Monday, December 1, 2008


I've learned a lot regarding patience last month. Firstly, a fellow colleague scolded me harshly for no apparent reasons. I refrained from retaliating telling myself that anger cannot be overcome by anger, only by patience and understanding.

Then I got cheated by my new car salesman who promised me many things but not only broke many of them, he cheated me again later. I kept my cool telling myself those are just material/monetary losses, and not to get too attached to them. I will lodge official complaint soon but will try my best to refrain from scolding him.

Lastly, I got into an argument in the Internet forum over some products which I was promoting till it escalated into names calling. I took hold of my pride, admitted that he presented valid points, and apologized for my insensitive remarks. Immediately he responded with a softer tone and we made our peace. Nice result from being patience and not giving in to my pride.

I must say that in all those episodes, I was indeed angry and felt wronged. But I refrained from acting on my anger. I managed to be mindful that acting on anger is not wholesome at all, and hope that I've acted with skillful means in all those instances. This is the perfection of Khanti. May the lights of patience shine through our pride, anger and ignorance.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Tzu Chi Foundation

Been wanting to blog about Tzu Chi Foundation since the first time I encountered them during the funeral of Venerable Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda.

Founded in 1966 by Dharma Master Cheng Yen in the impoverished east coast of Taiwan, the Tzu Chi Foundation has been contributing to better social and community services, medical care, education and humanitarian efforts all over the world. My Taiwanese friend Mark used to tell me how their volunteers would be the first one to arrive to help flood victims in Taiwan even faster than any other relief agencies.

Their Malaysian chapter, Buddhist Tzu Chi Merits Society helps everyone regardless of race, religion and all the labels we used to separate or differentiate ourselves. They provided assistance and relief to the Johor flood victims during and after the flood. Their Dialysis Centers provided not only medical assistance to the needy but also help uplift their lives by encouraging them help collect, sort and sell recyclable materials to provide operating funds for the three centers. Serving a worthy cause brightened the lives of these volunteers who are also patients.

What impressed me most is the manner which Tzu Chi Merits Society volunteers help people. During the Sichuan earthquake in China, they came to Low Yat Plaza to collect funds to help the earthquake victims. They stationed two persons teams in the main entrance and near all the escalators. Then they smile and bow down graciously to everyone who pass by with the hope of getting a donation from them. I inserted some money into the donation box and went upstairs to see my dealers. About half an hour later, I came back downstairs, and saw them still smiling and bowing their head down continuously. It's amazing, such gracious respect and honour given to everyone who walks by regardless whether the person donates or not. I gave again and felt moved and inspired by such gestures of humility and sincerity.

My deepest admiration and salute goes to Tzu Chi Foundation as an organisation that demonstrate compassionate wisdom with affirmative actions.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Food for Thoughts

Susan arranged for a nice family dinner yesterday. The restaurant is call Xian Tien and it's run by her spiritual movement society Bai Tian Gong. I recalled one of the better known dish there is fried frog legs. Now I know some of you are squirmy about eating 4-legged amphibians but let me tell you that frogs are quite a delicacy in Asian and Chinese cuisine.

It struck upon me that the frogs in that restaurant are normally kept alive before being cooked. Now I'm in a dilemma, I would not like to eat meat knowing it's specifically killed for me. This is in line with the Buddha's teachings. But I wouldn't want to disappoint Susan and her family who love this dish. So I tried not to eat any, actually I don't enjoy frog meat anyway.

This whole episode lead me to learn more about the Buddha's teachings on eating meat:

"Monks, I allow you fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. But, you should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose for you." - Jivaka Sutta, MN 55.

My understanding is this is more than a dietary rule. It covers consideration for other living beings and to discourage killing a living being to specifically feed another. Another way to practice compassion and selflessness while cultivating right thought and right action.

As I read more for this entry, I discovered that there are 10 types of meat (humans, elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, leopards, bears and hyenas) which are prohibited by Buddhism. I'm glad I'm more wary of the Buddha's teachings from this episode. More details here.

As for eating beef, my understanding is that this is not a prohibited meat according to the Buddha's teachings. It's more a Hindu and Chinese belief (esp. those who pay homage to Guan Yin) that one should not eat beef. I do however, agreed with the saying that one should be grateful to those who have provided for us. So it's certainly not grateful to eat the cows and bulls who plow our paddy fields and work so hard for us. Although we use mostly rice tractors today, it's the thought that counts.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

So Sick of Love Songs

6.51am, just came home from a long meeting. Still haven't hit the sack. My mind kept humming a fabulous song I heard over the radio today. This song basically sums up my sentiment toward the "romance is everything" mentality these days. So here it is, from Ne-Yo, So Sick:

This song dedicated to:

1. Those who strive to be happy no matter what their relationship status is: single, in one, in between, married, separated, divorced, widowed etc.

