftt!Qsbdujdft!jo!Xftufso!Qtzdipmphz Institution Bestowed World Renown Pāli Tipitaka
Malaysian Institution Bestowed World Renown Pāli Tipitaka Nalanda Institute appointed the custodian of the gift of wisdom and peace.
Dr Tan Ho Soon, founder and Director of Nalanda Institute delivering a speech on the importance of the Pali Tipitaka Kuala Lumpur, 7 May 2010 – Nalanda Institute, Malaysia, a leading Buddhist educational institution in Malaysia, is a proud recipient of the World Tipitaka, a gift of wisdom and peace, by the Dhamma Society of Thailand in honor of the late Royal Patron, Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, elder sister of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand. Nalanda Institute was awarded the World Tipitaka in recognition of its commitment and contribution to integral human development in the country, and is the first and only Malaysian institution to be presented with this revered gift. “Today marks a historic milestone for Nalanda Institute and the Malaysian Buddhist community. The gift of the World Tipitaka reaffirms the stability and maturity of our nation amidst social diversity and cultural dynamism, and our readiness to be entrusted with the noble responsibility of preserving and advocating the Buddha’s message of peace and harmony,” said Dr. Tan Ho Soon, the Director of Nalanda Institute, Malaysia. Since its inaugural presentation in 2005, the limited-edition World Tipitaka has been conferred to leading institutions worldwide as a means to preserve and promote the universal education of world peace and happiness. It also serves as a gesture of goodwill to foster bilateral relations between Thailand and the recipient country.
Ofxt }!Malaysian Ufbdijoht Institution !}!!Njoegvmoftt!Qsbdujdft!jo!Xftufso!Qtzdipmphz Bestowed World Renown Pāli Tipitaka
The recipient institutions are nominated based on their track records in research, study, and contribution to human development and world peace. To date, only 20 countries and 40 institutions have been awarded the treasured World Tipitaka including the Constitutional Court of Thailand, the Parliament of Sri Lanka, Maha Bodhi Society of India, Uppsala University of Sweden, the University of Melbourne, Australia, and the University of Oslo, Norway.
A complete set of 40-volume Pāli Tipitaka in Roman script was successfully published by the Dhamma Society of Thailand in 2005. As Roman is a universally accepted script, the world’s peoples will be able to pronounce the sounds of Dhamma more accurately and extensively. Moreover, the Roman script is widely used in modern ICT (information and communication technologies), thus a Romanized Pāli Tipitaka possesses greater potential to be disseminated worldwide.
The official presentation ceremony of the 40-volume World Tipitaka was held at the Royal Thai Embassy in Kuala Lumpur on 7 May 2010. The ceremony was witnessed by a congregation of over 100 dignitaries comprising the Chancellor of the World Tipitaka, Thailand, H.E. the Ambassador of Thailand to Malaysia, scholars, educators, diplomats and officials from Malaysia, Thailand, and Singapore.
The late Royal Patron, Her Royal Highness Princess Galyani Vadhana, had graciously supported the publication of Romanized Pāli Tipitaka and presented it as a royal gift of Dhamma to leading institutions worldwide since 2005. The royal gift symbolizes a
The World Tipitaka is available for public viewing at Nalanda Centre in Sri Serdang, from July 2010 onwards. For more information, please call the Nalanda Office at +603.8938.1500 / 1501 or email email@example.com.
ABOUT NALANDA INSTITUTE, MALAYSIA
ABOUT THE WORLD TIPITAKA The World Tipitaka is a Pāli Tipitaka from the Resolution of the Buddhist Era 2500 (1956-1957) Great International Council. Pāli Tipitaka is the Buddha’s teaching in Pāli language that has been recorded, recited, and memorized since the time of the Buddha. It has since been faithfully transmitted and preserved to this day. The Tipitaka, literally translated as the ‘Three Collections’, consist of the ancient scriptures of the Buddha’s teaching divided into three main divisions, i.e. the Sutta Pitaka (teachings and methods to peace and happiness), Vinaya (higher rules and trainings), and Abhidhamma (scholastic explanation of the science of mind).
gift of Wisdom and Peace from the Thai people to the peoples of the world.
Nalanda Institute was established in July 2007, under the patronage of Nalanda Buddhist Society, to provide systematic Buddhist education and to serve as a resource centre to the Buddhist community in Malaysia. Its primary focus is on Pāli and Buddhist Studies, Leadership & Management Training, Annual Buddhist Conferences, Learning Resource Centre and Buddhist Publications. The Institute offers various courses in Buddhist and Pāli Studies leading to Certificate and Diploma levels, as well as short training courses to enhance leadership and management skills for Buddhist volunteers. All courses are freely available to the public in line with the Institute’s charitable objectives. Besides its Centre in Selangor, the Institute’s courses have also been held in Kedah, Kelantan, Kuala Lumpur, Sabah and Terengganu, in collaboration with local Buddhist organizations. To date, more than 5,000 participants have benefited from the Institute’s courses and conferences. For more information, visit www.nalanda.org.my. EH
Balancing Faith with Wisdom by Ajahn Sucitto Ajahn Sucitto was born in London in 1949, and graduated with a B.A. in English and American Literature at Warwick University in 1971. After that, the search for a meaningful direction in life took him to Australia, India, and Thailand where he happened across a class in Buddhist meditation in Chiang Mai. After a few days’ practice, he decided to make a tentative commitment to the Holy Life. He spent three years in Thailand, mostly at Wat Kiriwong in Nakhon Sawan. During a short sojourn in Chiang Mai, he met Ajahn Sumedho, before the latter left for England. When Ajahn Sucitto himself returned to England in 1978 to visit his family, he met Ajahn Sumedho again at the Hampstead Vihara, and decided to stay and train with him. Ajahn Sucitto was among the pioneers who founded Chithurst Monastery Cittaviveka in 1979. He also helped to establish Aruna Ratanagiri Vihara in Northumberland in 1981. In 1984 he was part of the community that moved from Chithurst to Hertfordshire to start Amaravati Buddhist Monastery, where had the responsibility of supervising the nuns training, as well as other teaching duties. During this time he also began teaching overseas. In 1992 he was asked to take over the function of