Saturday, July 7, 2012

How much Land does a Man need?

When I was in Form1, our literature class involved studying "Short stories by Leo Tolstoy". . . One story had a particularly huge impact on me, though as a 13 years old lad, I did not at that time understand its full meaning. Neither did I have any idea of the author's philosophies or spiritual beliefs. A full 40 years had passed, and I still recollect this story every so often and admire the moral lesson it tried so hard to impart to us. LEO Tolstoy, in his short story entitled 'How Much Land Does a Man Need?', tells the tale of Pahom, a poor peasant who overhears his wife and her sister arguing the merits of farm life versus city life. Pahom boasts to himself that if he had just enough land he would not even fear the Devil. The Devil, of course, hears this and decides to take advantage of Pahom’s greed. Soon land becomes available, and Pahom succeeds in buying some of it. At first he believes that he is happy and loves the life of living off the land. But it was not long before Pahom became dissatisfied with what he had. He wanted more....... . . . So, he buys more and more land, never being satisfied with what he has. Until one day, a travelling dealer tells Pahom about the region of the Bashkirs, where fertile land is available at low prices. The Bashkirs welcome him and agree to sell, for a thousand roubles, as much land as he can walk off in a day, as long as he returns to his starting point before sunset, or he will lose everything. . . Pahom walks very far out, and every time he wanted to stop and turn back, he saw that the land just ahead was rich and fertile. So he walked just that much further. Again and again, this scenario was repeated and, finally as he is heading back, realises that the sun is setting fast and that he may not reach the starting point in time, hence losing everything. He runs as fast as he can, but the running proves to be too much for his age and health. Just as he reaches the starting point, Pahom collapses and dies. . . So, how much land does a man need? Tolstoy answers: “Six feet from his feet to his head!” . . . . In his Confession (1879), Tolstoy describes how during his spiritual crisis he turned to religious thinkers in the hope of finding answers to his questions about the meaning of life. At this point, he found in the life and teaching of Buddha confirmation of his current state of mind. Like the Buddha, Tolstoy saw death, suffering, sickness and old age everywhere and felt that he could not simply forget about it or go through life ignoring it. He quotes: "It is impossible to live in the consciousness that suffering, weakening, old age and death are inevitable; we must free ourselves from life, from all possibility of life." Tolstoy found in the Buddha's teaching positive models for moral behavior, ones that he found kindred. In Tolstoy's later attempts to produce edifying literature that was accessible to all, Tolstoy edited, translated, and composed a number of pieces about the Buddha and his teachings. He found in the Buddha's example and teachings an expression of principles that he held most dear: of selfless love and of non-violence.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


Interesting Moral lesson that I learnt from Ajahn Brahm today as I listened to his talks on my Car's MP3 player: Do NOT marry a Beautiful girl for her Beauty is ONLY Transient, Marry instead a Girl who is a GREAT cook and you will have Beautiful food your whole Life! When a person is NOT physically "Beautiful", he/she will develop the other aspects of his/her life; a Beautiful character perhaps, a good heart, a great cook, aspects which will last for many2 years while Physical Beauty is transient! My Point: If you have a beautiful Boyfriend/Girlfriend who is also a great cook with Beautiful character and a good heart, you are either very2 lucky or you are DREAMING!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Can we?

Can we be one of those rare Buddhists whose very presence incites others to be better Buddhists?

I remember The late Chief Venerable Dhammananda said that in half a century of Dhammaduta work he had NOT tried to convert any other people of other faiths to Buddhism but merely tried hard to make Buddhists BETTER Buddhists!

I loved that declaration.

Friday, January 20, 2012


Dear Dr Wong

Do you have explanation for this?
"You find God the moment you realize that you don't need to seek God." ~Eckhart Tolle


Dear Bro,

the problem is the word "God"!

The God-Being

The cultural association is when this word is used, it refers to some Old Man who looks like Zeus staring down from the sky. If you did not know, the image of Zeus was the prototype 'model' for many2 paintings.

So the word in popular thinking refers to a Being, a Person with a Personality who can be pleased, happy, angry, vengeful or simply bored.

So if you are to go around looking for such a Being, then depending on your culture and religious background, you will find him in that particular context.

The Impersonal World of Physics

Then there is the "God" that Einstein referred to when he said that "God does not play dice";

That almost sounds like Einstein is attributing the laws of the universe to a god of some sort. But what type of god? A personal deity or some impersonal force?

To a Colorado banker who wrote and asked him the God question, Einstein responded:

“I cannot conceive of a personal God who would directly influence the actions of individuals or would sit in judgment on creatures of his own creation. My religiosity consists of a humble admiration of the infinitely superior spirit that reveals itself in the little that we can comprehend about the knowable world. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior reasoning power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible universe, forms my idea of God.”

