Thursday, January 19, 2017
If you don't know the series yet, do yourself a favour and read from the Three Body Problem, to The Dark Forest, followed by Death's End by Liu Ci Xin. Originally written in Chinese, it had been translated to English. I am glad to have brought the first two books. After reading so many science fiction novels and series, this one just became my best series so far. Better than Dune series, Foundation series, Robots series (by Issac Asimov), the Ender and Shadow series by Orson Scott Card.
It contains so many of the main characteristics of why we read science fiction: to have problems which we solve by science and technology. The problems presented in the books were so logically primed, it was amazing to see how the author did not back down from the challenge and is willing to let the characters in his book to pay the price for choosing something which is less than ideal or without foresight.
Although much of this book looks down upon love and compassion, the main character embodies it very well. It didn't gave the moral of the story as you should be as dark as the universe, but rather to always choose human nature over the beast nature, and be willing to bear the consequences if it didn't turned out well.
I am just sad at one thing, Cheng Xin never got to meet Yu Tianming again. Just a few minutes apart, they were suddenly separated by a few million years. It was the cruel application of basic physics and what happens when you manipulate the laws of nature. I thought somehow a clever Yu Tianming and AA would meet up with Cheng Xin and Guan Yilun again. Too bad no such thing happened. Haiz....
To be sure, it was hard to read the process whereby the Solar System gets turned into 2D.
The most amazing part was actually the fairy tale. I would have loved to stop and kept on thinking about what it meant if I wasn't so eager to let the book do the job for me. It's so brilliant that the message was well hidden. So sad the humanity didn't pay more effort into thinking more about it and linking it to manipulation of the laws of physics before going full speed on the bunker project.
It seems that the Trisolarians were afraid that humanity would be able to use these advance tech to destroy both Trisolarian fleet before they were safely out of range of the solar system, so they didn't share these tech. At least they allowed humans to keep on having a little bit more time and some chance to escape.
Thursday, July 16, 2015
I was asked to write about what would a Buddhist do in the aftermath of the Low Yat Incident a few days ago.
So here's the background for those who don't know the incident. Basically, a man stole a handphone, got caught and in that weekend, gangs of people came and smash the shop, fights broke out and also a riot, caused in no small part by someone from the gang using misunderstanding and racial slur to mobilize the mob to do such uncivilized behavior. Lucky for Malaysia, the incident has been resolved very fast and efficiently by the police, using CCTV cameras to show that the case is a theft case and the thieve called for revenge. That's it, don't bring in racial hatred and spoil the harmony in Malaysia.
And I am inclined to agree with that. Case closed, no comments. I don't need to continue anymore, don't share the ugly stuffs.
Yet, I think the real impact of the incident is online and that means in the minds of those who shared, commented, or even just read about the incident. Many are very level-headed, condemning the incident as not racial thing, but just an ugly thing. I agree. Don't need to get angry. So let's drop the Low Yat thnig and pretend you came for a Dhamma lesson.
Where's the Buddhist stuffs? Hmmm... well, back in Buddha's days there was a sort of racial separation as well. That's the caste system, separated into four caste based on birth that has no chance whatsoever to change caste (unless they join the ascetics). When there is also the untouchables, the outcaste. The Buddha had spoken out against such discrimination, using various methods and logic to show the people at that time that it does not make sense to discriminate by birth, only by deeds is one an outcaste.
There is the biological reasoning, that we are all humans with the same eyes, ears, nose, heart, brain, liver, so what is the basis for discrimination amongst humans? Biologically we are of the same capabilities. Another reasoning is that there exist virtuous and evil people in all castes, can we really discriminate and say one caste is morally inferior to another? Is it justified to use a biased preconceived notion to judge others? In any caste system, a person who had committed a crime still pays for the crime committed.
In Digha Nikaya 4, The Buddha once asked a Brahmin (a person from the highest caste): What makes a Brahmin?
The answer he got was:
- Racial caste purity documented to seven generations;
- Knowledge of the mantras (of the Vedic religion);
The Brahmin, Sonadanda then dropped off appearance. As it is relatively unimportant.
Then the Buddha continued, if one more quality is to be dropped, and still the person could be considered a Brahmin, which would it be?