senior incumbent at Chithurst Monastery( www.cittaviveka.org ; www. forestsangha.co.uk) where he now resides. He has published two books, Rude Awakenings (Wisdom: Boston) and Turning The Wheel of Truth (Shambhala: Boston, USA). In 2010 Ajahn Sucitto visited Malaysia and gave teachings at the Bandar Utama Buddhist Society. He answered questions on the importance of faith in Buddhism as part of an interview for Eastern Horizon journal. EH: The Buddha is recorded as saying, “Wide open is the door of the immortal. Let those who have ears to hear send forth faith (saddha).” What does the Buddha mean by the word faith/ saddha? Sucitto: This word saddha can be understood as the faculty which imparts meaning in life. It’s an intuitive sense. Something in us senses there’s something beyond just surviving and based on that we intuit a god, or sublime law or truth. However what we place our faith upon varies. Some will have faith in a teacher, or a religion, or in the intellect, or in principles of law; because that, to them, seems to give the greatest meaning to life. Other people have faith in say, rock stars [Chuckle]. The object which people place their faith in is variable, but
the sense is that there is something greater than oneself as a small individual struggling through the world of birth and death. In many of his teachings, the Buddha extolled the importance of faith. What is the Buddha’s advice for us to start to cultivate faith as part of our spiritual practice? The first thing is to recognise that we have this faculty, but it needs arousing. In the case of the Buddha, it’s said that he saw what were called the Four Heavenly Messengers. The first was an old man bent over double. Seeing this, he realised that all people would have to experience the degeneration of the sense faculties. Next he saw someone sick and lying in his own vomit and excrement and he realised that all beings would have to experience the sense of incapacity and humiliation. He saw a corpse, a body that was falling apart and rotting away. And then he saw someone who was calm and composed, and whose faculties were serene and bright. So there was faith; he thought, “There’s something more than old age, sickness and death.” The development of faith occurs from meeting a true teacher. In the cases that are described in the suttas, people’s faith often arose from meeting wandering monks and recognising how happy and clear these people were: their faculties were composed and serene, and their minds were bright. Such an individual is not oppressed with worries and cares. This is someone who you sense has found something else. This is why it is often said “Just to see a gone-forth person is a great blessing” because it indicates that there’s something beyond just getting by. So this causes faith to rise up. And that sets up your own inner question: “What is the purpose of life? Why we are here?” You want to find something reliable, true, or holy.
So how would you miss out in life if you did not have faith? I can understand the Triple Gem from an intellectual level. But assume I do not apply faith in it: in what way then do I miss out or fail to appreciate the message of the Triple Gem? To answer the first question: If you don’t have faith, you will be insecure, because what do you depend upon? What is it that keeps you going? Without faith in the spiritual domain, we are motivated by sense pleasure; or status; or duty; or fear of losing your job, wealth or reputation. These are what we call the worldly dhammas. And with these you’ve always got to keep grasping and holding on. But these dhammas are unfulfilling: as soon as you get to a certain level of comfort, then you want a bit more. So they make you insecure. It is like quicksand – the more you stand on it, the more it sucks you down. Therefore if you don’t have faith in something other than the world, you always having to keep running and never finding a firm footing. There are different degrees of placing faith in the Triple Gem. The first degree of faith is the willingness to listen, having an open and enquiring mind. This is a tentative faith. Buddha as an enlightened teacher; Dhamma as a wise teaching; Sangha as a community of Dhamma-practitioners all sounds worthy of looking into. But this interest doesn’t take you far unless you practise the Buddha’s teaching. This will give rise to another degree of faith – developed faith. Such faith comes through having taken in some the Buddha’s teaching; having found out how you can apply yourself to it; having applied yourself to it and got some results. That gives you the faith to consider the rest of it as worthy of following. Then there’s fulfilled faith, which is confidence. You know for sure the Buddha’s Dhamma works. This is the faith of an ariyan; they know the teaching leads to a transcendent domain.
In the Kalama Sutta, we are told to be rational and not accept things blindly. Going by this sutta, it would appear there is no place for faith in the Buddha’s teaching. How do we reconcile this apparent contradiction? The Kalamas are in doubt because they hear different reports from different teachers. And so they want to know how to find out which of these work. The Buddha said, “You should not fully accept something just merely dependent upon the teacher or tradition or even your own reasoning.” Instead what you should do is begin to ask yourself a series of questions and investigate. The basic questions are – “What is for my welfare and for other people’s welfare?” With these questions, the Buddha suggests we check out our ethics and see that honesty, restraint and non-abuse are for the welfare of both ourselves and other people. This understanding is based on faith –an openness of mind and an interest in deep meanings –and yet it also uses a scientific method to verify what we intuit through that attitude. By “scientific method” I mean that you take on a hypothesis, you test it out, and you witness the results. That is: if you do this consistently and not just you, but if everyone does this, there are a series of cases that consistently arrive at these results – that’s a “scientific” proof. The Buddha applied a scientific method, but it is not based purely upon thinking. It is based upon direct experience. And that’s something that you have to open up to through faith. Now when you look at what is most meaningful for you in direct experience, it is your welfare and that of others. What really counts is: what is going to bring me the greatest enduring wellbeing? Faith is then the willingness to have an open mind and enquire. It is the starting point of science, not its antithesis.
