Tuesday, December 5, 2006

Donating blood

Donated blood recently in Pusat Darah Negara. I've been donating blood regularly since the last 3 years, thanks to the encouragement of my friend Susan. So Susan, if you are reading this - mucho gracias for encouraging me to do this good deed often.

In my previous times, I went with the a big group so although I had to wait for awhile, it was a jovial affair. This is the first time I went alone and it gave me opportunity to notice few things:

1. Most of the blood donor were Malays.
2. Most of them were in their thirties and above.
3. There was a good mix of male and female donors.
4. Most of the donors looked like they are from the lower income group.

Now I know it's bad of me to make conclusion based on a single observation but it sets me thinking: why aren't there many Chinese donors, why aren't there any young donors, why are the donors mainly from the lower income group?

Pusat Darah Negara provides a clean environment with comfortable chairs and TVs for blood donors to relax.

This trip was really an eye-opener to me on various levels. It taught me to discard my prejudice (& discrimination) against Islam being an "uncaring" religion. Thinking back, I realised that most nurses are Malay too, regardless of whether it's a private or public hospital. I dislike drawing conclusion along racial or religious lines but I think there is something good, noble and admirable about the Malays in our country and the way they live their lives: they care enough to serve, and contribute whatever ways they can. Look at how they work & cook together during kenduri and you'll understand what closeness is.

What about the Chinese here? I think most of us are too busy chasing wealth for ourselves and our families to notice that there are others out there who desperately need our help. This phenomena is probably not attributed to race or religions but it shows the downside of materialism. While the poor may have not much to give, their contributions such as donating blood and organs often make the difference between life and death. I guess sometimes we need to slow down our engine to see that we can make a difference if we want to, if we choose to. For the uninitiated, donating blood is a painless and fast process. You may also choose to donate blood products such as plasma and platelets through the Apheresis machines. Our local Pusat Darah Negara provides a very cosy and comfortable ambience for you to donate blood, with nice snacks and vitamins for donors. Try it, do something meaningful today.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sickness is unpredictable

My mum & dad with Angelina, my little princess.

My two and a half years old daughter, Angelina Wong Zhi Yan vomited non-stop last Sunday nite. My whole family got so worried about her condition. Despite vomiting many times, she did not cried much. She is a strong girl, like her late mother. We took her to the clinic and Maxalon was administered through her rectum to prevent it from being vomited out. After few hours, the vomiting persist so we have to admit her to Pantai hospital around 4am. By then, my dad was down with constant diarrhoea but he came with us, being the super-grandfather that he is.

Angelina was brought to the ward around 6am for saline infusion to replace the loss fluids and keep the body hydrated. Angelina did not cried when they poke the IV neddle into her hands, she merely said "no more, no more...", she never cease to amaze me. By 6am, my mum started to have diarrhoea and fever too! We were fortunate the bed next to our two-bed room was empty. My mum and dad later took turns to rest on the empty bed, being exhausted from diarrhoea. The fact that my parents insisted on keeping watch on Angelina despite their tiredness and sickness, really showed me how deep my parents loved their grandaughter, and how much sacrifice our parents can make for us, which most of us took for granted.

Despite her exhaustion from the constant vomiting, she asked to go home. There is no place like home.

The Pediatrician later diagnosed my daughter as suffering from Gastroenteritis, a very serious infection of the gut. And my whole family must have caught it too, from sharing food and taking care of her. She was discharged after one day, but only got well few days later. Taking a supplement of good bacteria such as Probiotic to augment the gut proved to be helpful. My mum was the last to get well (after more than 7 days), due to her immuno-compromised condition as a cancer patient. Yet she still managed to soothe my daughter to sleep every nite during bedtime. Family love truly knows no bound and we must always treat our loved ones with appreciation, respect and care; more so since sickness and death are unpredictable.

Friday, October 20, 2006


Took my 90+ grandma to perform Kathina last Sunday in the Maha Vihara temple in Brickfields. My grandma, who took care of me and my sis when we were young, is a very rigid but caring person, esp. to us. She has been suffering from some form of senility and memory loss but could still recognize us, although she sometimes confused me for my father. She came from China in her teens to escape a forced marriage and to build a new life in Malaysia. Coming from such a poor and harsh background, naturally she was very frugal and sometimes may even be seen as selfish. Nevertheless, she brought up my mum and us very well and taught us how to save for the rainy days.

