Thursday, June 21, 2012


Having been exposed to the four Noble Truths and 8 fold paths for many times, it is a refreshing Dharma Enrichment Camp that I find myself learning something new to me: Bodhicitta.

Long ago, when I first started to seriously learn Buddhism, I faced a choice between aiming for Arahantship or Buddhahood. I opted for Arahantship as I can’t imagine the insecurity of having to train the 10 perfections up for so many lifetimes. There was a few times however, especially when I see the suffering of others, that I wished to become a perfectly enlighten one. To save all sentient beings, or at least those that are ready.

The 1-Day Dhamma Enrichment Camp with Ven Dr. Karma Lekshe Tsomo on 17th June 2012 at BGF Centre organized by Buddhist Gem Fellowship is just the opportunity I’ve been waiting for.

Venerable started by clarifying that Bodhicitta is inherent in all traditions as the Buddha is. And that to gain enlightenment, one does not need Bodhicitta as not all will choose to become a fully enlightened one. Then she explained the history of her linage.

After lunch, she said that there are 3 steps to get to the first stage of Bodhisattva:

  • Renunciation,
  • Bodhicitta,
  • Direct insight into emptiness.

“And yes, this will be in the examination.” She said, a reflection of her job as an Associate Professor.

She also explained about the 7 points of generating Bodhicitta.

  1. Realise that all sentient beings had been our mother, father, spouse etc… since there is no beginning,
  2. Recognising the kindness of sentient beings,
  3. Wanting to repay their kindness,
  4. Wishing all to be happy,
  5. Wishing all to be free from suffering,
  6. Having that special thought: all sentient beings can be saved from suffering, who will save them? I will.
  7. Realising that by becoming a Buddha can one save all sentient beings from suffering by expounding the Dharma.

There was a question. Since it is impossible to save all sentient beings, since countless Buddhas has passed and we are still here, suffering. Why not say: I vow to save all living beings until parinibbana? I recalled my question of this nature too when I was in a Zen meditation retreat recently. I commented to the Master that saving infinite sentient beings is impossible. He said: that is thinking mind. The spirit of it is like Superheroes, they say, “I want to save the whole world.” Then they become a superhero. They don’t see the impossibility, they see the spirit of it.

Venerable explained that Arahants are the ones who saves sentient beings until their passing away. Whereas a Buddha with perfect compassion, is capable of saving all sentient beings even after parinibbana. In a sense I think that it does mean that Buddhas can make predictions for Bodhisattvas, that they will one day become a Buddha. And they also inspire us to become Buddhas ourselves. In this sense, all Buddhas are links to inspire and predict the next Buddhas, all who are working towards the liberation of all sentient beings.

As usual, the practise is gradual training, so don’t expect to be a first stage Bodhisattva right after you read this!

Having started the session as a stranger, I ended up at the end of the day knowing some spiritual friends who are kind and welcoming.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Awaken Challenge 2012

Awaken Challenge, an Inter Buddhist Youth Competition was started in 2010. Back then I was one of the four who was supposed to represent NUSBS to participate in this. There is two books to read up for the preliminary round and then 3 out of 5 teams where to go to the finals where the question can ask about anything in Buddhism.

That morning I woke up late, due to unhealthy sleeping patterns and habits, and Jasper had to replace me. NUSBS didn’t got to the finals, and when I saw the questions of the finals, I was glad we didn’t make it. I couldn’t answer half of the questions asked! Even through I prided my self as having read a lot of Buddhism during my secondary years.

When I found out that NTUBS team who won first prize would have their names put up on the Poh Ming Tse temple libraries’ wall, I was so jealous and a bit regretted for not treating the Competition more seriously and important. I promised myself that I would join in again if there is another chance and put my name there. Over the next two years, people would recall this story of how I woke up late and might have caused NUSBS to not get into the finals. I myself am not so attached to this particular mistake. What’s done is done.

In 2011, I was in London when Awaken Challenge was held. But I helped designed a lot of questions for the participants:

Based on the books for 2011:
1) “What Buddhists Believe” By Dr. K. Sri Dhammanada
2) “Buddhism for Beginners”

I had designed 40 questions taken from random and unseemly places throughout the books. I initially shared it to the NUSBS team, then to the rest of Singapore via the Awaken Challenge facebook group.