Buddha also told us that the faculty of faith has to be balanced with that of wisdom. How do we do that as part of daily practice? Wisdom, in the Buddhist sense of the word, means the ability to discern. It’s not accumulated knowledge. It’s the ability to discern good, bad; happy, unhappy. So all faith, all that interest in meaning, has to be tested against the experiential wisdom – “Does this bring a good result or not?” Faith without wisdom tends towards blindness; ie we have inspiration but we don’t check it out. And then it becomes blind belief. The Buddha’s description of the correct apprehension of the teaching is that first you experience faith (or inspiration). You draw close to the source of inspiration. You listen to those teachings. You check out what they mean. You apply yourself to them. And you get the results. Because of that, your faith is strengthened. That involves your energy and your investigation. Nothing blind about that. To most people faith and belief are quite the same. How do we differentiate them? Belief closes the mind; faith opens the mind. Belief doesn’t encourage you to check things out and see for yourself. Belief doesn’t refer to direct experience, but to hypothesis, assumptions and secondary experience. Belief says – “This is it. That’s all you need to know. Don’t investigate. Just hold on to this system.” Belief feels threatened by enquiry. In a beliefsystem if you enquire, you’re either lacking in conviction or being disrespectful. Is it true that certain Buddhist concepts such as reincarnation and the existence of different physical planes of existence can only be understood based on faith?
No! [Chuckle] They can’t be understood based on faith. They can be tentatively held as being possible. But that’s not understanding them. If you wish to understand them, then you have to develop the mind to be able to experience those things. Not many people have got that far. [Chuckle] Actually the Buddha didn’t talk about reincarnation. It’s a term that’s often used because the process that the Buddha talked about is difficult to describe. But in the Buddha’s presentation there’s no “becoming again,” there’s no “re-” anything. He just said the process continues. The process that brought this birth around (i.e. the activation of citta or mind) does not terminate on death. It’s not that you come again, rather that the process continues. But we can’t prove that the citta continues after death…. But you can explore what you know of this life. There is a sense of continuity of being, from being 18 months old to 5 years old to 20 years old and so on. This is the process of “further becoming” – which is what the Buddha did teach: further becoming which leads to birth. So one way of most directly apprehending this is to recognise that in this very moment, if you contemplate it, you can witness your apparent self forming as this or that – an attitude, a function, a mind-state; now uncertain, now calm etc. Every new moment something arises, something passes. It’s never quite the same as it was before. But it is connected to what was before through the way the citta holds and perceives it. What you take your “self” as being is a snapshot of what the citta formation is like in this present moment. Every one of these snapshots is a sense of being something, a “birth”, an activation of mind in a certain state. Actually, if you look into it, you are really never being anything. The moments by themselves do not stand still. We never are anything. We’re always in the process of being about to be something else.
You have to either assume that this process terminates when death happens or that it doesn’t terminate. But if it stops at death, if there were no such thing as further becoming, where did you come from? Did you just suddenly arise out of nowhere? Also, even twins are different in mind, as if they weren’t just dependent upon being born in the same family and being in the same social condition. They’re not just purely conditioned by experiences in this physical life. There’s something that comes from somewhere else. So if there is an inheritance from a previous life or a previous existence, then that it’s most likely that the mind-process continues past the door of death. Why not? It continued past the door of birth. When we examine birth and life, we begin to understand death. You have been a monk for 34 years. Would you share with us about the faith that supported you all these years in your spiritual quest? From an early age I had a sense of curiosity as to what life was about. I didn’t see life just as about being born, having a body, and dying. I thought – Is that all? When I was 6 or 7 years old, I realised that we were all going to die. First of all, my parents. This deeply upset me. Then I realised that I was going to die. And I thought, “If I am going to die, then, recognising how unhappy I will be when my parents die, I better not have any children because they will be very unhappy when I die. I’ll put that aside.” So that was a little glimmer of a Heavenly Messenger. It stayed with me until my teens when meditation started coming in from Asia to England. And I thought, “This is interesting. This is where I want to go.” So I decided to travel to the East, and to cut a long story short, I ended up at a meditation class in Thailand.
Sharing an intimate moment with a distant relative in Sri Lanka. As I started watching (or trying to watch) my mind, the first thing that came clear was I could watch my thoughts. My thoughts were crazy but I could watch them; I could stand back from my thinking mind. There was an arising of faith; a hint of freedom, because I had always been led, and even overwhelmed, by the thinking mind. So I started meditation practice. Shortly after that I stopped off in a town in Southern Thailand; I stayed at a little hotel and in the morning I went downstairs for a cup of coffee. It was early morning, and as I was sitting there I saw a line of monks walking along the road on their alms round. These monks were walking barefoot on the dirt road in their robes with their bowls. I could see these were men who had nothing but thin robes and empty bowls. The sight of them walking with such composure gave me a tremendous sense of faith: that it was possible to live peacefully on so little. My life had been so stuffed full, I felt like a saturated sponge. I really wanted to squeeze it out and to let go of the intense weight of thinking and sensual overload, the whole thing. To let go of it all and live free as a bird.
