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YBAM Coming Activities 以中文为媒介语 To be conducted in Mandarin JUNE 2013 Activities COMING ACTIVITIES




全国巡回弘法 Dharma Talk Series

01/06/13 - 01/07/13

林德喜 Lim Teck Hee 016-8892228


全国巡回弘法 Dharma Talk Series

07/06/13 - 14/06/13

郑祐志 Donald Teh 016-6062638


全国巡回弘法 Dharma Talk Series

16/06/13 - 18/06/13

曾成利 Chan Seng Lee 016-4823968


全国巡回弘法 Dharma Talk Series

10/06/13 - 14/06/13

陈学成 Lim Teck Hee 016-8892228


全国心灯交流会 National Pelita Interaction Gathering

01/06/13 - 02/06/13

孔凤嘉 Khong Fong Jia 012-6861046

Kulai Buddhist Society

2013州际性佛青之友交流营/交流会 2013 State Young Buddhist Fellowship Interaction Programmes / Camp


李丽芬 Lee Li Foon 013 - 9012043

Persatuan Penganut-penganut Buddha Paka

“走过幽谷”社会关怀系列讲座/座谈 “Walking Through Grief” Social Care Talk / Forum Series

15/06/2013 - 16/06/2013

蔡松强 Choy Seong Keong 017-5926331

Pertubuhan Buddhist Kuala Kangsar

何健新 Ho Kin Sing 017-6906188

Sitiawan Buddhist Society Youth Circle





《真善美的旋律》约定陪你谈唱会 “The Melody of Truth & Beauty” Buddhist Hymns Sharing Series


刘祥华 Lau Seong Wah 012-5414492

Bidor Ju-Shi Lin Buddhist Society

《真善美的旋律》约定陪你谈唱会 “The Melody of Truth & Beauty” Buddhist Hymns Sharing Series


刘慧珊 Liew Hui San 012-5731050

Hilir Perak Buddhist Society



How should we celebrate Wesak? Buddhist communities throughout the world celebrate the birthday of the Buddha, known as Wesak, once a year, but on different dates. In most of Southeast Asia it is observed on the first full moon date of the fourth month in the Chinese lunar calendar, which is typically in May. For 2013, Buddhists in Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore celebrate Wesak on May 24 while Indonesia, India and Nepal celebrate a day later. In Hong Kong, Taiwan, and South Korea, Wesak Day falls on the 8th day of the 4th lunar month, which is May 17 this year. However, in Japan, Buddha’s birthday is observed every year on April 8. On Wesak Day, Buddhists celebrate the three most important events of the Buddha’s life: his Birth in Lumbini, Enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, and Passing Away in Kushinara, which traditionally are said to have all happened on the same day of the calendar throughout his life. The birth story is important because the Buddha was born in Lumbini, Nepal, while his mother stood holding onto a tree. Once born, he is said to have taken seven steps forward after which a lotus flower arose from each footstep. He then declared that this was his last rebirth and that he would become an enlightened being, or a Buddha. As such Buddhists honor the Buddha on this thrice-sacred day. Wesak Day is also celebrated in different ways in different countries despite the usual chanting in temples and monasteries. In South Korea, followers light lotus lanterns that cover the temples in remembrance of these lotus footsteps. In Sri Lanka, where colorful lanterns are also used, elaborate electric light displays depict different stories from the Buddha’s life. In Indonesia, Buddhists light and release lanterns into the air while visiting the Borobudur temple. In Taiwan, followers pour fragrant water over Buddha statues to symbolize a fresh start in life. In Singapore, devotees set caged birds free on the Buddha’s birthday. In Japan, Buddha’s birthday is called Hanamatsuri, or “Flower Festival” where devotees bring fresh flowers to temples in remembrance of the Buddha’s birth in a grove of blossoming trees. In Malaysia, Buddhists throng temples on Wesak Day to make offerings, bathe baby Buddhas, and participate in Wesak processions on the night itself. The Buddha actually never spoke of His life outside the context of the Dhamma. Thus, Wesak Day was never celebrated during his time. He might have thought of it as unnecessary to dwell purely upon his life. This is quite clearly mentioned by the Buddha to Vakkali in the Vakkali Sutta, SN 22.87. Instead, he would have preferred that we put more focus on what he has taught for the 45 years that he was living in India. In fact, the Buddha said that unless and until we understand the Dhamma - his teachings - we are not going to know Him. Thus, on Wesak Day, it is important that we remember what the Buddha has taught us, and then make a real effort to live in accordance with His teachings in our everyday lives. If we can do this on Wesak Day, then we can be said to have truly honored him. EH





Lead Article: Buddhism and Volunteerism by Ven Master Hsing Yun (1927-)


Feature: Buddhism in Indonesia: The Resplendent Revival of a Golden Lineage by Lenny Hidayat


Teaching: Will the Real Chief Please Stand Up? by Bhante Aggacitta


Face to Face: Practicing Non-Self in Everyday Life by Anam Thubten Rinpoche


Teaching: The Snobbish Monk by Kumāra Bhikkhu


Face to Face: Why a Dhamma Hospital? by Sayadaw U Ottamasara


Face to Face: The Purpose of Practicing Lam-Rim by Venerable Dagpo Lama Rinpoche


Feature: Advice from Atiśha Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna (980–1054 CE)


Teaching: Can a Buddhist Be a Wealthy Man? by Venerable Dr K. Dhammasami


Face to Face: A Conversation on the Origins of Scriptures… and Thereafter… With Huang Jing Rui


Teaching: Karma, Free-will, & Determinism by Kokyo Henkel


Face to Face: The Great Compassion by Reverend Patricia Kanaya Usuki


Teaching: Meeting the Dharma Alone by Ajahn Chah (1918 – 1992)

EasTern HorIzon Many Traditions, One Wisdom.



Face to Face: 16 Guidelines for a Happy Life by Alison Murdoch

Forum: Can we see apparitions of our departed ones 7 days after their death? by Bhante Aggacitta by Venerable Wei Wu by Geshe Tsundu

....................................................................... MAY 2013 ISSUE NO. 40 (Published 3 times a year)


: Dr. Ong See Yew


: B. Liow

SUB EDITORS : Tan Yang Wah / Dr. Ong Puay Liu MANAGER

: Teh Soo Tyng




: Vivar Printing Sdn Bhd(125107-D) Lot 25, Rawang Integrated Industrial Park, 48000 Rawang, Selangor, MALAYSIA. Tel : 603-60927818 Fax : 603-60928230



Books In Brief

EASTERN HORIZON is a publication of the Young Buddhist Associa on of Malaysia (YBAM). A non-profit making project, this journal is non-sectarian in its views and approach. We aim to inspire, s mulate 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 adver sing ma er, no responsibility can be accepted for the organiza ons, products, services, and other ma er adver sed. We welcome construc ve ideas, invite fresh perspec ves and accept comments. Please direct your comments or enquiries to:

The Editor


Dharma Aftermath EQ for life by Rasika Quek

EASTERN HORIZON Young Buddhist Associa on of Malaysia 9, Jalan SS 25/24, Taman Mayang, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor, MAlAYSIA Tel : (603) 7804 9154 Fax : (603) 7804 9021 Email : Or Benny Liow <> Website :

KDN PP 8683/01/2013(031165)

Lead Article | Buddhism and Volunteerism

Buddhism and Volunteerism by Ven Master Hsing Yun (1927-)

Venerable Master Hsing Yun is a Chinese Buddhist monk and the founder of the Fo Guang Shan Buddhist order as well as the affiliated Buddha’s Light International Association, one of the largest international Buddhist organizations in Taiwan and in the Buddhist world. He also founded the University of the West in Los Angeles, California, USA, and Nan Tien Buddhist College in Sydney, Australia.


n today’s society it has become popular to serve

as a volunteer. Volunteers vow to serve others with

of any economic gain. They are truly respectable and honorable!

virtue and love. Not all volunteers are the same, however. Most volunteers work out of their own free

Buddhist volunteers, like bodhisattvas with a

will, but some do so with a certain agenda in mind.

thousand eyes and hands, carry out the good

If volunteers do not have virtue in their minds, then

intentions of Buddhas and bodhisattvas, with many

the value of their work will be doubtful.

deeds that are touching and moving. To volunteer is to offer one’s heart and life, and to give one’s time

Most people are willing to help only if asked to do

and energy. Therefore, volunteers are bodhisattvas

so. But a person who is genuinely compassionate

who practice what they are preaching.

and loving will volunteer to help the needy without being requested to do so, as promoted by the

The Benefits of Being a Volunteer

Vimalakirti Sutra: You should be “an uninvited

A volunteer attaches importance to matters of love

guest.” It should be so observed whether it is a

and virtue. He or she serves with love and virtue

service to relatives, society, or country. Then, it is a

in his or her heart. Money is never part of the

true spirit of volunteerism.

motivation. Since the service is nothing but pure devotion, it is priceless. Why do so many people

Volunteers are usually loving and virtuous persons

willingly participate in volunteer organizations?

who serve others out of free will, kindness,

Volunteer work differs from other jobs. Other jobs

humanity, and charity. They are devoted to

are always for money or for pay. Volunteers work

volunteer work that benefits others and the society.

out of joy and to form affinity. The motivation is

Although their services are free, their contributions

different. Since I became a monk 60 years ago, I

are invaluable. Most of them are nameless and

have worked my entire life to teach the Dharma

unknown, but their spiritual rewards and joy are

and to benefit sentient beings, without taking a

immeasurable. They serve without the expectation

vacation or resting on a Sunday or a holiday. Being a


Lead Article | Buddhism and Volunteerism

Nan Tien College, near Sydney, Australia.

volunteer for 60 years, I have experienced Dharma

others, and to plant the seeds of merits and virtue

joy and happiness that no money can buy. If one can

that will form good affinity with others. The actual

serve others with perfect willingness, i.e., becoming

beneficiary of volunteer work, therefore, is one’s

a volunteer, he or she will advance substantially

self, not others as it first appears to be.

in his or her spiritual realization. Volunteerism is an important component of civic life. Engaging

In summary, there are eight benefits resulting from

in volunteer work without economic rewards is

volunteer work:

a moral responsibility. It not only benefits others,


Enhancement of self-confidence

but also helps develop the ideals of co-existence.



Through the unselfish endeavors of volunteers,


Establishment of friendship

we will be able to enhance our compassion and


Broadly forming good affinity

loving kindness and promote social justice and a


Development of talents and potential

benevolent environment. As a result, volunteers


Fostering a sense of responsibility

make a substantial contribution to governmental


Balancing theoretical understanding with

welfare projects and programs and charitable assistance and civic education.

practice 8.

Achieving a win-win position for one’s self and others

If everyone volunteers, a peaceful society will automatically emerge. When one serves as a

Where is the Place for Today’s Volunteer?

volunteer, the purpose is not to be acknowledged,

What is the meaning of life? Although many people

because “Buddha sees everything” and “the law of

have abundance and modern luxuries, spiritually

karma never fails.” Volunteering serves others, but

they feel empty. If one knows how to spend time

it also accumulates merit and virtue. Well-cultivated

and effort to contribute to the community, one

virtue and merit will benefit oneself in the many

will be happy and no longer feel empty. Buddhist

lives to come, leaving your later generations with

temples provide many opportunities for voluntary

peace, compassion, wisdom, and virtue. These are

service. One can become involved in tutoring and

precious legacies that can never be taken away. If

teaching, hospitality and reception, legal affairs,

you do things you do not want to do, you will suffer

administration, public relations, record keeping,

a great deal. So service “with perfect willingness”

food and drink preparation, transportation,

yields intangible value. The main purpose of being

plumbing and maintenance, social assistance and

a volunteer is to learn to be compassionate, to

relief, medical care, conflict resolution, Dharma

smile, to get along with people, to give pleasure to

propagation, and various other activities. For


Lead Article | Buddhism and Volunteerism

example, one will definitely generate enormous

initiated a series of touring campaigns such as “the

goodwill if one can spend several hours a week

train of compassion and kindness,”“the people of

giving rides to others, teaching Buddhism or skills or

compassion and love,” etc. in Taiwan.

arts and crafts, engaging in education or publication, being involved with charitable and social welfare,

They provided various mottoes to remind people to

caring for lonely, elderly and disabled persons,

practice Buddhism. For instance, “wherever there

assisting the poor, the sick, and the suffering, or

are smiles and greetings, there is joy and laughter;”

devoting time to environmental protection.

“don’t focus on the vices of others, praise their virtues without jealousy, be candid and understand

The Buddha Light International Association (BLIA)

cause and effect;” “practice filial piety towards

that I established was motivated by the Buddha and

parents, be diligent and frugal in managing the

bodhisattva vows to liberate all sentient beings.

household and protect others;” “guide your children

BLIA serves not only Buddhists, but also the general

away from vices, show them the road to virtue;”

public. Coordinated by the chairpersons of various

“speak loving words, be nice to others;” “do good

regional branches, members of the association

deeds with perfect willingness, and all will be

work together in many widely recognized activities

pleased;” “be compassionate, not cruel and fierce,

that promote community goodwill. For example,

give with joy, and receive without being greedy;”

the “loving mom” who escorts school children

“where there is love, there is warmth; where there

across the street is appreciated by many parents;

is peace, there is bliss;” “put yourself into other’s

hospital volunteers who assist many elderly patients

shoes and everyone will become closer to each

waiting in line for registration; the “benevolent”

other; become engaged with society through vows

medical care teams that visit many remote villages

of compassion;” “you say all right, I say all right,

assist numerous sick people who cannot afford

the rapport will be good;” “you yield, I yield, every

medical care; the book study groups established

road will become wider.” These members took

in secularized urban areas have introduced many

Sudhana’s fifty-three visits in the Avatamsaka

families to literature and humanity.

Sutra as examples, found some time in their busy schedules, and placed themselves at the cross roads

Other examples include planting trees to save

or roadside plazas to sow the seeds of compassion

water resources; introducing the seven disciplines

and loving kindness, to purify people’s minds, to

to purify people’s minds; special carnivals for

reform morality, to recover conscientiousness, and

students; paper recycling programs to protect the

stabilize society.

environment; assisting jail inmates and participants in drug rehabilitation programs; and the common

This spirit of “everyone can be a volunteer” is

examination for one million Buddhists sponsored

exactly the spirit of the Buddhas and bodhisattvas.

by the Fo Guang Shan Foundation for Buddhist

Regardless of whether the type of work is thought

Culture and Education in 1996. All these activities,

of or not, as long as the volunteer highly does it

enthusiastically engaged in by many members

with devotion, he or she can always experience joy

from different regions of the world and widely held

and pleasure from the task performed. Regardless

and endorsed, like wild fires ignited everywhere,

of the difficulty involved in each task, as long as the

brought a stream of fresh air into a morally decaying

leader is committed, he or she can always muster all

society. The members of the BLIA have, since

the support necessary to succeed in even the most

its inception, considered the establishment of a

trivial task or the most difficult process.

peaceful society as their responsibility. In 1997, they


Lead Article | Buddhism and Volunteerism

Fo Guang volunteers

Fo Guang Monastery, Kaoshung, Taiwan

How to Motivate Volunteers

to have pens, paper and a work place ready. If


Lead by winning people’s hearts

you would like to have some devotees do the

In a Buddhist text, there is a story that the

gardening work for you, you should have a

Mother Ghost eventually became the protector

bucket and hose ready and tell them where the

of Buddhism because the Buddha ordered the

water faucet and toolbox are. When mealtime

sangha to make food offerings to her to satisfy

comes, treat them nicely with good food, drinks,

her hunger. In the military, there is a motto

and dessert. When it’s time to call it a day,

of “leading by leading the heart.” Leading the

do not forget to greet them and compliment

heart means paying genuine attention and

their work, and see off them until they depart.

care from the bottom of the heart, considering

Only when you serve volunteers can you gain

thoughtfully others’ needs as if they were our

widespread support in return. Only when

own, solving others’problems, and respecting

working with mutual respect will the spirit of

and taking care of others so that positive

service be developed.

relationships will last. 3. 2.

Organize the volunteers

Be “the volunteer” to the volunteers

As Buddhism spreads, more and more people

The volunteers do not owe us their devotion, so

like to volunteer. It’s imperative that these

how can we reward their contribution? Treat

volunteers be organized to maximize their

volunteers with appreciation, thoughtfulness,


care, encouragement, and praise. Meanwhile,


you need to motivate, advise, and support

different personalities and strengths. They

them so that they can involve themselves

need to be organized well and placed in proper

quickly in the work at hand. This will definitely

positions. For example, those who are talented

greatly facilitate the progress of projects. Do

can be assigned to publication and education;

not carelessly order them to work. Do not be

those who are less literate can be assigned to do

inconsiderate. If you are inconsiderate, how

charitable work. If a person can copy, file, type,

can you expect them to be considerate? Do

do calligraphy, cook, speak another language,

not resort to authority; you have to be “the

drive, or direct traffic, he or she should be

volunteer” to the volunteers before you can get

assigned accordingly and utilized to their full

volunteers to help. For example, if you want


Organize volunteers. Volunteers come with

volunteers to prepare some posters, you need


Lead Article | Buddhism and Volunteerism

b. Create a directory of volunteers. Volunteers

backsliding bodhisattva,” or “a continuously-exerting

come with different expertise, experiences,

bodhisattva.” This life is precious and difficult to

and duration of involvement. A directory of

regain. Isn’t life more meaningful if one can take

volunteers will facilitate the coordination of

advantage of every minute and every second of the

services to maximize human resources.

present to benefit the greatest number of people?


Promote volunteer development. When

holding activities, there should be workshops

There is no such thing as who is capable and

before and after events to provide ample

who is not; what really matters is whether one is

opportunities for personal growth so the

willing to do something or not. When one pledges

volunteers can advance their skills while at the

his devotion to serve as a volunteer, one not only

same time enjoying the fruition of their own

gains many friendships, but also learns wisdom and


skills, understands the process of doing things, and


develops the capacity to take responsibility. The

Delegate. Volunteers need to be respected

and authorized to have access to guesthouses,

Diamond Sutra says that if one makes an offering

dining halls, and other working places so they

with all the seven precious gems from the three

can freely move around to execute their work

thousand-fold world system, such an offering is less

without creating confusion and chaos.

virtuous than receiving and reciting from memory a four-line verse from the Sutra. This saying tells

In recent years, there have been letters expressing

us that the giving of treasures will be exhausted

appreciation for charitable events sponsored by

one day, while the giving of knowledge, skills, truth,

the BLIA, or invitations asking BLIA to cosponsor

Dharma, and the heart will last forever. The merits

charitable events. If an event is truly beneficial

and virtue accumulated by the Buddhist volunteer

to the general public, regardless of its scale and

groups are like the latter.

scope, BLIA will always consider the event to be its inalienable responsibility and charge, and happily

Besides contributing in accordance with one’s

accept the challenge. Many of the praises actually

personality, strengths and time, a volunteer

went a little overboard because all BLIA did was

needs to do the following:

play the role of volunteer, connecting and threading

1. Speak loving words. A volunteer not only gives

all the resources and factors together in order to

time and effort, but also his life, faith, and

create a pure land (a world of ultimate bliss) on

praise. The most beautiful and affordable gift in

earth. There are people who pledge to participate

this world is to give loving words. Most people

in community service after retirement, hoping to

are reluctant to praise. But the first step for a

capitalize on their precious lifetime experience

good volunteer is to speak kind words, to praise

to start a second career in which they can gain

Buddhism, its fellowship, its members, and their

spiritual strength. In fact, one can be a volunteer at

devotion often. There can never be too many

any age and at any stage of life. One does not have

loving words.

to wait until the future to do it. Right here and right now, one can volunteer to live out the bodhisattva

2. Work together with others. This means trading

path by practicing the four all-embracing virtues

your place with others when considering

and six perfections to benefit sentient beings. If one

things. Treat others’ suffering as your own

really wants to serve others, there is no need to put

pain. Working together with others is empathy

it off until retirement. Right away one can commit

experienced by a superior toward his or her

oneself to becoming “an uninvited guest,” “a never-

subordinate, by a “have” towards a “have-not”,


Teachings | Will the Real Chief Please Stand Up

by the rich towards the poor. It arouses one’s passion and heart to assist and cover others. 3. Facilitate. Help, assist and support others at anytime and in any place. Whenever convenient, help others to overcome difficulties. Give them hope, joy, and more importantly, faith. 4. Be willing to give. To give is charity. Giving is receiving. Giving without understanding Buddhism is not true giving. Giving with the expectation of repayment is an act of the poor. To enjoy giving means to give your joy to others. In Buddhism, volunteers are like the eight classes of benevolent gods, devas, nagas, yaksas, gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, and mahoragas, who protect Buddhist institutions and practices. Serving others is the source of happiness. One should not only volunteer one’s self, but also encourage others to be volunteers. The most important thing to remember, however, is that “one should serve as a volunteer to other volunteers before one asks others to be volunteers.” [This article is adapted from a booklet of the same title written by Ven. Master Hsing Yun and translated by Dr. Otto Chang. The booklet is no. 28 in the series of Buddhism in Every Step published by Buddha’s Light Publishing as an effort by the Venerable Master to promote Humanistic Buddhism–showing how Buddhism can be applied to all aspects of daily living.] EH

