Monday, December 24, 2018

Beauty is in our thoughts and actions

What is your immediate feeling when you see this photo? It's beautiful right? That first feeling, my friends, is our true self, the one that is not tainted by our defilement and ignorance.
See beauty without labels, prejudice and pride. Beauty is in our thoughts and actions.

πŸŽ„πŸŽ„ Merry Christmas everyone πŸŽ„ πŸŽ„

Monday, July 28, 2014

Final thoughts focused on helping others

Saw this very touching photo of a 11-year-old boy who donated his organs after succumbing to brain tumor.
The photo reminds me of what I wrote about organ donation earlier. Suddenly all my recent emotional issues began to feel and look small compared to this boy's ultimate charitable and beneficent deed.

Here is the full story:

Shenzhen, China — The parents of 11-year-old Liang Yaoyi were stunned by his request.

As cancer ravaged his body, the fifth grader from the Chinese city of Shenzhen focused on how he could save others if he could not survive his own battle.

"There are many people doing great things in the world," he said from his sickbed according to the "They are great, and I want to be a great kid too."

He told his parents he wanted to donate his organs so others could live.

On Friday, the brave young boy who dreamed of becoming a doctor lost his battle with brain cancer. Immediately, doctors went to work removing his organs for transplant.

Hospital officials said his kidney and liver were transplanted into other patients who were suffering from life-threatening ailments.

As his body was wheeled for the surgery room, the medical team stopped and formed an honor guard, bowing to the gurney carrying Yoayi’s remains in honor of the brave boy.

I researched further on Buddhist teachings regarding organ donation and found the teachings of Tibetan Buddhist nun Karma Lekshe Tsomo most profound.

She provides three reasons in support of organ donation. Organ donation is considered a valuable opportunity on several levels. 

First, to donate one's body for research or organ transplantation is a way to sever attachment to one's own body.

Second, to place another person's welfare above one's own is a perfect expression of the bodhisattva ethic of compassion. 

Third, to donate one's organs with the pure motivation to benefit others will bring great fruits of merit in future lives, enabling one to gain a fortunate rebirth and further opportunities for Dharma practice; if the gift is dedicated to the enlightenment of all beings, the fruits are immeasurable. (Tsomo 156)

I found Liang Yaoyi's final thoughts of helping others to be very inspiring and a great display of compassion.

May we all find the wisdom and courage to donate our organs to save others when we no longer have the need for them.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Reflection of a Father's Love

A Father's love is like the Bamboo
Strong enough to protect you from dangers and predators
Yet gentle enough to bend and support you
Perform many functions to assist and care for you

A Father's love is like the Oak Tree
Thick with leaves to shelter you from the sun, wind and rain
Strong branches for you to climb up and see the horizon
Deeply rooted so that nothing can bring you down

A Father's love is like the Turtle
Patience and calm in the face of uncertainties
Dispenses wise advise to help you through life
Shields you from pains with his life experience shell

A Father love is like the Squirrel
Always savings enough nuts for you
Welcoming you to his warm home
Ensuring that you are well provided in times of need

My dear Kelly Tham Foong Keng, I share my deepest condolences and sympathies on the sudden demise of your father. You are always in my thoughts and may you and your family be comforted and supported.

This simile is dedicated in loving memory of your father, Mr Tham Chee Hoong, departed peacefully on 23-June-2014. May he gain a good rebirth.

Buddhism and Respect for Parents

Friday, July 26, 2013

The Container and the Content

“A local journalist called and asked me “What would you do, Ajahn Brahm, if someone took a Buddhist Holy Book and flushed it down the toilet?

Without hesitation I answered “Sir, if someone took a Buddhist Holy Book and flushed it down the toilet, the first thing I would do is call a plumber!”

When the journalist finished laughing, he confided in me that that was the most sensible answer he had heard.

Then I went further. I explained that someone may blow up many statues of the Buddha, burn down Buddhist temples or kill Buddhist monks and nuns; they may destroy all of this but I will never allow them to destroy Buddhism. You may flush a Holy Book down a toilet, but you will never flush forgiveness, peace and compassion down a toilet.

The book is not the religion, nor the statue, the building or the priest. These are only “containers”.

What does the book teach us? What does the statue represent? What qualities are the priests supposed to embody? This is the “content”.

When we recognize the difference between the container and the contents, then we will preserve the contents even when the container is being destroyed.

We can print more books, build more temples and statues and even train more monks and nuns, but when we lose our love and respect for others and ourselves and replace it with violence, then the whole religion has gone down the toilet.”

From: “Good? Bad? Who Knows?” - upcoming book by Venerable Ajahn Brahmavamso.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

The Ultimate Remembrance on Wesak Day - Part 3

From Part 2

Looking back, although it was heart-wrenching to take care of my dying mum for one whole month; I did learned many things, and realized how blessed we are to be surrounded, loved and supported by so many compassionate monks and nuns, wise people, caring friends and relatives.

