Saturday, October 17, 2009

Touching Diwali message

Found this today while surfing around. The touching message says it all. Pass it around to everyone.

Happy Diwali Folks.

May the light of joy & happiness shine on you always.

PS. Thousands of candles can be lit by a single candle. Go on, light up somebody's world today. :)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Supporting a grieving friend

My friend Louise lost her boyfriend Jeffrey Lee in a horrible motorbike accident last week. She had only known him not too long and their relationship only started last year. Louise had been through few really tough times and I was very happy for her to have found someone like Jeff. Though I've met Jeff only a couple of times, he came across as very nice and warm person. It was validated when Louise told me on my first visit to the funeral wake that Jeff have no temper. This is truly admirable because such person are rare. As a Buddhist, I've learned that people who perfectly restrain their anger are like harmless sages of solid gold, we call them The Efficient Charioteer - see verse 222.

As I sat beside her, tears streamed down her eyes and I could sensed her grief & agony deep inside me. To be separated from your loved ones is dukkha indeed. Louise told me that Jeff met an accident while biking with his gang of friends along the Karak highway. By the time his entourage made a u-turn and discovered his body, his pouch with wallet and valuables inside had been stolen. Such is the depravity and cruelty certain people are capable of when greed overrides everything. Louise then said she'll stay overnight for the wake till the service tomorrow, ie. to be there almost 24 hours. Worried for her mental well-being, I asked her why and she said she wanted to be by Jeff side as long as she can. I wanted to share that she can be "with" Jeff by cherishing the thought of him and his good deeds instead of compromising her sleep knowing that she'll need more strength for the service and cremation tomorrow. But I decided to keep quiet and drop by to keep her company in the early hours of the morning when nobody is around.

But earlier in the night, the guys in my gym sparred really hard with me so I came home with my whole body feeling sore and aching, even had a laceration below my left eye. I quickly showered and as I prep myself to visit Louise, typical reluctance came over me: my body is in pain, I barely know Jeff, it's too late, I need to work tomorrow, & lastly, it's my birthday tomorrow. But Buddhism taught me that only the present moment matters, so it's up to me to make a difference, to do what I can while I still can. With this resolve and clarity from a previous experience, I drove my car to the mamak at 2am in the morning and bought 4 packs of hot drinks for Louise. I had no idea what drink she like and I wouldn't wanna call her because I'm sure she'll stop me from coming if I did. I arrived to find her sitting alone in the hall while some of Jeff friends sat outside. She was surprised to see me but seemed glad. She took the pack of hot Milo and chatted with me. I kept quiet most of the time because I felt she needed space to grief and share. Hope I did the right thing compare to some of her more vocal friends.

To following day I attended Jeff's cremation which was a solemn and tearful occasion for many people. Louise's mum, sisters and nephew were there to comfort and support her. Ahh... the beauty of family love. For me, I'm just glad I'm able to support a grieving friend with whatever little I can offer.

This entry is dedicated in memory of Jeffrey Jude Lee.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

What is The Highest Protection?

I have heard that at one time the Blessed One was staying in Savatthi at Jeta's Grove, Anathapindika's park. Then a certain deva, in the far extreme of the night, her extreme radiance lighting up the entirety of Jeta's Grove, approached the Blessed One. On approaching, having bowed down to the Blessed One, she stood to one side. As she stood to one side, she addressed him with a verse.

Many devas and humans beings
give thought to protection,
desiring well-being.
Tell, then, the highest protection.

The Buddha:

Not consorting with fools,
consorting with the wise,
paying homage to those worthy of homage:
This is the highest protection.

Living in a civilized land,
having made merit in the past,
directing oneself rightly:
This is the highest protection.

Broad knowledge, skill,
well-mastered discipline,
well-spoken words:
This is the highest protection.

Support for one's parents,
assistance to one's wife and children,
consistency in one's work:
This is the highest protection.

Generosity, living in rectitude (uprightness),
assistance to one's relatives,
deeds that are blameless:
This is the highest protection.

Avoiding, abstaining from evil;
refraining from intoxicants,
being heedful of the qualities of the mind:
This is the highest protection.

Respect, humility,
contentment, gratitude,
hearing the Dhamma on timely occasions:
This is the highest protection.

Patience, composure,
seeing contemplatives,
discussing the Dhamma on timely occasions:
This is the highest protection.

Austerity, celibacy,
seeing the Noble Truths,
realizing Unbinding:
This is the highest protection.

A mind that, when touched
by the ways of the world,
is unshaken, sorrowless, dustless, at rest:
This is the highest protection.

Everywhere undefeated
when acting in this way,
people go everywhere in well-being:
This is their highest protection.

Sutta Nipata II.4, Mahamangala Sutta.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

In memory of my grandma Lee Siew

Today is Wesak day, and also happened to be the 100th day of my maternal grandmother Lee Siew death, who passed away on 30th January, 2009 at the ripe old age of 93.

My grandmother Lee Siew is a strong-willed woman and grand matriarch of our family. Although some might find her "frustrating", I knew she did it all to safeguard our family or take care of us in her own way. She has been preparing for her time more than 10 years ago. She bought her own grave lot and gave detail instructions to my mum in the event of her passing. Everytime we took her out to eat, my mind wondered if this will be the last time I see her. Although my worry is a form of Dukkha, I tried my best to be mindful and prepare myself on the necessary steps to take when the time comes.