Will the Real Chief Please Stand Up? by Bhante Aggacitta


ince I became a bhikkhu more than 30 years ago, I have often been asked by local Buddhist devotees as well as foreign bhikkhus whether the “Chief High Priest of Malaysia and Singapore” was indeed the head of the whole Saṅgha in Malaysia and Singapore. Thai bhikkhus were more specific: “Is he the SaṅghaRāja of Malaysia?” they asked, according to their own understanding of the hierarchy of their national Saṅgha organisation, which is headed by a SaṅghaRāja. Many a time have I had to explain to the laity— Buddhist and non-Buddhist alike—that bhikkhus are not priests, and that Malaysia doesn’t have a national Saṅgha organisation comprising all the bhikkhus from the three main cultural traditions, viz. Burmese, Sri Lankan and Thai. Although there is an officially registered “The Malaysian Siamese Saṅgha Association” for bhikkhus (mostly of Thai descent) ordained in the Thai tradition, there are no equivalents for bhikkhus ordained in the Burmese and Sri Lankan traditions. To make matters even more complicated, there are many denominations within each tradition that operate according to their own socio-cultural protocols and interpretations of the DhammaVinaya. Therefore, there has never been any consensus for a bhikkhu to be appointed or elected the “Head of the Malaysian Saṅgha”, as the title “Chief High Priest of Malaysia and Singapore” would connote. Nowadays our local Buddhists are a bit more educated in Pāli terminology, so the title “Chief Saṅgha Nāyaka of Malaysia / Singapore” is also being used. This saves me the embarrassment


Teachings | Will the Real Chief Please Stand Up

and trouble of having to explain the difference between a bhikkhu and a priest, but still the title carries implications and connotations that can be both misleading and confusing. Frankly speaking, I was not fully aware of the import of such a title or the circumstances under which it was conferred. I certainly knew that it was confined to Sinhalese bhikkhus of the Sri Lankan tradition, but that was all—until very recently, when I received further explanations from reliable sources. 1Let me share with you this enlightening information based on Bro Tan Ho Soon’s article which was recently published by Nalanda Buddhist Society in its website. 2

Sri Lankan Monastic Lineages In Sri Lanka, there are three main Theravādin lineages, namely the majority Siyam-Upali (or SiamNikāya), the Rāmañña-Nikāya, and the AmarapuraNikāya. These refer to the reintroduction of upasampadā (bhikkhu ordination) back to Sri Lanka after a long stretch of general decline in Buddhist fortune during the Portuguese and Dutch periods of domination. Siam-Nikāya refers to the Theravāda lineage re-introduced to Sri Lanka from Thailand; whereas Rāmañña and Amarapura are Theravāda lineages brought over from Burma. These three lineages are further divided into many ‘chapters’, centred around important or popular monasteries. Under the Siam-Nikāya, there are the bigger Malwatta and Asgiri Chapters based in Kandy, among others. However, there are no doctrinal differences among the three Theravādin Nikāyas in Sri Lanka. They differ only in ordination lineage.

Bestowing Titles Titles such as “Saṅgha Nāyaka” are often bestowed upon overseas Sinhalese monks to honour their role in propagating Buddhism in distant lands. These titles, no doubt, are in recognition of their individual contribution and services to the BuddhaSāsana

1 2 3 4

Such as Ananda Fong, Tan Ho Soon, Vijaya Samarawickrama. The text has been slightly edited and reformatted here.,3890,0,0,1,0. Ibid.


outside their motherland, and are understandably a matter of personal and social prestige to Sinhalese Buddhists. However, such titles are purely honorific, much like an honorary doctorate, and carry no extra ‘jurisdiction’ or ‘authority’. They are also not ‘offices’ and cannot be inherited by other monks upon the death of their title-holders. Very often, several individual Sinhalese monks can be honoured with similar titles of “Saṅgha Nāyaka”, such as in the case of Malaysia, Singapore, the USA, the UK, Canada, etc. It must further be clarified that these titles are only bestowed upon the Sinhalese Saṅgha, and thus communal by nature, and are by no means universally ‘recognised’ by other Theravādins or Buddhists in general. The late Venerable Kirinde Sri Dhammananda was bestowed such an honorary title by a Sri Lankan monastic chapter back in 1965. He was much respected for his vast knowledge and erudition, loved for his joviality and warmly referred to by many as “Chief“, not so much because of his ‘title’, but because of his affable character and commanding personality. Even when he was alive, there were other senior “Saṅgha Nāyakas” around, such as Venerable Pandit Sri Pemaratana of Penang. Here are some recent examples in Malaysia: • Venerable Dhammaratana Nāyaka Mahā Thera, the Chief Monk of Buddhist Mahāvihāra, Kuala Lumpur, was appointed the “Chief Saṅgha Nāyaka of Malaysia” by the Malwatta Chapter of the Siyam Mahānikāya of Sri Lanka on 12th March 2007 3 • Venerable Saranankara Nāyaka Mahā Thera, the Chief Monk of Sri Lanka Buddhist Temple, Sentul, Kuala Lumpur, was appointed by the above-mentioned authority as the “Adhikaraṇa (Judiciary) Saṅgha Nāyaka of Malaysia” on 29th January 20074

Teachings | Will the Real Chief Please Stand Up

Venerable Dr Sumana Siri Thera was conferred the title “Chief Saṅgha Nāyaka of Singapore and Malaysia” by the Supreme Council of Amarapura Nikāya on 1st January 2013. 5

So don’t be surprised if, in response to the request: “Will the real Chief please stand up?” all of them stood up, for—going by the titles above—they are all real! Or are they? A closer scrutiny may cast some doubt on how real they really are. Let’s begin with the titles “Chief High Priest of Malaysia / Singapore” and “Chief Saṅgha Nāyaka of Malaysia / Singapore”. If both of them are translations based on the Pāli terms Padhāna / Mahā Saṅgha Nāyaka, the first one is certainly way out because the bhikkhus who comprise the Saṅgha are not priests, much less high priests. The word padhāna literally means “chief/foremost”, mahā means “great” and nāyaka means “leader”, so a literal translation would be “Chief / Great Saṅgha Leader”. However, whether or not the Saṅgha should have an appointed leader or chief is questionable, as we can gather from the following episode which took place shortly after the Buddha���s demise (parinibbāna). 6 The brahmin Vassakāra who was a Magadhan administrator met Āyasmā Ānanda at a worksite and asked him if the Buddha had appointed even one bhikkhu, saying “He will be your refuge (paṭisaraṇa) after I am gone,” and to whom the bhikkhus now would turn. When Āyasmā Ānanda replied in the negative, he asked if the Saṅgha had agreed upon a similar appointment made by a number of elder bhikkhus (therā). Again Āyasmā Ānanda replied in the negative.

5 6 My own summarised translation from the Pāli of GopakaMoggallāna Sutta (MN 108).

“Without having such a refuge,” he asked, “what then is the cause for concord?” “Brahmin, we are not without a refuge. We have a refuge, brahmin. The Dhamma is our refuge.” Pressed by the brahmin for further explanation, Āyasmā Ānanda said, “When we gather on Uposatha Day listening to the recital of the Monastic Code (Pātimokkha), if a bhikkhu’s offence or transgression becomes apparent, we make him act in accordance with the Dhamma, in accordance with what has been instructed. Truly the worthy ones (bhavanto) do not make us act; the Dhamma makes us act.” “Is there, Master Ānanda, even one bhikkhu whom you now venerate, respect, esteem and honour, on whom you live in dependence, venerating and respecting him?” asked the brahmin, to whom Āyasmā Ānanda answered, “Yes.”7 The brahmin was bewildered. “When asked if the Master Gotama had appointed even one bhikkhu to be a refuge after his passing, or if the Saṅgha had agreed on even one appointed by a number of elder bhikkhus, Master Ānanda answered, ‘No.’ But now Master Ānanda says that there is even one bhikkhu on whom the bhikkhus live in dependence, venerating and respecting him. So how is the meaning of what was said to be regarded?” Āyasmā Ānanda explained, “The bhikkhu whom other bhikkhus now venerate, respect, esteem and honour, on whom they live in dependence, venerating and respecting him, is anyone who possesses the ten qualities inspiring confidence declared by the Buddha, i.e. 1. 2.


moral purity according to monastic standards, being learned, well-versed and experienced in the Dhamma,

Both the Myanmar and Sri Lankan versions of this sutta in Pāli read Natthi (“No”), which does not conform with the flow of the whole story; so, I translate it according to the Thai version, which reads Atthi (“Yes”).


Teachings | Will the Real Chief Please Stand Up

3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9.

contentment with the four requisites, skill in attaining the four jhānas, psychic powers, divine ear, ability to read others’ minds, recollection of one’s own past lives, divine eye that sees the continual deaths and rebirths of other beings according to their kamma, and 10. arahantship.” If we go by this very lofty standard, then due to a lack of certainty concerning any bhikkhu’s attainment, it looks as though the Saṅgha these days is like a flock of lost sheep, without any real Chief or Nāyaka to look up to. But that should not be so, for before his final passing away the Buddha expressly declared in the Mahāparinibbāna Sutta (DN 16): It may be, Ānanda, that to some among you the thought will come: ‘Ended is the word of the Master; we have a Master no longer.’ But it should not, Ānanda, be so considered. For that which I have proclaimed and made known as the Dhamma and the Discipline, that shall be your Master when I am gone. 8 So the real Chief or Nāyaka of the Saṅgha, whether in Malaysia, Singapore, or elsewhere, is none other than the Dhamma¬Vinaya of our Blessed One, the Buddha Gotama. And of course, when asked: “Will the real Chief please stand up?” no one should be getting up from his seat, except perhaps someone holding up a hard or digital copy of the Dhamma¬Vinaya. Nonetheless any elder or senior bhikkhu (thera) who may be prompted to do so (without holding up the DhammaVinaya, of course) should perhaps first reflect on the following verses found in the Dhammapada:



Translated from the Pāli by Sister Vajira & Francis Story. Access to Insight, 11 October 2010, dn/dn.16.1-6.vaji.html. Translated from the Pāli by Acharya Buddharakkhita. Access to Insight, 14 October 2011, dhp.05.budd.html, and 21 September 2010,



The fool seeks undeserved reputation, precedence among monks, authority over monasteries, and honour among householders. 74. “Let both laymen and monks think that it was done by me. In every work, great and small, let them follow me”— such is the ambition of the fool; thus his desire and pride increase. 75. One is the quest for worldly gain, and quite another is the path to Nibbāna. Clearly understanding this, let not the monk, the disciple of the Buddha, be carried away by worldly acclaim, but develop detachment instead. 260. A monk is not an Elder (Thera) 9 because his head is grey. He is but ripe in age, and he is called one grown old in vain. 261. One in whom there is truthfulness, virtue, inoffensiveness, restraint and self-mastery, who is free from defilements and is wise— he is truly called an Elder (Thera). Leaving aside the idealistic standards of the ancients, we have to admit that the tradition of conferring titles on deserving Buddhists stems from the Buddha himself. There is a special chapter in the Aṅguttara Nikāya entitled “Foremost” (EtadaggaVagga) in which no less than 80 bhikkhus, bhikkhunīs, male lay followers and female lay followers are listed. Here are a few examples. The foremost of my bhikkhu disciples among those with great wisdom is Sāriputta. 10 The foremost of my bhikkhunī disciples among those with great wisdom is Khemā. 11 The foremost of my male lay followers among donors is the householder Sudatta Anāthapiṇḍika. 12

10 11 12 13

AN 1.189. AN 1.236. AN 1.249. AN 1.262. Translations of excerpts from this chapter are by Bhikkhu Bodhi in The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha, Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2012.

Teachings | Will the Real Chief Please Stand Up

The foremost of my female lay followers among meditators is Uttarā Nandamātā. 13 Note that these titles are very specific, entirely honorific and do not carry any weight of seniority or administrative authority. Probably the Saṅgha authorities of the various Nikāyas in Sri Lanka drew their inspiration from this precedent set by our Blessed One. If indeed so, they should also emulate the Buddha by being discreet in the naming and issuance of their honorific titles. The prevalent, current titles of “Chief High Priest / Monk of Malaysia / Singapore” and “Chief Saṅgha Nāyaka of Malaysia / Singapore” are not only unspecific, misleading and confusing, but can also become fertile grounds for mischief, contention and dissension. In fact, the monastic titles “High Priest / Saṅgha Nāyaka” and “Chief High Priest / Mahā Saṅgha Nāyaka” were created by the British in the early 19th century specifically to cause mischief, contention and dissension so that they could successfully colonise the whole island of Ceylon, as Sri Lanka was then called. 14 Let me elaborate. Soon after the British defeated the Dutch at the end of the 18th Century, they were not content with just occupying the maritime bases of the Dutch, but conspired to colonise the whole island. While the Portuguese and Dutch had unsuccessfully tried to suppress Buddhism, the British were crafty enough to manipulate the feelings of the Saṅgha, the King of Kandy and the government officials who had been heavily influenced by the previous foreign powers, to their advantage. One of their ploys was the creation of a Saṅgha bureaucracy comprising “Mahā Saṅgha Nāyakas” and “Saṅgha Nāyakas” which they officially translated as “Chief High Priests” and “High Priests” respectively, in order to plant the seeds of dissension, jealousy and disharmony among the people of Ceylon. 15

14 I am grateful to Āyasmā Kumāra for pointing this out to me after he did some research in SBS Library. 15 Walpola Rahula, The Heritage of the Bhikkhu (Wellampitiya, Godage International Publishers, 2003 (First published 1974)), Chapter

According to Venerable Walpola Rahula: Its sole aim was to wean the loyalty of the bhikkhus from the Kandyan Kingdom to the English Government of the maritime provinces. 16

[T]hose mahātheras who obtained high priesthood appointments from the Kandy Chapter [comprising the Malvatta and Asgiriya Chapters] were bound by a “Deed of Promise” to act as spies on their own nation. 17 It is evident from history that these bhikkhus fell into the depths of degeneration on account of the machinations of the English Government. 18 Now, about 200 years later, the same monastic title “Saṅgha Nāyaka” is still being conferred by the Saṅgha authorities of the Siyam and Amarapura Nikāyas upon Sinhalese bhikkhus. Perhaps they have forgotten or are quite oblivious of the disgraceful origins of the titles “High Priest / Saṅgha Nāyaka” and “Chief High Priest / Mahā Saṅgha Nāyaka”. Perhaps if this is brought to their attention, they might consider terminating the issuance of such titles, which are an ignoble and unsightly remnant of British colonial deviousness. For the sake of clarity and dispelling confusion among the general public and the Theravāda Buddhist community in particular, we would like to humbly appeal to the relevant venerable Saṅgha authorities of the various Nikāyas in Sri Lanka to seriously consider revising their honorific monastic titles by using less pretentious titles so as not to give misleading impressions to the uninformed public. Meanwhile, in order not to aggravate matters, responsible members of the Buddhist community should refrain from using such misleading honorifics, especially in the public media. If indeed circumstances require the usage of such titles,

16 Ibid, p 63. 17 Ibid, p 66. 18 Ibid, p 66.


Teachings | Will the Real Chief Please Stand Up

their specific connotations should be clarified so that they are not misunderstood to carry more authority than they actually do.

The Snobbish Monk

Bhante Aggacitta is a Malaysian Buddhist monk who received higher ordination in 1979. He has trained under various teachers, notably Sayadaw U Paṇḍita, Sayadaw U Tissara (Yankin Forest Monastery), Sayadaw U Āciṇṇa (Pa Auk Forest Monastery) and Sayadaw U Tejaniya (Shwe Oo Min Dhammasukha Forest Centre).

by Kumāra Bhikkhu

Besides practising meditation, he studied advanced Pāli grammar in Thailand and the Pāli Tipiṭaka in Myanmar and researched on its interpretation and practice until his return to Malaysia at the end of 1994. After a 4-year solitary meditation retreat in Sarawak, Bhante returned to West Malaysia at the end of 1998 and since then has spent considerable time investigating popular interpretations and practices of Buddhism in the light of the Pāli scriptures, real life experiences and contemporary research findings. Using a critical yet constructive approach, he has been sharing his findings with interested parties in order to bring them closer to a practical reality they can more easily connect with. The titles of his published Dhamma resources can be viewed at In 2000 he founded Sāsanārakkha Buddhist Sanctuary (SBS) near Taiping, Perak, Malaysia. In 2012, at the invitation of the Theravada Buddhist Council of Malaysia, he consented to be on its Monastic Advisory Panel. EH



t a feedback session of a course I conducted about 2½ years ago, a participant from Penang commented that I had “changed a lot”. He told the audience that when he first met me (in another event Bhante Aggacitta and I conducted in 2007), he found me quite snobbish. In my mind, that was one of the best compliments I had ever received, and it still is. There were other nice things that he said about me, but that first comment had already made my day. No doubt, I had been rather snobbish. It didn’t seem so to me then though. Whenever I think of this, I feel grateful for the change that has happened. I sometimes also feel a bit strange; that person seems so remote now. Snobbish was what that man thought of me back then. I think he was being kind. I think arrogant would have been a more accurate description. That’s the word my teacher, Bhante Aggacitta, used sometimes to point out my behavior. He said it many times, and I recall a resistance to that every time. Yet, I couldn’t see it. Perhaps it was rather impossible for me to see it, because I had ‘become’ it. Just as the eye can’t see itself, neither can the I. Some months ago, I brought up this matter as an example during a talk I gave in Ipoh. The next day, the organizer told me that his wife too commented that I had changed, since I last went there to give a talk. He said that I had earlier seemed like an ‘intellectual snob’, which I immediately admitted to. (To everyone who had to put up with that, please accept my apologies. If there’s anything that I can do

Teachings | The Snobbish Monk

to make amends, please let me know.) I thought about it and told him I had to be a snob. It was my cover. It made me feel good, safer, more confident—except that none of that was real. The cover wasn’t real. I wasn’t real. The first time I really got to see this cover was during a retreat I had in Shwe Oo Min Dhamma Sukha Tawya (Myanmar), practicing under Sayadaw U Tejaniya’s guidance. At first, I noticed thoughts of pride: thoughts of being a better meditator, thoughts of being from a better country, thoughts of being better-looking, etc. I recall cringing when I realized that I was having such thoughts, feeling ashamed of myself. After all, I was supposed to be a better meditator. So, no, I wasn’t supposed to have such thoughts. Not me, the meditator who’s too good to have such pride. Yup. The view of being a better meditator was particularly disturbing for me. A lady from China whom I was translating for was having deep insights and profound joy. Whenever I translated for her, jealousy arose. It had to, since the situation threatened my view of being better. Looking back, I realize that for a long time I had been relating to such thoughts either by being caught up in them, or trying not to have them. I hadn’t been practicing the middle path in regard to them, i.e., meeting them with understanding. As I became more aware of these thoughts, I came to notice the mental state of pride. I saw it as an energy pattern, which came up strongly whenever I wasn’t alone, and it felt tense. I could be fairly at ease when alone in the room, and as soon as I got out of it, the energy became stronger. Then when I exited the building, it became a whole lot stronger. The more people around, the stronger the energy. To be more accurate, it wasn’t the people, but the idea of people in the mind that mattered. I soon began to see it as an automatic effort to assert presence in the presence of others. Given a voice, it would say, “Look at me! I’m here. I’m great!” Sigh!