Few useful skills (perishable without constant practice though) I picked up were:

• How to take care of dying person
• How to feed someone who has difficulty swallowing
• How to deal with incontinence
• How to change adult diapers
• How to move or flip disabled person to prevent pressure sores
• How to clean & dress open bed sores
• How to deal with necrotic skin, tissues and deep cavities
• How to deal with buildup of fluids in the lungs of disabled person
• How to inject a person with a syringe
• What drugs to use for pain management & prevent foaming in the mouth

Some of these skills were later put to use to care for my 15 years old dog Rambo who died of old age 2 months after my mum passing.

This whole episode has helped me practice patience, determination, loving kindness and equanimity more.

I take this chance to convey our heartfelt thanks and deep appreciation to:

Ven U. Nyanaramsi , Bro Chim and members of SJBA who helped me through such a difficult moment in my life.

The Bhante from Buddhist Maha Vihara who came to chant for my mum before her passing.

Dr Tan Ho Soon, Sister Yvette and members of Nalanda Buddhist Society who came to my house on such a short notice to guide, comfort and support us.

The nuns and members from my Aunts’ Pu Mern Buddhist Association who came and chanted on my mum’s funeral.

Dr Felicia and the nurses from Hospis Malaysia. I salute your noble profession and for being such outstanding people helping the dying and grieving.

My old friend and coach Vince Choo, whose touching gesture of support I shall never forget.  Also Kate, Daniel, Chui, Fidael, Dan, Rizan, Chief Rodney and everyone from my gym and the global fraternity of Crazy Monkey who either came, called or messaged me. Thank you guys for your love and concern.

My mentor and partner Shaun Tan (Sen Ze), his wife Jasmin, my partner Brian Chong (Goldfries) and my fellow social media marketers: Geri, Cocoa, Eng Jin, Steven, Chooi Keng, Chew, Vicky and everyone who conveyed their sympathies to me.

My old friend Quenna Leong and her husband Eric who first introduced me to Buddhism in 2005. You guys never cease to inspire me. Sorry for not keeping in touch more often than I like to.

My daughter's Godmother, Li Li who constantly asked about my well being and encouraged me to be strong for my mum and family. Thank you for being there for me despite the distant between us.

My old friends Gharzali and Farid, you guys proved that there are no barriers to friendship and caring for one another. I salute you both and thanks for being there for me.

The lovely flowers from my ex-Boss Ben Tan of MCL Bhd and Teresa Chong whom I've just met.

All my friends, ex-colleagues and relatives who came and offered their support and sympathies, esp to Ah Fui who came all the way from JB, Kenneth, Kelly, Carlson, Cojack, Vincent and BH Ong.

Sorry if I missed anyone but under the circumstances, it was Wesak Day 1 year ago and I’m not getting any younger – another reminder of impermanence. Sigh..

May you all be blessed with good health, peace and joy and may your good deeds bring you happiness now and hereafter.

Lastly, thank you very much Mother for giving us the ultimate remembrance on Wesak Day to cherish the noble qualities of The Buddha that you exemplified so well in your life.

From Part 2

Part 1

The Ultimate Remembrance on Wesak Day - Part 2

From Part 1

I composed myself and called Bro Kelvin of the Malaysian Buddhist Co-operative Society. Having dealt with overly commercialized undertakers in the past, Bro Kelvin is the most caring and responsible undertaker I’ve ever met. But he told me he was fully tied up yesterday, so I took a chance. I was surprised when he said, ahh now I have people available. What a relief! It was as if my mum waited till Bro Kelvin is available before she passes on.

I went to the Police Station to lodge a report to facilitate the Death Cert. After that, I have 2 choices: to proceed back home and wait for Bro Kelvin and Sis Didi or proceed to a temple since it is Wesak Day. My mind thought of Maha Vihara Brickfields but common sense told me the road would be congested with the float parade. I then drove to Subang Jaya Buddhist Association (SJBA), where the most fantastic turn of events happened.

As expected, SJBA was still packed with devotees even around 9pm. Cars were parked rows along both side of the roads till far away. I made a u-turn from the temple and all of sudden, a car drove away near the front gate – parking is available for me near the FRONT GATE of the temple on Wesak Day!

I walked in and saw rows of devotees still lining up for blessings from the monks. There were many oil lamps on the tables and it gave the temple an air of festivity and an ambience of hope and positivity. I bought a small flower pot, wrote my mum name on it and place it on the altar. For Buddhists, the flower reminds us of impermanence (anicca), that as beautiful as it is, it too will wither, become scentless and dry up.

Since the monks were still busy blessing devotees, I then bought an oil lamp to place on the table. The light from the oil lamp symbolizes wisdom to dispel the darkness of ignorance. All the tables were fully packed with oil lamps but when I turned around after buying the lamp, an empty slot was available on the FIRST ROW of the table facing The Buddha image. By now, I was deeply inspired by all these turn of fortunate events and thought: wow mum, you really did made an impact somehow somewhere.