I do not know how to share my exposure to Buddhism with her considering her mental condition but I know I must do something for her at her advance age and health. She stills uttered Amitabha and pay homage to many holy images whenever she can. It was a touching moment for me to be able to assist my grandma to perform the Kathina together with my family. It rained heavily that day but but deep down my heart, I'm thankful to be given the chance to bring my grandma to perform this meritorious deed.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Almost another tragedy due to anger

Was on my way to my coach and friend Sam's baby bash yesterday around 6pm, travelling at 90km along the Bukit Jalil highway when all of sudden the car in front of me slammed the break! "Oh shit!" my thought ran out as I too slammed my emergency brake while trying to avoid hitting the car in front of me. Thankfully I managed to brake in time. I looked at my rear mirror and another "Oh shit!" thought shot out as I saw the car behind wheering and wheezing dangerously to a just-in-time halt.

Once everything have settled down, it's time to find out who's the culprit who braked suddenly almost causing a 5-6 cars piled up. Someone must have banged a car in front. I overtook the "almost-pile-up" line and as I drove by, I did not see any accident. The first car was a Perodua Myvi driven by a young girl who was looking desperately outside her car window. I then noticed another young guy with a sullen face walking away from this young girl's car, in the middle of the highway!! Then it dawn upon me: apparently these two must have got into a heated quarrel and the guy probably walked out the car in anger, causing the girl to stop abruptly. To make things worse, she didn't bothered moving her car, she continued "parking" in one of lane while she looked out of her car trying to coax her boyfriend(my guess only) back in. Can you believed that - she almost caused a piled-up accident and now she just disrupt traffic by stopping her car in one of the highway's lane!

I felt annoyed and frustrated initially but it was replaced by a feeling of sadness and pity for this couple. I recalled the times when few "passengers" in my car almost caused accidents when they lost control of their emotions and acted out in anger while travelling with me. These episodes were enough to convince me the evil of anger. How anger can bring all kind of negative repercussions upon us (including death). Why we need to train our minds to prevent anger from arising and if they have arisen, resist our urge to act on it. With this premise in mind, I'm sure the world would be a happier place with fewer crimes of passion.

Sunday, October 8, 2006

Forgiveness will heal pain & hatred

Read about several shootings in the US last few weeks. It's so sad indeed, many precious lives were lost due to the inability of these gunmen to control their violent streaks.

As I wondered about what's our world coming to, when people address their frustration, depression, anger and hatred by killing others, a friend of mine post an article in a forum I frequent. What I read cheered me up that despite all the doom and gloom I felt about today's uncaring society, there are still many people who are capable of performing magnanimous deeds. The Amish, whose many children were either coldly executed or seriously injured by a sole gunman, apparently forgave the shooter, and even said his wife would be welcomed to their children's funeral! Read about their noble act HERE.

The Amish schoolhouse where the shootings happened.

Few key sentences come to mind:
"They talk about Monday's school shooting only in terms of forgiveness."
"... believe they need to love their enemies, which may be beyond the ability of most people..."
"...ability to grieve together, forgive as a community and realize they must move on."

Although many might find the Amish way of life strange or "unacceptable", I think we should just put our differences aside, rejoice and learn from their noble acts of forgiveness and equanimity (calm acceptance of dire situations). To me, what they did was very magnanimous when today most of us cannot even forgive those who jump queue or honk indiscriminately. Some might be interested to find out how they managed to reach such a level of patience, tolerance and forgiveness.

IMHO, I think it's coz the Amish are less self-absorbed than others. When one live in relative simplicity and does not seek comfort/pleasure constantly for the self, naturally the self-wanting diminishes and care/concern/focus for others increases. Something akin to reducing selfishness to clear the mind so we can see what's really important in life. This will often result in much inner peace and happiness to one's life. Such peace allows a person to perform deeds that may seem so magnanimous to others.

The Buddha have taught that hatred cannot be countered by hatred (such as taking revenge). Hatred can only be overcome by loving kindness. One might find it hard to forget, but it's good for everyone if one finds the way to forgive. The pain might still be around, but at least it will not fester into depression, anger or hatred. This is the wholesome way of addressing whatever "wrongs" others have done to us, something I'm still trying hard to learn and practice. Little acts of forgiveness and saying sorry have given me much peace and happiness.