Another thing that gave me faith was when I went to stay in the monastery and took ordination. Early every morning, I would go out on alms round and walk into town. People would approach with their bowl and offer rice into my alms-bowl. They didn’t know me. They didn’t expect any polite conversation. They just put the food in the bowl. This was just mindblowing. Because with my social conditioning, we have to work to earn a living or we have to deserve something. We have to prove that we are good enough. But these people were just giving. And so faith arose through the quality of their generosity; the beauty of giving. Meeting Ajahn Sumedho and Ajahn Chah also inspired faith. Their lives seemed harsh: sleeping on a hard floor; very few requisites; eating poor food; and having to put up with a lot of difficult feelings. But these people were joyful not bitter or hard. In fact they seemed to be enjoying their lives. I thought, “How come you are having fun?” Also, I could see the effects of the Dhamma on other people. People living their lives with greater integrity; developing self discipline and making commitments. So I could notice that many people could respond to the Dhamma. They came to hear and practise the teaching and offer support. Also speaking personally, I’ve had a few neardeath experiences that showed me some of the results of the practice. At each time instinctive realisations that came up: the mind went calm and had no fear about death. It seemed to know there’s nothing to fear except fear, and it could let go of that. Such spontaneous realisations, not from my personality, not from my thinking mind, seemed to show that the Dhamma had established itself in my mind. So, that is a sign of faith: the practice does work. EH
Vision: To Build a Global Buddhist Business Network Value Statement: Business Sense, Buddhist Values When the Buddhist Business Network (BBN) was first conceived in 2003, the idea was to bring Buddhist entrepreneurs together to help them develop their businesses successfully. Exploring the idea a little further, it was found that bringing these business entrepreneurs together was not enough â€“ BBN had to look at the bigger picture. BBBN thus launched its first Buddhist Business Group on September 9, 2009. With an initial group of 25 members, BBN sets in motion a new mindset to support Buddhist livelihood projects and to generate Income that is consistent and perpetual to support the Buddhist community. BBNâ€™s Value Propositions are based on the following: 1. A Business Network that is based on Buddhist Values 2. An official platform for Buddhists to discuss business openly 3. Members to contribute a certain percentage of business referrals given, for each completed deal, to a fund. BBN members meet every Friday to refer business to each other. And for each successful deal, the members contribute a certain percentage of the earnings to support the following activities: 1. Full time Dharmaduta workers and Dharma Speakers 2. Education and Training 3. Dharma propagation 4. Charity 5. Administration and Operations of BBN
To date, BBN has a business turnover of over RM 4,000,000 while contributions made by members to the fund has exceeded RM14,000.00 With this approach, members are able to secure businesses and improve their own livelihood while supporting meaningful Dharma activities. BBN has also signed up with BHP Group whereby the company will contribute 1 per cent of petrol pumped by members at BHP petrol stations back to BBN Charitable partners, which include Kasih Hospice and Kiwanis PJ. Since 2007, this program has contributed more than RM 26,000 to various charitable causes.
By joining BBN, members learn to do business in a fun way while maintaining important values such as honesty, integrity, and kindness to society. Members meet every week to exchange ideas, knowledge, and business leads. One of the highest values recognized by all members is the bonding created through regular social interactions. They receive business and moral support from fellow members. Members are also trained on public speaking to confidently present themselves to their clients. Like what the Buddha has taught us…. Ehipassikho – come and see for yourself… come and join us in our weekly meetings. EH
To know more about BBN, please contact us as follows: Website : www.buddhistbusiness.com E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org Contact person : Sis Sock Fong Telephone : 03-5631 5271 Facebook Community : BBN Buddhist Business
A successful performance by the All-American Boys’ Choir The famed All-American Boys Chorus was
act, which basically presented a tribute to
in town in late July and gave a rousing
the best of American music and featured
performance that those in attendance are
selections from Broadway, Duke Ellington
unlikely to forget for a long time to come.
and George Gershwin.
Organized by the Buddhist Gem
The show also featured famous Dixie
Fellowship, the highly-acclaimed troupe,
melodies; country and western tunes,
representing the full diversity of American
a rousing rendition of America the
society, captivated an audience of over
Beautiful, and a patriotic tribute to John
2000 with a lively performance of song
and dance. The boys delighted the audience with The fun-filled performance began with
a surprise performance of the Chinese
the Kuala Lumpur Children’s Choir as the
standard, Yue Liang Dai Biao Wo De Xin
opening act, which got a great response
(The Moon Represents My Heart), made
from the audience. Then came the main
famous by Teresa Teng.
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Western Evergreens such as Edelweiss and
The boys, whose ages range from 10 to 14,
Jambalaya were also included while the chorus
undertook a variety of fundraising activities to
actively engaged the audience in others like during
sponsor their journey to Asia, including making
the Beach Boys Medley when they flung beach balls
performances, washing cars, cleaning houses and
into the crowd, to the delight of the audience.
yards, as well as selling cookies to raise the funds needed to travel from the US to this part of the
The audience was also treated to the group’s
“theatricality” as they performed synchronized moves to songs.
The boys choir have appeared in various programs such as in Disney Channel, Christmas Day TV Special
“We have developed a strong reputation for
with Josh Groban, with composer John Williams,
theatricality for doing more than just standing there
in Pasadena Tournament of Roses Parade, and in
and singing,” said musical director Wesley Martin.
television commercials for Kentucky Fried Chicken. It has also performed in front of presidents and the
The boys were much sought after for photos and
world’s heads of states.
autographs after the show “It is a tradition for the boys to go down among the audience after their
They have also released five albums: A Little
last song,” Martin said. “Please do take the time
Christmas Magic, On the Sunny Side of the Street,
to shake the boys’ hands and make them feel
The Best Gift of All, By Request! and the latest, On
The chorus last performed in Kuala Lumpur during
Proceeds from the concert went to the Buddhist
its summer tour in 2008. “They really looked
Gem Fellowship Building Fund. EH
forward to coming back and doing home-stays again with Malaysian families because the people here are very warm and welcoming,” according to Martin.
Those interested to support the BGF Building Fund
After Kuala Lumpur the boys visited Ipoh and
please contact the following:
Melaka before heading out to Singapore and Australia. During their stay here the boys again lived with Malaysian families to experience a deep cultural exchange.
and to know more about BGF and its objectives, BGF Center 60A, Jalan 19/3, 46300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia. Email: email@example.com Website: www.bgf.org.my Facebook : http://www.facebook.com/bgf.org.my
Buddhist Parenting by Sumi Loundon Kim
If you are a mother or father, you know how it seems like your path as a parent is completely separate from your path as a Buddhist. After all, Buddhist philosophy says that to become enlightened, you must leave behind all your worldly attachments and become homeless. And, from a practical point of view, it is almost impossible to find time to meditate or pray when your kids need breakfast and there’s a mountain of laundry. For many of us who are Buddhists and parents, it can feel like we are constantly struggling to cross things off the neverending To Do List in order to find a shred of time to develop ourselves as a Buddhist. But I think what one Korean grandmother said to me recently, as I chased after my two small children at a picnic with temple members, is exactly right. She said, “To be a mother is to be a bodhisattva” (and the same is true for fathers). In other words, the
Sumi Loundon Kim is the chaplain for the
practice of parenting can develop many of the same
Buddhist Community at Duke University and
qualities we seek to cultivate as Buddhists.