When the lady I mentioned earlier was about the leave, she thanked me for being there and translating for her, as otherwise she would have had much difficulty communicating with the teacher. I took the opportunity to tell her about my trouble with pride. She said she was aware of it, and that on one occasion, while walking pass me, she felt it and was shocked at the strength of its energy! I came to realize that I had been living with it for a very long time. The difference then was I became aware of it. I also saw it as a thorn, and began to look at it as not me. That itself brought much relief. Then, one day, as I was on the way to the dining hall—a time when many people were around—I felt strangely lighter. “Something’s missing,” I thought. I looked around my body and found myself fully clothed. Even my pouch was there. Yet, I felt…. naked. As I write this, I’m reminded of the recurrent dreams I’d had, in which I would suddenly realize that I was partially naked. I would feel embarrassed, and anxious to find cover before others realized it too. Yet others in my dream didn’t seem to even notice, much less be bothered by it. The dreams weren’t the same, but the pattern was. I didn’t understand it then, and didn’t bother to think much of it, but now I believe that it’s a reflection of an unresolved issue in me. Come to think of it, I’ve not had that kind of dream for a long time. That experience felt so strange that I became very curious about it. “I feel naked, yet physically I’m not.” It occurred to me later that the missing thing can only be something psychic: a psychic cover (or, perhaps more accurately, amour). The naked feeling lasted for some time, and then went away. I suppose I had put the cover back on, or rather recreated it. It wasn’t under my control, and that’s okay. The important thing was that I had a glimpse of being without it, and saw that it wasn’t me, but just a psychic cover, a façade that was so persistent that I had taken it to be part of me. I


Teachings | The Snobbish Monk

became very interested in this phenomenon, while feeling a bit anxious. Why? There was a tussle as to whether it would be better to be without it. I felt uncomfortable with the naked feeling. During the next discussion session, I told the matter to the teacher. He listened with interest and said that a yogi from Canada told him the same thing. I must have looked a bit worried then, because he tried to assure me by saying, “No problem.” Then raising both his hands up high, he smiled and said, “Naked is freedom!” (sic) That was a little bit funny, but to me it was hardly comforting! This psychic cover gradually became clearer to my awareness. I came to see it as something formed out of the desire to be somebody, and it made me grab at anything that could give me a sense of being somebody. The chief of those things was my intelligence—no, not ‘my’ intelligence. It’s ‘me’ the intelligent one. See where that intellectual snob came from? While the cover provided a (poor) sense of security, it effectively capped my spiritual growth. In be-ing somebody, naturally the ego becomes stronger. I began to realize why I often looked down on people whom I regarded as less intelligent, and felt intimidated by those I regarded as more intelligent. The stranger effect was getting offensively irritated when I met with seeming obtuseness. That used to baffle and bother me. I-dentifying with these attributes, I got to feel gratified thinking I was an intelligent person, a good looking guy (Big deal!), a good monk (This one caused me a lot of problems!), an emotionally strong person (Hogwash!), somebody with a good voice, somebody who had the answers, somebody who could save others from their problems. I was all these things, and more. I was SOMEBODY. What an amazing load of I-dentifications! So many be-ings to be liberated from this crowded mind!


Realizing the burden of that, I wondered, “Why do I have to be somebody? Isn’t it okay to be without it?” The question was immediately answered with a clear No, and profound fear. I was shocked. Why no? Why fear? I didn’t know then. All I knew was it somehow just didn’t feel safe. I clearly didn’t enjoy the discovery, yet I knew that it was exactly what I needed to look into—if freedom was to be gained. As the Buddha said, the noble truth of suffering is to be comprehended. So, if I ignore even such gross suffering, how then can I comprehend Suffering? And what good is practicing the Dhamma if it doesn’t free me from such suffering? When a yogi brings up some emotional issue during a discussion with Sayadaw U Tejaniya, he often encourages everyone present to face these issues with wisdom, so that they can be cleared off one by one. Once I asked him whether it was possible to avoid facing emotional issues on the path to awakening. He said, “No. I don’t think so.” I thought so too, but asked just to check with someone more experienced. I left that retreat with the issue largely unresolved. Besides, it wasn’t the only issue that came up. Another significant one was the sense of not being cared for enough, particularly by authoritative male figures in my life—but that’s another story, though it links with this one. It was a retreat where much unresolved heart matters surfaced. Though out of formal retreat, I continued practicing as much as I could back in Malaysia—with a keener eye for these issues. Months later, a dear friend called up to convey a few things about me: • I do much to help others solve their problems. • This has been helpful to them. • However, I do so to feel good about myself. • The reason is I don’t feel good about myself. I think that I’m not good enough. • This has to do with (a family member).

Teachings | The Snobbish Monk

I immediately understood it, and a profound sense of unworthiness welled up from within. And sadness. Deep sadness. I ended the phone call, and cried…. It had been a long while since I cried that much, and that deeply. It was wonderful! Writing about this brought up a memory of sobbing on my pillow in the bedroom when I was about 10. Can’t recall why I cried so much then though. I suppose it’s too hurtful for the mind to feel safe enough to visit. I’m curious though.

and when given praise, something within rejects it. These are issues that I used to avoid facing or blamed others for. As I write this, I notice a residue of these old feelings. Seeing it as not me, I can let it be, and it passes away. Hmm... so much of this life has been under this influence. Poor fellow. So funny. So lamentable. So wonderful. I wonder what other gremlins lurk in here….

As I noticed myself crying, I felt immense gratitude that it had finally come up, and gratitude for my friend too of course. After all that crying, it felt like something had lifted. I felt clearer, lighter—not just due to the loss of tears. It gradually became clear to me that the whole show was but a coping response to the fear of becoming a nobody, or rather becoming somebody who’s unwanted, because he’s not good enough. It explained why I felt so hurt, and sometimes even resentful, whenever someone put me down. It explained why I felt so bad when I did something that I deem ‘bad’. It explained why I desired attention and praise; yet when given attention, I felt anxious,

Āyasmā Kumāra resides in Sāsanārakkha Buddhist Sanctuary ( and is a student of Āyasmā Aggacitta Mahāthera and Sayadaw U Tejaniya ( Although still very much a work-in-progress, he often gets a bit lazy. However, when suffering prods him hard enough, he is reminded to be a bit more diligent and vigilant. May he suffer more. EH

Are you searching for a spiritually challenging work? Do you enjoy mee ng fellow Dharma prac oners, 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 ac vi es 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 interes ng, we can make it spiritually challenging for you too! In every issue of EASTERN HORIZON, we publish special chat sessions with leading Buddhist personali es, essays on all aspects of Buddhism, book reviews, and news and ac vi es 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 exci ng magazine, please e-mail to the editor at, and we will put you in touch with what’s challenging for the next issue!

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Face-to-Face | The Purpose of Practicing Lam-Rim

The Purpose of Practicing Lam-Rim by Venerable Dagpo Lama Rinpoche

Dagpo Rinpoche, also known as Bamchö Rinpoche, was born in 1932 in Kongpo, Tibet. He was recognized as the reincarnation of Dagpo Lama Rinpoche Jamphel Lhundrup, Pabongkha Dorje Chang’s root guru, by the 13th Dalai Lama when he was two. At the age of six he entered Bamchö Monastery in Dagpo Region where he learned to read and write and began to study the basics of sutra and tantra. At age 13 he entered Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery to study Buddhist philosophy. Having studied eleven years at Dagpo Shedrup Ling, Dagpo Rinpoche left to attend the Drepung monastic university near Lhasa. Dagpo Rinpoche has followed over forty masters, in particular the two tutors H.H. the Dalai Lama, Kyabje Ling Dorje Chang and Kyabje Trijang Dorje Chang, as well as His Holiness himself. Under him he has studied the five great treatises, tantra (he has received many initiations and has done retreats), as well as astrology, grammar, poetry and history. Dagpo Rinpoche remained in Gomang Dratsang until the communist invasion in 1959 when he followed his masters into exile in India. Less than a year after his arrival, he was invited to France to assist French Tibetologists in their research. He taught Tibetan language and Buddhism at the French school of oriental studies (INaLCO), connected to the Sorbonne in Paris, for almost thirty years. Now retired, he continues personal research, practice and study. He has co-authored several books on Tibet and on Buddhism and has participated in numerous television and radio programs. He now has several centers in France, Holland, Malaysia and Indonesia. He travels yearly to India to maintain contact with his masters and monasteries. Dagpo Rinpoche was in Malaysia in January 2013 to conduct a retreat on “THE EASY PATH TO TRAVEL TO OMNISCIENCE” by the First Panchen Lama Losang Chökyi Gyeltsen at Kadam Tashi Choling in Petaling Jaya. Benny Liow and Hee Cher Sun from Eastern Horizon interviewed Rinpoche on the topic of lam-rim.


Face-to-Face | The Purpose of Practicing Lam-Rim

EH: Rinpoche could you please tell us briefly about your background – your lineage, teachers and the teachings you received? DR: From the age of six to twelve I resided at Bamchoe Monastery where I was taught to read and write and learned the basic principles and rituals of Buddhism. My predecessor was the head lama of Bamchoe Monastery. At the age of twelve, I joined Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery also known as Dagpo Dratsang. A dratsang is a monastery devoted to the study and practice of Buddhist philosophy and Dagpo Dratsang is where I did the major part of my studies in Tibet. My predecessor had been abbot of this monastery, which was renowned for its strict application of monastic discipline (vinaya), it beautiful chanting, and especially for the teaching and practice of lamrim or the stages of the path to enlightenment. Hence it was also known as the Lamrim Dratsang. I had four main teachers of Buddhist philosophy at Dagpo monastery. In 1941 when I was nine years old, I received lamrim teachings for the first time, from Pabongkha Dorjechang at Dagpo Dratsang. When I was fourteen the monks of Dagpo Dratsang went to Lhasa to offer His Holiness the Dalai Lama a ceremony for his long life. On this occasion I received the Great Initiation of Avalokiteshvara from Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang, which was the first tantric initiation that I received in this lifetime. After eleven years at Dagpo Shedrup Ling, I left for central Tibet to continue my studies at one of the four colleges of Drepung Monastery, namely Gomang Dratsang. I remained there for four years studying mainly under the great Mongolian scholar Gomang Khenzur Geshe Ngawang Nyima Rinpoche. Parallel to my studies at Drepung, I received spiritual instruction and transmissions from the two tutors of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Kyabje Trijang Dorejechang and Kyabje Ling Dorejchang, as well as from HH the Dalai Lama himself, Lhatsun Rinpoche, Dragri Dorjechang and many other masters residing in Central Tibet at the time. Until now I have received teachings from forty-two masters.

The masters that I have had closest contact with were my teachers at Bamchoe Monastery, my four professors at Dagpo Monastery, the two tutors of His Holiness and my professor at Gomang Dratsang, Gomang Khensur Ngawang Nyima Rinpoche. Rinpoche, could you please explain briefly from whom you received The Easy Path to Travel to Omniscience? I received the teaching on this work from Kyabje Trijang Dorjechang in 1958 when Kyabje Rinpoche taught Liberation in our Hands for the very first time. At the time Kyabje Rinpoche simultaneously taught five different works on the lamrim over more than a month, including the Easy Path. How many lamrim works are there altogether? There are many. The first was The Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment by Dipamkara Shri Jnana. Kadam and Kagyu masters have written various commentaries on The Lamp for the Path and Je Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelug School, wrote three – the Great Lamrim, the Middle Length Lamrim and the Lamrim of Condensed Meaning, which is also known as the Lines of Experience. Together with five other works, they are known as the Eight Great Treatises on the Lamrim. The five other treatises are: 1. The Essence of the All Sublime Discourses, better known as the Gomchen Lamrim, composed by Gomchen Ngawang Drakpa (15th c.) who was the 2nd abbot of Dagpo Dratsang and its 1st chanting master. It is an important work as it is a synopsis of Je Tsongkhapa’s Middle Length Lamrim and the Great Lamrim, written in verse. 2. The Easy Path by the first Panchen Rinpoche Losang Choekyi Gyeltsen (1569–1662); 3. Manjugosha’s Instructions by the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617–1682); 4. The Quick Path by the second Panchen Rinpoche Losang Yeshe (1663–1737); and 5. The Essence of Refined Gold by the Third


Face-to-Face | The Purpose of Practicing Lam-Rim

Dalai Lama Sonam Gyatso (1543–1588), a commentary of Lines of Experience. The most recent widely known lamrim is Liberation in our Hands by Pabongkha Dorjechang (1878– 1941). Many other commentaries were written during the period between the composition of the Essence of Refined Gold and Liberation in our Hands but the above eight works are the most important lamrims. Is there any preliminary preparation that a person needs to undertake before practising the lamrim? No there is not because doing preliminary practices such as prostrations, mandala offerings and so forth is an integral part of lamrim practice. One practises the lamrim in meditation sessions each of which includes preliminaries, an actual meditation on either the entire stages of the path or on one aspect of them, and a conclusion. The preliminaries consist of the six preliminary practices, which involve taking refuge, generating the aspiration to enlightenment, offering the seven limbed prayer and the mandala and supplicating the lineage of lamrim masters. They are done repeatedly as part of daily lamrim practice. Rinpoche could you please explain why you chose the Easy Path over other lamrims? I chose the Easy Path because it covers in essence the content of all lamrims and amongst the eight great treatises, with the exception of the Condensed Lamrim (the Lines of Experience), it is the shortest. While the Condensed Lamrim is too concise to serve as a basis for beginners’ meditation, the Easy Path is ideal for beginners because it contains the nectar of all the other lamrims and is a guide to lamrim meditation. It gives succinct instructions on how to reflect on each meditation topic within the lamrim. It is well suited to those who have little time to practice. Is lamrim similar to ngondro, preliminary practices?


The lamrim is an instruction on how to acquire all the “stages” or spiritual qualities of the path up to and including the complete enlightenment of a buddha. It begins with the generation of faith in the spiritual master and guides you step by step to realise bodhicitta, the spontaneous aspiration to enlightenment. Once you have achieved bodhicitta, you train in bodhisattva practice—essentially the six perfections—with special emphasis on the last two perfections: concentration, to achieve shamata or meditative serenity, and wisdom, to attain vipashyana or special insight. Therefore in the context of sutrayana, the lamrim is a complete instruction because it leads one to Buddhahood; consequently it is much more than ngondro, preliminaries. You should know however that there are two versions of the lamrim – one that involves the practice of the sutrayana alone and one that includes the practice of both sutrayana and tantrayana. The version based exclusively on the sutrayana is complete for it guides one from the early stages of the path up to enlightenment. However for practitioners of tantra, in a sense it could be said that the lamrim is ngondro, a preliminary, since to be able to truly practice tantra and attain the corresponding realisations, one must first acquire all the qualities that practising the lamrim brings: bodhicitta, renunciation from samsara and the understanding of emptiness. Once one had achieved these “preliminaries,” then one can successfully practise tantra.

Face-to-Face | The Purpose of Practicing Lam-Rim

Most lamrim works include the tantra to varying degree. Manjugosha’s Instructions for example mentions it only briefly and is less associated with tantra than other lamrims while the Lamp for the Path refers more extensively to it. Do the two versions of the lamrim ultimately lead to the same result?

People who prioritize their happiness in future lives take refuge in the three jewels and practise generosity, ethics and so forth to ensure themselves of that result. In doing so they qualify as lesser beings. In his Lamp for the Path Lord Atisha defined them precisely: “Those, who by whatever means/ Take personal interest/ In the pleasures of cyclic existence alone/ Are known as lesser beings.”

The Buddha taught both sutrayana and tantrayana. Some people have no affinity with tantrayana teachings. The tantrayana does not suit them. For them, the Buddha taught the sutrayana and explained that one can achieve enlightenment by practising according to the sutras alone.

However, the lamrim is a Mahayana teaching. Hence, the ultimate goal is to achieve Buddhahood for the sake of all sentient beings. Thus its practitioners use the elements of the lesser beings’ path, “the stages of the path shared with lesser beings,” to evolve into great beings.

To other disciples, the Buddha taught both the sutrayana and the tantrayana, According to that system, one cannot achieve Buddhahood by relying on the sutrayana alone. One must also rely on the tantrayana. For those who have a connection with the tantrayana and have the necessary requisites to practise it as well, the Buddha explained that by adding tantrayana practices to sutrayana practices, one will attain enlightenment more quickly than by practising the sutrayana alone.

Those who aspire to enlightenment do not practise the actual lesser beings path. They meditate on topics that are common to both genuine lamrim practitioners whose goal is the happiness of all sentient beings and to actual lesser beings, who, as we have seen, seek happiness only for their future lives and do not aspire to enlightenment.

Is the lamrim teaching suitable for students of all levels, namely those of lesser, average and superior scope or motivation, or only for those of a particular level? Could Rinpoche kindly elaborate on this? In the lamrim, reference is made to lesser beings, intermediate beings and great beings according to the degree of happiness they seek. In the lamrim context, to qualify as a lesser being, over and above all one must desire the happiness of a good rebirth in one’s next life. A Buddhist does not necessarily have such an aspiration. There are Buddhists who pursue happiness in this life alone. In the lamrim, between this life and next life, those who prioritize happiness in their future lives qualify as actual lesser beings. Consequently those who are concerned with only present happiness are not considered to be genuine lamrim practitioners.

For example, lamrim practitioners meditate on death, precious human life and the sufferings of lower realm, in order to overcome their attachment to the present life. This initial form of renunciation serves as the basis for achieving renunciation to samsara as a whole, which in turn is the basis for realising bodhicitta. Genuine lamrim practitioners do not meditate on these topics merely to achieve a high rebirth in the next life. Once they have overcome attachment to this life, they then work on surmounting attachment to samsara in general, including attachment to a good rebirth within it. To deal with attachment to a good life in samsara, they meditate on the stages of the path shared with the intermediate beings. Does the lamrim mention the aspiration to become an arhat? Lamrim teaches the methods to free yourself from samsara by destroying your negative thinking and emotions, the klesha, but does not encourage you


Face-to-Face | The Purpose of Practicing Lam-Rim

to become an arhat for your own sake as that would conflict with the lamrimâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s main goal which is guide you to supreme enlightenment so that you in turn may work to lead all sentient beings to Buddhahood.

to Buddhahood arises. When that aspiration has become spontaneous, an integral part of you, you have realised genuine bodhicitta and become a bodhisattva.

What is the objective or purpose of practising this teaching?

How can we put lamrim into practice in our daily life?

On the short term and middle length term, the purpose of practising the lamrim is to end your suffering and find happiness. On the long term, ultimately, it is to achieve the enlightenment of a buddha to enable yourself to end all sentient beingsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; suffering and lead them to happiness. In seeking Buddhahood if your motivation is selfish, if by it you wish to achieve just a state of personal bliss, you will never attain it.

Firstly, you should learn a short but complete work on the lamrim and then reflect on it regularly, familiarising yourself with it until you have a real understanding of the different spiritual qualities to cultivate. As you gain in understanding, you naturally come to use what you have understood in daily life in your dealings with others. In this way you transform your ordinary daily activities into a lamrim practice. Everything you experience in your life, good and bad, you may relate to the lamrim. Doing so can only enhance your practice of it.

When you meditate on the sufferings of samsara, which is part of the intermediate beings path, you reflect on them in the context of either the Four Noble Truths or the Twelve Links of Dependent Origination. Once you have truly understood the sufferings of samsara, you are repelled by them and strongly desire to be free of them, which is renunciation or the wish to be free. Then you relate your understanding of personal suffering to others and reflect on their misfortunes. Great compassion thus arises as does the wish for all sentient beingsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; happiness and the intention to take personal responsibility for achieving that objective. Feeling that you are incapable of realising that goal for others in your present state, you then understand that it is only by becoming a buddha that you will be able to do so. Hence, a strong aspiration


For example, when you face a serious problem in your work, if you know how to approach it constructively, you will acknowledge that it is happening to you because you are still in samsara. If you were no longer in samsara, you would not accumulate the kind of karma that has let to this result - the problem you are facing. Your situation can therefore serve as a reminder to focus on purifying yourself of negative karma and on increasing your good karma, instead of simply being worried or upset. If you respond to the situation in this way, your anxiety and worry will lessen and even if the problem remains, you will be better equipped to cope with it.

Face-to-Face | The Purpose of Practicing Lam-Rim

In fact everything that you experience can reinforce your understanding of the path. For example, when you hear some good news, you can reflect that it is the result of the good karma you produced or of prayers that you carried out. This will reinforce your conviction of karma and its effects and increase your faith in the Buddhaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s teaching. You can also rejoice in the good things that you observe or hear of. For example, if someone says something hurtful to you, you should control your reaction and avoid getting angry. This can be done again by considering why such things happen to you and understanding that they are due to the maturation of your bad karma. You reflect that by undergoing this unpleasant experience you are ridding yourself of some bad karma and that if you do not wish for it to recur, you must be mindful not to create further bad karma. Are there teachings in Nyingma, Kagyu and Sakya Schools that are similar to the lamrim? Just to mention a few, in the Kagyu School, there is a work called the Jewel Ornament of Liberation: The Wish-Fulfilling Gem of the Noble Teachings by Gampopa.

