Tuesday, April 28, 2009
The path of pride
leads only to suffering.
The man who silently hides his arrogance
is on the road to hell
as surely as the man
all bloated up by pride.
Seek instead the happiness
of a peaceful heart.
to realize the three knowledges.
True success can only come
when arrogance is subdued.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
I gave it a thought.
"Love" I said.
Love has been the central theme for me this quarter (so far at least). It has been my running theme, there with me at every possible moment.
Two aspects that Love has changed my life:
1) I have learned how to be present and listen deeply. Really, to love is to understand the person you are with - to truly feel what the person is feeling, to see what the person is seeing. Superficial understanding is not enough. It's inadequate for me to just nod my head and say "Mmm... I understand what you mean". I delve deeply, truly feeling what the person is saying, going under the person's skin, becoming the person myself. It makes a HUGE difference. Try it. It really does.
2) I have learned how to embrace my negative emotions and care for them, gradually transforming them with love. When unskillful states of mind, such as anger, greed and jealousy arises, I no longer suppress them nor let them overwhelm me. I am just there for them, aware of them, and gradually transform these energies into love and compassion. By understanding the emotion and the person I am angry at, am jealous for, these negative energies gradually change into positive ones. It works wonders.
Sometimes of course, I can't handle this by myself, and this is where the support of loving friends come in. I realize that I am so blessed to have the support of friends and family all this while. I am eternally indebted to them. You know who you are , and if you are reading this, THANK YOU.
It is so important to have a community built on love, where people are truly there for each other. To be there for each other, for no other reason than to be there, that's what support really means.
This has been an amazing quarter, it truly has been. Everything becomes so much meaningful when you embrace them with love. Relationships have become closer, so much deeper. I have made new meaningful relationships, reforged old ones and am so grateful for that. The world becomes a much more beautiful place. The simple things in life bring joy to my heart.
Some time ago, I commented on how wishy-washy love is, such a sappy, fake concept. I thought that people just pretended to love, but really, it's because they wanted something from each other.
"There is no room for love in the strife for success." - Adrian Lim, SMDJ school canteen, 2004
Interesting how things change. This has been one of the most satisfying quarters I've had. With all my heart, it has been. Will it continue this way? Who knows? But I don't worry any more. Dwell in the present I do. For now, I am truly happy.
Thank you Love.
Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.
Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honor, when thou dost embrace her.
She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.
Hear, O my son, and receive my sayings; and the years of thy life shall be many.
I have taught thee in the way of wisdom; I have led thee in right paths.
When thou goest, thy steps shall not be straitened; and when thou runnest, thou shalt not stumble.
Take fast hold of instruction; let her not go: keep her; for she is thy life.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Friday, April 24, 2009
Aware of the suffering created by fanaticism and intolerance, I am determined not to be idolatrous about or bound to any doctrine, theory or ideology. Teachings are guiding means to help me learn to look deeply and to develop my understanding and compassion. They are not doctrines to fight, kill or die for.
2. Non-attachment to Views
Aware of suffering created by attachment to views and wrong perceptions, I am determined to avoid being narrow-minded and bound to present views. I will learn and practice non-attachment from views in order to be open to others’ insights and experiences. I am aware that the knowledge I presently possess is not changeless, absolute truth. Truth is found in life and I will observe life within and around me in every moment, ready to learn throughout my life.
3. Freedom of Thought
Aware of the suffering brought about when I impose my views on others, I am committed not to force others, even my children, by any means whatsoever – such as authority, threat, money, propaganda or indoctrination – to adopt my views. I will respect the right of others to be different and to choose what to believe and how to decide. I will, however, help others renounce fanaticism and narrowness through compassionate dialogue.
4. Awareness of Suffering
Aware that looking deeply at the nature of suffering can help me develop compassion and find ways out of suffering, I am determined not to avoid or close my eyes before suffering. I am committed to finding ways, including personal contact, images and sounds, to be with those who suffer, so I can understand their situation deeply and help them transform their suffering into compassion, peace and joy.