Then I walked to the main shrine hall and asked one of the worker/volunteer there if there is any monk available to follow me home to chant for my departed mum. The Bro asked me to wait and he approached one of the monk. He signaled me to come over but the monk told me he has to attend another funeral after he finished blessing the devotees. Disappointed, I bowed my head in respect and thank them nevertheless. They asked me to stay on for a simple blessing since it is Wesak Day. As the crowd dwindled after me being the last batch of devotees seeking blessing, someone told me that Bhante (term Buddhists use to address a monk) is now available because the other person canceled his request.

I was so happy that I managed to find a monk to chant for my departed mum on Wesak Day. Bhante told me to wait for him to refresh and change then he will go with me. Some of the workers in SJBA told me to take good care of this monk because he has been chanting and blessing devotees non-stop from morning till night. Give him a glass of warm water, said another. I nodded and tell myself to be extra mindful of Bhante’s condition, while feeling truly blessed by his deep compassion. In the car, I introduced myself to the monk and another SJBA lay person who followed along. The monk told me his name is Nyanaramsi  and he is the Chief Abbot of SJBA. The other lay person introduced himself as Bro Chim, and he is the President of SJBA. I was awestruck! My goodness, I managed to get both the Chief Abbot and the President of SJBA to come to my house to chant for my departed mum on Wesak Day! Talk about my mum’s good blessings even in her passing.

When Venerable Nyanaramsi reached my home, the first thing my Sis asked was where did I found this monk because he radiates such noticeable peace and serenity. We served Bhante a glass of warm water and he sat down besides my departed mum to start chanting. Despite his apparent weariness, he spoke gently and calmly encouraging us to try and understand what we are chanting. Bro Chim told us that although Bhante is very tired, he was moved by my filial piety to come and chant for our late mum out of great compassion. That meant a lot to me because my mum has been my role model and pillar of strength my whole life.

Then Bhante lead us in chanting selected verses for my departed mum using a booklet prepared by SJBA for Buddhist Funeral / Wake Service. I particularly liked this book because it contains Paticcasamuppada Patha – The Law of Dependent Origination (see the image near the end if you don't have the patience to read), which to me is one of best ‘empirical’ explanation of how we came to being, and the reason why I love Buddhism so much. Chanting the verses from this sutta did managed to lessen my grief and put some sense into what we are experiencing now. As I fetched Venerable Nyanaramsi back, he asked if I have any monk chanting for my late mum tomorrow and offered to come again. I was deeply touched by his compassionate gesture. Bhante came the next day and not only chanted but even taught us few basic steps in meditation. Sadhu! Sadhu! Sadhu! Another graphical version of Paticcasamuppada Patha.

We also have the honor and privilege of meeting and knowing Dr Tan Ho Soon, who is the founder of Nalanda Buddhist Society and Nalanda Institute Malaysia. Dr Tan came to my house on the kind request by my friend, Sis Yvette Wong to share the Dhamma with my then dying mother. I didn’t know he was such a prominent Buddhist leader and teacher when he came over to my house but his gentle and polite demeanor was very exemplary. He taught me Hiri (shame) and Ottapa (moral dread): 2 basic things that help Buddhist from breaking the precepts which resonate with me till today. And he has one the most powerful and penetrating chant I’ve ever heard. When he came and chanted on my mum’s funeral, tears flow freely from our eyes, especially from my Dad. I realized that we are both Widowers now. Bro Tan said that living and dying are but both ends on the same string. It is nature of impermanence as long as we are stuck in this endless round of rebirths and sufferings call Samsara.

From Part 1

To Part 3

The Ultimate Remembrance on Wesak Day - Part 1

This is probably my most difficult blog entry to date. It took me exactly a year to sit down and write this since my beloved mum Chan Yoke Lan passed away on Wesak Day 2011.

She has been undergoing treatments for cervical cancer the last 7 years. Last April, her condition deteriorated so quickly that it made her unable to walk, stand, talk, eat & drink within just a few days. Little did I know then all these are signs of active dying.

My mum condition deteriorated the month I resigned from my taxing job. It was as if she doesn’t want to burden me earlier when I was tied up with my demanding job. This is her most admirable trait: she is always thinking of us first.

Instead of talking about her battle with cancer, let me share about the extraordinary events that happened from the time she was dying till after she passed away.

On the eve of Wesak Day last year, the Dr Felicia from Hospis Malaysia came to check on my Mum and failed to detect her pulse and vital signs. Dr Felicia said my mum is unlikely to make it pass the night and asked us to be mentally prepared. Despite being told as early as April that my mum is dying, this news still struck us like a sword piercing our hearts.  I still long and hope that she can stay with us longer. There are so many things I wanted to do for her that I didn’t get the chance to.

But surprisingly, she did not pass away on Wesak Eve. We waited and waited and kept vigil by her bedside, watching her labored in slow gasping breath. As it passed midnight into Wesak Day, we realized that it must be quite significant for my mum to bypass the Doctor’s prediction and survived into a very auspicious day.