The most famous Einstein pronouncement on God came in the form of a telegram, in which he was asked to answer the question in 50 words or less. He did it in 32:

“I believe in Spinoza’s God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind.”
this is NOT a person or a being but the impersonal way that nature works that exists above time constraints.

In a letter, dated June 14, 1945, sent from the USS Bougainville in the Pacific Ocean, a Navy staff Raner recounts a conversation he had on the ship with a Jesuit-educated Catholic officer who claimed that Einstein converted from atheism to theism when he was confronted by a Jesuit priest with three irrefutable syllogisms: “The syllogisms were: A design demands a designer; The universe is a design; therefore there must have been a designer.”

Raner countered the Catholic officer by noting that cosmology and evolutionary theory adequately explain most apparent design in the world, “but even if there was a ‘designer,’ that would give only a re-arranger, not a creator; and again assuming a designer, you are back where you started by being forced to admit a designer of the designer etc. etc. Same as the account of the earth resting on an elephant’s back — elephant standing on a giant turtle; turtle on turtle on turtle, etc.”

At this point in his life Einstein was world-famous and routinely received hundreds of such letters, many from prominent scholars and scientists, so for him to write a lowly ensign aboard a ship in the middle of the Pacific Ocean reveals how much this story got his goat. On July 2, 1945, Einstein fired back:

"I received your letter of June 10th. I have never talked to a Jesuit priest in my life and I am astonished by the audacity to tell such lies about me. From the viewpoint of a Jesuit priest I am, of course, and have always been an atheist. Your counter-arguments seem to me very correct and could hardly be better formulated. It is always misleading to use anthropomorphical concepts in dealing with things outside the human sphere — childish analogies. We have to admire in humility and beautiful harmony of the structure of this world — as far as we can grasp it. And that is all".

Four years later, in 1949, Raner wrote Einstein again, asking for clarification: “Some people might interpret (your letter) to mean that to a Jesuit priest, anyone not a Roman Catholic is an atheist, and that you are in fact an orthodox Jew, or a Deist, or something else. Did you mean to leave room for such an interpretation, or are you from the viewpoint of the dictionary an atheist; i.e., ‘one who disbelieves in the existence of a God, or a Supreme Being?’”
Einstein responded on September 28, 1949:

"I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one. You may call me an agnostic, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being".

let us now reflect on a lesson by Buddhadasa Bhikkhu

..the word "Buddha" in everyday language refers to the historical Enlightened Being, Gotama Buddha.

... in terms of Dhamma language, however, the word "Buddha" refers to the Truth which the historical Buddha realized and taught,
namely the Dhamma itself.

The Buddha said
"One who sees the Dhamma sees the Tathagatha. One who sees the Tathagatha sees the Dhamma.
One who sees not the Dhamma, though grasping at the robe of the Tathagatha, cannot be said to have seen the Tathagatha. "

..so in Dhamma language, the Buddha is the one and the same as that Truth by virtue of which He became the Buddha, and anyone who sees that Truth can be said to have seen the true Buddha .

To see just His physical body would not be to see the Buddha at
all and would bring no real benefit.

Again, the Buddha said, "The Dhamma and the Vinaya .... shall be your teacher when I have passed away."

Thus the real "Buddha" has not passed away, has not ceased
to exist.
What ceased to exist was just the physical body, the outer shell..

The real teacher, that is the Dhamma-Vinaya is still with us.

......The Buddha of everyday language is the physical man,

the "Buddha" of Dhamma language is the Dhamma itself,

which made him Buddha.

...the word "Dhamma" was used to refer to all of the intricate and involved things that go to make up what we call "Nature".

The word embraces:

1. Nature itself
2. The Law of Nature
3. The duty of each human being to act in accordance with the Law of Nature
4. The benefits to be derived from acting in accordance with the Law of Nature

It does not simply refer to books .. or the voices of Preachers.

...........In everyday language, "God" refers to a celestial being
with various creative powers.

The "God" of Dhamma language is rather different.

It is a profound and hidden power, which is neither human being, nor celestial being, nor any other kind of being.

It has no individuality or self, and it is impersonal.
It is natural and intangible.
It is what we call the Law of Nature, for this Law is responsible
for creation and for the coming into existence of all beings..
Natural Law governs all things.
Natural Law has power over all things.

Hence in Dhamma language, the word "God" means among other things, the Law of Nature, what Buddhists call "Dhamma".

Dhamma, just that one single word, implies all of the Law of Nature.

So Dhamma is the Buddhist "God".