5. Simple, Healthy Living
Aware that true happiness is rooted in peace, solidity, freedom and compassion, and not in wealth or fame, I am determined not to take as the aim of my life fame, profit, wealth or sensual pleasure, nor to accumulate wealth while millions are hungry and dying. I am committed to living simply and sharing my time, energy and material resources with those in real need. I will practice mindful consuming, not using alcohol, drugs or any other products that bring toxins into my own and the collective body and consciousness.
6. Dealing with Anger
Aware that anger blocks communication and creates suffering, I am determined to take care of the energy of anger when it arises and to recognise and transform the seeds of anger that lie deep in my consciousness. When anger comes up, I am determined not to do or say anything, but to practice mindful breathing or mindful walking and acknowledge, embrace and look deeply into my anger. I will learn to look with the eyes of compassion on those I think are the cause of my anger.
7. Dwelling Happily in the Present Moment
Aware that life is available only in the present moment and that it is possible to live happily in the here and now, I am committed to training myself to live deeply each moment of daily life. I will try not to lose myself in dispersion or be carried away by regrets about the past, worries about the future, or craving, anger or jealousy in the present. I will practice mindful breathing to come back to what is happening in the present moment. I am determined to learn the art of mindful living by touching the wondrous, refreshing and healing elements that are inside and around me, and by nourishing seeds of joy, peace, love and understanding in myself, thus facilitating the work of transformation and healing in my consciousness.
8. Community and Communication
Aware that lack of communication always brings separation and suffering, I am committed to training myself in the practice of compassionate listening and loving speech. I will learn to listen deeply without judging or reacting and refrain from uttering words that can create discord or cause the community to break. I will make every effort to keep communications open and to reconcile and resolve all conflicts, however small.
9. Truthful and Loving Speech
Aware that words can create suffering or happiness, I am committed to learning to speak truthfully and constructively, using only words that inspire hope and confidence. I am determined not to say untruthful things for the sake of personal interest or to impress people, nor to utter words that might cause division or hatred. I will not spread news that I do not know to be certain nor criticise or condemn things of which I am not sure. I will do my best to speak out about situations of injustice, even when doing so may threaten my safety.
10. Protecting the community
Aware that the essence and aim of a spiritual community is the practice of understanding and compassion, I am determined not to use the community for personal gain or profit or transform our community into a political instrument. A spiritual community should, however, take a clear stand against oppression and injustice and should strive to change the situation without engaging in partisan conflicts.
11. Right Livelihood
Aware that great violence and injustice have been done to the environment and society, I am committed not to live with a vocation that is harmful to humans and nature. I will do my best to select a livelihood that helps realize my ideal of understanding and compassion. Aware of global economic, political and social realities, I will behave responsibly as a consumer and as a citizen, not investing in companies that deprive others of their chance to live.
12. Reverence for Life
Aware that much suffering is caused by war and conflict, I am determined to cultivate non-violence, understanding and compassion in my daily life, to promote peace education, mindful mediation and reconciliation, within families, communities, nations and in the world. I am determined not to kill and not to let others kill. I will diligently practice deep looking with my community to discover better ways to protect life and prevent war.
Aware of the suffering caused by exploitation, social injustice, stealing and oppression, I am committed to cultivating loving kindness and learning ways to work for the well-being of people, animals, plants and minerals. I will practice generosity by sharing my time, energy and material resources with those who are in need. I am determined not to steal and not to possess anything that should belong to others. I will respect the property of others, but will try to prevent others from profiting from human suffering or the suffering of other beings.