From midnight, the morning passes into noon, then into evening and my mum is still breathing, defying all odds. My daughter became very restless from staying at home the last few days so I took her out for a quick dinner. After we came home, I went upstairs to change and I heard my Sister yelled “Come down! Come down!”

I ran downstairs and rushed into my mum bedside and saw she her struggling to breathe. All of sudden, she OPENED HER EYES WIDE (she has been unconscious the last few days). I held her hands and kept telling her to think of The Buddha, encouraging her to reflect on the pure and peaceful qualities of The Buddha. I asked her to imagine she is The Buddha and The Buddha is her because all of us have potential to gain enlightenment, hoping to set her mind in right direction. It was extremely hard for me to stay calm and not cry at this moment because I don’t want to trigger any longings or regrets that may risk rebirth in the lower realms. As I whispered gently to her “ you are The Buddha, The Buddha is you”, she closed her eyes slowly, took 3 long breathe, and passed away on Wesak Day 2011 around 8pm.

By this time, I couldn’t hold back, tears were streaming down my eyes, but I resisted from wailing or crying out loud. I realized at this moment just how shallow is my practice when face with Dukkha (suffering) of this magnitude. I knelt in front of her, recalling all her good deeds: being a filial daughter, faithful wife, loving mother, caring and gentle person (she never raise her voice), resilient and patience despite her condition and most of all, putting all of us first before her.  I then recalled whatever good deeds that I have performed and dedicate it to her by chanting the transference of merits.

My Sister noticed that our departed mum has a very peaceful and serene look on her face, almost as if she is smiling while sleeping. That gave me some degree of comfort.

Continue to Part 2..

Part 3

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Tranquilising ourselves with over-consumption

Saw these profound quotes below in my Facebook today so I share it here.

"The situation the Earth is in today has been created by unmindful production and unmindful consumption. We consume to forget our worries and our anxieties. Tranquilising ourselves with over-consumption is not the way." Thich Nhat Hanh

"There is a deep malaise in society. When we put a young person in this society without trying to protect him, he receives violence, hatred, fear, and insecurity every day, and eventually he gets sick. Our conversations, TV programs, advertisements, newspapers, and magazines all water the seeds of suffering in young people, and in not-so-young people as well. We feel a kind of vacuum in ourselves, and we try to fill it by eating, reading, talking, smoking, drinking, watching TV, going to the movies, or even overworking. Taking refuge in these things only make us feel hungrier and less satisfied, and we want to ingest even more. We need some guidelines, some preventive medicine, to protect ourselves, so we can become healthy again. We have to find a cure for our illness. We have to find something that is good, beautiful, and true in which we can take refuge."
Thich Nhat Hanh

Noticed how we all (myself included) tends to seek external comfort (sensual desire) of all kinds to cover up our disatisfaction in life, which is inherent in all conditioned existence. Dukkha is inescapable in Samsara.

For me, that refuge is to be found from the Triple Gem (Buddha, Dhamma, Sangha), and walking the Middle Way till we exit from Samsara. Fortunately, walking the Path itself does provide some relief to our sufferings. Buddhism is about happiness now and happiness hereafter. It's ok if you don't understand this, or disagree with it. Buddhism is best to be experienced, not studied.

Sincerely, Charles.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Keeping The Five Precepts

Last night was a very special and happy occasion for me. I finally managed to do something that was on my mind for many years, ever since I became a Buddhist in 2005 - I brought my Dad to listen to the Dhamma for the first time at Subang Jaya Buddhist Association (SJBA).

The Speaker, Dr Chan Kah Yein is a very skillful and knowledgeable Dhamma practitioner who explained to us the meaning of keeping the Five Precepts. She started with summarizing the teachings of The Buddhas: Avoid Evil, Do Good, Purify The Mind - Dhammapada 183.

And from 'Avoid Evil' she broke down the Five Precepts for us. Since my Dad has problem sitting on the floor, he sat on a chair behind me while I sat on the floor. I turned my head and saw him listening attentively and it brought such joy to my heart.

Even though I thought I knew the Five Precepts quite well (pride is such a bad thing), I've learned few interesting things tonight:

1. The Five Precepts can be summarized into the Golden Rule, which was first taught by The Buddha to his son, Rahula. This rule is useful for those of us who have trouble remembering or understanding the Five Precepts in detail. My understanding of the Golden Rule is before we say or do anything, we must first ask ourselves: "Will this brings harm to myself or others?"
Dr Chan also mentioned about putting ourselves in the other person's shoes so that we only don't do things to others that we don't want done to ourselves, such as killing living beings.

2. Precepts are rules to training that leads to peace and harmony, within ourselves and those around us. It will lead to happiness all around us if everybody keep the precepts diligently.