The Brahmin, Sonadanda then dropped off knowledge of the mantras. (Note this is like dropping religion off a race association.)
The Buddha continued even more, if one more quality is to be dropped, and still the person could be considered a Brahmin, which would it be?
The Brahmin Sonadanda now said birth can be left out, for virtue is more important. Wisdom and virtue are the two mutually irreducible qualities of a Brahman. Thus, Sonadanda says, “wisdom is purified by morality, and morality by wisdom.” This combination he identifies with the highest good, and the Buddha concurs.
This was how the Buddha gradually lead the person to be trained into the right view taught by him, by self discovery and question.
This is also how you should be asking yourself. Are you affected by racial comments? Are you able to let go and be calm in all situations? Are you able to see logically and calmly what makes a good human? It's not by birth (Chinese or Malay) nor by religion, nor by appearances. Merely virtue and wisdom. In this regard, the Malaysians humans can be proud of themselves for displaying wisdom in condemning the incident and not raise it to racial riot, and the virtue to forgive and be non-violent, and letting go of anger.
Of course, even nationality boundaries are also a sort of discrimination based on birth, so I would use, as a good member of the human race, let's be continue to be wise and virtuous.
Thursday, June 18, 2015
I would define Buddhism as the container of Dhamma. The Buddhist Societies, the humans who practices it, the culture, history, geographical spread, the social context, Buddhist arts, etc... all these are Buddhism, you can also include the Dhamma in here as well.
Dhamma there might be many deep meanings. First and most commonly that I would use is the words of the Buddha. Technically that is also Buddhism as the words are signpost to the thing pointed to. So the second and truer meaning is the realization of the truth of the world as it really is. Yet, the Buddha has also mentioned this before: the Dhamma is like a raft to cross the river of suffering. Let it go after crossing. So the third meaning of Dhamma is the way to the end of suffering.
To learn Dhamma properly, one only needs to understand properly the Four Noble Truths and Noble Eightfold Path.
The Four Noble Truths in brief are:
- This is suffering (or dissatisfaction) to be understood.
- This is the cause of suffering (craving and ignorance) to be abandoned.
- This is the end of suffering to be attained/realized.
- This is the way to the end of Suffering to be developed.
There is a repeat there that the Right View of the Noble Eightfold Path includes Four Noble Truths. And the Fourth of the Four Noble Truths is the Noble Eightfold Path itself. Thus saying the Dhamma is the way to the end of suffering (Noble Eightfold Path) is technically correct as well.
Properly taught so that the learner can know how to attain to Nibbana (the end of suffering), that is the purpose of learning Dhamma. In this sense, learning Dhamma is a lot about strengthening one's Right View. Thus, don't criticize a person who keeps on learning Dhamma. They are starting on the path. If they somehow is not able to apply it to develop Right Thoughts, Speech, Action, Livelihood, Effort, Mindfulness and Meditation yet, then encourage them to continue on the path and develop them.
To learn the Dhamma, one can go to various Dhamma talks, Basic Buddhism Courses, Dhamma Class, online, Dhamma books, etc... that's the business of Buddhism.
The danger is when the Dhamma is not properly taught and the grasping on the Dhamma becomes wrong grasping as stated in the sutta.
In brief, the way is to establish Right View properly, so that one thoughts becomes gentle, kind and able to let go. One develops Right Thoughts. With this, one's speech and action is also Right when one observes the 5 precepts. One's Livelihood would be Right when it does not harm oneself and others. Right Effort and Right Mindfulness are involved together with Right View in developing the rest of the Right Factors. You have to know clearly, remember and put in effort to develop these factors. Finally, Right Meditation is to have stillness of mind together with the seven Right factors, to let go all the way into the Jhana states (of mental absorption, and shutting off of the five physical senses).
Right knowledge will appear as one uses the mind with strong mindfulness from the Jhana states to examine body, feeling, mind and phenomena (dhamma). One would find that all conditioned things are impermanent, suffering, not self (a thing that is impermanent and suffering is not worth to call a self or identify as me, mine, I.) Right liberation comes as a result of disenchantment and letting go of all cravings to all conditioned things as the result of seeing things as they are. This is wisdom from realization, not from intellectual knowing and understanding. The whole process of meditation to attain to insight and to prepare for meditation, one has to be virtuous, and to start the path correctly, one has to have Right View.