The Amish way of living and noble act of forgiveness is another case in good point for those pursuing the "spiritual" path: for those who CHOOSE to live in isolation, take vow of celibacy, vow of silence, a life devoted to helping others (like Mother Teresa and volunteers of so many charities), become a monk, nun and etc. May their lives be a constant beacon of light to us.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Love and learn from our children

Read the news recently about a man who stabbed his wife, pushed her out of the car, then proceeded to stab his own 2 years old daughter repeatedly until the knife is lodged in her head after a fierce quarrel with his wife while driving on the highway. His daughter is now in "extremely critical" condition as at press time. This news shocked me till my spine. Imagine a man so overcome by blind rage that he couldn't stop stabbing his own daughter till he could no longer pull the knife out of her head. What kind of man could do that? What kind of upbringing or socio-values that could lead a man to do something as horrible as this? Imagine his 2 years old daughter thoughts as she endured such extreme pain from her own father. Is this even imaginable at all? I thought of this poor girl and I thought of my own daughter Angelina who happens to be 2 years old now and I felt so disturbed and perplexed why anyone would have to endure this kind of pain and suffering, esp. an innocent 2 years old girl. My Buddhist belief would point this to her past kamma. But I learned something more important: instead of speculating and rationalising, value each present moment I spend with my daughter and loved ones.

Before this news even fade from my mind, my good buddy Alex told me that his 9 years old niece Demi has been killed in a car accident few days back. The impact of the accident was so great it threw her quite a distance away and cracked her skull. This is how fragile and unpredictable life can be. This is why we need to make the present moment counts. It would be perfect if we could all have the maturity of adults but retain the innocence of children who do not discriminate, judge, lust, envy, greed and becomes angry easily. Their vivacious giggling and ever forgiving attitude are all we need to heal this selfish and broken world.


16-JUNE-1997 TO 21-SEPTEMBER-2006

Thank you for your love and care. Like a cute little hare, I've moved on to another lair, Don't be sad or ask why and where. For all the joy & laughters we've shared, I'll be cuddling in good care.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Good intention and swift action

Went shopping around for a mini aquarium yesterday. As I walked out of the shop, I noticed a female dog barking furiously around and at me. I felt strange that a stray dog would barked at me. When I reached my car, my instinct told me to look around and sure enough, I saw a puppy trapped in a huge drain near my car. The drain is deep and long, and the puppy was running along the whole drain yelping helplessly trying to find a way back to his mother. I thought for awhile and said to myself: "Oh what I can do? Just let it be...".

Then another thought came to my mind: "C'mon, do something to reduce his suffering, can' be that hard" (boy was I wrong). I jumped into the drain and slowly crept my way to the pup. What I did not expect was the pup's reaction to my rescue attempt. He was so scared that he ran further and further away as I tried to catch it. When I managed to close in, he growled and snapped at my hand which was trying to catch him.

Now I'm frustrated. I'm trying hard to rescue this poor fella but instead he ran then snapped at me. I climbed back up and by now, few people across the road was staring at this funny fella (yours truly) climbing out of the big drain. I paused and observed the pup running up and down the drain, all wet and yelping desperately while his mother barking nearby but only could hear him.

My mind told me to forget the whole thing and just jump in my car and drive home. Somehow I hesitated and kept thinking should I try again. I knew I would not be able to rescue the pup if he keeps running away from me. Then an idea came to me, why not seek the help of the young Myanmar worker in the aquarium shop I just visited. He would come from one direction and I wait in another so the pup could be caught by either of us: brilliant!! I hesitated again; how to ask, why would he help me, would his boss allow it and am I being a nuisance etc? I spent about half an hour trying to overcome my fear of asking for assistance. Silly me.

The shop where the young Myanmar worker came to rescue the injured pup. It's located in Bandar Puteri Puchong. Please consider buying your aquatic stuffs from these fine folks.