Here’s what I wrote in the quiz: Prepared by Ng Xin Zhao, NUSBS. Everyone (including non-NUSBS members) is welcomed to test their Dharma Knowledge here! So don't email me just to ask. It will be harder than MCQ for tougher preparations. Please do read everything in the two books before attempting to answer and be honest with yourself. Time allocated: 3 hours. (40 questions, most of them involves listing down things.) Go back now and read the books! Once you click on the next page, you have started!

Then recalling the insane difficulty of the finals, I designed this quiz:

This is opened ended and mostly based on my then knowledge from 3 years of experience with NUSBS and before. Because of these quizzes, I was asked to be part of the organising committee for Awaken Challenge 2012, but I had to say no.

In 2012, just before I attend my graduation ceremony I was determined to represent NUSBS, and win the first place.

During the NUSBS Melaka trip in the beginning of May (story’s coming up soon), the final round up for the members of the team to represent NUSBS was determined. Zi Hao and Dhi-Zen, the two SPS juniors which had known about this competition from Fang Cheng and Wai Kit when we had one of our dinners in Utown. Was two choice in. And Ren Huan, as Damon is training him to be in the MC is in too. I am very familiar with the two SPS guys, but Ren Huan… I do see him in NUSBS events much more often than when I was Vice President. So this is a good opportunity to get to work with the younger generations and teach what I can to them via example. Well, I wasn’t the best example, but still, I was more interested in making sure that their basic Dharma knowledge is well and solid for the next batch of MC.

So after the Melaka trip and me going to Singapore, I called each of them. I didn’t asked if they wanted to represent NUSBS in Awaken Challenge, I just told them that they are in the team and if they are free to join in the Competition. Then I arranged for a common time to meet. As I am almost totally free, from having finished my official undergraduate works, the schedule conflict was with the two SPS guys and Ren Huan. I decided to meet them separately anyway and set the meeting place at Poh Ming Tse, the temple where we will be battling.

First up, I met Dhi-Zen and Zi Hao, I showed them how to travel to Poh Ming Tse and pointed out the transparent glass display that has two teams of NTUBS names craved on it for both 2010 and 2011. They were saying that if we won then first place, it’ll be our names up there! It was the only motivation I wanted to give them. I smiled and go through the basics of Buddhism with them, matching from what limited knowledge we have the English version of the terms I know to the Chinese version of the terms they know. A few days later I went through this with Ren Huan again. The display and the highlighting of the important basic teachings of the Buddha.

They are:

  • Four Noble Truths,
  • 8 Fold path,
  • 4 Right speech,
  • 10 Wholesome Karma,
  • 10 Unwholesome Karma,
  • 31 Realms of Existence,
  • 6 Realms of Existence,
  • 4 Brahma Viharas…

And many more. The day that I met Ren Huan was also the Sunday when Tzu Chi celebrates Mother’s Day, Buddha’s Day and World Tzu Chi’s Day. I went off with 陈宽杰 to the Stadium afterwards, but that’s another story.

Then we finally meet together as a team on Monday night, just before MDC. Johan, Wen Xin, Damon and Andrew were kind enough to drop by and observe. We when through the requirements for the Awaken Challenge including the format, the Special Projects, the motivation for wanting to do this, some more basic Buddhism, including the 5, 8 and 10 precepts. To counter the final and semi-final rounds of open questions, we divided up our job to study further about each tradition as follows:

  • Ren Huan-Theravada
  • Me-Vajrayana
  • Dhi-Zen-Mahayana
  • Zi Hao-Modern Buddhism, later on changed to Ancient Buddhism including the details of the life of Buddha and the Buddhist Councils.

Then we set the date for the next meeting, I shared the two quizzes I made last year, and aim to finish the two books within two weeks. We had to meet online for the next meeting as only Ren Huan is the Singaporean in the group and three of us are Malaysians. After that meeting, my next adventure was to Kuan Yin Chan Lin Zen Meditation Centre for NUSBS meditation retreat. But then that’s another story too.