In the Sakya School, there is Freedom from the Four Attachments, a teaching given by Manjushri to the Sakya master Sachen Kunga Nyingpo, as well as various commentaries of it. This brief but important work is similar to Je Tsongkhapaâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Three Principles of the Path. In the Nyingma School, there is the Words of My Perfect Teacher by Patrul Rinpoche, which is in fact a commentary on the Lamp for the Path. Due to historical context and the people for whom the works were written and taught, there are some slight differences in the above works. However, they all share the same essential principles. EH Persatuan Kadam Tashi Choe Ling Malaysia 89, Jalan Penchala, 46050 Petaling Jaya Selangor, Malaysia Tel:03 77702899 Email: Website:


Teachings | Can a Buddhist Be a Wealthy Man?

Can a Buddhist Be a Wealthy Man? by Venerable Dr K. Dhammasami

Sayadaw Dhammasami was born in 1965 in Burma), and became a novice (samanera) at his early teens in Sirimangala temple, a branch of the Mahasi meditation Centre. He completed his degree in Buddhist literature at Sasana Mandaing Pali University, Pegu, Burma, in 1985. He then went on to receive his MA from the Buddhist and Pali University

Introduction It is generally perceived that a monk is the symbol of living Buddhism. A monk leads a simple way of life; as a part of his ordination, he takes a vow of poverty and lives a homeless and chaste life; he engages in no commerce but lives on others’ generosity. That the monk, or the Sangha as the community of monks is called, has been the positive representation of the Buddha’s teaching is attested by the 2500 long history of Buddhism. It has been the Sangha that preserves the Dhamma, as the teaching of the Buddha is generally known. It is to the monk that a lay Buddhist looks for spiritual guidance. In short, a big picture of Buddhism drawn from this important symbolism is that overwhelmingly Buddhism does not encourage accumulation of wealth and enjoyment of material life.

of Sri Lanka, in 1992, MA, from the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, Kelaniya University, in 1993. In 1996 he received his M.Phil. from the Postgraduate Institute of Pali and Buddhist Studies, Kelaniya University in 1996. In 2044 received his D Phil from the University of Oxford, UK, in 2004. He is now the Abbot of the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies at Oxford University, and the Oxford Buddha Vihara.

And, generally, a practicing Buddhist knows that Buddhism teaches the virtue of non-attachment. The goal of Buddhism, nirvana (nibbana), is the complete overcoming of attachment (also hatred and illusion), considered by the Buddha to be the psychological root(s) of human problems, dukkha. Nirvana, the achievement of liberation, and the extinction of attachment (hatred and illusion) are therefore one and the same thing. So, how can a true Buddhist justify his accumulation of wealth? This question is by no means confined to non-Buddhists. Recently a Buddhist working for the BBC asked me if there would be any worldly progress if everybody were to focus on getting rid of attachment (hatred and illusion). This indicates his own perception that a path to overcome attachment and an effort to achieve worldly progress such as accumulating wealth are, indeed, poles apart. This perception must have persisted in the Buddhist community for quite a while so that usually Buddhists are not familiar with the “economic virtues of saving.”

Is Wealth Evil? To solve this problem, the first question we have to ask here is if wealth is considered evil by the Buddha. The answer is, no. So, “for Buddhism, wealth is not evil” and in fact has no moral value in itself. In other words, wealth is morally neither wholesome nor unwholesome. In fact, far from being evil, wealth is regarded as essential for a peaceful society, in which


Teachings | Can a Buddhist Be a Wealthy Man?

encouraging environments exist for one to make steady progress on the spiritual path. If anything, poverty is condemned. The Buddha says the greatest illness is hunger. It has affected the greatest number of people on earth and for as long as human society itself. The Buddha states that poverty increases crimes, leading to general moral decline. Major causes for an increase in poverty are lack of economic prosperity and lack of proper redistribution of wealth. Failure on the part of the ruler to address these problems will lead to an increase in poverty-related crimes such as theft. As a result, the criminal as well as the possessor of wealth will arm themselves for their own protection. Thus, stealing and killing may be widespread. Such a breakdown of law and order in a country will give rise to anxiety. And, that will have an impact on people’s quality of life. People will not be inclined to observe even basic Buddhist moral precepts. If that happens, life spans will be getting shorter and shorter.

What May Be Good or Evil? If wealth itself is not evil, what may be unwholesome or even evil is how it is made, the way it is used and indeed our attitude towards it. One should acquire wealth “in a moral way, without violence”. The Buddha praises righteous earning and hard working. Earn with one’s own sweat and righteously is the advice he often gives. “If he does not wish for his own prosperity by unfair means, he certainly is virtuous, wise and religious.”1After all, the ‘right livelihood’ is an indispensable part of the path towards nirvana. In using what one earns, what is praiseworthy is when it is used not only to “give ease and pleasure to oneself”2 but also “to share it with others, and to use it for generous, and karmically fruitful action”. Here wealth is used to ease suffering, physical or psychological, in oneself as well as in others. Being generous to others is seen here as being part and parcel of boosting one’s own good karma. Make it properly and use it properly are the Buddhist concerns here.

upper limit imposed by any of the Buddhist precepts; but what is pointed out as a necessary virtue for one to enjoy life is contentment. One may earn as much as one can so long one does so “in a moral way, without violence”. And, contentment here does not mean that one stops earning after a certain degree of wealth is accumulated. Instead, it means to enjoy using one’s wealth to benefit oneself, and then family, parents and relatives, and at last if it is within one’s means also the society at large. However, not everyone who has plenty of wealth is able to enjoy it: they feel empty at heart, restless at home and have to seek pleasure in material things, one after another. They buy a lot more than they need. This shows they enjoy none of what they have got; instead, they still think that it is what they have not got that will give them satisfaction. This is an illusion. This is not a contented mind. They lose sight of their purpose in making wealth. Possession becomes rather an obsession than a security. Contentment gives one an ability to happily use what has been earned and to share it with others. So, contentment is an asset of the mind. Without contentment, one may become a slave of greed. Contentment is synonymous with simple living. Despite his enormous wealth, a contented person makes no fuss nor much complaint in enjoying things. He is able to enjoy every bit of his life. This is all about the right attitude towards wealth.

What About Non-Attachment Then? With all the praise of wealth and enjoyment, how can a Buddhist develop non-attachment? First of all, Buddhism does not equate poverty with contentment, let alone non-attachment. That said, the practice of non-attachment starts with sharing. This should be done at the individual, family and societal levels. Looking after one’s family, parents and the needy are some of the common ways to practice non-attachment. Paying taxes and not cheating are also an integral part. Sharing one’s wealth with others is considered important not only for its social and economic value but also for its religious significance.

How much should one accumulate then? There is no


Teachings | Can a Buddhist Be a Wealthy Man?

Every Buddha has to have perfected this practice of giving before they can achieve enlightenment. Indeed, giving is a part of everybody’s salvation. Giving is appreciated in the context of ‘Self-Conquest and Self-Control’. Through giving, one conquers meanness with generosity and love.3In other words, through sharing what has been earned, one accumulates other spiritual qualities, for instance, a good moral conduct and wholesome mind. These qualities help advance the spiritual path of a Buddhist layman.

Conclusion It is clear that lay Buddhists are advised to work hard so that they meet their needs and fulfill their family and social responsibilities. The accumulation of wealth is necessary not only for those responsibilities but also for progress towards nirvana i.e. the ultimate religious goal itself. Thus, for a society, the Buddha emphasizes the indispensability of both wealth and morality. They are compared with two eyes in a person. The loose one of them only impairs his vision. So, to lead a family life and lack either wealth or morality is like to lose one’s eye, a vital organ.

Saving The practice of sharing often leads a Buddhist to give more than his means. He saves little. This is due to a lack of awareness of the need to use wealth wisely. “Leading a balanced life” and not indulging in unnecessary things, either for oneself or for others, are two of the most frequent admonitions of the Buddha to a lay Buddhist. A balanced life means to be realistic about one’s income and expenses. In one place, the Buddha even says that one should not spend more than a quarter of one’s salary. While a quarter of the income should be saved, half of the whole income should be reinvested. Whatever the amount specified by the Buddha, his message is that saving is very essential for worldly and spiritual advancement in the long term. Saving is also made possible by following some moral and simple way of life. Precepts urging Buddhists to avoid “strong drink, drugs… haunting the street at unfitting times, attending fairs, being addicted to gambling, keeping bad company, and habitual idleness” are to help one not to indulge; and the same time, of course, they also help save money.

For those who have renounced the world, the monks, though, personal possessions must be minimal, limited to only some essentials. The rest belong to the community. A monk’s life is designed to enhance his speedy progress towards enlightenment. Joining the ordained community is a personal choice. Once this special way of life is chosen, one strives not for economic productivity but for complete nonattachment. While the life of a monk remains ideal, for a lay Buddhist, his aim is to earn and to earn well and righteously. To do so is strive not only for economic prosperity here and now but also for the spiritual achievement itself. For his efforts contribute to the removal of suffering, the only purpose for which the Buddha says he ever teaches. In brief, “Whatever is of help to the attainment of nirvana is good, and whatever is detrimental to the attainment of nirvana is bad.”4 And wealth must be made and used as a beneficial instrument, not a detriment, in the process of achieving enlightenment. Then, perhaps, the richer a Buddhist becomes the nearer he is to his goal. EH

Notes: 1. Nayicche adhammena samiddham attano sa sIlavA paNNavA dhammika siyA. Dhammapada. 98. 2. Suttanipata. 102. 3. Samyutta-nikaya.V. p. 352; Anguttara-nikaya.I. pp. 150, 226; II. P.53; IV. pp. 271, 273. 4. Toshiichi Endo, Dana, The Development of Its Concept and Practice, M.D. Gunasena, Colombo, 1987, p. xvii. Reference 1. Harvey, Peter (2000), “Economic Ethics” in An Introduction to Buddhist Ethics, Cambridge University, Cambridge, UK. 2. Pfanner, D & J. Ingersoll, “Theravada Buddhism and Village Economic Behaviour, “in Journal of Asian Studies, XXXI, No. 3, May, 1962, pp. 345-8. 3. Sizemore, R F. and Swearer, D. K., eds. (1990), Ethics, Wealth and Salvation: A Study in Buddhist Social Ethics, University of California, California, USA. 4. Endo, Toshiichi (1987), Dana, The Development of Its Concept and Practice, M.D. 5. Gunasena, Colombo, Sri Lanka. 6. Payutto, Bhikkhu P.A. (1994), Buddhist Economics: A Middle Way for the Market Place, Buddhadhamma Foundation, Bangkok, Thailand. 7. Whitmyer, C. ed., (1994), Mindfulness and Mindful Work: Exploration of Right Livelihood, Berkeley, California, USA.


Teachings | Karma, Free-will, & Determinism

Karma, Free-will, & Determinism by Kokyo Henkel

K Kokyo Henkel (born 1966) trained for 19 years in residence at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center (most recently as Tanto, or Head of Practice), Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, No Abode Hermitage in Mill Valley, and Bukkokuji Monastery in Japan. He was ordained as a priest in 1994 by Tenshin Anderson Roshi, receiving Dharma Transmission from him in 2010. Kokyo came to Santa Cruz Zen Center in 2009, where he is currently Head Teacher.

arma is a term that arose in India before the Buddha lived. It literally means “action” or “activity,” particularly “intentional activity.” The Buddha said that karma is defined as intention, volition, or will. Karma can take three forms: body, speech and mind. We do intentional activities with body and speech, which are based on intentions of mind. There are also actions of body, speech, and mind that are not karmic because they are not intentional: When you go to the doctor and he hits your knee with a little hammer to test your reflexes, your leg goes up. That’s a bodily action that’s not intentional; you don’t have to decide to do that. Also our heart beating and our breath moving in and out are not karmic activity. Karma also gets classified in terms of wholesome or unwholesome. Wholesome or harmless actions of body, speech, and mind lead to more pleasant results, and unwholesome or harmful actions lead to unpleasant results. Greed, hate and delusion produce certain kinds of karma, and non-greed, non-hate, and non-delusion produce different kinds of karma, and therefore different kinds of karmic effects. Karma is a cause and every karmic action has an effect. It is quite astounding and sobering to contemplate how every intentional thought that arises has an effect on this world. Therefore an important part of practice is to examine that process, to pay attention to our intentions and what we are doing, and notice the effects of what we are doing; this seems pretty simple on the surface, but hard to do a lot of the time, hard to remember to do. We like to just do karmic activity and not pay much attention to the effects. It’s an important and challenging practice to watch more and more carefully the effects of all of our thoughts, speech, and physical actions. Often we can’t see all of the effects, but we can watch the process. We could even say that one aspect of zazen is attending to karma, being present with our intentions. Another aspect of karma is that it is the intention of a sentient being who perceives him or herself as an individual independent self, as a particular “me.” The sense that there is somebody doing the action, an “intender,” is part of what is meant by karma. There is the sense of a “self ” that is doing something. One could be just sitting zazen without that sense of self doing something; breathing is happening and even


Teachings | Karma, Free-will, & Determinism

mental activity is happening, like noticing the sound of a bird without the sense that “I am noticing the sound of a bird.” However if we think, even very subtly, “I’m going to pay attention to this sound,” now that’s karmic activity. Karma involves the sense or thought that “I” am in control or doing something. Buddha’s teaching is that the “actor” or “intender” is really just an illusion. We can see that actions are happening, and we have the strong sense that somebody is doing them, but Buddha teaches that if we really look for that someone, we’ll just find different mental factors, different aspects of mind that are constantly arising and ceasing. But we won’t find any “doer.” One of the things we might find, if we are looking for a doer, is the mental factor called “intention.” It’s a factor that is present with every experience, but not it’s not “me” or “my” intention. Of all mental factors, intention is one that we most commonly mistake for “me,” since we like to think that “I” am in control of my decisions and life. So intention is just an arising and ceasing conditioned phenomena, it’s not an independent controlling “self.” This is one of the most profound teachings of Buddha-Dharma. I think that “I” decide to do things when actually it is an intention that is deciding to do things, and the intention is just a conditioned mental factor, conditioned by past intentions that were dependent on other conditions and other mental factors; it’s all just conditioning all the way back. This naturally brings up the question of free will. As someone who hasn’t studied a lot of Western philosophy, I just looked up free will in the dictionary. Free will is “the freedom of humans to make choices that are not determined by prior causes or by divine intervention.” We don’t talk much about divine intervention in Buddhism, but we definitely talk about prior causes. So, if we go with that definition, it doesn’t look like there is free will in the view of Buddha-Dharma because everything that happens, including “choice” is determined by conditions. Volition is a mental factor that arises dependent upon conditions, which is precisely what makes it not an independent self. If there were an independent self, then it could have free will, and


in fact that’s what we feel to be true as humans. We believe that “I” as a free agent can, within the limits of conditions imposed by the world, decide what to do now. Don’t we think so? Free will may sound like a really great thing to have, but it seems to me that it would be kind of a burden to have free will. A question you can contemplate is: If it feels like “you” have to decide anything, do you feel a little bit of unease with that “freedom” of so-called free will? If you open to the possibility that the boundless totality of conditions is determining your every move, that your “self ” is receiving its function from myriad conditions, do you feel some ease with that sense of “being controlled”? The opposite of free will is determinism. Here’s the dictionary definition: determinism is “a theory that acts of the will, occurrences in nature, or social and psychological phenomena are causally determined by preceding events.” This sounds to me a lot like Buddha’s teaching of dependent arising. We could add that we are not talking about “strict” determinism; this would mean that every time I yell at a person, it means they are not going to talk to me tomorrow, no matter what – one karmic cause would always lead to the same karmic effect. Buddha-Dharma is not like that actually. In the view of dependent arising, it means there are many other conditions involved as well; like that person is in a really good mood today so, even though I yelled at them yesterday, they’re happy to talk with me today. I think that often we don’t look at this issue so deeply. Without looking deeply, it seems like in the middle of the dependently arising universe there’s this one free unconditioned agent that has the choice to do what it wants; there are many conditions arising, but “I” as the “decider” am the one exception. If we want to posit free will, we have to ask whose free will it would be. So the very fact that we practice or don’t practice, do wholesome activities or harmful ones, is completely conditioned. And this is one of the most awesome, maybe frightening or depressing, possibly joyfully liberating, insights we can have – depending upon our conditioning. We can say, “I can decide to make

Feature | Buddhism in Indonesia: The Resplendent Revival of a Golden Lineage

more effort.” But not really! And yet we may find this body and mind making more effort… and that is the wonderful thing about Buddha-Dharma, that it feeds on itself through conditionality, so that once we get into it, it starts to condition us in a new positive kind of way, without any actual “self” needed to do the work. The only thing really needed is paying close attention to how the process actually works – and of course the intention to pay attention will arise or not according to conditions; and hearing such a teaching is one of the conditions! However we are left with the problem that if all decisions are simply determined by conditions, then who’s responsible? Responsibility is moral accountability, which is a basic human convention. Since we live in a world where people do believe in free will, then we agree to go along with this conventional appearance; if other people believe I am a “self” with actual free will and that I am responsible for my actions, then as a bodhisattva I would vow to go along with them. A bodhisattva is one who is willing to play the game of appearing as a sentient being who is in control of herself and living in accord with other sentient beings, completely willing to receive the effects of karma, even though ultimately the set of conditions we called “me” that did the action is not the same set of conditions called “me” that receives the result. The freedom of the bodhisattva is that by seeing the illusory nature of free will, they are willing to receive whatever effects come. Also, since they are no longer so concerned about their limited “self”, they don’t take advantage of others; they don’t say, “Since I’m not in control, I’ll hit you.” They don’t cause harm, since intentionally harming others always comes from thinking there is a self that is in control and must meet its needs even at the expense of others. In Zen it is not said that a person of great practice no longer falls into cause and effect; it’s that they no are no longer blind to cause and effect, they are always aware of conditionality, which makes them quite harmless and quite beneficial to others. EH

Buddhism in Indonesia: The Resplendent Revival of a Golden Lineage by Lenny Hidayat

“In this Land which is blessed by the Past, Present and Future Buddhas, stand firm the sanctuary of The Victorious Sakyamuni’s teachings. In this same place, we are walking the excellent path of the Great Tsongkhapa and following the lamp of the path of Atisha Dipankara Sri Jnana, the most precious spiritual son of Guru Svarnadwipa, with the aspiration to become the lamp to expel the darkness of all beings and to put them on the greatest joy of nirvana” Kadam Choeling Indonesia


rom the 4th to the 15th century, Sriwijaya and Majapahit were widely recorded as two of the most prominent superpower kingdoms in South East Asia. At that time the powerful rajas of Sailendra ruled as absolute monarchs over the extensive regions of the southern seas: from the coasts of Cambodia and Vietnam, through the islands and peninsulas of Indonesia and Malaysia, up to the Maldives and the Locatives and the Sunda Strait. The unheard history of the existence of a Supreme Master of Guru Serlingpa Dharmakirti from Suvarnadwipa or the Land of Gold (now known as Sumatera, Indonesia) seems to provide answers to the missing links in the annals of the spread of Tibetan Buddhism in the world.