ordained lay minister for Buddhist Families of Durham. She has published two books on the
Shortly after my first child was born, I felt both
path of young Buddhists in the West: Blue Jean
shocked and overwhelmed by the discovery that
Buddha (Wisdom, 2001) and The Buddha’s Ap-
newborns demand constant tending. I didn’t sleep
prentices (Wisdom, 2005), among other articles
more than thirty minutes at a time. Sustaining this
and chapters. After receiving a master’s degree
level of attention was hugely difficult at first, as is
in Buddhist studies and Sanskrit from Harvard
true of being a beginner at anything. As the weeks
University, she was the associate director for
progressed, being attentive became easier, and that
the Barre Center for Buddhist Studies in Barre, Massachusetts. Originally raised in the Soto Zen tradition, she has been following the Theravada/ vipassana lineage for the past 19 years. She is working on a third book on practicing Buddhism
anxious attention softened to something more like an alert mindfulness. Ten months later, when she began crawling and then moved to walking, that attentiveness shifted into an even sharper awareness of potential danger. As happens to most parents, I developed a sixth sense, knowing when there was
to be published in Korea next May. Sumi and her
danger even when my eyes were not on her. We
husband, a native of Korea and professor, have
parents should not underestimate how continuous
two children, ages 2 and 4, and live in Durham,
mindfulness for our children’s well-being is a
North Carolina, USA.
powerful practice, perhaps as significant as trying to follow the breath during formal, seated meditation.
And bear in mind that we develop this even while
In the year 29 BC (Before Children), I felt confident
that I was a capable, accomplished person. But in the year 30 AD (After Daughter), I saw the worst
Before my children were born, I was not an
aspects of my personality come out, parts I had
especially self-centered person but like all young
never known existed. These are moments when I
people I thought about myself, studied myself,
completely overwhelmed, lost my patience, when I
tried to improve myself, talked a lot about myself,
yelled, when my hands shook with frustrated rage.
worried about myself. After I had children, suddenly I
These moments came because no matter how
mattered a lot less, not only to myself but to others,
capable I was in other areas of life—professional,
too. As happens to so many parents, I became less
marriage, friendships, as a Buddhist—parenting
known as “Sumi” than as “the mother of Priya and
required skills and maturity that I didn’t have. And
Sonjae.” In short, becoming a parent was a radically
I know from my friendships with other parents that
de-self-centering experience. Buddhism asks us to
most of us arrive at the doorstep of parenting quite
let go of our self because it is our attachment to the
unprepared. There are many days that are not only
self that is the source of so many of our problems.
humbling but are completely humiliating. Parenting
A great deal of this loosening of self-centeredness
tests us in ways we have never been challenged
can happen when we become parents. Our needs
before, and thereby our great inadequacies and
become secondary to that of our children. Our
newly discovered bad habits are revealed. In the
mindfulness shifts from attending to ourselves to
process, we lose some of that naïve self-confidence
attending to the need of another.
and self-esteem of youth and come to have a more realistic assessment of our limitations. In seeing
Some years ago, before I was a mother, a professor
ourselves more clearly, we lower our expectations
of Buddhist studies at Harvard said something
of others and become more forgiving of faults. What
personal to the class. He said that he was at the
can be more Buddhist than a humble person who
playground with his young daughter and saw that
accepts others as they are?
she had a stream of snot running down from her nose. With nothing to wipe it off, without thinking
I’m not saying that parents can’t be terribly selfish,
he used his own finger. At that moment, he became
vain, arrogant, thoughtless people. Of course,
astonished that he didn’t feel disgusted by her snot
there are parents like this (and you worry about the
as he had by other people’s snot. He then had an
children of those people). But, if we thoughtfully
insight into the Buddhist teaching that the self and
develop ourselves and use our imagination as to
others are not differentiated because there is no
how to be spiritual as parents, then it is certainly
self. “Sumi” is not one, solid, discrete person but
possible to make the path of parenting become
“Sumi” exists as a collection of habits, physical
thoroughly Buddhist. I don’t think using parenting
elements, relationships, and so on. Part of Sumi is
to develop ourselves as Buddhist requires us to do
her relationship with her two children. My professor
anything different. The difference is in how we frame
did not feel his daughter’s snot was gross because
it, whether we are consciously leveraging the hard
it was not her snot alone but his as well. We can get
work of parenting to become more patient, more
glimpses of this non-differentiation of self and other
kind, more compassionate, more selfless, more
in our relationship to our children. In these small
moments, we parents experience the joy of being free of our small, ego-bound self. TFQUFNCFS!3121!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!66
STORIES OF INSPIRATION
Ringu Tulku Rinpoché, Daring Steps toward Fearlessness: The Three Vehicles of Buddhism. 2010. 280 pp. US$16.95.
Ringu Tulku (b.1952) Ringu Tulku Rinpoche was born in Kham Lingtsang, in east Tibet, and recognized by His Holiness the 16th Gyalwang Karmapa as the incarnation of one of the tulkus of a Kagyüpa monastery in his home province. He studied with some of the most distinguished khenpos of the Nyingma and Kagyü traditions and received teachings from many outstanding masters, including Thrangu Rinpoche, Dodrupchen Rinpoche, Dilgo Khyentsé Rinpoche and the Gyalwang Karmapa. He was also a close disciple of Khenpo Tsöndrü. In 1975 he was awarded the title of Khenpo, and in 1983 the title of Lopön Chenpo. Since 1990, he has been traveling and teaching in Europe, the USA, Canada, Australia, and Asia. He is the author of many books on Buddhism, as well as children’s books in both Tibetan and European languages. He is the founder of Bodhicharya, an international organization that coordinates the worldwide activities to preserve and transmit Buddhist teachings, to promote intercultural dialogues and educational and social projects.