Two weeks later, on the next meeting, after I came back from the retreat with a deeper understanding of Zen Buddhism, we had another meeting. Johan and Wen Xin dropped by too and helped me to finish up a lot of food that was given to me from Pa-Auk Meditation Centre activity at McRitchie Reservoir the night before, again another story. Dhi-Zen was at the screen, and the rest of us was in SPS room discussing about the 40 questions that I had created last year.

Then I went back home to Petaling Jaya, knowing that I again had to come back to Singapore two weeks later mainly for the Awaken Challenge. During the time I was in Malaysia, celebrating my birthday amongst other things, I suggested that we each take turns to come out with a quiz a day based on the 2 books:

1) “What Buddhists Believe” By Dr. K. Sri Dhammanada
2) Be a lamp upon yourself

Then after 4 quizzes based on the books, we had 4 more based on the traditions and open. Just a nice number to countdown to the day of the challenge. It was ambitious. But here’s our quizzes:

10 questions book Ng Xin Zhao 2012
10 questions book Ooi Zi Hao 2012
10 questions book Lee Ren Huan 2012
10 questions Theravada Ng Xin Zhao 2012
10 questions book Ooi Zi Hao 2012
10 questions Mahayana Ooi Zi Hao 2012
10 questions open Lee Ren Huan 2012

We had a final meeting on the night before the Awaken Challenge itself in SPS room. This time all four of us are there again, along with Johan and Wen Xin. I got to say they are dedicated President and Vice President. We shared on our knowledge about the various traditions and Ancient Buddhism. Then we go through the slides that were to be presented as our special project: Flash Mob Meditation.

That night was as usual. I tempted destiny and luck. I slept late. Andrew had to wake me up! And 50+ miss calls! From a lot of people. When I woke up and noted that there is still time to go to Poh Ming Tse, I managed to stop feeling bad and set my priority on going to the temple. On the way there by bus, there was a lot of worry and calls from my fellow friends in NUSBS that helped to settle the rest of the things. I concentrated on calming myself down. And touched the pen drive in my pocket that contains the slides. Eventually, I called each of those who missed called me multiple times and apologized. Some were in the bus accompanying me to the temple. I managed to get back on track with staying calm and having a clean slate before the competition. On hindsight, Was this what I was testing myself with? At such great risk? Well, it was not that great a risk to me as I was not as attached to the Awaken Challenge as the rest of NUSBS is. Was I testing them? But is it fair to hurt them like this?

Good thing we managed to get to the temple in time, a few minutes before registration closes. The other three were there already, studying up last minute, using the answer sheet that we prepared for the 40 questions as last minute help sheet.

I didn’t wanted to do last minute study. Not really my style. My style was last day study. Well, jokes aside, I didn’t had the right mood to meet and know new people. I just went around and greeted those that I already knew, from previous activities together or from facebook. Then I went up to the toilet and shaved. Readying myself for the Awaken Challenge.

The preliminary will be by individual, we played a game to choose our ordering. Ren Huan got first, followed by Dhi-Zen, Zi Hao and finally me. I think it was not important. What is important is to keep calm and not be agitated whether or not our teammates got a question right. I also told the team to practise the 4 Brahma Viharas, no matter if we win or lose. I sat in a meditating posture, trying not to be too excited about the questions asked. Some of them are so easy I smiled from ear to ear. I just could not sit still, looking at how simple the questions were. Then I constantly reminded myself to calm down and shut my eyes. I’ll just listen to the questions and answers read by the Emcees. It was rare but some of the question I self answered, I got wrong. And those were the ones that my teammates got right!

As the first candidate goes to the second and the third, I was amazed by some teams like Buddhist Fellowship Youth, Singapore Buddhist Federation Youth and Thekchen Choling Youth. They got a lot of 9 out of 10. Awaken Challenge 2010 only had the Tertiary Institution Buddhist Society, perhaps that was partly why I was surprized at their capabilities. This however was played at my peripheral consciousness, my main focus was to calm down and meditate. There was fear too. Fear of getting discouraged by comparison, hence I try to close my eyes as much as possible and avert my gaze on the score board. Fear of getting arrogant by the easy questions, hence I let go of the questions, not bothered by it whether my teammates had gotten it right or wrong. It was all I could do to keep on breathing in and breathing out.