Finally I mustered enough courage, walked to the aquarium shop and asked the lady boss if she can spared her worker to help me rescue a pup outside. To my surprise she told me that her worker had already pulled the pup out of the drain yesterday. Nevertheless, she asked her worker to help me and both of us climbed back into the drain. As he scooted the pup towards me, the pup froze then snarled ferociously at him (man this is one angry pup), so the Myanmar youth have no choice but to use his slipper to press it down then caught the pup's ear and lifted him up to safety in one swift move. Bravo!! This is the kinda determination I should have earlier. I tried to give money to this good youth for his effort but he just smiled and refused.

I felt glad that I stuck around long enough to see it through. I've learned I should never hesitate in asking for help or trying to do good. The Myanmar youth taught me one thing: good intention must be backed up with swift action.

The pup after the rescue near the drain. I hope he doesn't fall back into it again.

Monday, September 4, 2006

Easy on the speech fellas

Spent some time this weekend reading quite a few interesting blogs, and I noticed something "disturbing". I know blogging is a great outlet for youngsters to express themselves and share their thoughts with people all over the world but I didn't realised that there were so much angst, frustration and sadness out there. Aren't there any better ways for us to deal with our anger and depression?

I used to mouth-off a lot too in the past. But know what, it didn't help one bit addressing my feelings or problems then. The little satisfaction you felt when shooting off profanities aren't satisfaction at all, you are just clogging up your mind with dirt, like a jammed filthy drain. Do you know how the leper felt after he stratched his skin so hard till it's bloodied? He felt satisfied, but in reality he's not any better, because his bloodied skin can cause more health complications (like infection, gangrene - amputation or worse, septic shock - death) - wow, I sound like House (which happens to be my fav TV show). Well at least he certainly won't look pretty. Try seeing people seething with anger mouthing off, you wanna be around them?

I know sometimes you act in certain ways when you are with certain friends. This is one of those time when advice like "When in Rome, do like the Romans do." won't work. I was like that. When I was young, I thought it's cool with mix with rude & wild friends, and as I grew older, I couldn't care less (my mind was already clogged - big cleaning required) how people see me, or how my words affect others. Well I realised now what a jerk (another word almost fill this place) I've been, firing offensive words everytime I get irritated, frustrated and angry. If you disagree with me, try this experiment: Got a MP3 Player with voice recording (if you don't, you are more outdated than me)? Put it on record mode when you feel like mouthing off or when you are with the wild bunch. Then when you are calm and alone, play it back and hear yourself. Now ask yourself: do you REALLY like yourself sounding like that?

I don't profess to be any expert but I think there are many ways to express oneself positively even when faced with a lousy mood. Or do nothing. Just wait it out. It'll pass, some faster, some slower; but for sure it'll pass - nothing is permanent. Me, I just exercise, work the bags or spar with the guys in the gym. Of late, I find being mindful, chanting and meditating useful (this is a slow learning process for me considering I've made myself into a caveman in the past). My last words (actually won't be the last ;) to you is: be nice and gentle to yourself, guard your ever fluctuating mood or one day you'll wake up seeing an apeman on the mirror.

PS. Apemen are NOT gorillas. Gorrilas are gentle animals. ;)

Sunday, September 3, 2006

Reflection of The Chief Reverend

Who do you see when you look at the mirror? Is that really you?

Who do you see when you look at Ven Dhammananda? The Buddha and His teachings.

Now who do you see when you look at the mirror again? The result of those teachings.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Ooi. Thanks Jeff.

Saturday, September 2, 2006

Pics of Ven Dhammananda funeral

Despite a late appointment and a procrastinating mind, I dragged my lazy legs (no disrespect intended, just goes to show how the deluded mind can play games with the noble heart) to Ven Dr K Sri Dhammananda funeral last night.

I arrived around 9.30pm and to my surprise, people are still flocking in to pay their last respect to The Chief Reverend. There are no parking available yet people parked their cars far away and walk to the Buddhist Maha Vihara temple. Fortunately we have RELA members standing by to direct traffic and manage the crowd.

I reached the front gate and I saw dozens of volunteers from Tzu Chi Merits Society welcoming me with their hands clasped together saying "Amithabha". I felt slightly awkward since this is a Theravada temple but nevertheless I remembered The Chief's words of goodwill and compassion above religions and labels. And this is one occassion where every single labels/differences will be put aside to honour a man whose teachings help us live peacefully and happily; and in the process, make this world a better place for everyone.