14. Right Conduct
Aware that sexual relations motivated by craving cannot dissipate the feeling of loneliness, but will create more suffering, frustration and isolation, I am determined not to engage in sexual relations without mutual understanding, love and a long-term commitment. In sexual relations, I must be aware of future suffering that may be caused. I know that to preserve the happiness of myself and others, I must respect the rights and commitments of myself and others. I will do everything in my power to protect children from sexual abuse and to protect couples and families from being broken by sexual misconduct. I will treat my body with respect and preserve my vital energies (sexual, breath & spirit) for the realization of my ideal. I will be fully aware of the responsibility for bringing new lives in the world, and will meditate on the world into which we are bringing new beings.
Saturday, April 18, 2009
Friday, April 17, 2009
I open my eyes. What just happened? I had the weirdest dream. Wait, where am I?
It was dark. And quiet. Silence. Thundering silence.
It dawned upon me. I'm at the monastery. Yes, Deerpark monastery. That's where I am. Realizing that, I silently recite a gatha:
Waking up this morning I smile
Twenty-four new hours are before me
I vow to live them with awareness
And to look upon all beings with eyes of
Love and Compassion
I climb down my double bunk bed. As I take my first step of the day, in my heart, I tell myself:
Walking on Earth
Is a miracle!
Each mindful step reveals
The wondrous body of Truth
It was only 5 o'clock in the morning, but already I felt so happy, so energized, so aware of every passing moment, every passing movement.
I slowly walk to the bathroom, making sure I felt each step I took. I turn on the light. Next to the switch, a gatha was posted:
Forgetfulness is the darkness
Mindfulness is the light
I bring awareness
To shine upon all life
What a nice way to remind us to turn off the light, I tell myself. After relieving myself, I went to the sink. I take out my tooth brush and tooth paste. As I brush my teeth, I recite the gatha that was pasted next to the sink:
Brushing my teeth
and rinsing my mouth
I vow to speak
purely and lovingly
When my mouth is fragrant
with right speech
A flower blooms
in the garden of my heart
I think to myself. How often has my speech hurt others? How often have I used harsh words on the people I love? So many times. And why? Because I wasn't aware of myself, wasn't aware of the suffering going on inside me. Now I know, now I am aware. With that, I promised myself that I would try harder to make sure that the words that escape from my lips no longer hurt people.
I look at the mirror, took my wax out and started to get my hair done, when I realize that there was another gatha posted there:
Awareness is a mirror
reflecting the four elements
Beauty is a heart
that generates love
and a mind that is open
To myself, I said, 'Wow, they have poems for everything!' But it made sense, and it always had to me, that true beauty comes not from without, but from within. It's when I forget that truth, that I suffer. I smile. So many lessons to learn.
Completely done with the bathroom, I step back into the bedroom, and change into my clothes. Very simple. Just a t-shirt and a sarong. A sarong! It feels great to wear one again, haven't worn it in a while. My roommate looks at me with a confused look. I chuckle to myself, knowing what he must be thinking. Later. I'll explain to him after breakfast. Right now, let us both observe and enjoy Noble Silence.
I opened the door, stepped outside, slipped into my slippers. As I await my roommate, I take a deep breathe.
The morning air, how refreshing. I felt so alive.
The door opens again. My roommate steps out. He looks at me, and smiles. I understood. It's time.
To the next leg of the journey we walk. Side by side. Step by step.
to be continued...
sangha - Sanskrit for 'community'
gatha - Sanskrit for 'poem'
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
Another highlight of my weekend - watercolor painting! Walked by Emma's while she and Molly were just about to start, and they enthusiastically invited me to join them. I hesitated at first. I hadn't touched a paintbrush for more than 5 years, and I wasn't sure I was about to.
Looking back, I recall not being an artistic person. I dreaded going to art classes in high school (having never scored higher than a D). I remember complaining when mum suggested I go to a ceramics class. I sighed each time my teachers attempted teaching me to read and write poems. Having never been artistic, why should I be now?
But something told me to stop, and give it a try. And I'm so glad I did.
closed my eyes
observed my breath
My mind was calm
an inspiration came
I took my brush
dipped it in paint
each gentle stroke I made
This wonderful painting
brings me back to my true self
The experience was quite wonderful. I started with a blank white sheet of paper. And with each stroke, with each layer of paint added, the painting began to come alive.