When it was my turn, NUSBS had gotten 23 marks out of 30. My aim: 10 out of 10. It does not matter if we don’t get into the semi-finals, I’ll just do my part. It doesn’t matter if I failed to do my part, I’ll just concentrate on one question as it comes.

And one by one, I tried very hard not to get cocky as I got the answer to the easy ones almost immediately. I looked up to the ceiling and breathe in hard, breathe out hard. Keeping calm all the way, my mind will be calm even when my body is a bit shaky.

There was this one question that almost got me. I changed my answer halfway, and raised up the right one just before everyone from each of the 10 participating teams are required to raise up our answers in unison. When I raised my answers up, it was always open my eyes to check if it was the correct one I was holding and keep my gaze on my area, not looking and comparing to see who’s competing with me, not at the scoreboard. If I know about the scoreboard, it was peripheral thinking again. Didn’t register with the main brain. Didn’t know what it meant. Didn’t interpret it. Caught the perception at the contact, not allowing the feeling to arise. Or if feeling has arisen, not having craving for the wanting or not wanting of the feeling. Just concentrate on keeping calm.

The last question was tricky. What did the Buddha told Ananda just before parinibbana? There were two correct answers there. I was a bit hesitant, and decided to use my luck as I had gotten 9 correct so far. So I’m not so attached to whether I got this right or wrong. Then the Emcee emphasised “to Ananda”. And I smiled. Knowing the right right answer from amongst the two potentially correct answer: “The Dharma and the Discipline will be your teacher when I am gone.”. Instead of “All component things are subject to vanish, strive on with earnestness.”  I finally allowed myself to smile as if this one was given to the others, they might have gotten it wrong as I emphasised to them about the Buddha’s last words as “All component things are subject to vanish, strive on with earnestness.” and did not go through with them the Maha Parinibbana Sutta. (Right besides me now.) I haven’t read it fully too, just an impression I had.

And so I allowed myself to look at the scoreboard. It was just nice that NUSBS got 33 out of 40 and qualifies to enter the semi-final as the third one in! The highest score was 34! And the lowest for semi-final was 32. That was a close one. And then I realised that I was the only one amongst 40 participants who got all 10 out of 10 correct. Lucky me! And tried very hard not to think about this to avoid getting arrogant.

Zi Hao and me were at the semi-finals, ready to cooperate and look at one question at a time until we got into the finals. The open questions were tough! I didn’t know half of it and all five of us got it wrong for the 2 Vajrayana questions. It took some discipline not to casually look backwards or to listen carefully for the (overzealous) suggestions from the ones in the audience who knows the answer. It does seems that I had not studied the Vajrayana tradition correctly as I don’t know the answers to them! Well, we got 7 out of 10 correct in the end, with the other two teams who got into the finals at 8 out of 10 each.

It was finally time for lunch! I just had a good bread provided by Damon (thanks!) for breakfast before the semi-final and now the lunch was super a lot and delicious. I was not my usual talkative-getting-to-know-everyone self. I took the time instead to eat slowly and sit with NUSBS people and catch up with Claron. Claron was a fellow novice monk with me 2 and a half years ago. He is representing Singapore Buddhist Federation now, along with NTUBS, we are the three finalist.

After lunch is over, the NUSBS team came up and practised on the slides for the Special projects part. As far as I could tell, I was a studying last minute trying to learn more about Vajrayana Buddhism. Not that it did any good later on.

When it was time for the finals, I represented NUSBS to come and take one of three signs, indicating which will be the first team to go. We happened to be the first one. There wasn’t really enough time for the Emcees, including Wai Kit to interview us before the questions begin. 10 questions, 4 choices as usual, but with 3 helplines. I was calm at that time, confident along with the others. Taking it one question at a time and not letting questions bother us. The first question was about Vajrayana. Again I didn’t know about it! So instead of trying to look at Wen Xin who’s busy trying to mouth the answer to us (I think? Sorry if I’m wrong, was only out of the corner of my eye), I convinced the team to opt for the phone a friend helpline. We asked Wen Xin and sure enough we got it right. The others were not so sure about using the helplines so early. My reasoning was that we take it one step at a time, when we need it.

