Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Guan Yin and Wise Sayings of The Buddha

Took my family to the temple today, to pay homage to Guan Yin Pusa, also known as Avalokiteshvara in Sanskrit or Chenrezig according to Tibetan Buddhism. To me, Guan Yin is the embodiment of compassion and loving kindness.

As I kneeled down to pay homage to Guan Yin, I wanted to recite "Om Mani Padme Hung" 108 times but failed on my first attempt. There were simply too many distractions. So I got up, took the vegetarian lunch, and after a short break, went down on my knees again. This time, I reminded myself to be mindful of the present, not to let my mind stray, and just focus on chanting. After chanting about 20 times, my mind started to wonder and even tried to convince me to stop at 30 times. I then bring my thoughts to the parami (perfection) of "Adhitthana" or determination. Each time I recalled Adhitthana, I persevered on and on till I chanted 108 times. Now this might not seem like an arduous task to many but it is to me, since I have a restless mind centered on worldly affairs. But this episode made me realized the value of mindfulness and determination.

Came home and watched YouTube to relax. Ran a few searches on Guan Yin and found 2 very inspiring videos:

1. A mesmerizing dance representing Guan Yin with the following words of wisdom:

As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
A thousand hands will naturally come to your aid
As long as you are kind and there is love in your heart
You will reach out with a thousand hands to help others

2. A video of a demure girl quoting the wise teachings of Siddhāttha Gotama; The Buddha. I've read some before but it's truly inspiring when I viewed and listened to them in this video. I guess the presenter in this video has a natural flair for delivering the wise sayings of The Buddha.

PS. Thank you Sarah Swofford for the absolutely beautiful recitations.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Free Burma, support the Saffron Revolution!

I followed the anti-government protests and cries for help in Burma (now Myanmar) with concern since mid September. I remembered reading an article that said since the monks have joined the protest, the oppressive military government (junta) in Burma are now caught between a rock and a hard place, mainly because it's unimaginable that the junta will use force on the peaceful monks in Burma.

That article struck two thoughts in me:

1. Why would Buddhist monks, who have renounced the secular world to lead a homeless life, take such an active part in politics?

2. What if the unthinkable happen: the military junta decides to use force on these monks?

Guess what? The unthinkable happened. The military junta in Burma finally used violent means to suppress the protest in yet AGAIN another brutal crackdown. Scores of people including monks were arrested, beaten, shot, brutalized and killed. The soldiers and policemen, acting on orders from the junta, stormed many temples and monasteries to detain monks and from the accounts of what I've read and viewed: tortured and killed many monks in horrifying ways.

For decades, the military junta have ruled Burma with an iron fist with total disregard for the welfare of the people. Poverty and famine is at an all time high and there are virtually no proper education or job opportunities with many brutal crackdowns on the intellectuals and students in Burma.

Burma, already one of the world's poorest nations, recently saw a ninefold increase in the price of oil and a 40% increase in the price of rice, which made the incompetent and power-hungry junta fearful of any popular uprising, hence even monks were not spared from the brutality as they struggle to cling on to power. Such clinging and lust for power are invariably destructive and the cause of untold sufferings.

Under such extreme conditions, it’s impossible for the people of Burma to practice the Dhamma, let alone maintain a calm and serene mind. Therefore, the monks out of deep compassion for all those suffering in Burma, decided to take part in a peaceful protest with the hope that the military junta would do something to alleviate the suffering and improve the welfare of all Burmese citizens. By doing so, the holy Sangha, as the protector of the noble Dhamma, now lies completely brutalized and shattered by the oppressive and inhuman regime in Burma.

If you happened to read this, please try to:

1. Say a prayer or send your good thoughts to people and monks in Burma who are suffering now.

2. See what you can do HERE.

I leave you to ponder over these two quotes:

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing – Edmund Burke.
(This happens to be my Karate grandmaster Vince Morris sensei's favorite quote)

There are times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest - Elie Wiesel.
(Let's take protest in this context to include active compassionate action: saying a prayer or good thoughts, sharing the news regarding Burma, donating to the people of Burma, appealing to the UN and your government to help the people of Burma and etc.)

Free Burma! Free Myanmar! Support the Saffron Revolution!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Organs donation

Been mulling over this since 2001. It was Susan who first shared with me the idea of donating organs upon death, having pledge her organs sometime ago. Discovering Buddhism led me to deeper thoughts of this matter.

The Star report on the successful second transplant for heart patient Tee Hui Yi is both touching and eye-opening. Touching because the parents of a young mechanic who died in an accident put aside their grief for what must be a shocking loss to consent to donating their son organs.

Eye-opening when I read more than 100,000 Malaysians have pledged their organs but in reality only 25 have donated their organs to save lives, mainly because many families or next of kin do not agree to the organ donation. Tee Hui Yi can be considered extremely lucky to have found 2 suitable donors within a span of just 24 hours after the body rejected the first transplant. I see it as her good kamma from her past merits ripening at the right time.

It took a team of more than 14 specialists and senior nurses from IJN (Institut Jantung Negara) two grueling days performing the two transplants on Hui Yi. So much effort just to save one person. This truly illustrates the dedication and commitment of doctors to save lives, and shows just how precious human life is. It's so easy to take away a life, but so difficult to save one. May we all learn to live peacefully without enmity and violence.

I'll try to spend more time to deeply consider donating my own organs. Read here for more info on organs donation. Susan, if you are reading this, thanks for sharing.