Extracted from "Two kinds of language: Everyday language and
Dhamma language "

a talk given on 8 Oct 1966


So Bro Heng, when one stops looking for that Personal Big Brother "God", and opens one's mind, one will see the Truths of Nature ALL AROUND us; Impermanence, DisSatisfaction, NonSelf and Dependent Origination.

Stop seeking for a Being, Open one's Mind and Truth as in Dhamma, as in the Principles of Physics is ALL AROUND for us to see and know!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

A Question of Personal Vs Universal Love

Dear Bro Koh,

I have over the years being asked this many2 a time, so the Question is Not new and my answer well rehearsed.

"I wonder how one justifies Prince Siddhartha abandoning his responsibility of love as a husband, father and prince to the different relationships he had in the love to seek the solution to end human's suffering and find the path to Enlightenment? Is there a higher good love that compels the sacrifice?"

The Buddha's wife: Yasodhara

Many people do not realise that this name is NOT even mentioned once in the Canon. The name is found in the later commentaries and biographies.

According to the biographies which were written much later, Yasodhara, his friend and cousin, was Siddhartha's wife of 13 years.

They married at 16, which was the caste custom among nobles in Kapilavastu and lived in luxury.

Siddhartha had dancing girls and female musicians and guards attending to his every whim. But ensconced in a saccharine life of sensual pleasures by his father, who was keeping him distracted from the real nature of life, the harsh realities of Aging, Sickness and Death came as a big eye opener to Siddhartha.

He was catapulted on a Quest to find an end to suffering not just for his wife, child, family, friends, BUT the entire world and all the realms of Gods, Ghosts and unseen beings (life not being limited to this tiny planet). His love for his family is great, but his love for ALL Beings is even greater.

Much of the stories of his life is based on the biographies when tended to make the story Dramatic for theatrical effect, we all think that Yasodhara was not consulted when he left home, that she was abandoned in haste. BUT Why would Siddhartha not consult his friend, spouse, lover, partner, cousin, and parents before setting off to fulfill his life's mission?

The story tales tell of him sneaking off in the middle of the night BUT this is NOT what the canon says! Tellingly, his last act in the palace was not of someone evading responsibility and definitely NOT of one who sneaked in and stared at his wife and newborn, who were sleeping soundly.

Many hastily assumed that Siddhartha coldly disappeared without telling anyone anything. This is completely mistaken. It is quite obvious that he did discuss his plans with his family on what he was doing. In the Majjhima Nikaya, the Buddha described in his own words that "Before my Awakening, when I was still an unawakened Bodhisatta, the thought occurred to me: 'Household life is confining, a dusty path. Life gone forth is the open air. It isn't easy, living in a home, to practice the holy life totally perfect, totally pure, a polished shell. What if I, having shaved off my hair & beard and putting on the ochre robe, were to go forth from the household life into homelessness?'

"So at a later time, when I was still young, black-haired, endowed with the blessings of youth in the first stage of life, having shaved off my hair & beard — though my parents wished otherwise and were grieving with tears on their faces — I put on the ochre robe and went forth from the home life into homelessness."
It is clear that his family were in full knowledge of his plans.

And Yasodhara was not left alone to live and raise their child. She had servants, friends, family, riches, entertainments, companions, and parents very interested in how Rahula their son -- now the heir to the kingdom -- was brought up.

Another point which is beyond the comprehension of most people is that from the records of the past lives of the Buddha, Yasodhara and he were together for aeons of time, from the very day when he made a vow to train to be a Fully Enlightened Being at the time of Dipankara Buddha (many3 Big Bangs and Big Bounces ago) to the present; she had been married to and a faithful companion of the Bodhisatta (the-Buddha-to-be) many times over unimaginably vast number of previous lives, she having vowed that she will support him no matter what the conditions are till he became a Buddha.

We may further not be able to understand it as we judge from our own culture and its values, but in India 2600 years ago one's spirituality trumps all other commitments and concerns. Far from encouraging selfishness, this position benefits oneself, others, and both (i.e., the community). Many also do Not realise that becoming a recluse to seek the truths of life at that time is NOT the manner of a few eccentric fellas BUT the way to further education akin to you and I leaving home to seek a university education. The ascetics were the Intellects of that era who learnt from Elders, debated and Questioned the establishment, and lived in small cohorts seeking the answers to life.

For anyone who ever thinks to misspeak and say,"The Buddha abandoned his wife!" I beg your indulgence to first see the reality of the situation 2600 years ago and not fall into the trap of popular folklore and hearsay. Also please note that as soon as Siddhartha accomplished his Quest -- which was not simply to wake up but to establish an Order that would perpetuate the liberating-truth of the path to enlightenment that we can all follow without being dependent on him -- he returned to teach his former wife Yasodhara and family members.