Buddhism is what you learn if you dabble in the Buddhist world for quite long and also if you take up the Diploma in Buddhism course here: http://www.mangalavihara.org.sg/Buddhist%20and%20Pali%20College/Diploma.html which opens registration in July and August!
In the course, you will learn some Dhamma as well as many other things not needed for the practice to enlightenment. The benefits would be to be able to see objectively how Dhamma has affected the world and to read the Buddha's words. We base it mainly on the Pali suttas, and we have to read up quite a number of them, even learning the Pali language so that we can read the originals without depending on translators!
This path can be called scholastic Buddhism. To be objective in the learning of the Dhamma itself. It is easier to let go of the raft like this in the end. It is also easier to be able to come to terms with the existence of so many different schools and traditions of Buddhism that some would have contradictions in Dhamma. To practice the Dhamma however, does require one to choose a path. Whether one chooses Varjayana, Mahayana, or Theravada or Early Buddhism (the common suttas amongst the traditions, basically Theravada without relying on commentaries and Abhidhamma which may contradict with the Sutta and Vinaya), one can totally practice it well. The worst thing might be to learn Buddhism and not practise the Dhamma. Like mentioned in the sutta above, it is to the long-term harm and suffering to those who wrongly grasp the Dhamma.
To learn Buddhism also enables one to teach more effectively. However it is also possible to just learn the Dhamma, practise, realize, and then teach. That would perhaps be a more direct and effective way.
Anyway, just keep on practising! And if you are serious in knowing the Dhamma objectively, take up Buddhism!
Friday, April 17, 2015
28th March 2015, Saturday night was Earth Hour, from 8:30pm-9:30pm. Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery Gratitude Corner organized a special observance of the Earth Hour: Metta Meditation. Instead of the usual celebratory festival mood, it is suitable for Buddhists to have a more serious approach to a reminder event.
24 participants sat in the open, behind the Hall of Great Compassion. It's a great way to be in touch with the outside air again and to remind us.
The reminder is to have us remember to live a lifestyle that is consistent with a sustainable planet. To have lifestyle change, first our actions has to change, our actions is also influenced by our speech, which is influenced by our thoughts and it all sprang from our views. Inline with that, the Green education part was from 7pm onwards until 8:30pm. There was a 21 minute video of glacier melting, the interdependence of climate change, hope for a green future, evidences of rebirth into humans and the call for working together to have a solution. Together these videos achieved the goal of having the green view of the participants.
There are also poster stands, presenting a story in the Vinaya, Culla Vagga about how the order of the Sangha had been environmentally conscious. In the story, Ananda described how they reuse their old robes by turning them into cover sheets. With the old cover sheets becoming floor sheets, then covers for pillows and mattress, foot towels, then dusters, and finally, the old dusters are shredded up knead into mud and spread out on the flooring.
This shows the level of commitment that Buddha has for environmental protection.
We also had a time to show the official Earth Hour 2015 video! The point of Earth Hour is not to be green only during this hour, but to go beyond the hour, to commit to a greener lifestyle for the coming year and recommit every year!
Metta Meditation is the training in loving-kindness, having the sincere wish for all beings to be well and happy without any expectations. During the one hour, actual Earth Hour, we had a guided Metta meditation sitting in the dark. Metta Round the World had been our supporter, spreading the idea for this event to all of it's participating organisations all around the world!
|The photograph is adjusted for longer exposure so the sky seems brighter than what the naked eye sees. There is an unexpected glow from the dragon as well.|
"The selected venue which was in an open space instead of an enclosed area is very helpful. Though it was just for a short session, it was a fruitful one; especially during the lights off when the area was in total darkness and in mute silence. I feel very closely connected to the nature. It was like I am in an empty space, the universe; calm and peaceful. Hah! I may sounds exaggerating but this is truly what I felt"
"Earth Hour Metta Meditation was an excellent opportunity for me to reflect upon the scarcity of Earth resources and develop mindfulness of how our way of life can have irreversible consequences on the Earth and future generations to come. I am also more grateful to Earth for providing an environment for Buddhism to flourish. 感恩!"