2. Those who sacrifice their personal relationship and dedicate their lives to helping and caring for others.

3. Those who refuse to settle for a lesser partner just for the sake of having a relationship.

4. Those who have grown up to be stronger and wiser from a broken relationship.

5. Me, because I believed you don't need to be romantic to be romantic, and to be in love to know love.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Break-Ups and Broken-Hearted

Fresh from losing my old friend Quan and seeing how much his widow grieves, another friend came to me with her own break-up and separation. It's not proper to reveal the details of her break-up but suffice to say, she's really broken-hearted.

When you love someone deeply, it's really agonizing and utterly disorienting to lose that person. Especially if you spend a lot of time with him/her and your life revolves around that person. So as she shared with me how she wish he will change his mind or how uncertain life is without him, I felt so helpless and sad that a person has to go through so much pain from the failure of a relationship. I tried to comfort her by suggesting she stay calm, live one day at a time and keep busy with work or hobbies knowing very well it's easier said than done. Then my mind reflect back to the Buddha's teachings that there is dukkha in life, it's inescapable as long as we are trap in Samsara (rounds of birth and rebirth). I felt calmer and this strengthened my resolve to be there for her as much as possible.

Around the same time, my old buddy in US called and told me that his relationship of 8 years with his girlfriend is on the verge of a break-up. I knew the both of them quite well and I was shocked to hear after being in a long distance relationship for so long, she wants to call it quits. Well, life can be unpredictable at times, and I can testify to that. Again, I felt lost and defeated simply because I cannot think of one concrete solution to offer him to save his dear relationship.

Whenever I hear of relationship break-ups and friends broken-hearted, my thoughts race to Dhammapadha Verse 61 of which the Buddha asked us to choose the right partner otherwise just stay single (my understanding of it). But this is really hard to do for many people, especially when most of us (me included) crave love, attention, emotional and physical satisfaction, or what Buddhism call attachment to sense pleasure. Personally, this is one tough nut to crack. Through the few break-ups my friends have shared with me, I've resisted sharing this verse with them because I've learned that sharing the Dhamma must be tempered by wisdom and compassion. So I decided to just focus on being there for them whenever they need me. I hope they'll do the same for me when I'm down.

All these sorrowful episodes made me depressed and I wonder why we all have to go through so much pain whenever our relationship failed. I mean, why have relationship at all if the risk is such bitter agony from break-ups and separations. Then I called my 4 years old daughter to say hello and asked her how's her day. She greeted me with enthusiasm, and she told me she had "chicken, carrot and potato" for her dinner. Her sweet and cute little voice lifted me and suddenly it dawned on me: children don't have relationship blues, why? Of course they don't have the kind of relationships adults have but the point is: they have simple needs. They don't feel the pain we feel because they have simple needs. This does NOT mean I'm against romantic relationship but rather I'm sharing a discovery I've made that if we reduce our craving (in this instance, for "love" of all kinds), we can reduce our suffering. And this is not to say if I do face a break-up, I'll not feel sad. But it put things in perspective: if we do suffer break-ups, it's not the end of the world. Remember the times that we were happy with just "chicken, carrot and potato".

Some useful articles:
Breakdown of a break-up - what, when, why, how?

How to cope - as dumper and dumpee (pardon the phrases, it's in the article)

Saturday, March 29, 2008

In Memory of Quan Chee Kheong

A good and old friend passed away around 5.40am last Wednesday, 19th March, 2008. from apparent heart failure. His name is Quan Chee Kheong.

Quan has been my friend since 1988. A tall, muscular and handsome fella, he enjoyed working out in the gym, golfing, watching soccer, movies and just being with his family and friends. Therefore it caught me by complete surprise when he suffered a massive heart attack in 2003. His health deteriorated from then on and it's painful to see him so weak and frail. His loving wife Susan was by his side and took good care of him continously. This is what real love is all about: sticking by your loved one in sickness and in health.

Quan was a friendly, helpful and caring friend. I remembered him helping me often when I needed someone who can speak Thai. I remembered him visiting Hua Li in ICU and comforting me despite his weak and frail condition. I remembered him standing in silent solitude over my comatose wife, an assuring and towering figure of strength. He has always helped me whenever I asked. Having an affinity for Thai people, and their culture, he has been a good friend to many Thai people who settled down here, my late Hua Li being one of them.

I'm sure his past training as a lay monk in Thailand helped him cope with his heart ailment with such patience and equaminity. Till Susan explained to me the suffering he has been going through after his heart attack, I never knew a heart patient has to go through so much pain and ache. Yet I never hear him complain or lament about his condition despite not being able to do all those activities he love so much in the past.