Long line of visitors waiting to pay their last respect to Ven Dhammananda.

Most stay to reflect, radiate Metta, chant and meditate.

When it's my turn to pay homage, I knelt down, bow three times then walked to the late Ven Dhammananda casket. I just closed my eyes and said "Thank you. Thank you very much for teaching me how to live my life. Thank you for everything." I walked away after that and at the point, I couldn't help it but tears just flowed down my eyes. I walked outside to the tents to compose myself. I felt kinda embarrased because nobody around me was crying. The Buddha have taught that it's useless to cry and wallow over the dead. Death is a natural thing for all conditioned beings in Samsara. Having calmed down, I walked back into the Main Hall and then sat down behind the other visitors to hear the chanting and reflect. Streams of visitors are still pouring in even though it's after 10pm. I closed my eyes, chant then took refuge in the Triple Gem.

After awhile, I took some pics with my handphone and line-up to pay my homage to the late Ven Dhammananda again. This time I managed to go near the casket and take a final look at the late Ven Dhammananda. He look so serene, calm and peaceful. My heart is finally at ease, having seen the man whose teachings changed the way I lived my life and interact with those around me. It's a real pity I never get to meet him personally when he was alive. Oh well, be contented (another Chief's famous words) - at least I'm well and happy now, more than I could ever be if I had not learn and practice Buddhism.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

May you attain Arahanthood

While having drink with a friend this afternoon, I received a sms informing me that Chief Abbot of Buddhist Maha Vihara in Malaysia, Ven Dr K Sri Dhammananda has passed away at 12.45pm today, on the National Day of Malaysia, 31st August 2006.

"Paradise is open not only to followers of a particular religion. It is open to each and everyone who leads a righteous and noble way of life."
Ven Dr K Sri Dhammananda
18-March-1919 to 31-August-2006

Although I've read about him being admitted to the hospital for stroke at the grand age of 87, I was still hoping he'll recover and continue his good work guiding and helping all of us who are lost and wallowing in samsara. He has taught me and countless others how to cultivate noble values and how to live our lives meaningfully. I felt I've have lost a truly wise and compassionate teacher.

I recalled how his teachings helped me cope with grief when I lost Hua Li unexpectedly almost 2 years ago, how I changed as I began to understand the meaning of my existence, and how much peace and happiness I've gained from his teachings.

Perhaps it's just a concidence that he passed away on our National Day, but deep down inside I hope he has been finally liberated and attained Arahanthood - no more suffering, no more dukkha.

Hope everyone spare a thought and prayer for this extraordinary man.

Feel free to download and read his publications HERE.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Gillian Chung - fought off lust & curiosity

Funny thing happened today. In the midst of many newspapers publishing the sensational news of pop singer Gillian Chung's (one half of the pop group TWINS) semi-nude pictures taken secretly, I received an email from an old friend with the pics attached.

Like any curious and hot-blooded (trying to lower the temp :) male, my first instinct is to open the attachments and view the pics. Then I thought deeper and decided I'll just thrashed it. I ain't gonna feed that lusty and restless mind of mine. Furthermore, it's a blatant violation of someone's privacy.

Ironically, I got busybody later and asked Kelly if she heard about this hot news. She immediately asked me to forward those pics to her, to which I replied they have been deleted.

Later that nite I saw Gillian Chung crying on TV news with her fellow artises behind her denouncing such flagrant intrusion of privacy and violation of common decency. I then realised what if those were semi-nude pics of my mother, sister or wife being circulated. How would one feel then? Guys, please think twice before forwarding any obscene pics, or treat this as a laughing matter.

Lesson 1 - be mindful, it'll help me do wholesome deeds.
Lesson 2 - be mindful, if not that restless and busybody mind will start talking/doing unwholesome deeds again.
Lesson 3 - keep practicing lesson 1 and 2.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Sometimes in April

Humans are supposed to be beings with a highly malleable mind. With all the right conditions and efforts, we should be able to reach enlightenment. Yet history have shown we are capable of extreme malice. Read and you'll see the kind of horrifying pain and suffering inflicted by us in conflicts, both on a personal or mass level. You'll see genocides, massacres, wars, tortures, slavery and violent crimes being committed since the dawn of mankind.

