Friday, February 26, 2010

Reflections of NUS Buddhist Society Management Committee for Lamp Of Wisdom

I believe the others will have told you how hard it is to be a MC and tips on how to make the workload lighter. I'm not going to repeat those.

I'm just going to share on a story that I've just heard. It's about a man and his 4 wives. To shorten the story, his favourite wive, the 4th one he spends the most time with: she is sensual pleasures. His second most favourite wive, the 3rd one he shows off her beauty to the world: she is achievements. His next wive, the 2nd one helps him sometimes: she is relatives. And his first wive, the one he spends the least amount of time with, will go with him wherever he goes. One day, he is to set sail to a far away place, and only his first wive can go with him, the others cannot. His first wive's name is Kamma.

At the instant I listened to all these things, I reflected, there're many things that I do, many little things I'm attending to my 4th wive, while the rest of the "more sensible" world attends to the 3rd wive, and more wive people attend to their 2nd wives more. But in the end, when we die, only our Kamma can follow us, why are we putting so little energy and time to the most important thing in life and after death?

It is the spiritual advancement that one gets the most out of NUSBS. Each time I attend a dharma talk, even on a topic that I knew already, I'm learning something new. I'm realising a deeper level of reality and reinforcing my right view and right understanding of the dharma. Sometimes you feel like you've saturated your understanding of the dharma, that it's all too deep for you to understand, that all these dharma courses and talks and meditations are going nowhere, that your life is happy enough, that you don't need Buddhism. That's just shows you how much more you can learn, cause you're developing conceit there and then.

As the only one who attends all 4 of the weekdays night activities of NUSBS, I'm reaping a great reward, gradually, and cultivating myself inside good circles of spiritual friends that I invite all of you to come join in!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Physics At NUS!

The Department of Physics in NUS

After going through the website, perhaps you'll like to have some insider information. Starting with the diversity of the modules here, from Relativity, to Biophysics, you can find many physics modules over at NUS Physics Department. There's Particle Physics, Cosmology, Solid State, Remote Sensing, Thin Film Techonology, Photonics, Nanophysics, and various others. Just look at the map below.

And not to mention there's the Centre of Quantum Technology over here! CQT is a very highly funded department concentrating on quantum research. So the undergraduates can do their UROPs (Undergraduate Research Opportunity Programme) under one of the Profs there, like what I'm doing now. This means that you can do 2 research in your 4 years of undergraduate life! The other research being your Honours Project that you'll take up for 1 year in your final year here. If you don't want a Honours Degree, then you can just study for 3 years here.

If however you're the research, destined to be a graduate student guy..... then you should join in the SPS (Special Programme in Science) where you'll get a chance to do one more research topic compared to your peers. And there's always a high concentration of Physics Majors in SPS, so you can enjoy each other's company and (some cool seniors) over here in this multidisiplinary-student-run-research-programme.

If you're more multi-disiplinary than just being in Science, then you can join in the University Scholars Programme where fewer physicist are present but many other people from all over the university are. Being in both SPS and USP also serves to double or triple count some of the modules. Oh, and being in USP means you can be the fully study type, no CCAs and get to stay in PGP for 4 years! Only set back is that you'll have to take some arts module that you can't S/U.

Anyway, back to physics, there's the Physics Society that is composed of very nice people and very nice activities. Just be one of the Management Committee and you can stay in the Physoc room and do your homework there! (for me it's SPS room, and for only USP people it's Chatterbox)

It's really convinent having a secure place to study in between lectures. Other than these, you can study at the Physics Lounge at the Year 1 lab, where the Physics library is located. Yes! a library just full of physics books, (SPS got all sorts of Science books, and so does NUS libraries). And then you can get a part time job at the demo lab where you'll inspire the younger generations towards science. And also there're various labs over here, graphene lab, advanced battery lab, Quantum Optics Lab, just check the website.

Last but not least, there's a lot of Science lunch time talks and Physics Departmental Teas (every friday at 4p.m.). There's also the CHIP and Germany Immersion Trip, where the trip to China or German is subsidised by the Physics Department. I'm going for CHIP. That all for now Thank you. Leave a comment for any questions.

P.S. Ok I just thought of other programmes that can interest you. There's a minor in Nanotechnology, minor in biophysics, and Physics major can second major in Mathematics, or Biology, or Chemistry, or something else, or you can even use your free modules (if you don't wanna minor or second major, or SPS or USP....) for level 5 physics graduate modules!