I sat and reflected. Life is just like this too. Each of us starts out with a blank sheet. As we go through life, we add the strokes, we add the layers.
I realize the reason I did so badly when painting in the past was that I made things too complicated. I added too much 'stuff' into my paintings, thinking that it would impress others. They always ended up becoming messy, always ended up with dismal grades. Perhaps that reflected upon my life. Messy.
So with this new painting, with this new blank sheet of paper, I tried something else. I painted with my heart. The painting's style was simple, but I like it. Much more so than my previous paintings. And perhaps that reflects my life too. A new life, a simpler lifestyle.
How simple or complicated, how bold or meek, how colorful or drab the painting of your life is, depends on the strokes you've made. You have a choice. What strokes have you chosen? What strokes will you choose from now on? Think about it.
So how did my painting turn out? Haha, I'm definitely no Picasso so bear with me. Here it is:
Tada! My first painting in 5 years and my first blog picture! =)
Sunday, April 12, 2009
sang this song to me as I left.
I was very touched.
I cried with joy.
It's so simple.
it means a lot to me.
No coming, no going
No after, no before
I hold you close to me
I release you to be so free
Because I am in you, and you are in me
Because I am in you, and you are in me
There are no real goodbyes
There are no real endings
Because I am in you
and you are in me
To my Christian friends
Be with Him
Be in Him
Because He is always with you
Because He is always in you
Friday, April 10, 2009
a moment of weakness
comes over me
Thoughts arose -
Nobody understands me
I am all alone
The world works against me
it struck me
right through the center of my heart
What about Jesus?
Can you imagine how he felt?
As he died upon the cross?
In that last hour of darkness and despair
Forsaken by society
Forsaken by his closest disciples
Forsaken by God
Why was he forsaken?
Because he taught the Truth.
He hung upon the cross.
Can you imagine how that must feel?
His clothes torn out and ripped to shreds
His body pierced by a spear
With nobody to understand him, to help him, to hear him
And yet, he did it
He did it for us
Even at that last hour
his last thoughts were
for us to be saved
How noble, how selfless
How can our suffering compare to his?
For he has suffered much, much more
So if you ever feel as if -
Nobody understands you
You are all alone
The world works against you
You are not alone
He has suffered
a much greater sorrow
And because he has
God understands you
and has set you free
My negative thoughts went away
Joy and peace returned
I vow to understand and help relieve
the suffering of all living beings
For I too
For I know how it feels
to be hurt
to be in pain
That is why
I am here for you
I pray that you too
Will learn to understand others
as they too, suffer like you
Let us learn
from the one
who died on the cross
for our sake
To my Christian friends,
have a blessed Good Friday!
Thursday, April 9, 2009
rears his ugly head once more
disguising himself as Reason.
He knocks on my door
But I see through you now, my friend
'But take off your disguise
Please don't fool me anymore
I can see who you really are'
'Come join me for some tea'
He enters, confused, disguised no more
I bring biscuits and a pot of hot tea
A long moment of silence passes
I enjoy my sips of tea
'Why won't you play with me anymore?
We used to have so much fun'
He asks, frustrated
I put down my cup of tea
I take a deep breath
'Because I know who you are now
You have tricked me
many a time
You disguise yourself as Reason
so that I would entertain you
You come into my house
and wreck havoc in my household
No more, my friend
He looked hurt
I console him -
'Don't be sad
You've gone through much pain I know
And because you suffer,
you put your suffering on others
thinking it's all fun
But my friend,
you needn't suffer
Meet Joy, Peace and Grace
Learn from them
Make friends with them
For I have too'
He looked happier
'I think I'll leave now
Thank you so much'
'No, thank you'
Goodbye, my friend
I await you
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Spring is here.