Before the 5th question is up, we already used the 50:50 option too. However, the other ones were relatively easy, or at least the ones we know. One of them concerns about the Buddhist Flag, when was it designed and when was it used as the symbol for Buddhism. The first question we got wrong was another Vajrayana question. Well, I was glad anyway, my personality is such that I couldn’t blame myself, but if the others had taken the Vajrayana reading responsibility, I might worry about them blaming themselves or worry about me blaming them for not studying properly. As such, there is no internal conflict within me. The team noted that it’s amazing that we got our first wrong after the half way mark and near to the end.

At the very last question, we had a tough one, concerning Mahayana tradition. Dhi-Zen and Zi Hao were discussing amongst themselves. And we have one more helpline left. So I asked for the helpline to be used: Audience opinion. And I told our team to keep on thinking ourselves, eliminate the impossible ones first, then we might make use of the polls. Dhi-Zen and Zi Hao eliminated option C, and was between B and D when the results came in.

C was the highest followed by B. It was good that our team eliminated option C already. Then we took the decision with B. It was correct. 9 out of 10! We were smiling and shaking each other’s hand. No matter whatever happens later on, the stress is off. I can become nervous again. Finally. (My post exam nervousness strategy) Well. It was a bit unfair on the psychological pressure on the latter two teams. NTUBS came close, with two questions wrong at the start, but all the rest correct. When they got the first one wrong, we were preparing ourselves for the death match question. Then it was a good thing they got the second one wrong earlier too. Or else a lot of unwholesome thoughts might have arisen in my mind. It was really difficult to restrain the mind at that time.

I immediately took my camera out (just remembered that I had one with me) and took our victory smile.


I could saw words of congratulations being exchanged between the audience side, where NTUBS shook hands with Johan and the others. My other three teammates smiled a lot and I reminded them about practising the 4 Brahma Viharas. Equanimity is most apt now. I felt a bit of joy, but didn’t really get overjoyed. It was calm, before, during and after the Awaken Challenge.

The other questions of the finals were not that easy to us too! We were just glad that we got what we got.

Then we had the time of presenting our slides, we were pretty convincing, I think. However, I am glad that NUSBS does not have to suffer another one of my crazy ideas to carry it out when SIMBB won the Special Projects!

The feeling of getting the final prize later on was nothing much. I let the other three get close to the cheque. It’s not the first time I got this kinda thing.


The after feeling was awesome, I do remember to keep on saying that it was a team effort that got us the first prize (it’s true, I don’t know about half of the questions in the final.) when people start to congratulate me. They knew about two years ago. The reality of our names being emblazoned at PMT for posterity has not struck me too deeply yet. Not my first time too. (at elsewhere, but it’s the first that I have earned properly)

Then we had Fang Cheng Birthday Celebration, Photo takings, announcement of something big next year, and cleaning up by the champion team. I was thinking of the present moment while cleaning, but still got distracted by things I don’t remember now.

The only thing that I felt incomplete of the event was that I had not had the opportunity, or mood to get to know more new people.

I then took off with dinner from the leftover lunch, to Tzu Chi and then back in my uncle’s home, I SMSed the other three. Telling them that we should go back to Poh Ming Tse someday and take our photos with our names.

Here I would like to thank all who are involved in the Awaken Challenge, especially the ones who woke me up, and my family and relatives. Especially NUSBS for the ever forgiving attitude.

Monday, June 18, 2012

How do I practise in daily life?

To tell the truth, I don't. I don't meditate everyday, I don't chant or read Dharma books everyday. Perhaps that is why I am so addicted to going for Dharma activities almost every chance I get. I made sure I am in touch with the Dharma every week, so my weekends are used the way it was meant to be used.

However, from these constant touches of Dharma activities, I do start to be more aware in daily living. I start to be less attached. Last summer, I was cheated out of 20 pounds by a stranger. I treated it as a donation and didn't felt too sad.

Last holiday, I accidentally left my bag in a bus when I dropped off at Kuala Lumpur, and the bag when to Thailand. I didn't felt too sad about it too. Sure I did my best in tracking the bus, but it was just 4 years worth of NUSBS Dharma Camp T-shirts, 2 years of NTUBS Dharma Camp T-shirt and various other Dharma Camp shirts and pants. Funny thing is, I got it back 8 days later during my family vacation trip. The bus company happened to be just in front of the hotel we stayed in! I was happy, but not overjoyed.