The Tail There is a story about a princess who had a small eye problem that she felt was really bad. Being the king’s daughter, she was rather spoiled and kept crying all the time. When the doctors wanted to apply medicine, she would invariably refuse any medical treatment and kept touching the sore spot on her eye. In this way it became worse and worse, until finally the king proclaimed a large reward for whoever could cure his daughter. After some time, a man arrived who claimed to be a famous physician, but actually was not even a doctor. He declared that he could definitely cure the princess and was admitted to her chamber. After he had examined her, he exclaimed, “Oh, I’m so sorry!” “What is it?” the princess inquired. The doctor said, “There is nothing much wrong with your eye, but there is something else that is really serious.” The princess was alarmed and asked, “What on earth is so serious?” He hesitated and said, “It is really bad. I shouldn’t tell you about it.” No matter how much she insisted, he refused to tell her, saying that he could not speak without the king’s permission. When the king arrived, the doctor was still reluctant to reveal his findings. Finally the king commanded, “Tell us what is wrong. Whatever it is, you have to tell us!” At last the doctor said, “Well, the eye will get better within a few days - that is no problem. The big problem is that the princess will grow a tail, which will become at least nine fathoms long. It may start growing very soon. If she can detect the first moment it appears, I might be able to prevent it from growing.” At this news everyone was deeply concerned. And the princess, what did she do? She stayed in bed, day and night, directing all her attention to detecting when the tail might appear. Thus, after a few days, her eye got well. This shows how we usually react. We focus on our little problem and it becomes the center around which everything else revolves. So far, we have done this repeatedly, life after life. We think, “My wishes, my interests, my likes and dislikes come first!” As long as we function on this basis, we will remain unchanged. Driven by impulses of desire and rejection, we will travel the roads of samsara without finding a way out. As long as attachment and aversion are our sources of living and drive us onward, we cannot rest. EH
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EasTern HorIzon Radiating the Light of Dharma
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Book Reviews by Lau Kean Lee celebrates as Wesak; followed by
tour the surrounding city with his
the numerous prophesies about
faithful charioteer, Channa.
baby Siddhartha made by famous sages and astrologers of the day
This is when the prince witnesses
– that he would become either a
suffering for the first time in his
great king or a great holy man.
life through various incidents that, together, mark a turning point
in his life. These moments that
Suddhodana, tried obsessively
Kumaraseri so deftly describes
to shield his son from anything
could have easily have become
that might stir the young prince’s
melodramatic in the hands of a less
spiritual awakening, surrounding
competent writer! In chapter eight,
MOST Malaysians, even non-
him with everything a boy could
Inner Calling, when Siddhartha
Buddhists, would have some idea
want as he grew up. With his
espouses his inner thoughts and
of the life story of the man who
feelings to his father, readers
achieved enlightenment as the
Kumaraseri manages to transport
will recognise an issue the young
Buddha and founded principles of
the reader to the court that was all
man raises, that of equality for
living now followed by millions.
but in name a gold-gilded cage.
all, regardless of caste, gender or
Ananda Kumaraseri, Siddhartha: Prince Of Peace. Self-published, 320 pages
race – an issue that is, sadly, still But in his book, Siddhartha:
Here, too, the author treats the
causing suffering among mankind
Prince of Peace, Datuk Dr Ananda
reader to the romantic tale of
more than 2,000 years later
Kumaraseri has done much more
how the young prince is made to
thanks to ignorance and narrow-
than merely re-tell history.
compete with other eligible nobility
for the hand of the exquisite While basing his book on what
beauty, Princess Yasodhara Devi.
is well-known, Kumaraseri has
objector” vegetarian (I object to
gone further and brought to
I found this chapter a welcome
the slaughter of living creatures
magnificent, imagined life the
respite, as I already knew what
as food for humans), I found
story of the prince who gave up his
painful sacrifices lay ahead for
vindication in this chapter in
privileged life to search for an end
the young couple, of course. The
to dukkha (Pali for “suffering”)
younger reader will also surely
against the ritual animal sacrifices
and the path to true happiness
revel in the telling of the three
that were prevalent at that time.
for all of mankind. The prologue
contests in which Siddhartha
sheds some light on the much
triumphed over his rivals to gain
And modern-day environmentalists
misunderstood history of the Indo-
the hand of the princess.
will surely recognise the profound
Ayrans, which is Siddhartha’s
truth of the natural process of
heritage. The first three chapters
All too soon, the time comes for
causality that impacts all life
present Siddhartha’s genealogy;
the prince’s spiritual awakening.
and Nature; that all things are
his mystical birth when the moon
His father could no longer confine
inter-dependent and subject to
was full in May (circa 623BC
Siddhartha to the palace grounds
the natural process of cause and
in what is now Nepal) that has
and reluctantly allows him to
become the day the world now
Kumaraseri also makes clear
of the full moon in July, the night
something that non-Buddhists
his son is born.
might not realise: that Siddhartha
serve as a treatise on meditation! It could, however, prove daunting
never advocated a religion or
For six years, Siddhartha lives
for the younger reader, who may
talked about any form of Creator
the life of an ascetic, seeking to
not be able to grasp adequately the
or God. He just wanted to seek a
learn from many ascetic-teachers.
meaning of the metaphorical Mara
way of life that could put an end
Ah, but he doesn’t fall into the
and the epic struggle between
trap of cultist teachings because
Siddhartha discovers the principle
culminates in the “three watches
As with the earlier chapters dealing
of the “middle way” or “middle
of the night” whereby Siddhartha
with palace life, in the chapter in
path” – a “principle of moderation
achieves the realisation of the
which the prince makes his great
founded firmly on reason and
Three Aspects of Wisdom and,
renunciation, the author once
describes the level-headedness,
He realises that no ascetic-teacher
Reviewing this timeless tale was
love and support that Princess
can help him attain enlightenment,
a daunting assignment, indeed!