On that fateful morning, I received a call around 5am from my dad who said grandma is having difficulties. I rushed over to her residence and her caretaker Ann told me that grandma is unconscious and her vital signs are very weak. Ann, who run the nursing and old folks home where my grandma is residing, is a certified nurse who specializes in Geriatric care. By the time I reached her bedside, my grandma looked like she's deep asleep but struggling to breathe loudly and heavily. Ann calmly told me that this is normal when people are about to pass away due to old age. I composed myself and tried to recall all that I have read about what to do in a person's final dying moment from the Buddhist perspective. I put my hands on her forehead and foot to feel the warmth and pulled up the blanket to keep her warm and comfortable. As the body dissolve and consciousness fade, it's important to ensure that the dying person state of mind is clear and wholesome. That is why we shouldn't cry or lament in front of a dying person to free that person from worries, guilt, regrets, attachment and any unwholesome thoughts. I remembered Bhante Aggacitta once said even a person in coma can hear or feel what we said or do around him or her.

I went to buy batteries to run the chanting machine in the form of Guan Yin statue and place it near her ear. Putting an image of reverence like a Buddha statue, or any other image according to the dying person belief (Jesus, Angels, Deities) will help calm the dying person's mind so that they will have positive, peaceful state of mind. According to Buddhist belief, a dying person's final state of mind is one of the key factor that will determine that person place of rebirth. I whispered into her ears and asked her to chant and think of Amitabha Buddha, which is her main belief. While my mum & dad are around, I rushed to Maha Vihara to fetch a monk to chant for her and had the blessing of meeting a very kind & understanding monk named Bhante Sumangala who came and chanted few verses from the suttas for her. After chanting, Bhante used a spoon and fed some holy water into my grandma's mouth. He said this is more effective than sprinkling holy water in the case of a dying person.

While fetching Bhante Sumangala back to Maha Vihara, my mum called and informed me that my grandma had passed away soon after we left. This is how unpredictable life can be. A doctor in the ICU once told me: I've seen cases where people stuck around critical patients' bedside 24/7, but sadly the patients died the moment their loved ones walked away to the toilet. Our family then convened to decide which funeral service to engage. I pulled up a name card which I kept in my pocket for the last 3 years: Koperasi Buddhisme Malaysia Berhad (Malaysian Buddhist Co-operative Society Limited). Their Funeral Directors, Bro Kelvin Lim and Sis Didi Chan impressed me when they conducted the funeral for a friend's father few years back.

I called Bro Kelvin and within few hours he turned up and arranged everything for me. By the next day, the setup for my grandma's funeral was done with 2 altars: one in Theravada tradition (which I practice) and the other in Mahayana tradition (which my family practice). Kelvin took great patience to explain to my parents Buddhist traditions and ways. I then fetch 3 monks from Maha Vihara to chant and conduct transference of merits to my grandma. It was absolutely heartwarming to see my 5 years old daughter kneeling down and giving respect during the whole time the monks were chanting and later gave a talk on the Dhamma.

Because my grandma died during the Chinese new year holidays, we decided not to inform anyone except for a few close relatives. Most Chinese are "pantang" (fearful) about attending funeral during auspicious period. Except for the Mahayana nuns that Kelvin arranged to chant in the evening, we were prepared for a quiet funeral since few people knew. Fortunately, my mum met a Pureland Buddhist follower who enquired if we want them to chant for my grandma later in the night. To our surprise and amazement, a big number of people turned up that night to chant for my grandma. The whole place resonated with Amitofo, Amitofo, Amitofo... as they chanted in unison and I felt so much loving kindness and compassion from these kind folks. I've joined supportive chanting group before but never have I seen a group this size, this many. My mum said it's my grandma's blessing to have so many people chanting for her.

After 2 nights, we buried my grandma in Nirvana Memorial Park in Semenyih. Today our family gathered there to pay respect to a great grandma whose strength and willpower epitomizes what family bond is all about.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Save the children of Gaza

2009 signaled the start of a trying year for me as a father with a 5 years old daughter who just started school. It's hard to juggle my demanding job with my family obligations. Being a single parent made things more difficult. Thank goodness I have my wonderful sis to help take care of my daughter as good as any mother can. Of course, I'm totally grateful to my parents and aunt too.

As my heart warmed to the fun-filled antics of my precocious daughter in her daily carefree routine of playtime, meals and learning, I can't help but wonder about those who are less fortunate than her. Children suffering from wars, hungers, crimes, abuse and all manners of cruelty. Read about my previous posts on Blood Diamond and Rwanda to understand what I mean.

The recent atrocities committed by Israel against civilians and children in Gaza is a reflection of the First Noble Truth - life is suffering. I can't help but wonder how would a parent feel to see their children killed right in front of their eyes; to see them crying out loud in agony and pain from the wounds inflicted by bullets, shrapnels, broken glasses and rubbles. Think it'll never happen to your child? What if natural disasters and accidents strike? Read my dedication to Demi Adams.

Try something with me. See the pictures above. Look at the lifeless bodies of the dead children and babies. Now close your eyes, imagine one of them is your child. Say to yourself: the unthinkable has happened - your child is dead, motionless, limbs and body stiff - no amount of crying and shaking will wake them up. You'll never hear cute giggling or laughing anymore. Nothing... just a lifeless body and dead silence. Can you feel the pain and grief of parents who lost their children in this war? Can you imagine how excruciating it is: to have your loved ones taken away from you in such cruel ways.

Whatever claims Israel has against Palestine and it's people, it's gone when they killed civilians indiscriminately. Nothing justify such blatant violations of humanity and disregard for human lives. This is not about the Arab-Israel conflict, it's not about a country sovereignty and it's right to defend itself. It's simply about soldiers killing civilians and children. I'm not going to suggest any specific course of action but as long as you are aware of the sufferings faced by the Palestinian people, then I'm sure your wisdom will lead the way for you. In fact, if everyone is aware of the pain and suffering from war and cherish peace with all their heart, all their might; this world will be a better place.