3. If we break the precepts, it is not because it is impossible to keep it, but because we have not develop the wisdom to keep it. With enough wisdom, we should be able to keep all the precepts. I really can relate to this because I did managed to keep the precepts in the past by exercising options which at first might seem unpleasant, difficult, silly or doesn't look like a choice at all. But if it's possible to do, then I suppose it is a choice after all. Only our attachment and defilement prevent us from making those wise choices. It could also be because we have not try hard enough or think deep enough before making a choice.

I look forward to attending next Friday Dhamma talk with my Dad again.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Unfaithful = Never Satisfied

I was having a drink with a friend when I told him about my shock at reading that Malaysians are ranked third in the world for being the most unfaithful partner. Source here.

Me: "How can that be? Do you believe so many of us are unfaithful?"

Friend: "It's not about being unfaithful, it about never feeling satisfied. We just keep on looking for more."

This chat reminds me about The Buddha words on desire, lust and sex. I Googled around and found this enlightening article with the summary: "The activity of sex will never ultimately satisfy the desire for sex."

Let me end with these words from the Dhammapada Chapter 16: Verse 214:

From lustfulness arises grief,
from lustfulness springs fear,
one wholly free of lustfulness
has no grief - how fear?

Explanation: From passion arises sorrow. From passion fear arises. To one free of passion there is no sorrow, In such a person how can there be fear?

May this be a strong reminder to me and anyone lure by desire and lust. With Metta _/\_

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Inspirational Quotes for Buddhists

According to Mahayana tradition, today is Guan Yin's birthday. I took my family to my Aunt's temple to pay homage to Guan Yin. After the vegetarian lunch, I kneel down, took refuge in the Triple Gem then recited Om Mani Padme Hum 108 times. Although I follow the Theravada tradition now, this mantra has a special meaning in my heart because it is one of the first few Buddhist chants I learned when I became a Buddhist after my wife passed away in 2005. As I recited, my mind again strayed away and I took this chance to practice Adhitthana (determination in Pali) till I managed to recite 108 times.

I came home, login to my Facebook and immediately saw few inspiring & enlightening quotes. I post them here with the hope it will touch you as much as it has inspired and taught me.

"The ordinary mind — no matter whose — when it does not yet have any standards and meets up with things that drag it here and there in the wrong directions, will tend to go rolling after those preoccupations without let-up, to the point where it cannot find any foundation for sustaining its peace and calm. In terms of the Dhamma, these preoccupations are called defilements." -
Luangta Maha Boowa (Straight from the Heart)

"When the mind is involved with the world, it's bound to meet with collisions; and once it collides, it will be shaken and roll back and forth, just as round stones in a large pile roll back and forth. So no matter how good or bad other people may be, we don't store it up in our mind to give rise to feelings of like or dislike. Dismiss it completely as being their business and none of ours." - Ajahn Lee Dhammadharo

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Nick Vujicic - inspiring us to be thankful always

Just wanna share this beautiful inspiring video of Nick Vujicic, a man born without arms & legs. His positive attitude serve as a great example of the celebration of life over limitations.

Nick is thankful for what he HAS.
He's not bitter for what he does NOT have.

I have never met a bitter person who was thankful.
I have never met a thankful person who was bitter.

In life you have a choice: Bitter or Better?

Contentment is the greatest wealth - The Buddha, Dhammapada Verse 204.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sharing the Dhamma with my dying mum

My mum time is very near. She is no longer conscious for the past 3 days, and her breathing is irregular with rattling sound, similar to symptoms I observed when my grandma passed away 2 years ago.

But something wonderful (under the circumstances) happened few days ago before my mum became totally unconscious. My aunt friend Elaine from their Pureland temple came to visit my mum. She wore a bright pink dress and to my surprise, my mum said aloud she looked very beautiful, and my mum even managed to muster a smile in her weak and frail condition. That was the first time I heard my mum talked so clearly in weeks. Elaine sat around for awhile asking my mum not to worry and think of The Buddha.

After Elaine left, I noticed my mum is still awake and I took this opportunity to share the Dhamma with her. My mum is a very gentle and good nature person but I'm afraid she has limited exposure to the Dhamma aside from chanting Amitabha. I wished I have strive harder to share the Dhamma with her when she was in better health. It was very negligent of me to only give priority to my work & take her time with us for granted. It's my sincere hope for those reading this to cherish time with your loved ones and please plan some time for spiritual development, because life can be cruel and unpredictable.

Thoughts were running through my mind how best to share the Dhamma with her. I started with telling her in Cantonese (her main language) my simple translation of the First Noble Truth: The Buddha taught that life is suffering, as long as we are in the wheel of existence, we suffer. Birth, old age, sickness and death is suffering. And that is the first time I talk about death to her. She looked at me and I continued saying we must find a way out of this wheel. Then I told her let's take refuge in the Triple Gem together, explaining the meaning of taking the refuge in Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha. I was glad she was awake the whole period till I finished chanting. Then I continue chanting Amitabha into her ear because she has affinity to this mantra. She then closed her eyes and slept peacefully.