Yasodhara has for her beloved
he has to do it himself. He has to
But I feel privileged to have done
be self-reliant in mastering and
so, for it gave me the chance to
purifying his mind. And since the
re-examine my own beliefs and
mind is linked with the body, he
experience the joy, the pain and
all people, should not deny
has to nourish his body and keep
the ultimate bliss of Gautama
Siddhartha his destiny, Princess
it clean and fresh – in other words,
Yasodhara offers to assist him in
he has to live a balanced life,
his quest on condition that he
rather than an ascetic one. This is
I urge everyone who yearns for
gives her a child before he departs,
what sets Siddhartha apart from
peace and harmony in his or her
and that Siddhartha departs on
the holy men of his time.
lifetime to read this book and
again brings history to life as he
the day the child is born so as not
be inspired by its depictions
to weaken his resolve to embark
And the best way to purify the
on the search for enlightenment.
mind is to meditate, of course.
(compassion) and metta (loving-
Here, Kumaraseri does a good job
kindness) to overcome bigotry in
And so it comes to pass that
of describing the various stages of
any form. EH
Siddhartha leaves the palace
Siddhartha’s marathon meditation
forever on a night of a lunar eclipse
– in fact, this chapter could even
Siddhartha: Prince Of Peace is available at Sukhi Hotu bookstore outlets in Petaling Jaya, Selangor (shotu@ streamyx.com/03-7842 6828 or 03-7728 6682) and Penang (firstname.lastname@example.org/04-229 4811); the Times bookstore outlet in Sri Hartamas, Kuala Lumpur (03-6201 6871); or by contacting the author, Datuk Dr Ananda Kumaraseri, at email@example.com or 03-7958 4182. Kumaraseri is a former Malaysian ambassador who retired in 1995 as director-general of Asean and has written 10 other books on various topics. He is currently accepting inquiries from anyone interested in investing in the movie adaptation of his book, which has been optioned by well-known Indian director, Shyam Benegal. Source: The Star, Friday May 28, 2010
Wisdom Publications 109 Elms Street, Somerville, MA 02144, USA. www.wisdompubs.org
Chonyi Taylor, Enough! A Buddhist Approach to Finding Release from Addictive Patterns. 2010. pp 182. US$16.95 This is a guidebook on addiction and Buddhist philosophy. As Venerable Chonyi, an Australian Tibetan Buddhist nun notes, addiction isn’t just about drinking, smoking, drug use, or gambling, but rather, it centers around certain patterns of behavior. Someone could be addicted to arguing, for example, or to overspending, even to self-criticism. A psychologist herself, Taylor brings together the perspectives of Western psychology and Eastern philosophy; her skill in finding similarities and points of intersection strengthen the work, and makes this a stunningly valuable guide for changing addictive behaviors. Taylor is also presenting the essence of Buddhism without the jargon usually found in many similar books. EH
Geshe Sonam Rinchen, The Three Principal Aspects of the Path. 2010. US$16.95
The three principal aspects of the path, as taught by Lama Tsongkhapa are renunciation or the wish for freedom, bodhichitta or the altruistic intention to benefit others, and the wisdom of emptiness. These three form the indispensable support for all the practices of both sutra and tantra. In this oral teaching, Geshe Sonam Rinchen explains in clear and readily accessible terms Lama Tsongkhapa’s renowned short text which forms the basic foundation of Tibetan Mahayana Buddhism. The author also provides a brief biography of Lama Tsongkhapa and the importance of this text. EH
Alexander Berzin, Wise Teacher, Wise Student. Tibetan Approaches to a Healthy Relationship. 2010. pp250. US$18.95 Berzin explores the intricate and complex relationship between Western students and their Tibetan masters which has its own unique set of challenges due to language barriers, cultural divides, and occasionally conflicting expectations. Berzin focuses on bridging the gap between the two worlds by exploring the student-teacher relationship through the Tibetan Buddhist outlook and its implications for Western students. He also emphasized the importance of establishing a relationship based on respect. Though one should focus on the mentor’s good qualities, the student should not ignore the bad qualities too. However, by dwelling only on the negative aspects, a student can potentially miss out on the lessons and parts that are positive. This is a great piece of advice for engaging in any sort of relationship, be it with a spiritual teacher, a friend, family member, or partner. EH
Shambhala Publications, Inc 300 Massachusetts Avenue Boston, MA 02115, USA www.shambhala.com
Jakusho Kwong, No Beginning, No End. The Intimate Heart of Zen. 2010. pp 233. US$16.95 In this book, Zen master Jakusho Kwong-roshi shows us how to treasure the ordinary activities of our daily live through an understanding of simple Buddhist practices and ideas. The author’s spontaneous, poetic, and pragmatic teachings, so reminiscent of his spiritual predecessor, Shunryu Suzuki transport us on an exciting journey into the very heart of Zen and its meaningful traditions. Because Kwong-roshi can transmit the most intimate thing in the most accessible way, we learn how to ignite our own vitality, wisdom, and compassion and awaken a feeling of intimacy with the world. It is like having a conversation with our deepest and wisest self. EH
Rodney Smith, Stepping out of Self Deception. The Buddha’s Liberating teaching of noself. 2010. pp 224. US$16.95 Rodney Smith, a Seattle insight meditation teacher, argues that the core of Buddhist wisdom is the non-existence of the self (anatta). Anatta refers to the idea that there is no permanently abiding self or soul; it’s a concept that has been downplayed in the West given its fascination with individualism, self-reliance, and the pursuit of pleasure. But even dedicated practitioners find this teaching difficult. Smith tries to explain the importance of discovery and experimentation, following the Buddha’s dictum of testing principles rather than accepting dogma. He salutes the Wise View in Buddhism which offers an alternative – The Eightfold Path - to the self-centeredness and selfishness which reign in Western societies. The Eightfold Path is not about exerting our will or making things happen but relaxing, observing, and allowing what is already here to unfold on its own accord. EH