-Yi Hao, Participant
At the end, we dedicated merits to the late Lee Kuan Yew, Founding Prime Minister of Singapore, all beings, and for the successful climate conference in Paris 2015 for it is the first time that all nations in the world, including USA and China, agree to have a legally binding climate agreement.
As the issue of climate change is urgent, it is hoped that in the spirit of loving-kindness, this event will spread to more and more temples and monasteries around the world and we can help use the power of love to sustain the planet!
Wednesday, March 25, 2015
Earth Hour Metta Meditation Still On Because It Is Not Celebratory In Nature, All The More Love Is Needed In Times Of Sadness
Saturday, January 17, 2015
Right speech as the middle path between free speech and censorship in the wake of Charlie Hebdo attack
Many irresponsible journalists immediately when into defend freedom of speech mode, saying that it's an attack on freedom of speech, causing Islamophobia to rise. Yet, there are many others who are more moderate (and wise) who recognize that freedom of speech is not freedom from consequences of speech. So far their voice has not been heard enough. People are still in very extremist mode about the incident, although the call for harmony and rational judgement is always present.
I had just read what the Pope has to say about it, and he is right. Insulting religion is going too far, as is killing in the name of religion. Well, Buddhist doesn't has a united world spiritual leader like the Catholics. So here's a voice from a Buddhist.
I believe that the Buddha has already addressed this issue of Freedom of speech vs Censorship way back in his time. Of course, come to think of it, everyone has freedom to speak what they like to speak. It's just how the law of the country and society would react to that speech that matters. In America, most likely any speech is allowed without any retribution, giving the false illusion that one can be free from responsibility of what one says. In countries that has internal security acts, like Malaysia (who recently just joined in the gang after a brief pulling out), certain speech has grave consequences, that of jail without trial. This gives an unnecessary feel of oppression and discomfort.
What did the Buddha said about speech? Once a prince was instructed by a rival religious leader to question the Buddha if he would speak words that are unendearing & disagreeable to others? If he replies yes, then he is no different from run of the mill person. If he says no, then point out an occurrence where he did said it. Thus, this would be a two-pronged question which the Buddha cannot swallow it down or spit it up.
Here we can relate to the arguments for free speech. Sometimes, hurtful things has to be said for the good of that person, so that they can change. Yet, the arguments for censorship is such that, sometimes, some speech is just too harmful that it's better to ban saying it altogether.
When the prince did approached the Buddha with the question, the reply was: "Prince, there is no categorical yes-or-no answer to that." Then the prince had said that the rival religious leader had lost there and then. After inquiring as to the cause of the prince asking that question, the Buddha asked the prince (who has his baby on his lap then) a counter question: "What do you think, prince: If this young boy, through your own negligence or that of the nurse, were to take a stick or a piece of gravel into its mouth, what would you do?"
"I would take it out, lord. If I couldn't get it out right away, then holding its head in my left hand and crooking a finger of my right, I would take it out, even if it meant drawing blood. Why is that? Because I have sympathy for the young boy."
You can refer to the picture now as to how the Buddha continued. In the same way, he would speak what he knows to be true, not false. And it has to be beneficial, not unbeneficial. And if it is unendearing & disagreeable to others, or endearing & agreeable to others, he would have the sense of proper time to say them. Why is that? Because he has a sense of compassion for living beings.
So referring to internet journalism, it is still mostly reporting on what is true, for facts checking is one of the main pride of journalists. Yet, sadly, fake news websites are sprouting. It doesn't help that the disclaimer, which is often overlooked, says that it's a satirical site. Many people in social media has already been conned with fake news now and then.
As with regards to what is beneficial and what is not, I do not think most journalist take that into account when writing their reports. It doesn't matter so much about the thing they are reporting as how they are reporting it that would make the difference of whether it generates more fear, hatred, intolerance in the world, or does it generate more harmony, love, kindness in the world. Still many journalists does try to look into the positive aspects of things.
So, the Buddha seems ok on whether the thing to be said is unendearing & disagreeable or endearing & agreeable to others. The focus is on having the right time to say it. This might be the most challenging thing of all, because having the right time means judging the recipient's level of acceptance of what is to be said, and journalists has mainly no idea. Or is it? With the advert of the internet, the world is like a global village in closeness. So the myriad of social media, comments, blogs and independent news like this site captures the reaction of the crowd for one to judge if this article has gotten the right time to be said.