Feature | Buddhism in Indonesia: The Resplendent Revival of a Golden Lineage

The Life of Lama Serlingpa The life of Lama Serlingpa resembles the life of Prince Siddharta (Buddha Sakyamuni). He was well raised in a royal Buddhist kingdom. With all the luxurious facilities and the wealth of his family, none interest him more than learning the Dharma. In his search to find his spiritual Guru, the young prince took to the seas in the direction of India. Amongst all teaches he met, he finally felt deep admiration and devotion to his utmost beloved teacher, Sri Maharatna. He learned major Buddhist texts intensively for seven years before he finally decided to devote his life to attain enlightenment by becoming an ordained monk in Vikramasila Monastery. Thus he became the perfect holder of the two most important lineages for the development of bodhichitta, the spontaneous mind of enlightenment. The first one is ‘seven causes and result’, passed down from Maitreya to Asanga and the second lineage called ‘equalizing and exchanging oneself with others’ passed down from Buddha Manjushri to Shantideva. Thus Lama Serlingpa became the holder of these combined lineages and the related commentaries. Subsequently he composed a large number of works, some of which have reached us through the Tengyur. He founded and substantiated the philosophical views of the Chittamatra School. The most important one of these still is his commentary on the Abhisamayaalankara (The Ornament of Clear realization), based on the commentary written by the scholar Haribhadra on the text of Chandrakirti. It is a magisterial treatise in which Lama Serlingpa explains and elaborates the hidden meaning of Prajnaparamita Sutra, describing the entire journey from generation of Bodhicitta to attainment of full omniscience. After attaining full realization in India, Lama Serlingpa returned to his island Sumatra to work there for the Dharma. He came to live in the Vihara of Vijayanagar, the House of the Silver Parasols and started teaching there. His wisdom and personal realizations were


known throughout the world. Students flocked to receive teachings from him. Because his love for beings was immense and the Sanskrit term for love is maitri he was given the name Maitri or Maitreya. The Link between Lama Serlingpa, Atisa Dipamkara and Dagpo Rinpoche From the 5th to the 12th CE, Buddhism flourished in India as evidently shown with the prominence of Nalanda University’s Great Bodhisattavas, Adepts, Pandits and other great master in India. One of the most renown teacher at that time was Atisha Dipamkara Srijnana. He studied with many highly accomplished teachers and became extremely well versed in all systems of tantra practice. However, His vajra master Rahulagupta reminded him that to reach enlightenment, he must train to develop caring love, compassionate sympathy, and a bodhichitta aim totally dedicated to benefiting others and to achieving enlightenment. Then, Atisha heard the profoundness of Serlingpa Dharmakirti’s understanding of Bodhicitta. Thus, with a group of 125 learned monks, Atisha set off on a ship of merchants bound for Sumatra. It took thirteen arduous months to complete their journey, but Atisha remained undaunted throughout. Atisha stayed in Sumatra for twelve years, avidly training with this master and had such exceptional reverence for this magnificent teacher from Sumatra and the measures he imparted that tears would well in his eyes whenever he mentioned or heard his name. Among his 157 teachers, Atisha said, “I make no distinctions among all my spiritual mentors. But because of the kindness of my sublime master from the Golden Isle, I have gained peace of mind and the dedicated heart of a bodhichitta aim.” Another link which could complete the overall picture is the fact that His Eminence Dagpo Rinpoche was recognized by HH. Dalai Lama XIII as the reincarnation of Dagpo Rinpoche Jamphel Lhundrup Gyatso who possessed several of mind stream qualities from Bodhisatva Saparudhita, Gunaprabha, the Indonesian Guru Svarnadvipa Dharmakirti, Marpa The Translator, Longdol Lama Rinpoche Ngawang Lobsang and many more. This acknowledgement means that Dagpo Rinpoche is Serlingpa Dharmakirti.

Feature | Buddhism in Indonesia: The Resplendent Revival of a Golden Lineage

Approximately 400 years since Atisha’s period, Buddhism decreased again in Tibet. Je Tsongkhapa reinstated the purity of the Buddha’s teachings, similar to what Guru Atisha had done before, with his masterpiece named “The Great Treatise on the Stages of Path to Enlightenment” (Sanskrit: Maha-BodhipathaKrama, Tibet: Lamrim Chenmo) which he wrote based on Guru Atisha’s previous work. Lamrim Chenmo then passed down within an unbroken lineage until today.

The Golden Lineage

All these development foretells an important meaning that the teaching originally rooted from Indonesia through Guru Suvarnadwipa to Atisha may finally yet be coming back again to Indonesia through this unbroken authentic lineage from Sakyamuni Buddha to Ven. Dagpo Rinpoche down to the Sangha Community of Kadam Choeling Indonesa (KCI) particularly with the flourishing of the teachings of Je Tsongkapa’s Lamrim Chenmo. The literal definition of Kadam Choeling is to mean a place to spread the Lord Buddha’s teaching according to Kadam tradition now served by a group of dedicated monks currently headed by Venerable Bhadra Ruci whose main teacher is His Eminence Dagpo Rinpoche Jhampel Jampa Gyatso. The constant growing numbers of Sangha members and lay people who join in with them and KCI as their main community organization is testimony to a resplendent revival of this Golden Lineage. Having Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche as its Spiritual Head, currently KCI has in its midst 6 fully ordained monks (Bhiksu), 8 novice monks (Sramanera), and 3 novice nuns (Sramaneri). Inspired by many new followers and moved by the logic and purity of the explanations of the Lamrim teachings as brought down through this exemplary lineage, KCI’s mission with daily guidance from Venerable Lobsang Oser, is to preserve and

spread the Lamrim. Since its initiation in 2001, the Buddhist community of KCI have been focusing much of their time to learn and embrace Lamrim in every aspect of their lives both secular and spiritual and the number of the lay members continue to expand in over 9 cities in Indonesia and now exceed the involvement of well over 1000 people. In response to such needs and to formalize its educational growth, there is now a plan to institutionalize this systematic curriculum into a Lamrim Monastery established in Indonesia with a name endowed from Venerable Dagpo Rinpoche himself - Indonesia Gaden Syeydrub Nampar Gyelwei Ling (The Center of Study and Practice for the Conquerors of Tushita). The monastery project has just started in early 2013 and currently is in the process of land acquisition with an envisaged construction of it scheduled to be ready in 2014. To be situated in Kabupaten Malang Indonesia, this land rich in history spanning the time of Sriwijaya, Singosari and the Majapahit is set to enjoy a priceless revival in a Golden Lineage that deserves to be rejoiced and preserved. We genuinely believe that this is the only possible way to preserve and maintain the pure, authentic Lamrim teaching from the unbroken lineage. May these dreams spread as vast as the wind and touch those who aspire to true happiness, and may they join with us in the task of spreading this unbroken and truly golden lineage. References: Boogart, Hans van den, “Biography of Lama Serlingpa”, English Version was published by Kadam Tashi Choeling 2011. Oser, Lobsang, “Seeing Swarnadwipa Dharmakirti and Atisa Dipankara Sri janana in Sriwijaya”, Berzin Archive, “The Life of Atisha”,

Contact: Kadam Choeling Indonesia Jalan Sederhana No.83 Bandung Jawa Barat Indonesia 40161 Email: or Lenny Hidayat is the Social team Coordinator for KCI Monastery Project and a member of KCI OrganizaƟonal Advisory Team. EH


Face-to-Face | Practicing Non-Self in Everyday Life

Practicing Non-Self in Everyday Life by Anam Thubten Rinpoche

Anam Thubten grew up in Tibet and at an early age began to practice in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Among his many teachers, his most formative guides were Lama Tsurlo, Khenpo Chopel, and Lama Garwang. He is the founder and spiritual advisor of Dharmata Foundation (, teaching widely in the U.S. and occasionally abroad. He is also the author of various articles and books in both Tibetan and English. His books in English include “The Magic of Awareness” and “No Self, No Problem”. Rinpoche was in Malaysia in December 2012 and taught two retreats. He also attended the Mystical Dance performance in Kuala Lumpur. On January 2, 2013, Benny Liow of Eastern Horizon met up with Rinpoche and asked him some questions related to the topic of non-self, and the key message of his two recent books.

Benny: Can Rinpoche tell us something about your background, like who are your teachers, your lineage, why you came to the US, and how you became the Spiritual Director and Dharma teacher of Dharmata Foundation? Anam Rinpoche: I grew up in Tibet and at an early age began to practice in the Nyingma tradition of Tibetan Buddhism. Some of my many Dharma teachers include Lama Tsurlo, Khenpo Chopel, and Lama Garwang. I later went to India where I met Tarthang Tulku who invited me to the US in 1992. However, I later decided to start my own Buddhist center called Dharmata Foundation, also based in California. What is this Foundation about? It is a non-profit organization formed in 2005 in Point Richmond, California, located on the east shore of San Francisco Bay. Dharmata Foundation is a non-sectarian Buddhist center that follows the teachings of Buddha


and the lineage of great Buddhist masters – uniting individuals who have a genuine desire to discover inner freedom and peace through realizing the true nature of all things, The foundation also fosters meditation groups in multiple locations internationally and nurtures an extensive offering of daylong, weekend and residential retreats, as well as regular meditation practices. You have written two books “No Self, No Problem” (Snow Lion, 2009) and “The Magic of Awareness” (Snow Lion, 2012). What is the essence of these two books? “No Self, No Problem” shows us how to realize the ultimate meaning of life in each moment by dissolving all notions of ego identity. When we no longer have any notions of self, we realize our true nature, which is already enlightened. In “The Magic of Awareness”, I try to show that while awareness is very profound, it is at the same time very simple. Awareness cannot be easily

Face-to-Face | Practicing Non-Self in Everyday Life

described but it comes to us very naturally when we can live fully in the present moment. That’s when we attain true happiness without the ego. We always hear this word “renunciant” or renunciation in Buddhism. Does it mean that to practice Buddhism one needs to become a monk? There are two ways of understanding what it means to renounce. On one level, it refers to becoming a monk or nun. This is more like an external form of renunciation. However, there is another way of understanding what it means to renounce – that is, to giving up attachment internally, and it includes attachment to everything, and not just to samsara or the things that we don’t like. For instance, we give up attachment to nirvana and the things that we love too, because when we are attached to nirvana that is another way of lingering. It’s another way of sustaining our ego. Therefore we have to give up attachment to nirvana and to every form of ego because ego takes all kinds of forms. So it’s like the story of King Indrabodhi you mentioned in your book “No Self, No problem”. Yes, just like King Indrabodhi who went to see the Buddha and said that he wants to find liberation. Initially Buddha asked if he could become a monk and renounce everything. King Indrabodhi replied that he enjoyed the pleasures of good food, family, and entertainment too much to renounce and become a monk. Then the Buddha explained to King Indrabodhi a path that led him to enlightenment without giving up anything externally but letting go of everything inwardly. This is the heart of Buddhist practice – letting go of everything inwardly but this requires a special understanding. It means you can have everything but you cannot be attached to anything. For instance, you can eat ice cream – and even experience the vanilla flavor or strawberry flavor - but you should not be attached to it. After you have finished eating the ice cream, you are not craving for more and more of it. You can let go of the ice cream after it is finished. So we can have everything and we don’t have to give up anything, but the key is not to be attached to it. When we can do this, we have awareness of our true self and experience true happiness. What would be your definition of true happiness? And how do we achieve it? There are many versions of happiness. So it is important to define what it is. Happiness is not something we can achieve by accumulating things, or by realizing our beautiful illusions. It is a state of contentment - a state where attachment and fear are completely absent. It is a mental state where on-going obsessive desire of wanting has completely ceased. You can say contentment is state of emptiness rather than a state of having everything that we had always wanted in our imaginations.


Face-to-Face | Practicing Non-Self in Everyday Life

The true spiritual path involves bringing about contentment through letting go of all attachment. But there is a big difference between giving up everything and giving up the attachment to everything. I am not saying we should give up everything – I think this is not possible anyway. If we understand the essence of the Buddha’s teaching, he is telling us that we should practice non-attachment by inwardly giving up or letting go of our selfish obsession and our identification with everything. When we realize that this self is an illusion, is it the same as having realized emptiness? Is this emptiness the same as nothingness? Emptiness is the source of all things. It is the infinite realm of love and compassion. So it cannot be nothingness which is a nihilistic view of things that the Buddha had rejected. Emptiness is also the truth because the truth is empty of all illusions. Can you please give us some advice that we can take to practice non-self in our every day life? No self or Anatman is the most central theme of the Buddhist teaching. The closer we look into it, the more it reveals universal truth instead of another outdated religious doctrine. Many meditators claim that they had first-hand insight of this truth. It is also true that many people come across this insight spontaneously without so much spiritual back ground as a surprising wisdom gift from life in order to understand the core of human beings. No self is a profound experience where we are no longer this finite separate self which is bound to the chains of birth and death, but the infinite which is one with the universe from time immemorial. Because No Self is not just another religious doctrine, it is a wisdom that can be applied in everyday situation as a foundation from which we can lead a human life. To truly understand this wisdom, we might have to work with a spiritual master and start practicing meditation as a serious vocation. EH

Why a Dhamma Hospital? by Sayadaw U Ottamasara

Sayadaw U Ottamasara was born in Sagaing Division, Upper Burma on October 26, 1969. His parents are U Tin Maung and Daw Khin Khin Myint. He passed the Matriculation examination with high grades, and subsequently entered Rangoon Arts and Science University. After graduating with a B.A Honors in English in 1994, he ventured into business for a few years. When his business turned bad in 1999, he was badly distressed. Thanks to a kind friend, he came to study meditation under the Mogok Vipsssana teachers. Putting himself into serious study and practice of Vipassana meditation, he soon began to find real peace of mind and was able to overcome his depression and sadness. He then pursued intensive vipassana meditation retreats at the International Meditation Centre of Sayagyi U Ba Khin and Dhamma Joti Meditation centre of SN Goenka in Rangoon. Eventually he went to the Mogok Vipassana Meditation in Rangoon where he continued to make progress in his meditation practice. Sayadaw then decided to establish the Wisdom Sharing Foundation known as “From Avijja to Vijja” which later became the leading place for the public to gain access to various forms of media (books, mp3CD, CD, VCD and tapes etc;) on Vipassana Meditation, and other aspects of Buddhism. On October 21, 2002, he was ordained


Face-to-Face | Why a Dhamma Hospital?

in Rangoon by Sayadaw U Nayyasagara. He then began to teach vipassana meditation and give Dhamma talks on Buddhism at schools and hospitals and to terminally ill patients from various religious backgrounds. In 2007, Sayadaw established ThanLyin meditation center in downtown Rangoon and later the Tha Bar Wa Meditation Centre at Yangon where he is currently its abbot. Sayadaw U Ottamasara repeatedly stresses on the importance of Right Understanding in our meditation and daily lives for without it we will not be able to abandon our attachment. He also encourages us to do good deeds limitlessly in order to have the courage to overcome any fear or reluctance in wanting to do good. He believes that not only healthy people should be taught meditation but also the old and the sick. As a result of his emphasis on teaching meditation to people from every level of society, especially those seeking medical care, Sayadaw is now planning to build a Dhamma Hospital. Sayadaw has kindly allowed Eastern Horizon to feature his project on the Dhamma Hospital.

Can you tell us about the reason for setting up a Dhamma Hospital when there are many other hospitals in Burma? The Dhamma Hospital is to cater for patients who are old and sick but wish to learn meditation. When we reach old age and become sick it is very difficult to stay at home. Those who are old and sick require special attention most of the time. A hospital would be a perfect place for them but hospitals in Burma are sometimes not available or beyond their affordability. This is why I want to solve the problem by establishing Dhamma hospitals in Burma for the people. With Dhamma hospitals, people will not need to worry about becoming old or sick or that nobody would take care of them. They would have the opportunity to stay in the Dhamma hospitals until they finally pass away. And it will be free of charge for all patients who come to the Dhamma hospitals. They will then be able to live the rest of their lives in peace and without any worries. Would the Dhamma hospitals cater for mental patients too? Yes, the dhamma hospital intends to look after patients with both mental and physical ailments. In fact it is quite clear today from medical research that many physical illnesses are caused by the mind. So while the Dhamma hospitals take care of the physical illnesses, we must not neglect treatment of patients with mental problems. This is where meditation comes in. If more people learn to meditate, they will be able to have a calm mind and overcome their mental problems. And with a calm mind, they will be less prone to physical illnesses as well. Will volunteers, including the doctors also learn about meditation? Yes, I also like to train doctors and physicians on the theory and practice of meditation, and to share with them the amazing benefits of meditation practice. When one practices meditation long enough, one can experience changes in the mind. The Buddha had taught that if you are sick, do not allow your mind to be sick. So if you meditate, even when you are physically sick, your mind will be calm and peaceful. Then you only need medicine to treat the body, and not the mind. So meditation is indeed wonderful and should be recommended for all doctors and physicians as well as the nurses and other volunteers at the Dhamma Hospital.


Face-to-Face | Why a Dhamma Hospital?

Do people need to pay to go to the Dhamma Hospital? The Dhamma Hospital is free to all who needs it. Those who are old and sick can come to stay at the Dhamma Hospital until they pass away. They need not worry about medical costs. The doctors and nurses who work in the Hospital will also be volunteers. They will be trained in meditation so that they can also treat the mental problems of the patients with mind training techniques besides dispensing medicine to cure their physical illnesses. So in the Dhamma Hospital doctors and nurses and patients will all be able to perform wholesome deeds. Can anybody participate in this Dhamma Hospital project, including foreigners and physicians? Yes, the Buddha Dhamma is open to everybody. So everyone is welcomed to learn the Dhamma and to practice meditation. If they participate in the Dhamma Hospital, they will realize that it has immense benefits for the people. As such they are strongly encouraged to support our work to build the Dhamma Hospital. You have set up the Thabarwa Meditation Center as part of the Dhamma Hospital? What type of meditation do you teach? The Thabarwa Meditation Center was established principally for the study and practice of Vipassana (Insight) Meditation. It is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Currently, there are more than 1,400 yogis in the center. Like the principles behind the Dhamma Hospital, everybody is welcomed to attend meditation classes at our center where we provide food, clothing and medical care for free to whoever cannot afford. In this way, everybody â&#x20AC;&#x201C; whether they are old, sick or poor â&#x20AC;&#x201C; can receive the benefit of insight meditation. Besides learning how to meditate, the yogis also learn about the core principle of Buddhism, which is about liberation from all attachments. I will guide meditators who are sick, including those terminally ill, to follow the right way to end all suffering and to realize nibbana in their dying moments. How can we support the Dhamma Hospital and other projects that you are working on? We welcome all support from the public to make the Dhamma Hospital a reality. Please contact the following: Thabarwa Meditation Centre ThanLyin Pagoda Hill Thabarwa Meditation Centre (Between Kyite Khauk Pagoda and TarWa University) Thanlyin, Yangon (Rangoon) Myanmar (Burma) Tel : 95-56-22707 Mobile : 95-973030736 EH


Feature | Advice from Atiśha Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna (980–1054 CE)

Advice from Atiśha Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna (980–1054 CE)

One time Atisha was asked by his disciples, “What is the highest teaching of the path?” Atisha replied: “The highest skill is in the realization of egolessness. The highest nobility is in subduing your own mind. The highest excellence is in having a mind which seeks to help others. The highest precept is continual mindfulness. The highest remedy is in understanding the naturelessness of everything. The highest activity is not to conform with worldly concerns. The highest accomplishment is the lessening and transmutation of the passions. The highest giving is found in non-attachment. The highest moral practice is a peaceful mind. The highest patience is humility. The highest effort is to abandon attachment to activities. The highest meditation is the mind without pretension. The highest wisdom is not to grasp anything as it appears.” Upon leaving the Western province of Nari, Atisha gave the following parting advice to his assembled disciples: “Friends, until you have obtained enlightenment, the spiritual teacher is needed: therefore depend upon the holy spiritual teacher. Until you fully realise the nature of voidness, you must listen to the Teaching; therefore listen closely to the precept of the teacher. Merely understanding the Dharma is not enough to become enlightened, you must practice constantly.” “Go far away from any place that is harmful to your practice; always stay in a place that is conducive to virtue. Clamour is harmful until you obtain a firm

mind; therefore, stay in an isolated place. Abandon friends who increase your fettering passions; depend on friends who cause you to increase virtue. Bear this in mind. There is never an end of things to do, so limit your activities. Dedicate your virtue day and night, and always be mindful.” “Once you have obtained the precept of the teacher, you should always meditate on it and act in harmony with his speech. When you do this with great humility, the effects will manifest without delay. If you act according to the Dharma from the depths of your heart, both food and necessities will come naturally.” “Friends, there is no satisfaction in the things you desire. It is like drinking sea water to satisfy thirst. Therefore be content. Annihilate all forms of pretentiousness, pride and conceit; be subdued and peaceful. Abandon all that which some call virtue, but which is really an obstacle to the practice of Dharma. As if they were stones on a narrow slippery path, you should clear away all ideas of gain and respect, for they are the rope of the devil. Like snot in your nose, blow out all thoughts of fame and praise, for they serve only to beguile and delude.” “As the happiness, pleasure and friends you have accumulated are of but a moment’s duration, turn your back on them. Future life is longer than this life, so carefully secure your treasure of virtue to provide for the future. You leave everything behind when you die; do not be attached to anything.” “Leave off despising and deprecating others and generate a compassionate mind to those who are your


Feature | Advice from Atiśha Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna (980–1054 CE)

inferiors. Do not have deep attachment to your friends and do not discriminate against your enemies. Without being jealous or envious of others’ good qualities, with humility take up those good qualities yourself. Do not bother examining the faults of others, but examine your own faults. Purge yourself of them like bad blood. Nor should you concentrate on your own virtues: rather, respect those as a servant would. Extend lovingkindness to all beings as though they were your own children.” “Always have a smiling face and a loving mind. Speak honestly and without anger. If you go about saying many senseless things, you will make mistakes; thus speak in moderation. If you do many senseless things your virtuous work will cease; give up actions that are not religious. It is useless to make effort in unessential work. Because, whatever happens to you comes as a result of your karma from long ago, results never match your present desires. Therefore, be calm.” “Alas it is far better to die than to cause a holy person shame; you should therefore always be straightforward and without deceit. All the misery and happiness of this life arise from the karma of this and previous lives; do not blame others for your circumstances.” “Until you subdue yourself, you cannot subdue others; therefore, first subdue yourself. As you are unable to ripen others without clairvoyance, make a great effort to achieve clairvoyance.” “You will surely die, leaving behind whatever wealth you have accumulated, so be careful not to gather defilement due to wealth. As distracting enjoyments are without substance, adorn yourself with the virtue of giving. Always keep pure moral practice, for it is beautiful in this life and ensures happiness in future lives. In this world age of the Kaliyuga, where hatred is rampant, don the armour of patience, which nullifies anger. We remain in the world by the power of sloth; thus we must ignite like a great fire the effort of achievement. Moment after moment your life is wasted by the lure of worldly activities; it is time to meditate. Because you are under the influence of wrong views, you do not realise the nature of voidness. Zealously seek the meaning of reality.” 49!}!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO

“Friends, samsára is a vast swamp in which there is no real happiness; hurry to the place of liberation. Meditate according to the precept of the teacher and dry up the river of samsaric misery.” “Always keep this in mind. Listen well to this advice, which is not mere words but comes straight from my heart. If you follow these precepts you will make not only me happy, but yourselves and all others as well. Though I am ignorant, I urge you to remember these words.” “When the venerable Atisha was staying in Yerpadrak near Lhasa, he gave the following precept: “Noble sons, reflect deeply on these words. In the Kaliyuga lives are short and there is much to be understood. The duration of life is uncertain; you do not know how long you will live. Thus you must make great effort now to fulfill your right desires.” “Do not proclaim yourself a monk if you obtain the necessities of life in the manner of a layman. Though you live in a monastery and have given up worldly activities, if you fret about what you have given up, you have no right to proclaim, ‘I am a monk living in a monastery.’ If your mind still persists in desire for pretty things and still produces harmful thoughts do not proclaim, ‘I am a monk living in a monastery.’ If you still go about with worldly people and waste time in worldly, senseless talk with those with whom you live, even though you are living in a monastery, do not proclaim ‘I am a monk living in a monastery.’ If you are impatient and go about feeling slighted, if you cannot be even the least bit helpful to others, do not proclaim ‘I am a Bodhisattva-monk.’ “If you speak thus to worldly people, you are a great liar. You may get away with saying such things. However you cannot deceive those who have the boundless sight of clairvoyance, nor can you deceive those who have the Dharma eye of great omniscience. Neither can you deceive yourself, for the effects of karma follow after you.” “To stay in a monastery it is necessary to give up worldly ways and attachment to friends and relatives.