Dzogchen Ponlop, Rebel Buddha. On the Road to Freedom. 2010, pp 199. US$21.95 Hardcover. This is an extraordinary concise and insightful treatise on Buddhism’s relevance, particularly for young people in today’s global culture, written by a young Tibetan lama. Dzogchen Ponlop presents traditional Buddhist philosophy and practice for Generations X and Y in this refreshing new take on Buddhism for modern times. Each of us has an inner rebel, he teaches, and that rebel represents our innate wisdom. The inner rebel is the voice inside that tells us we don’t have to conform to the materialistic status quo. If we listen to that voice, we discover the courage to pursue a genuine spiritual life. The authentic Buddhist path is based on testing for oneself the wisdom attributed to the Buddha that has been passed down through the centuries. Ponlop Rinpoche encourages his readers to do just that: to investigate any presentation of “spiritual truth” and to apply our own reasoning and logic to analyzing it from top to bottom. When we’ve examined what it means and its implications for us and for others, then we’ll have the conviction to “live up to it”, and serve humanity with generosity and compassion. EH 73!}!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!TFQUFNCFS!3121
Dharma Aftermath by Rasika Quek
Social business – making it work for humanity
Muhammad Yunus, winner of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize believes in the capacity of ordinary humans to be compassionate. Trained in economics and originally a university professor, he rejected the notion that human beings are economic animals interested only in maximizing profits for selfish reasons. He turned his back on elegant economic theories during a famine and provided USD27 to poor women in Bangladesh who could not break free of the village money-lenders demanding their “pound of flesh”. Thus the seeds of Grameen Bank was sown and the practice of micro-credit eventually took root in the four continents of Mother Earth. In less than four decades, micro-credit has transformed the lives of hundreds of millions of poor people and empowered women from culturally and educationally disadvantaged backgrounds to lift their entire families from the grip of dehumanizing poverty. Today, the children of these once oppressed women have become professionals and are able to not only provide for their immediate families but also extend their altruism to others in their communities to escape “hell” on earth. Yunus’s faith in the capacity for human good is not misplaced. Just recently, there was a news article about Warren Buffet, Bill Gates and forty other billionaires pledging to donate half their wealth for charitable purposes. From a business and accounting stand-point, what they did does not make sense. But as Yunus would put it, once people begin to “see” the results of what their deeds would do for humanity, they feel inspired and elevated. It is also contagious… There is a Zen-like moral behind Yunus’s parable of the bonsai plant. The bonsai plant is stunted but don’t forget it came from the same seeds of a mighty tree. Because of the socio or economic environment, a man or woman’s potential becomes stunted. He or she is not able to live a life full of potential because like the bonsai plant living in a tiny pot, he/she lacks the nutrients that would make him/her glorious. Every now and then, some people would prune off the leaves of that “potential” and eventually the plant sadly believes it can only be a bonsai. But Grameen Bank and those modeled after it have helped hundreds of millions of people. What would have been a life of tiny-ness and lack of self-worth has turned out to be glorious for them. They broke free of their tiny pots. Those accustomed to meditation know about the close relationship between mind and body – how one affects the other. It may be an oxymoron to say that one’s spiritual well-being is also connected to his or her material well-being. But this may not be readily obvious. Without material needs being taken care-off, most people simply cannot “free” their minds for spiritual pursuits. It was said that the Great Sage Siddhartha had instructed His monks to give food to a hungry man. Only after he had eaten his fill did the Great Sage deliver a spiritual message to him.
Most people have rather simplistic views about giving in order to help others. They think their responsibility is over and done with once they have emptied their wallets and rejoiced, “Excellent, excellent, excellent.” They tend not to think about the kind of impact and how well their money will be spent by the beneficiaries. At a recent meeting of the Malaysian Desk for Ladakh (MDL), the informal committee of volunteers, sponsors and well-wishers grappled with this issue for the first time. We wanted to be sure that those who have benefited from their sponsors will return to serve their community. All expenditures had to be justifiable so as not to breach the trust of those who donated without question. Yunus, in his excellent book, “Building Social Business” argues the case for social business. An idea, whose time has come! According to him, charities and NGOs who depend on intermittent and often uncertain funds run the risk of being unsustainable in the long run. Businesses with the profit maximization motive are not likely to consider social and environmental projects since they may not meet the minimum return on investment expected. Social businesses that are run efficiently and profitably like their commercial brethren are well poised for sustainability in meeting their social and/or environmental agenda. Such businesses not only alleviate poverty and raise people’s standard of living but prepare them to move on to the next level – their spiritual growth. “Give a man a fish and he lives for a day. Teach a man how to fish and he has food for life.” That pretty much sums up what Yunus did when he first gave USD27 to the poor women folk in Bangladesh. Now think what you can do if you decide to start a social business of your own, with a clear objective. All he asks of you is to start small and watch the miracle grow. All things are possible when your heart is in it. May All Beings Be Happy! EH Rasika Quek firstname.lastname@example.org
YBAM YBAM Celebrates Celebrates 40 40 Years Years
Dr.Ong See Yew, President of YBAM
Cake cutting ceremony,(from left) Brother Denphong, Secretary General of WFBY,Ven. Chi Huan, Religious Advisors of YBAM,Ven. Wei Jing, President of CYBA, Ven.Jing Yao, Former President of CYBA, Ven.Khai Sear, Religoius Patron of YBAM, Dr.Ong See Yew, President of YBAM, Bro.Liau Kok Meng, Lay Advisor of YBAM and Bro. Goh Tay Hock, Lay Advisor of YBAM.
Ven.Khai Sear(second from left) and Dr.Hea Ai Sim(Second from right): Recipients of Sumangalo Awards 2010. The awards were presented by previous recipients: Bro.Keoh Lean Cheaw(Left) and Ven.Chi Huan(Right)
Group photo with YBAM National Council Members and V.I.P.
Published on Sep 29, 2010
Published on Sep 29, 2010
Eastern Horizon Magazine - Many Traditions, One Wisdom, Published by Young Buddhist Association Malaysia (YBAM), Theme: 40 years turning the...