His passing has brought a timely awakening to me who has been too busy working in my demanding business. Never take our health for granted, never forget our friends and do good whenever we can. Our family, friends and wealth will be left behind when we die, but our legacy and good deeds will follow us to the next life. And I'm sure my good friend, you have moved on to a better place. May the Triple Gem guide and protect you always, wherever you are. Thank you for your friendship and inspiring me to be a better person. You'll always be remembered.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Contentment as an Antidote for Depression

Took an audio CD from Buddhist Maha Vihara last month. Listened to it many times and I was impressed with the whole talk. The talk entitled "Contentment as an Antidote for Depression" was presented by Dr. Pang Cheng Kar, a medical doctor from HKL with clinical experience in psychology and psychiatry. The good Doc articulated the concept of "what we think will determine how we feel".

This is very close to what The Buddha taught as stated in Dhammapada Chapter 1, Verse 1 & 2:
We are what we think. All that we are arises with our thoughts. With our thoughts we make the world. Speak or act with an impure mind, and trouble will follow you as the wheel follows the ox that draws the cart... Speak or act with a pure mind, and happiness will follow you as your shadow, unshakable.

Dr. Pang outlined 5 thought patterns that can make us depressed, based on the model by Dr. Aaron Beck, the father of cognitive therapy.

1. Generalization: exaggerate and over-amplified matters.

2. Catastrophic Thinking: projecting the worse of the future.

3. Dichotomous or Dualistic Thinking: think of everything in black and white, either success or failure, good or bad, intelligent or stupid etc. No shades, no in-betweens, no tolerance.

4. Personalization: finding faults constantly, with ourselves or others.

5. Absolute thinking: everything is a must. Extreme craving for certain results or outcomes.

All these 5 thought patterns have something in common: fault finding.

He then introduced some ways to cope or overcome depression by conditioning how we think, namely developing contentment. And this is beautiful: he suggest we keep a Diary or Book of Contentment for ourselves. Cultivate or develop contentment by jotting down all the wonderful things that happened to us. For me, this blog is my own diary of contentment.

There are 3 things we can write down in our Book of Contentment:

1. Be grateful for the things that didn't go wrong. Things we take for granted, for eg. our health, enough food to eat, a proper place to stay, peaceful country etc. Many others are suffering from poor health, lost of limbs or abilities, wars and deprived of basic human needs.

2. Be grateful for things that went right. Rejoice for all the good things that happened to you: a caring & supportive family, spouse, a good education, good career, thriving business and all the fine things you have been enjoying in life. Avoid craving for more by rejoicing in them continously as if they just happened yesterday. Dr. Pang shared how he is still thankful for the scholarship he received years ago.

3. Be grateful for things that went wrong. This is highest level of developing contentment. I guessed all of us are too eager to blame but forget to learn from our mistakes. It is the bitter events in our lives that offer us the opportunities to grow and mature into a wiser, better person. This is what Dr. Pang meant by "transformative suffering", learning from our hardship or our pains. By understanding and accepting the fact that our lives will always have ups and downs, we become more forgiving, tolerant and patient to ourselves and others, and in the process, become a happier person.

I dunno about you, but to me, Contentment equals Happiness.

PS. Clinical depression is different from the low mood or blues we sometimes feel. And do note that complacency, indifference or apathy is NOT contentment.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Gatha for Metta - remembering the Tsunami

Found a touching poem while browsing E-Sangha forum today. This poem was written after the Tsunami struck Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004, killing about 230,000 people, with tens of thousands missing and over one million displaced. What I like most about this poem is the way it encourages loving kindness and compassion; over everything else that judge, label and separate us along cultural, racial or religious lines. Here is the beautiful poem, written by Beth Vieira:

When there is destruction and death,
may all beings be relieved of suffering.

When there is no one to blame,
may all beings be relieved of judgement.

When there is a lost mother and a crying child,
may all beings be relieved of their tears.

When there is utter incomprehension,
may all beings be relieved of confusion.

When there is no way to do anything,
may all beings be relieved of their helplessness.

May the world and all beings be relieved from the suffering
of pain and death, destruction and illness, fear and doubt.

May the world and all beings be free of danger
and find safe harbor in the loving arms of compassion.

May compassion and hope bring together all beings,
holding hands and holding each other in gentle lovingkindness.

So as we celebrate and welcome the new year, please remember that there are some less fortunate people who are suffering and languishing in many poverty stricken slums or war torn places, without any proper meals or a roof over their heads, in pain and diseased. Let us cherish our lives and those around us. Let us show care and concern whenever we can, and make our lives more meaningful. By remembering them, and let this be a catalyst of change for the new us in 2008.