Other than that, there's the SEP, Student Exchange Programme, where one goes to another University to study for 1 or 2 semesters, the Summer Programme, where one makes use of the 12 weeks or 5 weeks holiday to study overseas (or in NUS), and Caltech SURF, where one uses the 12 weeks holidays to go to Caltech (there's one for MIT, and other Universities too) to do a research internship.

Well you can try to take up as many of the above as possible to make your stay in NUS more fulfilling. There're some headway like
For me I'm in SPS, USP, double major, Physics and Mathematics.
There's also 2 more people that take SPS and French Double Degree Programme.

Talking about Double Degree Programmes, there's plenty of them, the most prestigious one is French Double Degree Programme in engineering diploma (=masters) and masters in Science, where you study 2 years in NUS, learning French along the way, and then 2 years at French Ecole Polytechniqe, then 1 year masters in NUS. Next comes the NUS-ANU double degree, one has to join in USP and SPS and then study 1.5 year in NUS, 1.5 year in

Australian National University

, and then final year in NUS to get double degree in Philosophy and Science. And then there's the

Physics and Materials Science & Engineering Double Degree Programme

Where one can study for 5 years in NUS to get 2 degrees!

Ok, the double degrees Programmes are ussually very time consuming, and therefore it is only possible to take either one of them only and they ussually can't go for SEP, Summer Programme, etc......(for the ones that go to Australia and French)

So take your pick and whatever you do, do it well!

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Misconceptions of Buddhism

This week is the Buddhism Awareness Week in NUS! Here are the Misconception posters that NUS Buddhist Society made. Enjoy!

Response to the Response of Pastor rony blast buddhism

Urgent Message From Pastor Rony

I have received a number of emails from people who have been saddened and hurt by the testimonies of an ex-monk and an ex-nun. I realized that my presentation and comments were wrong and offensive. So I sincerely apologize for my insensitivity towards the Buddhists and Taoists, and solemnly promise that it will never happen again.

When we have received those emails, we immediately removed the video clips from our website. I urge those who have posted those clips on the YouTube to remove them as well.

After reading the frank views from those emails, I was also prompted to tell my members not only to continue to love souls, but also to respect other belief and not to ridicule them in any way, shape or fashion.

Let's put our goal to build a harmonious Singapore a top priority.

The above is taken from his website. So let us all forgive and forget, just take the moral from this incident and not cause any harm or feeling of ill will towards anyone. This post is to make sure that the readers generate feelings of peace and love instead of the opposite. So don't increase our bad karma by being angry... but increase our good karma together by being loving.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Pastor Rony blasts Buddhism, response

Just tonight I've seen these videos and
I'm sorry that this is going to be quite long, as they mentioned various things in 20 minutes. I shall attempt to clear up the misconceptions that the interview is trying to portray and extract some moral values for us to learn here.

Mantra: I believe what Joseph Wee was chanting was Pali words, which can be called Puja (the chanting). The lure of chanting to gain power not entirely true, chanting can help one to calm one's mind and to cultivate a pure heart. With a pure mind and a calm heart, one can act more rationally, be happier and therefore be healthier. This positive influence can spread on to the people around oneself and make the world a better place, one person at a time. That's the "power" of chanting. One who is more inclined to faith can initially be lured to chant without knowing its meaning, however as one progresses on, one should learn the meaning behind the words, the attitude when chanting (not relying on external superpowers to solve one's own problem), and how to chant (maintain good thoughts, pure mind) before the chanting can be useful to oneself. Even if one doesn't know the meaning, the collective effect and the atmosphere when chanting is of peace and smoothing nature, so it can help calm one's mind (not unlike the choirs in the church).

"Higher than GOD" (Wrong): There's no such concept as a omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being (aka GOD) in Buddhism. So the phrase "Higher than GOD" has no meaning in Buddhism. However there are powerful beings known as devas (or gods with a small 'g') in Buddhism. They have limited power and are beings who live in heaven, but they are also subjected to birth, decay and death. Aim of Buddhism then is not to gain power, but to find the end of suffering, the end of birth, decay and death. According to Buddhism, all beings have the potential to be free from suffering.

Moral: Define the word god or GOD properly when making a statement.