Feature | Advice from Atiśha Dīpaṃkara Śrījñāna (980–1054 CE)

By renouncing these, you are getting rid of all the cooperating causes of attachment and longing. From then on, you must seek the precious mind of enlightenment. Not even for an instant should you allow your past obsession with worldly concerns to arise. Formerly you did not properly practice the Dharma, and under the influence of past habits that sapped your strength, you continually produced the concepts of a worldly person. Because such concepts are predominant, unless you make use of strong antidotes to them, it is useless to remain in a monastery. You would be like the birds and the wild animals that live there.” “In short, staying in a monastery will not be helpful if you do not reverse your obsession for fine things and do not renounce the activities of this life. For if you do not cut off these inclinations, thinking that you can work for the aims of both this and future lives, you will perform nothing but incidental religious practice. This type of practice is nothing but hypocritical and pretentious practice done for selfish gain.” “Therefore you should always seek spiritual friends and shun bad company. Do not become settled in one place or accumulate many things. Whatever you do, do in harmony with the Dharma. Let whatever you do be a remedy for the fettering passions. This is actual religious practice; make great effort to do this. As your knowledge increases, do not be possessed by the demon of pride.”

“If you do not renounce worldly existence, do not say you are holy. If you have not renounced land and agriculture, do not say you have entered the Sangha. If you do not renounce desire, do not say you are a monk. If you are without love and compassion do not say you are a bodhisattva. If you do not renounce activity, do not say you are a great meditator. Do not cherish your desires.” “In short, when you stay at a monastery, engage in few activities and just meditate on the Dharma.Do not have cause for repentance at the time of death.” At another time, Atisha stated; “This Kaliyuga is not the time to display your ability; it is the time to persevere through hardship. It is not the time to take a high position, but the time to be humble. It is not the time to rely on many attendants, but the time to rely on isolation. Nor is it the time to subdue disciples; it is the time to subdue yourself. It is not the time to merely listen to words, but the time to contemplate their meaning. Nor is it the time to go visiting here and there; it is the time to stay alone.”

“Staying in an isolated place, subdue yourself. Have few desires and be contented. Neither delight in your own knowledge nor seek out the faults in others. Do not be fearful or anxious. Be of good will and without prejudice. Concentrate on the Dharma when distracted by wrong things.” “Be humble, and, if you are defeated, accept it gracefully. Give up boastfulness; renounce desire. Always generate the compassionate mind. Whatever you do, do in moderation. Be easily pleased and easily sustained. Run like a wild animal from whatever would entrap you.”

[Extracted from Essential Advice of the Kadampa Masters from The Door of Liberation by Geshe Wangyal, Bodhi Leaves No. B 116. Atisha (9821054) was instrumental in reintroducing Buddhism to Tibet in the eleventh century. He and his subsequent disciples (Kadampa masters) were well known for their simplicity and straight- forwardness teaching style.] EH


Face-to-Face | A Conversation on the Origins of Scriptures… and Thereafter…

A Conversation on the Origins of Scriptures… and Thereafter… With Huang Jing Rui

84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha ( is a global non-profit initiative to translate the words of the Buddha into modern languages and make them freely available to everyone. Its honorary patrons include the King of Bhutan, His Majesty Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck; the Princess of Bhutan, Ashi Kesang Wangmo Wangchuck; and Dr. Kapila Vatsyayan, and it is endorsed by the lineage holders of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism. This historic endeavor is a result of the collective vision and aspirations of seven Tibetan masters and more than 50 of the world’s foremost translators, who convened at the seminal Translating the Words of the Buddha Conference held in Deer Park Institute in Bir, India, in 2009. The goal is to make all 70,000 pages Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, Foundation Chairperson

of the Kangyur (words of the Buddha) available within 25 years, and all 161,800

pages of the Tengyur (treatises on the words of the Buddha) available within a hundred years. Since the project started in January 2010, under the leadership of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche and his working committee, 84000 has been moving steadily toward their vision. The latest translations can now be read or downloaded for free at the online reading room ( Teo Kiat Sing interviews Huang Jing Rui, executive director of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha for Eastern Horizon on this ambitious and important project.


Face-to-Face | A Conversation on the Origins of Scriptures… and Thereafter…

KS: What were the words of the Buddha?

monks to the next by means of oral transmission. They were committed to writing, over several centuries, in

JR: The Buddha did not merely sit under a tree to

the languages of Sanskrit and Pali.

proclaim things. Instead, he travelled barefooted in India for 45 years after his enlightenment, and

As the teachings spread, the collections were

responded to the needs of whomever came to him –

translated into other languages. We can see evidences

including ordinary lay people, the old and young, Kings,

in the many currently-still-thriving Buddhist traditions,

Queens, ministers, businessmen, even prostitutes and

such as in Korea, Bhutan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and

misbehaving monks. They had problems of country,

Burma. Besides the Pali canon that was pretty much

war, aggression, family life, wealth management,

retained in Pali but transcribed into the written scripts

sickness and death etc. Through conversations, the

of the Burmese, Thai, Sinhalese etc, there were two

Buddha guided them to develop the wisdom and

massive movements to translate the Sanskrit texts –

insights needed to deal with their situations.

such as in China, beginning as early as the 1st century CE but in full activity from the 4th to 10th centuries,

We tend to imagine that the words of the Buddha are

and in Tibet from the 7th to 13th centuries, with a

difficult to understand. But when we actually read the

particularly prolific, state-sponsored period in the 8th

scriptural records of his words, we are often surprised

and 9th. As a result, besides the Pali canon, there are

by how down-to-earth the Buddha was. We begin to

two other largely complete collections of the teachings

relate to the Buddha as a real living person who once

of the Buddha and the commentarial treatises,

lived and walked on earth. We discover him to be a

generally referred to as the Chinese Tripiṭaka, 漢文大

very witty teacher; very caring and compassionate –

藏經 or the Chinese Buddhist canon; and the Tibetan

not soft and gentle all the time however, but skillful

Kangyur and Tengyur, 藏文大藏經 or Tibetan Buddhist

and patient in using different methods to help his


disciples realize their mistakes and see their own potential.

Later on, sociopolitical upheavals caused most of the Buddhist Sanskrit literature to be lost or destroyed.

Even a random glance at a list of the scriptural titles –

Today, we can only claim three surviving collections of

many are along the lines of “Questions of an Old Lady”,

the words of the Buddha that are still intact – the Pali

“Advice to the King”, “The Sūtra on Reliance upon a

canon, the Chinese Tripiṭaka and the Tibetan Kangyur

Virtuous Spiritual Friend” etc. – show that the Buddha’s

and Tengyur. Certain scriptures can be found in all

words are not abstract theories. Rather, he taught what

three collections, but there are many other scriptures

was practical and applicable. And the scriptures remain

that only figure in one or two of the other collections.

so, even until today.

Many scholars and masters emphasized the need to consider all these canons as a whole to get a full

KS: So we find the words of the Buddha in scriptures?

picture of the Buddha’s teachings.

JR: According to the tradition, after the Buddha

A fascinating point is that the Tibetan language,

attained parinirvāṇa, the disciples convened at the

although not itself of the Indo-European family of

First Buddhist Council to gather and authenticate his

languages, was considerably adapted and enriched

teachings from the perfect memories of students who

with rigorous translations of Sanskrit terms, idiom and

had attained Arhatship. These collections of teachings,

syntactic structures, specifically for the purpose of

initially in Middle Indic, or the language of Magadha,

translating Buddhist scriptures. As a result, the Tibetan

were said to be passed down from one generation of

texts are often close reflections of the original Buddhist


Face-to-Face | A Conversation on the Origins of Scriptures… and Thereafter…

Translating the Words of the Buddha Conference, March 15-20, 2009, in Bir, India

Chanting the sutras in India, Oct 2012

Sanskrit texts, and recent academic attempts to re-

us as particularly pertinent and inspiring. Imagine how

translate Tibetan texts into Sanskrit are accepted as

impoverished our lives would have been if those verses

reasonably accurate.

weren’t translated, and there was no way for us to penetrate its wisdom?

As yet, only a pitiful 5% of the Tibetan collection has been translated into modern languages. As Tibetan

KS: Usually when we talk about “preserving”, we think

masters and scholars with a specialist knowledge of the

of preserving physical objects, like Buddha statues,

language of the canonical texts and the oral traditions

relics, and the texts themselves. But here, you seem

of interpretation dwindle away in old age, we face a

to be talking about preserving the content of the

real risk that in the next 30 to 50 years, there will be


no one left who can accurately interpret the words and thought of the Buddha as they are transmitted

JR: Yes! Scriptures are considered representations of

in classical Tibetan! If no rescue work is done, soon

the Buddha – the Buddha’s speech particularly. The

we will be left with 230,000 pages of texts, perhaps

Buddha had previously mentioned,

taking their places in the museums, alongside the

“At the end of five hundred years

Mayan inscriptions, honored and revered but with their

My presence will be in the form of scriptures.

wisdoms and secrets lost to us forever!

Consider them as identical to me And show them due respect.”

KS: But don’t we already have some sūtras available in English? Why do we need to translate everything?

Among the Buddha’s body, speech, and mind, it is his speech that is most tangible and within our reach. It

JR: Imagine if one of your favorite teachers – who had

is only via his speech that ordinary beings like us can

really inspired you, had another volume of teachings in

learn to respect and appreciate the other Buddhist

a language that you don’t understand. Would you leave

relics that represent his body and mind. For instance,

it untranslated if you could help it? I have always loved

we see the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas and

the speech of my teacher, too; and as Buddhists, isn’t

the recent crisis in Mes Aynak by people who do not

the Buddha our main teacher? I feel like the scriptures

understand the significance of the Buddha and his

are the transcripts of the Buddha!

teachings. While it is meritorious and important to erect physical representations of the Buddha, it is

Personally, when I read these scriptures, I am always

critical that we put in effort into making the scriptures

surprised at how much it can transform my mind. I am

available in languages that people can comprehend.

sure we all have come across some verses that strike


Face-to-Face | A Conversation on the Origins of Scriptures… and Thereafter…

A well-translated piece will convey accuracy, readability and fidelity. In addition, 84000 is using technology to bring the words of the Buddha to the 2 billion Internet users in the world. The scriptures will no longer reside passively on bookshelves; rather, entire canons will be available at your fingertips: a click away on your laptop, iPads, iPhones and other gadgets. Khyentse Rinpoche (only see his hand) in traditional costume holding a Tibetan page

Simultaneously, 84000 is also populating its cumulative The words of the Buddha had been passed down to us though the kindness of past masters and translators; today it is in our hands to preserve and transmit them to the future generations.

glossary – an interactive list of principal terms, names, places in English, Sanskrit and Tibetan, with an explanation of its meanings and implications in the context of a text. The glossaries will be cross-linked so that a single click will bring out all instances of the term

KS: Which is what 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha is doing?

across the Kangyur and Tengyur. In this way, similarities and differences in the way it is translated or used will be clear.

JR: Yes. Currently we have 140 translators all over the world working on 101 texts. The first ten completed scriptures are already up on the Internet – at 84000’s Reading Room (

These resources will appeal to Buddhists as well as non-Buddhists readers, academics, researchers, or simply curious people who are interested in history, cultures and languages.

In the first three years, we focused on establishing an editorial policy and a support system to ensure excellent translation standards. We have adopted the same model as the ancient translators – a translator/ scholar (lotsawa-pandita) approach – which involves

This is the vision of 84000 – to preserve the wisdom legacy of the Buddha by translating them into modern languages, and to make the words of the Buddha available to everyone.

qualified Himalayan masters, working together with native translators of the target language.

To find out more about 84000, please visit EH

Translating is a tricky process since it goes beyond words, and has to take the context of history, grammar and culture into consideration. Here’s a broad hypothetical example: a literal translation of “shaking one’s head” could be interpreted as an affirmation in one culture, but read as a negation in another culture. There are such fine nuances and connotations to look out for. This is the reason we need very well trained masters and scholars to work together and approach the translation from many perspectives and directions.


Face-to-Face | The Great Compassion

The Great Compassion by Reverend Patricia Kanaya Usuki Patricia Kanaya Usuki was born in Toronto, Canada, to an Anglican father and a Buddhist mother. Her parents brought her up in the United Church of Canada, one of the few Canadian religious institutions that welcomed people of Asian heritage. As an adult, Usuki began a process of reflection on her life. “I’ve had my ups and downs,” she thought, “but mostly I’ve had a wonderful life. Why am I able to enjoy such a life as this?” This question led her to explore the Buddhist tradition more closely. In the Jodo Shinshu (Shin) tradition of Pure Land Buddhism, founded by Shinran Shonin in 1224, she found her answers. Speaking of the Shin Buddhist perspective, she says, “I am the beneficiary of the wisdom and compassion of all life that has come together.” The immeasurable wisdom and compassion of all life is embodied by Amida Buddha, and Shin practitioners express their gratitude by saying the nembutsu, “Namu Amida Butsu.” The phrase literally translates as “I venerate Amida Buddha,” but its meaning declares the practitioner’s joy and heartfelt appreciation: “Thank you, Amida Buddha.”

Shinran Shonin (1173 – 1263), founder of Shin Buddhism

In 2004, Usuki became head minister of the San Fernando Valley Hongwanji Buddhist Temple, near Los Angeles, California. In 2007, her master’s thesis was published as a book, Currents of Change: American Buddhist Women Speak Out on Jodo Shinshu. Even though Jodo Shinshu was the first Buddhist organization to ordain American women back in the 1920s, Usuki’s study was the first systematic exploration of women’s experiences in America’s oldest Buddhist tradition (Jodo Shinshu was first established in Hawaii in the 1880s, and California in the 1890s), and she was invited to speak at temples across the continent. In the spring of 2009 we sat down together at the West Los Angeles Buddhist Temple to discuss her thoughts about the Shin teaching of the Primal Vow and the role of women in Shin Buddhism. Jeff Wilson

Do your fellow Western Buddhists sometimes misunderstand Shin Buddhism? If they’ve heard of it at all, they tend to think of it as “ethnic Buddhism” that isn’t suitable for them. Some newcomers that come to our temples think it’s interchangeable with Christianity. They equate Amida Buddha with God and the Pure Land with heaven. This is a misconception, as is the notion that shinjin [the awakened heart that has turned from self-centeredness toward power-beyond-self]


equates to faith in the Christian sense. Amida is not a divine being that is separate from us—Amida represents immeasurable wisdom and compassion. The Pure Land isn’t like heaven, because it’s not a place that you go to—it’s more a state of mind, and it can be accessed in this life. Faith in the Western sense often means blind belief, but shinjin in the Shin Buddhist understanding is closer to experiencing Amida’s great compassion and knowing that one is liberated.

Face-to-Face | The Great Compassion

The Primal Vow is fundamental to Pure Land Buddhism, yet it is very hard for most Westerners to connect with it in a spiritually meaningful way. What makes the Primal Vow so compelling in Shin practice? In Shin Buddhism, one of our texts is the Larger Pure Land Sutra, in which there’s a story about Dharmakara Bodhisattva. He makes vows, as all bodhisattvas do, and he has to fulfill them in order to become a buddha. The most important one is the 18th vow, which we call the Primal Vow. In the story, Dharmakara refuses to become a buddha unless all other beings can be liberated along with him, no matter how evil or attached or ignorant they may be. He stakes his own freedom on our freedom. This is the central point of Shin Buddhism.

our lives, experience our lives, see ourselves as we really are within this life—and also see the reality of ourselves within all life and enjoy the benefits of life that we receive. Then we can begin to understand this concept of an innermost wish or Primal Vow. Dharmakara Bodhisattva becoming Amida Buddha is something that only becomes true for each person when they themselves awaken to their karmic reality and are aware of their limitations within the larger scheme of reality. This idea of being accepted just as we are relates to the idea of naturalness, which is a very prominent part of Shin practice. Can you say something more about the place of naturalness in Shin Buddhism?

According to the sutra, Dharmakara became Amida Buddha, so his vow has been fulfilled and it operates for us. This is sutra language, symbolic language. The Primal Vow is really the innermost aspiration of all beings. Remember that this is a Mahayana tradition, and we hold to the bodhisattva ideal that all beings will become liberated together. The working of the Primal Vow means that all beings have this innermost aspiration for all other beings to find liberation and lasting peace of heart and mind. So when we talk about Amida Buddha, we’re really talking about the immeasurable wisdom and compassion of all life.

In Shin Buddhism, we contrast self-power or selfeffort with the idea of focusing on the whole of life, the interdependence of all life. When something comes about, it’s not due to one’s own effort to attain something. The idea of naturalness is that no-working is true working. It’s the understanding that things don’t happen due to your own calculation and effort. You don’t sit there thinking, “All right now, if I’m able to follow the eightfold path and do everything the right way, then I will attain awakening.” That’s your own deluded, ego-based effort. I did this, I am able to do that—the moment you start thinking that way, your ego mind comes into play.