Watching HBO's feature film, Sometimes in April reminded me of one thing: the human mind, once badly defiled, are capable of terrible deeds. See how envy and anger fan hatred till people can simply kill others wantonly. See how greed and lust for power can cause deep seated resentment between fellow countrymen. Read this horrifying account: Massacre at Nyarubuye Church

Above: see how defiled men can become - smiling before brutally killing others.

All the defilements in our mind: ignorance, greed, anger, hatred will rain pain and destruction if not curb and contain. If you cannot relate, try watching the movie above and imagine that it's your own mother, father, bro, sis, children who are being pursued and hacked to death. I tried that and found myself pleading with the bloodthirsty attackers to spare my loved ones, then helplessly watched them being killed right in front of me. So do you still want to complain about your lousy day? Aren't you glad you were not born in some poverty striken countries torn apart by wars and conflicts, and living in subhuman conditions?

It's really so important to cultivate loving kindness and compassion, to overcome and cleanse our mind from anger and hatred. So that ultimately, if not for the pursuit of freedom from suffering, at least we can still recognise ourselves as human beings.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Thank You & Goodbye Hee Boon

Saw an orbituary in The Star last week showing a handsome chap with a blog, FHB adventure. Wanted to read it out of curiosity but forgot. Later The Star came out with an article about the deceased, Foo Hee Boon's very inspirational blog on his experience with multiple cancers.

Went to his blog and what I read really touched my heart. An active and lively person who's committed to conserving the environment and care deeply for his family, Hee Boon's an exceptional person, someone whom I'll probably look up to...

Here are some interesting chapters from his amazing and inspirational blog:
Making meaning
Healing & acceptance
To die suddenly
Carpe Diem!!!
Way it should not be
More will come...

Although I do not know Hee Boon in person, I'm amazed at his wisdom, energy, patience, resolve, lovingkindness and equanimity. We share so many things in common, esp. in outlook andd spirituality. There was a page where he commented on how "unneccesary" is the Buddhist practice of animals liberation because it would encourage people to catch more animals (esp birds) to cater for this "liberation market". That was my sentiment exactly some time ago. It's a wonder how some complete stranger can provide such deep inspiration to me. Thank you for sharing Hee Boon and may you be blessed with a good rebirth to continue practicing the Dhamma till full liberation...

Tuesday, August 8, 2006

Supporting friends

Last Saturday afternoon, I rushed to Bidor to delivered some goods, then rushed back to KL to have a wonderful birthday dinner, and by then I was too tired to drive anymore. But on Friday night, my close friend Danny's father passed away in Seremban. Since Danny told me please don't come down, I took that as an "excuse" for me to rest after my dinner.

Then something strange came over me. Although my mind was set to go home and rest, I drove south in the direction towards Seremban. The moment I realised I should steer home, my mind told me to "make it count". As long as I had the strength and will, make it count. This is the kinda wholesome thought I'm working to encourage, and it's pushing me in the right direction now. Of course, the unwholesome thought also arises: risky to drive so long, so late, it's not appropriate for me to attend funeral on my birthday. I'm thankful that learning Buddhism has taught me to discard superstitions and value compassion. I'm grateful to be able to drive down to pay my last respect to Danny's dad and just be there for him.

Whenever I felt lazy or uncaring when others are in need, I recalled Hua Li encouraging me to visit my friend who was assaulted during a robbery attempt. I was so lazy then but she nagged me till I went, and she don't even know him well. I remembered Danny being there for me when my late wife was in ICU despite being out of touch for the last few years. I thank them for inspiring me to care and support my friends better. Every single moment spent supporting others is worthwhile, for we will never know if that's the last thing we are able to do.

Saturday, April 1, 2006

Suffering can be good

What a "weird" way of looking at things. Am I a nutcase? Most of our lives are like a roller coaster ride with it's ups and downs. We struggle day in and day out to earn a living so that we can have what we want (whatever that may be) and to fulfill our desires. But is that all there is to life: living just to fulfill our desires till we die? Ever wonder why you are who you are? I dunno about you, but I've spent 38 years of my life without contemplating this issue at all. The closest I got was pondering over the existence of God. Why? Coz I was too busy chasing after money, career and trying to fulfill my sensual desires constantly.