Rebirth: There are 31 planes of existence where beings can be reborned into. These include humans, animals, hell, ghost, and heaven.
There's even planes for Beings who deluded themselves (by being very powerful and long lived) to believe that they are the omniscient, omnipotent, omnibenevolent being (aka GOD) who created the world. The difference between Rebirth and Reincarnation is that Rebirth doesn't involve the concept of a soul transferring from one body to another. Buddhists do not believe in a permanent self but believe human consciousness (the "I" or self) dissolves at death and that only a subtle mindstream remains. The mindstream carries with it karmic imprints from prior lives and gets a new consciousness in a new body. Evidence of rebirth: see works of Ian Stevenson, who had investigated 3000 childhood cases that suggested to him the possibility of past lives for 40 years. Logical arguments are unnecessary in the face of empirical evidence.

Workings of Karma in Rebirth: "Do good deeds and Hopefully reborn in heaven, but not certain." In determining which plane to reborn into, karma plays the main role, firstly, there's the heavy karma: if one committed heavy bad karma, one would be instantly be reborned in hell; then comes the last moment thought, if the last moment thought is wholesome, one would be reborned in a wholesome state. If not, then comes the normal, habitual karma, the habitual thoughts that fills our mind all the time, eg. if one thinks of love and compassion in between lessons, in between talking, always holding up this thought, one would surely be reborned in a higher realm. Lastly, comes the residual karma. Looking at this complex conditions, it can be summarized in "not certain", but then it is easily misunderstood.

Ex-monk: Being only a novice monk for 2 weeks, Joseph cannot be qualified to be introduced as an "Ex-monk" in the beginning as this carries the intonation that he had studied Buddhism thoroughly and yet find Christianity more suited for him. It is obvious that he has very superficial understanding of Buddhism despite years of being in a temple. Carrying an important position in the temple only reflects one's capabilities, not one's spiritual training.

Deny yourself: The training of a monk is to renounce the world of sensual pleasures. That means to give up the sweetness of life brought by the 5 senses, but it doesn't mean that one would torture oneself, it is also to give up the bitterness of life by the 5 senses. This is important to calm the mind down, so as to train the mind through meditation and then using a clear, sharp mind to see the world as it truly is. To train the mind while indulging in sensual pleasures is very difficult and unhealthy as one might get to think that the purpose of life is to seek ever more pleasures.

Resident monk: As a treasurer, he must handle money, therefore he is a layperson, a layperson cannot be a resident monk. No novice monk for 2 weeks will be considered to be asked to be a resident monk. Contradiction from his statement.....

To get to Nibbana: Must be doing good deeds as a base for practicing concentration meditation as a base for practicing insight meditation to gain knowledge of the true nature of phenomena. Not necessary to be celibate. To be a monk is to take up celibacy, and to be a monk is to help one to meditate in a more conducive environment. To meditate more is to train the mind to a higher concentration more so as to be able to perpetrate into the real nature of the world when practicing insight meditation.

Virtuous life as a monk: To observe the 227 precepts, not to promote violence, killing, bad deeds, to promote and share the good deeds, to provide a way for layperson to donate and practice generosity, to set an example for the devoted lay person to follow, to inspire the devotees to do good deeds, to teach the dharma (the teachings of the Buddha), to spread love and peace wherever they go (by practicing themselves as an example to follow), not to get angry or lustful with anyone, to help whenever possible, to practice meditation fervently so as to attain the sainthoods (stages to Nibbana) and thus inspire the followers by becoming the living proof that enlightenment is possible, to guide the others to Nibbana, and not to show off that they are doing all these good deeds (so that's why people generally think monks do nothing).

Music: As explained before, monks are not to indulge in sensual pleasures, music is the pleasure to the ears. Therefore monks are not to listen to music for pleasure. The chanting is meant to be inspiring sounds that redoubles the effort to enlightenment. To accommodate with the lay followers and youths, chanting can sometimes be made into pleasurable sounds.

The state of enlightenment, neither here nor there, timeless, ultimate happiness, no suffering, unchanging, soulless.
Below from:

Defined in terms of what it is...

"This is peace, this is exquisite — the resolution of all fabrications, the relinquishment of all acquisitions, the ending of craving; dispassion; cessation; Nibbana."

— AN 3.32

There's no fire like passion, no loss like anger, no pain like the aggregates, no ease other than peace. Hunger: the foremost illness. Fabrications: the foremost pain. For one knowing this truth as it actually is, Unbinding is the foremost ease. Freedom from illness: the foremost good fortune. Contentment: the foremost wealth. Trust: the foremost kinship. Unbinding: the foremost ease.