This right here is the main solution between freedom of speech and censorship: the sense of proper time to say it. If said in a wrong time, a speech that is beneficial cannot be accepted.
Right speech I believe is the middle path that's the solution between extremes of freedom of speech and censorship. Right speech acknowledges that we are free to speak, but not free from responsibility of the speech, therefore self censorship is practiced, to say what is true, beneficial, harmonious, in a kind and timely manner.
Yes, it doesn't address the problem of what the state should practice, but if you're reading this, then you can start to practice right speech. In the age of social media, where a lot of news get coverage from sharing, you are part of the journalists of the world by the choice of sharing or not sharing a particular article. Hopefully, you'll be able to practice right speech and share wisely.
To recap: share what you know to be true, to be beneficial, and have the sense of proper time to share what may or may not be endearing and agreeable.
The more people practicing this, the less extreme the world would be and maybe, just maybe we can come together in harmony and unity and start focusing and acting on seriously deathly issues for the future of our species: climate change.
Friday, December 26, 2014
Anyway, I enjoyed the way they treated the movie. It does more to spark interest common folks to see documentaries about North Korea and want to understand what's happening there than those documentaries might have.
It does make a nice fantasy about what might happen and bring a happy ending to the world. Of course as a Buddhist, I wouldn't approve of the killings that has happened in the movie, but the way they showed it, it might have been the minimal amount of deaths possible to resolve the North Korean situation.
The movie is another way of showing just how much more powerful words are compared to action. Of course too, words without actions are just useless words, the final act of making North Korea a true democratic country is the "best" result almost everyone in the world wants.
Given that someone has thought of a creative way to topple the North Korean totalitarian regime with minimal deaths, what about other situations in the world? What about the Islamic State? What about other countries with leaders who are almost totalitarian? Or corrupt leaders? Corrupted parties? (hint: Malaysia). Maybe all the others does not matter so much because none of them has nuclear power. So perhaps the fact that this movie exist and comes out first instead of movies about the others shows a sense of practicality of people's (or just some people in the USA) mentality. Without Nukes (or Oil), you're not (that) important.
And I should rate the movie as 18-Sex, Gore, Violence, Political. Don't ask me where I watch it.
Tuesday, September 30, 2014
Hey old friend,
Dear online diary with no privacy,
I just watched you're the apple of my eye. It brought some tears as I smile and recall my story.
It was one of the big major event or process in my emotional life for the last 4 (has it been so long ago?) years. Yet it's nothing I could not bear with a smile on my face.
It's nothing I could not bear because I had been through worse. I can't believe I would ever say this but I am grateful to has experienced depression about 10 years ago. Doesn't mean that I would wish to experience it again nor wish it upon anyone. It's because of the experience that I am able to understand suffering, to bear through 2 period of unemployment in less than a year without much worry, to be able to generate compassion for all those who are unenlightened, for they are liable to experience these suffering that I had been through.
That makes me want to attain stream winner and help others to do the same as soon as possible. Along this path, should I meet someone whom I had deep kammic connection with in my past life, and that the worldly condition allows us to meet regularly, May I have the strength to choose the greater happiness and not cause undue suffering to others. Remembering the suffering I had been through, my I have Great Compassion that keeps me firmly on the swift path towards enlightenment to benefit all sentient beings. Just like the Buddha who had left his wife out of love for her and all beings to search for the end of suffering, which he did helped his wife to attain it, so may this be an inspiration for me.
At the same time recalling how hard it is for two lovers to come together, I sincerely wish all my close couple friends, all those whom I know, all those in the world, to have mostly happiness in being together and have minimal suffering from their attachments.
Sometimes I used to cry why me? Why did I had to be so deep in the Dhamma that I wish to be a celibate? Tonight I do not think so any more, it's no longer a chain binding me. I am glad to have the aspiration to be celibate to practice well. I am blessed.
At some point on the way to enlightenment, as you to see suffering as just suffering, not "my suffering", then there is no more anger towards suffering, aversion to suffering is gone and there one experiences the impersonality of suffering. One can then bear whatever suffering on the path to enlightenment. These suffering are worth the suffering, because it is the suffering to end all suffering.
Thursday, August 21, 2014