When I describe it that way, it sounds like a pretty complicated concept, but in Shin Buddhism we come into it from the back door of living our lives and doing our practice of self-awareness. We realize the nature of our true selves as we really are, with our imperfections and so on, and at the same time we understand that we are the recipients of this immeasurable wisdom and compassion of life that sustains us and embraces us at all times, regardless of the kind of people we are, regardless of the fact that no matter how hard you might try, you are never going to reach the state of ultimate purity. We can’t understand our innermost wish until we live

Yet when the karmic conditions are right, when your causes and conditions come together, you can progress along the path. It’s not “I” doing this or “I” saying the nembutsu. When I say “Namu Amida Butsu,” it’s not “I” saying it but what we call other-power—I like to call it Buddha-power. That other-power has come together in my causes and conditions and my karma to bring me to say, “Namu Amida Butsu.” It leads me to feel gratitude, joy, peace of heart, and peace of mind—qualities that Shin Buddhism values. So naturalness is the opposite of calculating, of making an ego-based effort to try to attain something on your own—supposedly


Face-to-Face | The Great Compassion

independent—power. If you’re truly aware you’ll notice that you cannot achieve it with your own effort and your own calculation. Is the Primal Vow for Shin Buddhists only, or does Amida embrace others as well? It has to extend to all beings. The Primal Vow talks about sincere mind, deep mind, and the mind that aspires. You have to be awakened to that aspiration first. That doesn’t mean that you have to be a Shin Buddhist in order to have that kind of aspiration. The moment the important questions arise in someone— Who am I? Why am I here? What’s the purpose of my life?—I think that’s the kind of aspiration with a sincere heart that really wants to understand how things are. Has the Primal Vow had a particular significance to women in Shin Buddhism? Yes. Anytime someone has been excluded, has been told, “This isn’t really for you, it’s for some other, better kind of person,” that is the sort of person who is included in the Primal Vow. Historically, I think for women the Primal Vow was really a key to opening the door to an authentic, personal Buddhism—a major step for women. What role did women play in founding Shin Buddhism? Women played a significant role in Shinran’s awakening to the reality of his own truth-reality as a man and as a human being. This awareness is pivotal


in the development of Shinran’s thought. After spending 20 years seriously pursuing enlightenment through devout practices as a Tendai monk, he left the monastery at age 29 in frustration and despair. It is said that during a retreat at Rokkakudo [a temple in Kyoto], Shinran had a dream that completely changed his life. In it, Shinran received a verse that included a declaration from the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara that she would be his wife and guide him, so that he would lead an exemplary life and at death enter the Pure Land. Some time later, having been defrocked as a monk, Shinran married Eshinni, an educated and cultured woman of some means. A number of children were born to them, the youngest of whom was a daughter named Kakushinni. It was she who looked after Shinran until his death, and she was instrumental in establishing a memorial place to not only preserve his memory but also serve as a rallying point to maintain his teachings. Her grandson, Kakunyo, became the head of the Hongwanji lineage that grew from that chapel. Thus, this hereditary lineage of the largest Buddhist denomination in Japan is traced through Shinran’s daughter. Shin Buddhism promises a spiritual liberation to women. Has the history of institutionalized Buddhism in Japan provided a similar secular equality? I think the key is that all beings are guaranteed equal spiritual liberation through the teaching of Jodo Shinshu. In my research, I found that there was never any doubt about this among either laymen and laywomen or clergy. People are very clear on the

Face-to-Face | The Great Compassion

distinction between the teaching and the institution. Especially here in America, they are quick to point out that Japanese and Asian culture and social norms have had a lot to do with the way women are viewed by the institution. On the spiritual side, there are actually accounts and records that go back over the centuries showing that female lay followers were able to be as active and accomplished as men in their spiritual development. This is one of the advantages of a school of Buddhism that is not monastic in nature. The clerical institution exists as a structure to continue the Jodo Shin teaching, but in essence everyone lives a secular life and practices in everyday life. So while religious institutions have a tendency to become calcified in their doctrinal interpretations and hierarchies, people in secular life get to test the dharma in fertile ground replete with variety and change. Today it’s exciting to be living in a place and time when epic change has been happening for women in society. What better conditions to experience the organic nature of spiritual development in Buddhism than when we are forced to examine our beliefs about ourselves and others against the backdrop of such rapid social transformation? Converts and newcomers to Buddhism outside of Asia sometimes have a tendency to dismiss AsianAmericans as “ethnic Buddhists” or “baggage Buddhists”—as people who do not seriously practice Buddhism. However, we have much to learn from many of these women who still reflect a generationslong internalization of the buddhadharma through their thoughts, words, and deeds. They themselves are often the first to humbly profess that they know nothing about the dharma, and yet many of them display an innate understanding of such tenets as dana [the practice of cultivating generosity] and interdependence in all that they do—and many show, through their outlook, a profound grasp of the spirit of the nembutsu. They have often made huge sacrifices so that the temples will prosper, enabling others to experience the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. And yet they have embraced change without stridency. We have to remember that through

their life experiences—such as racial and religious discrimination and being put into internment camps during World War II—they understand suffering and impermanence, and they know the value of finding joy in whatever life dishes out. They keep moving forward, and their positive perspectives alone are a lesson to us all. Certainly, they know what it is to be marginalized by those with dualistic minds, but they know that the light of immeasurable wisdom and compassion shines on all without discrimination. We have to remember that society affected the interpretation of Buddhism just as much as Buddhism affected society. The purveyors of Buddhism are, after all, people. Much of what we know from the past about women in Buddhism was written by monks—celibate monks who had left home, at that. They certainly had their own unique concept of the nature of women. All of this is learned. Actually, the first ordained Buddhists in Japan happened to be women, and for a time women were on an equal level with men in the temples. Buddhism was not available to the secular masses until Shinran’s era. What about today? What about female clergy in the institution? My own experience has been very positive. Perhaps when you start from the understanding that the Primal Vow is meant for all people without discrimination, and that it works in your life regardless of distinctions that include such dichotomies as good and evil or priest and lay practitioner, then how could the question of gender possibly be a consideration? This should be empowering to anyone. As a consequence, when social stumbling blocks occur— and sometimes they do—it’s easier to realize that the institution is made up of human beings, and human beings are imperfect. That’s why an individual like Shinran or me or you cannot hope to realize the mind of nirvana through our self-power alone. Sometimes change is resisted by some women, just as some men are the greatest proponents


Face-to-Face | The Great Compassion

of inclusiveness. There are women, especially in Japan, who prefer their traditional roles and do not want to do the same thing as men, and this needs to be respected as well. The term bomori (literally “defender of the monk”) used to refer to the wife of the resident minister. A few years ago, the definition was officially changed to be any person appointed by the resident minister, in recognition that this function was not necessarily fulfilled by a wife. By the same token, the wife of the head abbot is called ourakata-sama. The word means “the person behind the scenes.” As you can see, these examples in no way detract from the importance of those roles, and many women must be happy to fulfill them, just as many of us are happy to be ministers. But these are just labels. I would be happiest if, at the end of the day, each of us were simply seen as we are. Do you feel as though women in general may have had a particular spin on Shin Buddhism or a particular approach? Women seem to take a very practical and experiential approach to their practice. Men may do this as well, but I can only relate what I’ve observed about women. It may relate to the times, which provide plenty of fodder for confusion and reflection with regard to the question of self. Women look at the big picture reality of their lives, which include husbands, kids, parents, jobs, volunteer work, and so on. With all this juggling to try and keep the various elements happy and harmonious, they are constantly facing their own struggling ego. At the same time, though, they get to see so many instances of the compassion and joy that comes into their lives, often when they catch themselves at their worst. If they’re listening, they are buoyed up by the feeling of great gratitude for the Infinite Wisdom and Compassion that is always available to us. This is what propels us forward. The questions women ask often have to do with issues in their everyday lives as members of our sometimes dysfunctional society. They want to know how we would approach all of this from a Buddhist point of view. The kind of dharma talks or seminars


that they respond to are very much those that relate to their lives, as opposed to perhaps a more textbook- academic point of view. It’s a more organic approach, in which they start from what’s going on in their hearts and minds, and see how the dharma responds and guides them. So what they’re doing every day is also a way of coming to understand the teaching. Could you say more about what you mean when you say that Jodo Shinshu Buddhism is something people practice in their daily lives? Being self-aware in the midst of our daily lives provides us with so much material with which to notice the reality of our imperfect selves but, at the same time, to be brought to realize how we are embraced by Ultimate Wisdom and Compassion at all times. There’s no practice a person can specifically do to attain perfect awakening, whether it’s meditation or trying to follow precepts. Of course these are good practices, but we can never totally free ourselves of our blind passions. If we believe we can do it this way, the calculation is a reflection of our ego-selves. Instead, we can be mindful of the dharma as we go about our lives. Then we notice our imperfections, but rather than becoming frustrated by our inability to rid ourselves of these shortcomings, we notice that our interdependence with all life also brings us kindness and joy, unconditionally. “Namu Amida Butsu”—I am one with Infinite Light and Life (Wisdom and Compassion) right here, right now. In our gratitude, we live the life of nembutsu and grow spiritually. Jeff Wilson is a Tricycle contributing editor and the author of Buddhism of the Heart: Reflections on Shin Buddhism and Inner Togetherness (Wisdom Publications). EH

Teaching | Meeting the Dharma Alone

Meeting the Dharma Alone by Ajahn Chah (1918 – 1992)

Venerable Ajahn Chah was born on 17 June 1918 and was an influential teacher of Buddhism and a leading teacher in the Thai forest traditions. Respected and loved in Thailand as a man of great wisdom, he was also instrumental in establishing Theravada Buddhism in the West. Beginning in 1979 with the founding of Cittaviveka (commonly known as Chithurst Buddhist Monastery) in the United Kingdom, the Thai Forest Tradition of Ajahn Chah has spread throughout Europe, the United States, and Asia Pacific. The teachings of Ajahn Chah have been recorded, transcribed and translated into several languages. When Ajahn Chah passed away in 1992, more than one million people, including the Thai royal family, attended the funeral. He left behind a legacy of dhamma talks, students, and monasteries.


eople may look at you and feel that your way of life, your interest

in dharma, makes no sense. Others may say that if you want to practice dharma, you ought to ordain. Ordaining or not ordaining isn’t the crucial point. It’s how you practice. Laypeople live in the realm of sensuality. They have families, money, and possessions, and are deeply involved in all sorts of activities. Yet sometimes they will gain insight and see dharma before monks and nuns do. Why is this? It’s because of their suffering from all these things. They see the fault and can let go. They can put it down after seeing clearly in their experience. Seeing the harm and letting go, they are able to make good sense of their position in the world and benefit others. We ordained people, on the other hand, might sit here daydreaming about lay life, thinking how great it could be. “Oh yeah, I’d work my fields and make money, then I could have a nice family and a comfortable home.” We don’t know what it’s really like. The laypeople are out there doing it, breaking their backs in the fields, struggling to earn some


Teaching | Meeting the Dharma Alone

then their friends start teasing


them, complaining: “Since you

arrive at real understanding—it

started going to the monastery,

will bring you to the place the

you don’t want to hang out or go

teachings talk about.




drinking anymore. What’s wrong with you?” So they often give up

Don’t rely on the perceptions of

the path.

ordinary people. Have you read the story about the blind men and the

Others’ words can’t measure your

elephant? It’s a good illustration.

practice, and you don’t realize the

Suppose there’s an elephant, and

dharma because of what others

a group of blind people are trying

say. I mean the real dharma.

to describe it. One touches the leg

The teachings others can give

and says it’s like a pillar. Another

you are to show you the path,

touches the ear and says it’s like a

but that isn’t real knowledge.

fan. Another touches the tail and

money and survive. But for us, it’s

When people genuinely meet the

says, “No, it’s not a fan, it’s like a

only fantasy.

dharma, they realize it directly

broom.” Another touches the body

within themselves. So the Buddha

and says it’s something else again

The laypeople live in a certain

said that he is merely the one who

from what the others say.

kind of thoroughness and clarity.

shows the way. In teaching us, he

Whatever they do, they really

is not accomplishing the way for


do it. Even getting drunk, they

us. It is not so easy as that. It’s

blind person touches part of the

do it thoroughly and have the

like someone who sells us a plow

elephant and has a completely

experience of what it actually

to till the fields. He isn’t going to

different idea of what it is. But

is, while we can only imagine

do the plowing for us. We have to

it’s the same one elephant. It’s

what it’s like. So, because of their

do that ourselves. Don’t wait for

like this in practice. With a little

experience, they may become

the salesman to do it. Once he’s

understanding or experience, you

tired of things and realize the

made the sale, he takes the money

get limited ideas. You can go from

dharma quicker than monks can.

and splits. That’s his part.That’s

one teacher to the next seeking

You should be your own witness.

how it is in practice. The Buddha


Don’t take others as your witness.

shows the way. He’s not the one

trying to figure out if they are

This means learning to trust

who does it for us. Don’t expect

teaching correctly or incorrectly

yourself. People may think you’re

the salesman to till your field. If

and how their teachings compare

crazy, but never mind. It only

we understand the path in this

to each other. Some people are

means they don’t know anything

way, it’s a little more comfortable

always traveling around to learn

about dharma. But if you lack

for us, and we will do it ourselves.

from different teachers. They try

confidence and instead rely on the

Then there will be fruition.

to judge and measure, so when






they sit down to meditate they

opinions of unenlightened people, you can easily be deterred. In

Teachings can be most profound,

are constantly in confusion about

Thailand these days, it’s hard for

but those who listen may not

what is right and what is wrong.

young people to sustain an interest

understand. Never mind. Don’t

“This teacher said this, but that

in dharma. Maybe they come to

be perplexed over profundity

teacher said that. One guy teaches

the monastery a few times, and

or lack of it. Just do the practice

in this way, but the other guy’s


Teaching | Meeting the Dharma Alone





without a teacher or a guide.

of practice is realized, there is nothing to add and nothing to remove.

methods are different. They don’t seem to agree.” It can lead to a lot of doubt. You might hear that certain teachers are really good, and so you go to receive teachings from Thai ajahns, Zen masters, Vipassana teachers, and others. It seems to me that most of you have probably had enough teaching, but the tendency is to always want to hear more, to compare, and to end up in doubt as a result. Each successive teacher might well increase your confusion further. Thus the Buddha said, “I am enlightened through my own efforts, without any teacher.” A wandering ascetic asked him, “Who is your teacher?” The Buddha answered, “I have no teacher. I attained enlightenment by myself.” But that wanderer just shook his head and went away. He thought the Buddha was making up a story and had no interest in what he said. He believed it wasn’t




You study with a spiritual teacher,

that this is the point we want to

and she tells you to give up greed

arrive at, but people don’t want

and anger. She tells you they are

to stop there. Their doubts and

harmful and that you need to get

attachments keep them on the

rid of them. Then you may practice

move, keep them confused, keep

and do that. But getting rid of

them from stopping. So when one

greed and anger doesn’t come

person has arrived but others are

about just because she taught you;

somewhere else, they won’t be

you have to actually practice and

able to make any sense of what he

accomplish that. Through practice

may say about it. They might have

you come to realize something for

some intellectual understanding

yourself. You see greed in your

of the words, but this is not real

mind and give it up. You see anger

knowledge of the truth.

in your mind and give it up. The teacher doesn’t get rid of them for

Usually when we talk about

you. She tells you about getting rid

practice we talk about what to

of them, but it doesn’t happen just

develop and what to renounce,

because she tells you. You do the

about increasing the positive

practice and come to realization.


You understand these things for

But the final result is that all of


these are done with. There is the




level of sekha, the person who It’s like the Buddha is catching

needs to train in these things,

hold of you and bringing you to

and there is the level of asekha,

the beginning of the path, and he

the person who no longer needs

tells you, “Here is the path—walk

to train in anything. When the

on it.” He doesn’t help you walk.

mind has reached the level of

You do that yourself. When you

full realization, there is nothing

do travel the path and practice

more to practice. Such a person



doesn’t have to make use of any

dharma, which is beyond anything

of the conventions of teaching

that anyone can explain to you.

and practice. It’s spoken of as

So one is enlightened by oneself,

someone who has gotten rid of the

understanding past, future, and








and result. Then doubt is finished.

The sekha person has to train in the steps of the path, from the

We talk about giving up and

very beginning to the highest



level. When she has completed

cultivating. But when the fruit

this, she is called asekha, meaning



Teaching | Meeting the Dharma Alone

efforts to devote our minds and bodies to discovering virtue and spirituality, to becoming real human beings who live according to the dharma of humans. We don’t have to look at others and be critical of their lack of virtue. Even when those close to us can’t practice, we should do what we can she no longer has to train, because

feelings. There were those who

first. Before we worry about the

everything is finished. The things

had awakened to the dharma,

deficiencies of others, those of us

to be trained in are finished.

and when they saw the Buddha

who understand and can practice

Doubts are finished. There are no

enter nirvana, they were happy:

should do that straightaway.

qualities to be developed. There

“The Lord Buddha is well-gone;

are no defilements to remove.

he has gone to peace.” But those

Outside of the dharma, there isn’t

This is talking about the empty

whose defilements were not yet

anything that will bring peace and

mind. Once this is realized, you

finished thought, “The Buddha

happiness to this world. Outside

will no longer be affected by

has died! Who will teach us now?

of dharma, there is only the

whatever good or evil there is. You

The one we bowed down before

struggle of winning and losing,

are unshakable no matter what

is gone!” So they wailed and shed

envy and ill will. One who enters

you meet, and you live in peace

tears. That’s really bad, crying

the dharma lets go of these things

and happiness.

over the Buddha like a bunch of

and spreads lovingkindness and

bums. Thinking like fools, they

compassion instead. Even a little

In this realm of impermanence,

feared no one would teach them

bit of such dharma is of great

there will be times when we

anymore. But those who were

benefit. Whenever an individual

cannot find spiritual teachers to

awakened understood that the

has such qualities in the heart, the

point out the path to us. When

Buddha is just this dharma that he

Buddha’s way is flourishing.

there is no spiritual guidance

has taught us; though he passes

for people, we become thickly

away, his teachings are still here.

obscured by craving, and society

So their spirits were still strong,

in general is ruled by desire,

and they did not lack for means of

anger, and delusion. So at the

practice, because they understood

present time, though the Buddhist

that the Buddha does not die.

religion may be struggling to survive, though in general the way

We can easily see that except

it’s practiced is far from the truth

for the dharma, there is nothing

of what really is, we should make

that will relieve the trouble and

the most of the opportunity we do

distress in the world and cool the

From Everything Arises, Everything


fires of beings’ torment. Ordinary

Falls Away by Ajahn Chah, Boston:

people of the world are struggling,

Shambhala, 2005.Translator, Paul

When the Buddha passed into

fighting, suffering, and dying

Brieter. See



because they are not following a


types of disciples had different

true spiritual path. So let’s make




Face to Face | 16 Guidelines for a Happy Life

16 Guidelines for a Happy Life by Alison Murdoch

Alison Murdoch was appointed as the Director of the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom at its first formal Board meeting in March 2005. She has been working full time on the development of Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom since May 2004. In June 2005 she gained a Millennium Award from UnLtd, the UK foundation for social entrepreneurs, in support of her work on Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom. Alison was born in the UK and gained an Honors degree in Modern History from Oxford University. After five years of working as an art expert for Sotheby’s, the international auctioneers, she left to travel in Asia and America. On her return she spent the next nine years working with homeless people: running night shelters and day centers, conducting a research project into begging, setting up a national support network for UK projects, and providing training courses. From 1994 to 2004 she was the Director of Jamyang Buddhist Centre, London, overseeing the purchase and renovation of a 10,000 square foot historic Courthouse in South London as an innovative educational, spiritual and community resource. Alison has appeared on various UK radio and TV programs and appears regularly on BBC Radio 2 and Radio 4. She was a contributor to the Rough Guide’s Women Travel, is featured in Vicki Mackenzie’s book Why Buddhism? and has worked as a freelance journalist for the BBC World Service. Benny Liow of Eastern Horizon met with Alison at Jamyang Buddhist Centre in London and interviewed her on her role in developing the 16 Guidelines for our modern day communities around the world.


Face to Face | 16 Guidelines for a Happy Life

Benny: I understand the 16 Guidelines have its origin in a 7th century Tibetan King. Could you explain how a 7th century teaching is applicable in the 21st century? Alison: The inspiration behind the 16 Guidelines is the 16 Human Dharmas of King Songtsen Gampo. He was the first Buddhist king of Tibet, and introduced them into what was then quite a lawless country as a code of ethical conduct for ordinary people. I sometimes wonder whether the reason my teacher Lama Zopa Rinpoche (Spiritual Director of the FPMT, and also the Honorary President of our Foundation) chose the 16 Human Dharmas as our first program is because when you look around, you could say there’s a similarly urgent need for a basic code of ethical conduct in today’s world. We did have to do quite a lot of work refining the original Tibetan into 16 universal words that everyone can remember and relate to. This is why we say that the 16 Guidelines are inspired by the 16 Human Dharmas - because our 16 words can never fully represent the subtlety of the original text. But the essence is there. And our 16 words will never go out of date – they’re at the heart of what it means to be a good-hearted human being, in any century, country or situation. How are these Guidelines related to the concept of Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom? [NB: this replaces the label Essential Education]


Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom is a system of inner development that enables people of all ages, cultures and traditions to lead a happy and meaningful life and to be of service to others. In the mid to longer term, we hope that the 16 Guidelines will be just one of many practical programs that take these aims forward. The original vision for Universal Education came from the late Lama Thubten Yeshe. He spoke about the importance of ‘changing the clothes’ that Buddhism wears to make it more accessible to a modern audience, of bringing science and spirituality back together, and of the key role played by teachers and role models. This is very close to the vision shared by HH The Dalai Lama in books such as Ethics for the New Millennium, The Universe in a Single Atom, and Beyond Religion. We try to reference all these ideas in the 16 Guidelines program, particularly when we run training workshops. In the 16 Guidelines, there are four sections – thoughts, actions, relationships and finding life’s meaning. Where does meditation fit into these Guidelines? The four sections provide a philosophical framework for the Guidelines, whereas meditation is one of the most important methods that we introduce for deepening our understanding of them.