The Buddha taught The First Noble Truth of Dukkha. In short, dukkha means suffering. To live means to suffer, because the human nature is not perfect and neither is the world we live in. During our lifetime, we inevitably have to endure physical suffering such as pain, sickness, injury, tiredness, old age, and eventually death; and we have to endure psychological suffering like sadness, fear, frustration, disappointment, and depression. So you can see that human lives are full of suffering. He also taught that human lives are very precious. Of all the planes of existence (Gods, Demigods, Humans, Animals, Ghosts, Hell), human lives are most important because it has the "right" amount of pain and pleasure to inspire us to free ourselves from the cycle of rebirth and suffering. It's in human form that we can train our mind to penetrate our delusion and ignorance to see the ultimate truth. So in this sense, suffering is good. For suffering will be the wake-up call to those of us who are blinded by our daily routines and being totally engrossed in chasing after after sensual pleasure. There is a parable which taught that life is like going down a live volcano in a ladder. Initially when we started climbing down, we would not feel anything. This represent the period when we are young and carefree and thought that we'll live forever. Then as we climb deeper and deeper into the hole, we would feel the heat burning us. Meaning as we encounter more difficulties, troubles and pain in our lives, these are signals for us to do something before we get burned. So what is that "something" that we should do? For me that something is to be a better person, to be kind and benevolent to all living beings. To reduce my selfishness, pride, jealousy, desire, greed, ignorance and anger.

The Buddha also taught that there are 4 kinds of people:
1. Those who change after seeing other people suffered or died
2. Those who change after seeing their friends/relatives suffered or died.
3. Those who change after seeing their loved ones suffered or died.
4. Those who change after going through great suffering (emotionally or physically) themselves.

I belonged to the third category. Pain can be a very good teacher. It taught me not to waste time, to set my priorities more for others and less for self-indulgence. Because when you lost someone dear or when you are about to die, more often than not you will be filled with feelings of guilts and regrets of words not said and deeds not done. That's how suffering can bring us back into focus, back into what really matters, to be a good person so that we live a meaningful, purposeful life.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Change is inevitable, growth is optional

Life is very unpredictable indeed. It can surprise you in least expected ways. Last year has been a year of change for me, real change. Not the new year resolution I-do-it-coz-everyone-does-it type.

A lot of things that matters to me in the past (money, career, assets etc) didn't matter so much now. A lot of things that I neglected or taken for granted (doing good/charity, family time, showing care, relatives, friends, watching my words & actions etc) matters a lot now. Hua Li passing in Jan 2005 have spurred some very drastic change in me, changes that I never thought I would do in the past. Looking back, I think I would have been a much better person if not for my selfish desires. I like who I am now, even if it's at the expense of being outcast by a few "friends" because we no longer share the same "wavelength" or interests. I guess vice really is vice to me now; not fun, excitement, satisfaction or the various other tags I use to justify indulging in it.

Some of the major changes I underwent are:

1. Stopping profanity, harsh speech or cursing others.
2. Being more caring to others, esp the less fortunate.
3. Doing charity and giving to the needy.
4. Stopping alcohol or any intoxicating substance.
5. Stopping pornography and preventing lustful thoughts.
6. Trying my best to stop lying. If the truth is hurtful, I'll keep silent - this is the hardest thing to do.
7. Being more tolerant and patient.
8. To think first before I act or react.

The Lotus flower grew up beneath mud and sand to blossom above the water. Any drop of dirt on it will drip off into the water. A majestic sight indeed.

Amazing how a painful event in life can spur such a drastic change in a person. I recalled the day when my staff Kelly told another staff Kenneth that he should see the Charles she knew in 1999, he utter profanities often and definitely would not tolerate scolding from dealers without mouthing off and firing back. I remembered tolerating harsh words, curses and abuse from a certain loved one, at an intensity that I would never have tolerated say 5 years ago. Hearing and reflecting these comments from people who see me daily are truly refreshing and encouraging. To me, it meant I've really changed, for the better.

I like who I am now, and even though at certain times I felt the need to be the "old Charles" in order to belong, I've managed to resist it so far. And who must I thank? My greatest and most benevolent teacher, The Buddha. For opening my eyes to the value of my life and the lives of all those around me. For teaching me the 4 Noble Truth.

PS. Thank you Vince for the words I used as the title above.