Regardless of the end result of whatever happened, remember to breathe in, breathe out.

In short: know where you stand, go for Dharma activities, let go and keep on practising.

How did NUSBS benefited me?

When I first came into NUSBS, I needed to relearn the Dharma. My first Camp with NUSBS gave me the clue I sought for: baby steps into the Dharma. The training of the noble 8 fold path is gradual, not sudden. With baby steps, I learned to be kind to myself. I learn to love the way I am, even when my mind generated one bad thought almost every second. I took one step at a time. 

There were always friends in NUSBS. Friends who tolerated who I really am with all my wierdness. They helped me in learning some basic social etiquttes, and only after I have been through half of my University life had I realised the importance of spiritual friendship and tried to be a friend to them too.

In NUSBS, I've learned right view, responsibility, loving-kindness and to be energetic in Dharma activities no matter how hard or tiring the journey gets. I've also learned to love, to let go, to be sensitive, to heal myself, to be wiser, to make and keep true friends and to let go. Again.

Finally, I've learn that meditation is not supposed to be suffering, it takes time to learn how to meditate properly, to live in the present moment and to breathe in and breathe out.

In short: gradual training, spiritual friends, let go and keep on practising.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Responses for Yearbook

Please answer all of them, some of the responses will be put inside the yearbook. Thanks!! :)

Why do you wish to study Physics in the first place?
I want to know the deep secrets of the Universe. Inspired by Popular Science books and the International Physics Olympiad, I definitely know my major in University will be Physics. 

How do you feel about graduating from NUS?
Like normal. There is no significant change in the fabric of spacetime for this insignificant event. Ok more seriously, undergraduate education is as I suspected. Not enough. My quest for the secrets of the Universe goes on.

Where is your favourite hangout place in NUS? 
Special Programme in Science room. In SPS room, there are almost always friends there 24/7. I have my own table space, lots of free food opportunities, strategic location in Science Faculty, and the option to stay overnight to do work... or play.

What are your memorable moments in NUS?

1. The time when I fell in love.
2. All those overnight stays in SPS.
3. Being in the committee of NUS Buddhist Society and doing lots of work!
4. The two semesters when I overloaded seven and a half modules.

What are the unforgettable experiences you have in NUS Physics Department? 

1. Being in Physics Society Committee.
2. Doing a level 5 module, Quantum Information and Computation.
3. The Summer Exchange to London. 
4. Rushing for reports for the research modules, not the Experimental modules.

What are the things you want to do in NUS but didn't do?
Explore every single place, hidden rooms and corridors in NUS, for every campus. I haven't been to Bukit Timah campus! Or Duke NUS.

Do you have any message for your fellow graduating friends?
For all the good and bad times we had together, let us recall how they made us a more matured and better person. Let us use this university experience to learn and live a meaningful life.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

My Certs

Hey all,

I’ve not been updating on my personal life for quite long now. But this is not one of the post where I go through all the thing I had done since the last post.

This is about the certs which I had chosen to present for my job application. There are so many certificates by the time you graduate and you’ll realise that to put all these in your CV is totally ridiculous. Some certs like participation in a Scouts Camp during your secondary days and motivation workshop for the national examinations are not even worth mentioning. Here I’ve selected the most important and relevant certs so far for the application of this first job. Only in the first job would these matter, hence the timing of this writing.

There are ten of them in total and I shall go through them one by one, giving perhaps the link to the past posts too.


Firstly, the programmes that I am in: Bachelor of Science Course.

1. Dean’s List for meritorious performance in the AY 2008/09 Sem 2 of the Bachelor of Science Course. Link.

This one I had gotten during my sem 2. For the achievement of 4.75 Semester Average Points (SAP). Well, you might think I should had gotten it for every semester. However… there are too many things to handle in a semester, and this was the one where I put almost all my free time into studies. It teaches me that this is not the way I wished to spend my university life: I don’t want to become a Study Machine. So at least I have one. It represents my main course in NUS. Amongst the 10 certs, this is the 3rd one I obtained chronologically, in the beginning of sem 3. I put it first because of the 6+5+5+6=22 modules minimum requirement I took for this.