The following day, as I came back from work at night, I cleaned her up and changed her dressings to cover the bed sores. As me & my Dad flipped her on the side to relieve pressure from sleeping on her back whole day, I noticed her eyes wide opened, and looking at me. Quickly! Said my inner voice, another window of opportunity to share the Dhamma with her. I said gently to my mum; "Mother, let me share with you what my Sifu (referring to the monks & books I've learned from) taught me. The Buddha said being human will sure have sufferings from birth, old age, sickness and dying. This is because we all have craving, therefore we exist in this cycle of rebirth. Death comes to everybody, me included." I then told her Kisagotami tale with the hope to reduce her fear of death. She looked at me intently and I continued; "Once The Buddha asked this woman if she wants to have 10 children in her village and she said yes that would make her very happy. The Buddha then said if the 10 children died, you would suffer 10 times." I sorta made up this because I cannot remember the exact story. She blinked her eyes in agreement. I then said the more we want, the more we suffer. That is why monks leave home to let go everything in order to practice and cultivate till enlightenment. She blinked her eyes and nodded her head slightly. This really comforted me because I sensed she understood at least some parts of my message. I reminded her that by offering robe to a monk in the past, she has actually assisted someone who is cultivating to reach enlightenment, and that is great merit. I've never seen my mum looked at me so intently the past few weeks therefore I think my message must have left a good impression on her.

I also told her The Buddha taught the "Law" of Kamma which states good people will reap good results and good people will go to good places, just like oil will always float when dropped on water, compare to rock which will sink to the bottom. So I told her not to worry because she has been a gentle, good nature, thoughtful & caring person, filial daughter & good mother her whole life. She has brought us up well & we are now filial and taking good care of her. She kept looking at me without blinking. I told her now is the time where she must let go everything and constantly think of The Buddha only. By focusing on The Buddha, we will not be disturbed by our fears or worries. Just keep chanting Amitabha with your mind. She nodded slightly in agreement. Then I asked her to take the Three Refuge in Pali with me followed by me chanting Amitabha to her 108 times, after which I left the room to let her rest.

I'm glad I managed to share what little I know about the Dhamma with her during those few critical moments when she is awake. By minimizing travelling and staying at home, I managed to catch these opportunities to plant the Dhamma seed in her. After the second chance to share the Dhamma with her, she has since became unconscious. Nevertheless, I continue to remind her of her good deeds and take the Three Refuge, chant Amitabha and few suttas near her as often as I can.

Yesterday, I told her I will buy cooking oil, rice, onions and potatoes for the monks in Maha Vihara on her behalf. One lady in the office of Maha Vihara told me they needed onions and potatoes. I whispered to my mum ear before I left and informed her when I returned that the deed is done. This is my final chance to do my best for my mum, so I need to treasure every moment.

Coincidence or A Sign?

Yesterday was my mother's birthday and also the birthdays of 2 significant ladies in my life: Quenna Leong & Thitiporn Li Li, therefore it was the birthdays of 3 very special persons in my life.

My mum needs no introduction; she is my prime motivator and pillar of strength all these years. I admire her gentle nature, thoughtfulness, filial piety & the way she takes care of everyone in the family. I'm going through a very tough time now because she is dying.

Quenna Leong is a close and old friend of over 20 years. She is the one who introduced and inspired me to Buddhism when my late wife passed away in 2005. She was instrumental in inspiring me to be a better person and to walk the Middle Way. I admire her calm personality & unwavering devotion to the Buddha, Dhamma & Sangha which she so skillfully used to guide me when I was lost & confused.

Thitiporn Li Li is a close friend who despite our distance (she lives in Bangkok & Singapore), is always there to listen to my sorrows and cheer me up with her caring nature. Having faced many trials and tribulations herself, she is a courageous lady who always think of others first. Her firm determination & loving charm are poetry in motion.

3 persons very close to me sharing the same birthdays? Coincidence, possibly... A Sign, likely. Whatever it may be, I treat it as a message for me to cherish & remember people who have inspired me to goodness, and in turn, assist or help others whenever I can, while I still can. What more since "fate" has arranged a single date for me to remember 3 very remarkable individuals.

Wesak Day is only a day away. What a sequence, I'm grateful for the timing, and thankful for making it easy to remember. May all beings be free from suffering. May everyone be well & happy. Metta. /\

PS. Thanks to Facebook for helping me made this meaningful discovery. :)

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Mother's Day Dedication - ode to all mums

If there is a meaning to unconditional love
You would be it
Protective & nurturing when we were young
Ever under your wings
You shielded us from the thorns of the world

If there is a meaning to a good provider
You would be it
Ensuring all our needs are met
Comforting & caring for us with zeal
You are our umbrella when it rains

If there is a meaning to a good teacher
You would be it
Leading & guiding us by examples
Instilling wisdom in our growing years
You are our beacon in this confusing world

If there is a meaning to joy & laughter
You would be it
Whether outings or dining
Your company is simply delightful
You warm our hearts in this cold world

If there is a meaning to strong bond
You would be it
As our closest confidante and counselor
You listen to our troubles & woes
And soothe us from the pains of the world

If there is a shinning example of a wise elder
You would be it
Allowing us to mature & choose our paths
Inspiring us with your kindness & thoughtfulness
You are our ray of sunshine in this dark world
We will never be lost because of you.