Face to Face | 16 Guidelines for a Happy Life

We call the four sections the ‘wisdom themes’, and each one is balanced by a myth. The 16 Guidelines: 4 Wisdom Themes and 4 Myths Wisdom Themes


1. How we think

The way we use our mind determines the way we live

I can’t! It’s impossible!

2. How we act

Every skilful action makes a better world

Nothing I do will make a difference

3. How we relate to others

To take care of others is to take care of ourselves

Look after No.1

4. How we find meaning

If everything is changing, anything is possible

Nothing ever changes round here

When you see the wisdom themes and myths together, it’s clear that many of the key aspects of Buddhist philosophy and psychology can be introduced within this framework. And the great thing is, I’ve never found anyone, whether people of other faiths, or hard-nosed business people, who disagrees with them, because they’re supported by logic and reason. In fact, business people often recognize and relate to the myths as obstacles that they face within their staff teams. How do you apply these Guidelines in one’s daily lives so that they do not just remain as nice sounding words without practical value? Ah, that’s the nub of the issue! If we don’t apply the Guidelines in our daily lives, what’s the point?! One of the best tools we’ve come up with is the 16 Guidelines playing cards. There’s one per guideline, and we encourage everyone to pick a card each day, motivate in the morning to apply that guideline, and check up again before we go to sleep. Many of us have found this life-changing, because each of the simple words functions as a portal to whatever compassion and wisdom we already have inside. We also carry the cards around with us and pick one at random when a challenging situation comes up. The insights this brings can be extraordinary. It takes you right back to basic values in the middle of a hectic day, and challenges you to behave in a different way. And of course the more our international community uses the Guidelines, the more ideas come up on how to make them applicable to modern life.

Are there specific situations where these Guidelines have been applied successfully? After over 70 workshops in 23 different countries, nearly all by local invitation, we get a lot of positive feedback. Some people tell us about the difference that the Guidelines have made to them on a personal level. We got an email out of the blue from a man in Thailand earlier this year, who said that he’d found the Guidelines online and they had helped him at a particularly difficult and despairing moment of his life. That made my day. Other people take the Guidelines into their professional work – in schools, colleges, hospices, hospitals, prisons and businesses. We’ve not been able to keep up with everyone, so we’ve just launched an international survey to try and find out the scope of what’s actually going on. We’re happy for people who’ve been on our training workshops to think global and act local, adapting the Guidelines to the needs they see directly around them. For example, in Mexico City, Brenda Tapia teamed up with a child psychologist to develop a project for street children, which has been so successful that she’s now setting up her own nonprofit, using the 16 Guidelines as one of her core programs. In Ontario Canada, Craig Mackie took them into his work in a residential center for young people with addictions. There are also some great success stories in South East Asia. Losang Dragpa Centre in Kuala Lumpur is in the fourth year of a popular program called ‘Dharma


Face to Face | 16 Guidelines for a Happy Life

for Kids’ which presents the Guidelines to children aged 5- 12 years, blending it with Buddhist teachings and traditions and using all kinds of fun exercises and games. We’ve also run two workshops for the 40 senior managers of a major retail company in the region, with the CEO saying she was “100% happy” with the results, particularly in the area of teambuilding. New stories come in to us all the time, and we feature them in our newsletters and on The Guidelines are really universal in values rather than specifically Buddhist – has it received much acceptance in the non-Buddhist world? We’ve already got some facilitators with Christian and Muslim backgrounds on the team, and have run activities in a church and for mixed groups of religious leaders. However because the 16 Guidelines are genuinely suitable for people of any faith or none, they go beyond inter-religious or inter-faith work, and even beyond the religious/secular divide. I’m happy when religious practitioners find the Guidelines helpful in understanding or applying their own traditions, but even happier when we reach people who aren’t getting any kind of spiritual teachings or support. Do you think it is more effective to impart these Guidelines to young children than to adults whose minds may already be too contaminated with the “Me first” philosophy?


Both are necessary – and you could say that when someone has a strong ‘Me first’ philosophy, then it’s the perfect moment to apply the antidote of the Guidelines. As the Dalai Lama often says, being kind to others is the most effective way of looking after your own interests, and our experience is that people aren’t stupid, and get that point very quickly. Having said that, working with young children is clearly a priority, because they are at a very receptive moment when they are creating habits for the rest of their lives, both psychologically and physically, in terms of neuro-plasticity, the way their brain develops. We’ve also got some lovely stories of young children introducing the guidelines to their parents, for example at mealtimes or in the car on the way back from school. On one occasion, the parents of a small child reported that he spontaneously sang a song about Guideline #2, which is Patience, to calm the family during a delay at the airport! Are the 16 Guidelines endorsed by any contemporary spiritual masters such as His Holiness the Dalai Lama? Lama Zopa Rinpoche has been working closely with us over the years. He’s nearly completed a new translation of the original Tibetan text, which may lead to a minor revision of the 16 Guidelines books and program. We’ll wait until after that’s been done before presenting it to The Dalai Lama. It’s still early days – five years is nothing, in dharma terms! I’d also like to present the Guidelines to spiritual masters

Face to Face | 16 Guidelines for a Happy Life

from other traditions, such as Desmond Tutu, who we adopted as the role model for Guideline #10, which is Forgiveness. Is the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom established to promote just the 16 Guidelines? The particular niche we see for the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom is to offer the best possible training and support to the ‘community educators’ who want to take Universal Education for Compassion and Wisdom out into the world. The 16 Guidelines have been so popular that we can’t see the program fading away, but in other ways it’s no more than an appetizer. We’ve now started work on three major new training programs: on Secular Ethics; How to Develop a Good Heart; and the Science of the Mind. Quite close to the Three Principal Aspects of the Path, you may notice! Learning from our experience with the 16 Guidelines, we’re putting together a team of Buddhist scholars with long-term experience of sharing the dharma with modern audiences in a non-dogmatic way. Their task is to create a set of top quality manuals for the new programs, testing them out as they go with a focus group of community educators. If you imagine an iceberg, for the next 3-5 years this development work will be going on under the water, and the 16 Guidelines and other Universal Education programs such as Creating Compassionate Cultures, Transformative Mindfulness and The Potential Project will be what you see above the water. On the one hand the R & D work is frustrating, because we see so much urgent need for Universal Education in the world, but on the other hand, our teachers have warned us that this is the work of many generations. The creation of these new programs will also depend on the success of a fundraising appeal that we’re launching next year. Perhaps you can tell us how you got involved with these 16 Guidelines, and how have they have transformed your life?

When Lama Zopa Rinpoche asked me to set up the Foundation for Developing Compassion and Wisdom in 2004, I flew to California as soon as I could to seek his advice face to face. I was surprised and even a little disappointed when all he talked about was the 16 Human Dharmas. They seemed rather obvious and even banal to me, compared to his profound teachings on subjects such as emptiness. So I experienced quite a lot of resistance in my mind. It was only when I began to apply them to my own mind and daily life that I saw how transformative they can be. I think my favorite is still guideline #1, humility. In many ways humility seems counter-cultural to succeeding in today’s world, and it was never something I’d thought about very much. When I did, I realized that humility is the starting point of knowledge – how can you learn anything if you think you know it already? – and it’s also the fast track to peace of mind. For example, I used to feel nervous at large gatherings or parties, but now I’ve realized it was only because of pride - wanting to be witty, popular and respected. I now try to consciously remember humility before entering the room, and it takes all my fears away. Humility also enables me to ask for help more often, and to be more alert to the qualities of other people. It’s done wonders for my relationships, both at work and at home. A few years ago, the CEO of a corporation that has been giving us financial support asked if I could develop a half-day workshop on humility for his senior managers. He felt that their ego was getting in the way of their performance. I ran the workshop in both London and Singapore to an initially reluctant but then enthusiastic group, and I’m sure the reason it went so well is because I was speaking from personal experience. The success of the Guidelines is mainly due to the growing number of us who’ve tasted their transformative power for ourselves, and want to share that with other people who are suffering. EH For details on the 16 Guidelines, please visit or FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO!}!68

Teachings | Mindfulness Practices in Western Psychology?

FORUM: In this issue, we have this common question asked by many readers: “Some people claim to see the apparition of their departed ones within seven days of their relatives’ death. How to explain this phenomenon according to the teaching of each tradition, or is it just wishful thinking and psychological?” We invited three of our panelists to provide their response:

We are creatures of habit—an automatic pattern of behavior in reaction to a specific situation. According to Buddhist teachings, things happen due to causes and conditions, and not by mere chance. Probably the most significant conditioning factor of a habit is our perception, which is in turn largely the result of cultural, social and religious influences.

Bhante Aggacitta is the founder and abbot of the Sāsanārakkha Buddhist Sanctuary (SBS) near Taiping, Perak, Malaysia

Although not explicitly stated in the Pāli scriptures, it is a popular, deep-rooted Chinese belief that the spirit of the deceased will linger around its haunts for a period of one to seven weeks before eventually taking proper rebirth in a suitable realm of existence. Thus, both the living and the deceased can be deeply conditioned by this cultural-religious belief—the living perceive the apparition because they expect to, while the spirit of the deceased lingers around because it believes that that is the way it should be. This seems to be rather psychological in nature, yet it is also kammic as well, for holding on to a belief—or anything else whether abstract (e.g. an idea, a responsibility), animate (e.g. a loved one) or inanimate (e.g. wealth)—is an action (kamma) rooted in greed, hatred or delusion, which will ripen accordingly. Therefore, the Buddha said: Similarly, monks, whatever action is done out of greed, hatred or delusion ... will ripen wherever the individual is reborn; and wherever the action ripens, there the individual experiences the fruit, be it in this life, or in the next life, or in subsequent future lives. N


(AN 3.34)

Trans. Bhikkhu Bodhi, 2012. The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha,Boston, Wisdom Publications.


Teachings | Mindfulness Practices in Western Psychology?

Chinese Buddhism generally accepts the existence of an ‘intermediate state’ (zhong you 中有, zhong yin 中阴, antarabhava, bardo in Tibetan). When a person dies, he may take immediate rebirth but most go through an intermediate state between the two lives. The intermediate state may last for as long as 49 days. This teaching probably originated from the Abhidharmakosha by Vasubandhu.

Venerable Wei Wu is the founder of the International Buddhist College, Thailand, and Abbot of Than Hsiang Temple, Penang.

It is however very unlikely those who claim to see the apparition of their departed ones within seven days of their relatives’ death are seeing the appearance of the deceased person in the intermediate state. Only a spiritually developed practitioner is able to do so. It is the strong attachment to the departed ones that creates this illusion. It is like the analogy of dreaming of a person whom one is very strongly attached to. On a related matter, some people seek the help of spiritual mediums to communicate with a deceased relative; they are normally superstitious and have no proper religious faith. In most if not all cases, they are cheated by another being in the preta (hungry ghost) realm or the spiritual medium himself who pretends to be the deceased and requests for offerings. A preta being has lower merits as compared to a human but he can make use of certain powers he possesses to cheat these superstitious people. A good Buddhist can perform dana and other meritorious deeds and transfer these merits to the deceased relative who may take rebirth in any one of the six realms.

I have not seen any scriptural text discussing this particular topic but I have heard various explanations reportedly spoken by the great cultivators.

Geshe Tsundu is the resident teacher of the Losang Dragpa Buddhist Society in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.

One account goes this way: There are 6 realm sentient beings, one of which is the preta realm, which relates to those formless beings whose main suffering is that of extreme attachment and neediness. Such preta beings live alongside the human realm. When a person passes away, the family becomes vary sad and willing to do anything to “comfort” the deceased. Being sensitive to this, a preta in the area (not the deceased person) is able to deceive a grieving family by taking on the appearance of the deceased person. Reasons for this are unclear. (Perhaps it is to request for offerings or prayers to alleviate the suffering of this preta being). Another account is that sometimes, the person who passes away is greatly attached to the family and this attachment prevents them from being able to gain a quick rebirth. Conversely, it is possible that the family have so much attachment that they “see” an image of the deceased when they are merely locked in an attachment-frame of mind. Whatever the reason for one to see such appearances, it is best to maintain at all times, a sense of great compassion for all beings, especially those who have passed away and to dedicate one’s compassion, prayers and good deeds to all beings that they gain the optimum human rebirth, meet the Dharma and accomplish the Path quickly. EH


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BOOKS IN BRIEF Shambhala Publications, Inc 300 Massachusetts Avenue Boston, MA 02115, USA (Snow Lion Publications is now part of the Shambhala Group)

The Karmapa Orgyen Trinley Dorje. The Heart is Noble. Changing the World from the Inside Out. 2013. pp 191. US$21.95 In this book, The Karmapa invites us to participate in a global community based on compassion. He shares his vision for bringing social action into daily life, on a scale we can realistically manage through the choices we make every day—what to buy, what to eat, and how to relate honestly and bravely with our friends, family and co-workers. His fresh and encouraging perspective shows us that we have the strength to live with kindness in the midst of the many challenges we face as socially and environmentally conscious beings. As we are all interdependent beings, he believes humans can change social and environmental problems by changing their attitudes and actions. And so, he shows ways that we can change our world by changing ourselves—by examining our own habits of consumption and by being willing to look into how our food reaches our table and how the products we buy are made. EH

Harvey Aronson. Buddhist Practice on Western Ground. Reconciling Eastern Ideals and Western Psychology. 2004, pp 253. US$14.95 Dr Aronson offers us a comprehensive and sympathetic examination of the differences between Asian and Western cultural and spiritual values. He presents a constructive and practical assessment of common conflicts experienced by Westerners who look to Eastern spiritual traditions for guidance and support—and find themselves confused or disappointed. Issues addressed include Western cultural belief that anger should not be suppressed versus the Buddhist teaching to counter anger and hatred, and the Western emphasis on individuality versus the Asian emphasis on interdependence and fulfillment of duties, and the Buddhist teachings on no-self. He also compared the Western psychotherapists’ advice that attachment is the basis for healthy personal development and supportive relationships versus the Buddhist condemnation of attachments as the source of suffering. EH

Anne Carolyn Klein. Heart Essence of the Vast Expanse. A Story of Transmission. 2003. pp 122. US$18.95 This is the first-ever chantable English translation of one of the most popular foundational practices from the Longchen Nyingthig. The foundational practices from the Heart Essence transmission that was revealed by Jigme Lingpa have for over three centuries been one of the most widely practiced and beloved gateways to Dzogchen in Tibet. This book


BOOKS IN BRIEF includes a CD of the Jigme Lingpa and Adzom Paylo Ngondro sung in Tibetan by Jetsun Kacho Wangmo, and of the Dawn Mountain Sangha as well as a trained vocalist, singing the same melody in chantable English. The book also includes 98 color photographs of sacred sites, persons, and icons related with the Heart Essence transmission in Tibet. The compilation of texts, story, history, music, and commentaries in this book helps the practitioner more fully understand the elements of practice. EH

New Harbinger Publications 5674 Shattuck Avenue Oakland, CA 94609

Jon Kabat Zinn & Richard Davidson. The Mind’s Own Physician. A Scientific Dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the Healing Power of Meditation. 2011. pp 268. US$24.95 Jon Kabat-Zinn and Richard J. Davidson invited the Dalai Lama and leading researchers in medicine, psychology, and neuroscience to join in discussions addressing many vital questions concerning the science and clinical applications of meditation. This book addresses how meditation influence pain and human suffering, the role that the brain plays in emotional well-being and health, to what extent our minds can actually influence physical disease, whether there are important synergies for transforming health care, and an understanding of our own evolutionary limitations as a species. The research findings here have shed light on the nature of the mind, its capacity to refine itself through training, and its role in physical and emotional health. EH

Rick Hanson. The Buddha’s Brain. The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom. 2009. pp 251. US$17.95 Buddha’s Brain is a book of practical tools and skills for use in our daily life to tap the unused potential of the brain and rewire it over time for greater peace and well-being. According to Dr Hanson, our brain is the bodily organ that most affects who we are and our experience of living – so learning how to take good care of it, and strengthen and direct it in ways that will help us the most is a profound gift to ourselves, and to everyone else whose life we touch. He also shows readers how to have greater emotional balance in turbulent times, as well as healthier relationships, more effective actions, and a deeper religious or spiritual practice. Buddha’s Brain is now being published in 23 languages throughout the world. EH


EQ for Life Dharma Aftermath

by Rasika Quek

Why is Right Emotion apparently not part of the spiritual practice in the Noble Eightfold Path? Does this mean that emotional maturity is less important compared to the development of the intellect or insight? The omission of emotions in the practice is only on the surface. If we look at Right Mindfulness which is about the development of awareness, we find that contemplation of feelings is part of the Four Foundations of Mindfulness. If we are to believe what has been written about EQ and IQ according to contemporary research, EQ is just as important if not more important than IQ. Successful leaders have both high EQ and IQ levels. On the other hand, our education system, including Dhamma classes, tends to tip the emphasis towards the acquisition of knowledge rather than preparing the individual to be life-ready which should include EQ skills. However, too much or too little of anything can be counter-productive. Men and women are different in terms of emotional make-up. Women have no problems speaking to each other about how they really feel inside. But men tend to keep their feelings to themselves and often suffer silently. Women tend to have long memories about people whom they dislike whilst men tend to be ambivalent about social relationships, preferring not to discuss things too intimately. They tend to reserve their emotions for the political and corporate arenas. So how should both genders achieve some semblance of emotional balance? Women tend to have more emotional depth and are more at home with being “inclusive” with those they relate to. However, this emotional depth can be a problem as well. Women can be quite unforgiving if you cross them. Remember “hell hath known no fury as a woman’s scorn?” Men tend to lack emotional depth and draw boundaries so that the span of their emotional attentions is neatly compartmentalized. They do not like displaying their emotions freely to those outside their zone of comfort. Men do not rank emotional intensity as that important compared to women. However, both men and women do use emotional blackmail to achieve what they want, in their careers, family life and so on. So does achieving emotional balance mean men becoming more like women and women being more detached like men? That would be too simplistic but the argument has some merits. Consider the ying and yang dichotomy and how balance is achieved.


So what then is emotional maturity? Feelings like most other things cannot be bottled up. Like the song says, “let your love shine.” But does it apply to showing your indignation instantly and saying exactly how you feel even if it hurts someone? This is where the advice to Sigala by the Great Sage comes in - when the actions that are to be performed are censured by the wise and cause harm to ourselves as well as others, these things should be avoided. So emotional maturity means knowing when to express our appreciation and indignation at the right time so as not to cause a misunderstanding or breakdown in the relationship. It also means choosing loving-kindness over fear. When we choose “love”, our thoughts, speech and actions will be conditioned by it. When we choose fear or limiting thoughts, we will be conditioned or constrained by the self-limiting beliefs that we set. Everything we see would be good or bad, black or white, wrong or right. We then become 2 dimensional rather than multi-dimensional beings we were meant to be. From the religious angle, we may even see things as either from the Buddhist or non-Buddhist perspective, an obvious artifice. The Great Sage came to this world not with the intention of dividing it conveniently into an us-versus-them or Buddhist versus non-Buddhist dichotomy. As he was free of the illusions of “being” and a permanent unchanging self-entity, he could not be caught in views which are clearly dichotomous and obviously promoting “separation.” Not only did his enlightenment culminate in insight and wisdom, it brought with it the emotional maturity cultivated through the practice of the ten perfections over the ages. Perfection does not come with wisdom alone. It has to come with emotional maturity, often times called compassion - allowing others to work out their choices, good or bad but caring enough to listen and extend a helping hand when the going gets rough and help is required. Looking at the religious strife in the central region of a neighboring Buddhist nation, one wonders why emotional empathy and wisdom has taken leave of the senses of so-called “religious” people. Not by labels alone, is one a religious person. Without the development of insight and emotional maturity, one is simply not “religious”, regardless of whether he comes from Malaysia or otherwise, wearing layman’s clothes or a monk’s robes. We should not be deceived by superficial labels and what is merely symbolic in the world. May all beings be free from strife and have the emotional maturity to actualize an even better life for themselves and all! EH Rasika Quek 30 March 2013 75!}!FBTUFSO!IPSJ[PO

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