Spring comes slowly and quietly
to allow Winter to withdraw
slowly and quietly.
The color of the mountain afternoon
is tinged with nostalgia.
The terrible war flower
has left her footprints-
countless petals of separation and death
in white and violet.
Very tenderly, the wound opens itself in the depths of my heart.
Its color is the color of blood,
it's nature, the nature of separation.
The beauty of Spring blocks my way.
How could I find another path up the mountain?
I suffer so. My soul is frozen.
My heart vibrates like the fragile string of a lute
left out in a stormy night.
Yes, it is really there. Spring has really come.
But the mourning is heard
in the wonderful sounds of the birds.
The morning mist is already born.
The breeze of Spring in its song
expresses both my love and my despair.
The cosmos are so indifferent. Why?
To the harbor, I came alone,
and now I leave alone.
There are so many paths leading to the homeland.
They all talk to me in silence. I invoke the Absolute.
Spring has come
to every corner of the ten directions.
It, alas, is only the song
1951. This was written less than twelve hours after I fell in love with a nun. It happened at the Vien Giac Temple on New Year's Eve in the beautiful village of Cau Dat in the highlands. She was twenty. Both of us realized that we wanted to continue being a monk and a nun. So we decided to depart from each other. This was not easy. I was lucky to having a loving and understanding sangha with me at that time that made it possible. Forty-one years later, I told this story in a twenty-one day retreat at Plum Village in English, on the theme of Vipassana meditation in the Mahayana tradition.
~Thich Nhat Hanh
Monday, April 6, 2009
When the road you're trudging seems all uphill
When the funds are low, and the debts are high
And you want to smile, but you have to sigh
When care is pressing you down a bit -
Rest if you must, but don't you quit.
Success is failure turned inside out
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt
And you never can tell how close you are
It may be near when it seems so far.
So, stick to the fight when you're hardest hit -
It's when things go wrong that you mustn't quit.
Sunday, April 5, 2009
With your heart.
Some say love, it is a river
That drowns the tender reed
Some say love, it is a razor
That leaves your soul to bleed
Some say love, it is a hunger
An endless aching need
I say love, it is a flower
And you, its only seed
It's the heart, afraid of breaking
That never learns to dance
It's the dream, afraid of waking
That never takes the chance
It's the one who won't be taken
Who cannot seem to give
And the soul, afraid of dying
That never learns to live
When the night has been too lonely
And the road has been too long
And you think that love is only
for the lucky and the strong
Just remember in the winter
Far beneath the bitter snow
Lies the seed
That with the sun's love, in the spring
Becomes the rose
is the capacity
to take care
If you are not capable
of loving yourself
If you are unable
to take care of yourself
to nourish yourself
to protect yourself
it is very difficult
to take care of another.
To love oneself
is the foundation of
Love is a practice.
It is a way of life.
It truly is.
Saturday, April 4, 2009
Tomorrow dawns as certain as a clock
And between yesterday, today and tomorrow
You are circled by the worry of uncertainty.
In vain the restless spirit
Looks for support to prove his "self"
Searches in past days, searches in far-off days
Yet always deploring the passing.
Is not time running through the hour glass like sand?
Is not hoping mere vain dallying?
When you look back to far-off times
They glide like dreams into your memory.
Whatever you do, dear friend, realize
There is no trace of permanence
There is only wishing, hoping, fearing
If you keep doing this
You will never reach your aim
Time is every day's death.
Face the wheel of life with courage
Let the past, present and future
Remain without fetters.
With every fear overcome by Spirit
Another ring jumps out
From the chains fettering your life.
Friday, April 3, 2009
Thursday, April 2, 2009
I have dropped my worries
Nowhere to go, nothing to do
No longer in a hurry
Happiness is here and now
I have dropped my worries
Somewhere to go, something to do
But I don't need to hurry
I know you suffer.
That is why
I am here for you.
Happiness is something
You choose to have.
It's always there
Drop your worries.
Here and now.