Dedicated to my mum, Chan Yoke Lan and all the mothers in this world who brought us up & care for us selflessly. Thank you mum for everything.

Happy Mother's Day! :)

PS. You might be interested to read this ENTRY too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Dealing with our loved ones suffering

I've calmed down a bit this week. My mum's condition hasn't changed but at least I get to spend time talking to her whenever she is awake or conscious.

Watching this video on Ajahn Brahm talking about how to deal the suffering of loved ones helped me a lot. In short, he talked about reducing our emotional suffering by not attaching "ownership" to one's spouse, children, parents etc. Ajahn Brahm also taught that our loved ones in critical condition will not want us to suffer seeing them in such condition, and we should be strong for them. Furthermore, crying or lamenting cannot help anyone, so we need to compose ourselves and have a cup of tea (or anything you prefer).

One beautiful thing he taught is that our loved ones suffering offer us the opportunity to take care of them, serve them and generally do good. This is really an encouraging way of facing the situation I'm in now.

To Ajahn Brahm, you have my deep gratitude and respect for your kindness & enlightening teachings.

With Metta,

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Keeping vigil for my mum

This month is probably my most painful and saddest month. My beloved mum condition deteriorated to a point where she is no longer able to move or eat on her own. I was unable to accept nor believe the possibility that she will leave us soon, because we can spot few signs of dying. This is one of the most painful moment in my life.

I realized tonight that I only read and contemplate the Dhamma at extremely solemn moment like this. It is my hope for those reading this please do not be like me, and end up with excruciating mental anguish of being unable to cope and accept a loved one leaving us. Practice the Dhamma and reflect on Anicca (impermanence), Dukkha (suffering) and Anatta (no self) constantly.

I'm reading Kisagotami tale now to keep calm and reflect on the Buddha's teachings, while keeping vigil over my mum every moment I get. May this post be of use to anyone who is grieving or in a similar situation like me.

I end with this reply on my Facebook by my old friend Rajendra Inani regarding taking care of my mum:
"Hey Charles, its a great duty taking care of parents when they are old. One may buy such services with money, but doing it on your own as your duty and gratitude towards parents is something considered as worshiping God."

With Metta,
Charles. /\

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Lesson of Sacrifice from a 9 year old Japanese boy

Just an interesting story I hope will inspire you to greater good.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This letter, written by Vietnamese immigrant Ha Minh Thanh who works in Fukushima as a policeman to a friend in Vietnam, was posted on New America Media (NAM) on March 19. It is a testimonial to the strength of the Japanese spirit, and an interesting slice of life near the epicentre of Japan’s crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant. It was translated by NAM editor Andrew Lam, author of “East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres.” Shanghai Daily condensed it.


How are you and your family? These last few days, everything was in chaos. When I close my eyes, I see dead bodies. When I open my eyes, I also see dead bodies.

Each one of us must work 20 hours a day, yet I wish there were 48 hours in the day, so that we could continue helping and rescuing folks. We are without water and electricity, and food rations are near zero. We barely manage to move refugees before there are new orders to move them elsewhere.

I am currently in Fukushima, about 25 kilometres away from the nuclear power plant. I have so much to tell you that if I could write it all down, it would surely turn into a novel about human relationships and behaviours during times of crisis.

People here remain calm – their sense of dignity and proper behaviour are very good – so things aren’t as bad as they could be. But given another week, I can’t guarantee that things won’t get to a point where we can no longer provide proper protection and order.

They are humans after all, and when hunger and thirst override dignity, well, they will do whatever they have to do. The government is trying to provide supplies by air, bringing in food and medicine, but it’s like dropping a little salt into the ocean.

Brother, there was a really moving incident. It involves a little Japanese boy who taught an adult like me a lesson on how to behave like a human being.

Last night, I was sent to a little grammar school to help a charity organisation distribute food to the refugees. It was a long line that snaked this way and that and I saw a little boy around 9 years old. He was wearing a tee-shirt and a pair of shorts.

It was getting very cold and the boy was at the very end of the line. I was worried that by the time his turn came there wouldn’t be any food left. So I spoke to him. He said he was at school when the earthquake happened. His father worked nearby and was driving to the school. The boy was on the third floor balcony when he saw the tsunami sweep his father’s car away.

I asked him about his mother. He said his house is right by the beach and that his mother and little sister probably didn’t make it. He turned his head and wiped his tears when I asked about his relatives.

The boy was shivering so I took off my police jacket and put it on him. That’s when my bag of food ration fell out. I picked it up and gave it to him.

“When it comes to your turn, they might run out of food. So here’s my portion. I already ate. Why don’t you eat it?”