Dhp 202-205

The enlightened, constantly absorbed in jhana, persevering, firm in their effort: they touch Unbinding, the unexcelled safety from bondage.

Dhp 23

...and in terms of what it is not

"There is that dimension where there is neither earth, nor water, nor fire, nor wind; neither dimension of the infinitude of space, nor dimension of the infinitude of consciousness, nor dimension of nothingness, nor dimension of neither perception nor non-perception; neither this world, nor the next world, nor sun, nor moon. And there, I say, there is neither coming, nor going, nor stasis; neither passing away nor arising: without stance, without foundation, without support [mental object]. This, just this, is the end of stress."

Ud 8.1

"There is, monks, an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated. If there were not that unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, there would not be the case that emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated would be discerned. But precisely because there is an unborn — unbecome — unmade — unfabricated, emancipation from the born — become — made — fabricated is discerned."

Ud 8.3

Where water, earth, fire, & wind have no footing: There the stars do not shine, the sun is not visible, the moon does not appear, darkness is not found. And when a sage, a brahman through sagacity, has known [this] for himself, then from form & formless, from bliss & pain, he is freed.

Ud 1.10

Unable to explain in mundane terms, to be self-experienced.

Karma as fatalistic (Wrong): There're 5 laws that govern how things happen: Universal laws (physics), Organic order (biology), Inorganic order (chemistry, atmospheric and earth physics), the law of the mind (partially covered by psychology), and the Law of Karma (that good begets good, bad begets bad). So karma is just one of the conditions that determine what happens. So not everything that happens is due to karma. And since karma is constantly being created, one can change one's karma by doing good/bad deeds and influence what will come to one in the future. For one who understands karma, he'll be practicing good deeds constantly and avoid all bad deeds. This is also not to highlight that one practice good deeds just to get the rewards, but it is just a simple application of a law of nature e.g. Hammering one's finger is painful, so one doesn't do it. This also empowers the individual to change his own fate instead of hoping on external sources.

Women and men in Buddhism: Main difference is in the physical body. The Buddha raised the position of women in ancient India, He even allowed the order of nuns and monks to coexist together. There're more rules (no nun should go out alone) for the Nuns as women are not considered equal in the society (rape victims), the rules are not to belittle the nuns, but necessary due to physical body difference.

Overall Moral: Never belittle the other religions just to increase the faith in your own one. Even when you got their previous people converting into your own religion, don't make them give a public interview just to belittle their previous religion.

Urgent Message From Pastor Rony

I have received a number of emails from people who have been saddened and hurt by the testimonies of an ex-monk and an ex-nun. I realized that my presentation and comments were wrong and offensive. So I sincerely apologize for my insensitivity towards the Buddhists and Taoists, and solemnly promise that it will never happen again.

When we have received those emails, we immediately removed the video clips from our website. I urge those who have posted those clips on the YouTube to remove them as well.

After reading the frank views from those emails, I was also prompted to tell my members not only to continue to love souls, but also to respect other belief and not to ridicule them in any way, shape or fashion.

Let's put our goal to build a harmonious Singapore a top priority.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Today is yet another Wednesday!

I guess I better update myself of my recent activities in life before I forgot it all. This Wednesday afternoon was Infusion time! I saw really cool dancing and eat quite nice stuffs at the booths showcasing countries that international students came from to NUS to study full time. Incidentally, I've been to Chatter twice today, to decorate the stuffs for Buaya-Buayee, where the participants are supposed to stalk each other without the victim knowing who's stalking. So I won't say who I'm stalking here. However, from the amount of clues in the decorations I've put, it's entirely possible for the girl I'm stalking to deduce who I am.

Oh and I've just applied for CHIP, China Immersion Programme, from 11th-24th May 2010. We'll be visiting Shanghai and the World EXPO! There's more than 50 people applying already since the first email came 2 days ago.... I suspect. So it's extremely hot. Oh and they are choosing only 30 people. We pay $900, 1/3 of the whole cost which covers everything but souvenirs. Hmm.....And my supervisor, Valerieo's back! Wonder what to do later on..............for UROPS.

Oh and I've gone for Nam Wah Pai training for the weekend Saturday Afternoon and Sunday night! That's right! Sunday night! We are training for a competition in April! Cool huh?

Buddhism and Science

These are the posters of Buddhism and Science that I've made, it may contain some factual error, but as far as I can see it's ok. So don't 100% believe in it but to investigate yourself.