The boy took my food and bowed. I thought he would eat it right away, but he didn’t. He took the bag of food, went up to where the line ended and put it where all the food was waiting to be distributed.

I was shocked. I asked him why he didn’t eat it and instead added it to the food pile. He said, “Because I see a lot more people hungrier than I am. If I put it there, then they will distribute the food equally.”

When I heard that I turned away so that people wouldn’t see me cry.

A society that can produce a 9-year-old who understands the concept of sacrifice for the greater good must be a great society, a great people.

Well, a few lines to send you and your family my warm wishes. The hours of my shift have begun again.

Ha Minh Thanh

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Happy New Rabbit Year 2011 - Gratitude

Been superbusy so didn't have time to blog as much as I wanted to. I wanted to share a great story about family bonds but guess this video from Petronas will have to do for now.

I hope this video will touch you as much as it has reminded me not to take my parents for granted. For those interested, The Buddha's teachings on Gratitude & Integrity is found in the KataΓ±Γ±u Suttas.

Thank you Petronas for making this video and may it inspire you to spend more time with your folks and give them all the love they deserve. Our parents took care of us & love us unconditionally, likewise we should reciprocate the same.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Appreciate our parents

A young person with excellent academic qualification went to apply for a managerial position in a big company.

He passed the first interview easily, and now will have to meet the Director for the last interview, who makes the final decision to hire.

The Director discovered from his CV, that this youth's has excellent academic result all the way from the secondary school until the postgraduate research. There was never a year he did not score.

The Director asked, "Did you obtain any scholarship in school?" and the youth answered "none".

The surprised Director asked, "Is it your father who pays for your school fees?". The youth answered, my father passed away when I was one year old, it is my mother who paid for my school fees.

The Director asked, "Where did your mother worked?". The youth answered, my mother worked as clothes cleaner. The Director requested the youth to show his hand, the youth showed a pair of hand that is smooth and perfect to the Director.

The Director probed further, "Did you ever help your mother washed the clothes before?". The youth answered, "Never, my mother always wanted me to study and read more books. Furthermore, my mother can wash clothes faster than me."

The Director said, "I have a request, when you go back today, go and help to clean your mother's hands, and then come see me tomorrow morning."

The youth felt that his chance of landing the job is high. When he reached home, he happily went to clean his mother's hands. His mother felt strange, she reluctantly showed her hands to the youth.

The youth cleaned his mother's hands slowly, his eyes wet with tears as he did that. It's first time he saw his mother's hands which are so wrinkled & full of bruises. Some bruises were so severe that his mother trembles in pain whenever water touched them.

For the first time the youth realized and experienced that this is the pair of hands that washed the cloth everyday to pay for his school fees. The wrinkles & painful bruises in his mother's hands is the price that his mother paid for his graduation and academic excellence and ensure him a bright future.

After he finished cleaning of his mother hands, the youth quietly cleaned all remaining clothes for his mother. That night, they talked for a very long time.

Next morning, the youth went to the Director's office.

The Director noticed the puffiness in the youth's eyes, and asked him: "Can you tell you what have you done & learned in your house yesterday?"

The youth answered, "I cleaned my mother's hands, and also finished cleaning all the remaining clothes."

The Director asked, "Please tell me your feelings."

The youth said,
"Number 1, I learned what is appreciation, because without my mother, I will never be successful today."
"Number 2, I learned how to helped my mother. I realized how hard we need to work to achieve something."
"Number 3, I learned the importance and value of family relationship."

The Director said, "This is what I am asking, I want to recruit a person that can appreciate the help of another, a person who appreciate the efforts of others to get things done, and a person that would not put money as his only goal in life to be my Manager. You are hired."

Later on, this young person worked very hard, and earned the respect of his subordinates. Every employees worked diligently as a team and the company's results improved tremendously.

A child who has been overly protected and habitually given whatever he wants will developed "entitlement mentality" and always put himself first. He is ignorance of his parent's effort & sacrifice. When he starts to work, he will assume everyone must listen to him. When he becomes a Manager, he would never know how the hard work his employees go through and always blame others. This kind of people may be successful for awhile, but eventually would not feel satisfied. They will grumble, become demanding and fight for more. As parents, did we love the kid or destroy the kid when we are overly protective and fail to teach them the values of appreciation and sacrifice.

You can let your kid live in a big house, eat a good meal, take expensive piano lessons or watch a big screen TV. But when you are cutting grass, please let them experienced it. After a meal, let them wash their plates and bowls together with their brothers and sisters. It is not because you don't have money to hire a maid, but it is because you want to love them in a right way. You want them to understand, no matter how rich we are, one day our will become gray, like the mother of that young person. The most important thing is your kid learn how to appreciate the effort and sacrifice of others.

This entry is dedicated to my parents, aunt & sister. I loved you all. Thank you very much for all your love, care & sacrifice all these years. May you be blessed with good health & happiness always.