The next programme is University Scholars Programme.

2. Honour Roll for meritorious academic performance and contributions and achievements beyond the classroom in Academic Year 2009-2010. Link.

This one was because I finished 4 out of 8 first tier modules in USP and also joined in the Buddhism in Asia Global Programme. I felt the most undeserving of this cert, as it is unexpected and I didn’t really did any real work to get it. Plus I am not so close to the USP community. This teaches me that a cert does not represent how exactly the person who has it feels about having one. It represents me being in USP, wherein that time, I do not feel a sense of belonging to. It also teaches me that appreciation may come from the most unexpected places, so appreciate them. Amongst the 10 certs, this is the 6th one I obtained chronologically, in the middle of sem 5. I put it second because of the 12 modules minimum requirement I took for this.

The next one I am however extremely proud of.

3. Special Programme in Science. This is to certify that Ng Xin Zhao has successfully completed the Special Programme in Science.

(on the back) The Special Programme in Science (SPS) is an intense programme in the Faculty of Science that seeks to nurture talents among budding scientists. It is specifically directed at the academically talented students who cherish outstanding scholarship, and delight in the rigorous training of the mind and character.

The Programme introduces students to some of the broad areas of science through seminars, discussions, laboratory and fieldwork. With strong emphasis placed on interdisciplinary science, it offers abundant opportunities for those motivated to embark on in-depth studies of advanced topics that are at the forefront of modern scientific endeavours.

Innovative teaching methods, through peer learning and mentoring, form the basis with which creative and critical thinking is fostered. This dynamism is largely sustained by the passion and enthusiasm that the participants have for intellectual pursuits. Apart from their academic curriculum, students in the Programme are also involved in many enrichment activities organized by the faculty.

Quite the description at the back of the cert! Well, they forgot to mention that SPS has a 24/7 room with bookable table spaces for you for each whole semesters and free food are found not-too-rarely just outside SPS room.

Well, it was my 5 modules that I took for this and it represents one of the hardest achievements in my university life. And one of the most worthwhile achievement too. The mentorship experience certainly opened my eyes to how does it felt like grading, teaching, guiding, mentoring, and being normal (instead of extremely weird). Amongst the 10 certs, this is the 9th one I obtained chronologically, in the middle of sem 7.

Next up is an internship!

4. Certificate of participation. This certificate is awarded to Mr Ng Xin Zhao of NUS for participating in the Vacation Internship Programme at the Data Storage Institute from 10 May 2010- 20 July 2010. Project: Study of Nanophotonic Integration Technology. Supervisor’s commendation: The student has demonstrated resourcefulness and great skills in theoretical study and programming. He has good attitude in learning and working with the unknown.

This internship lasted less than 12 weeks, between sem 4 and 5, with a meditation retreat in the middle. It was with the A Star. I touched a bit on applied physics here and get to experience the working life of clocking in and out at the exact timing. In my opinion, the work I did in SPS during my sem 3 surpasses the work I got to do here. This experience told me I am not suitable for industry research. Amongst the 10 certs, this is the 4th one I obtained chronologically, in the beginning of sem 5.

After that I had joined in an International event at the beginning of sem 5. It was:

5. 1st Summer Youth Olympic Games 14-26 August 2010 In recognition of your achievements and contribution to the success of the 1st Summer Youth Olympic Games.

For this event, I travelled to NTU for a few times during the beginning of the semester to help teach the young athletes (teenagers) how to fold origami. It was yet another International event that enabled me to relive for a moment the awesome feeling of being in one. It also has an interesting backstory, involving the Universal Studios ticket that we got for free, that almost came to be but it did not happened. And I am glad it did not happen. Amongst the 10 certs, this is the 5th one I obtained chronologically, in the beginning of sem 5.

When I mentioned the international programme that I was in, it was:

6. The Academic Committee of 38th International Physics Olympiad Awards to Xin Zhao Ng from Malaysia Honorable Mention 13 to 22 July, 2007, Isfahan, Iran.

It was the one that changed my life, took me away from depression, made me extremely famous in my high school, got me brimming with confidence and turned into arrogance, and put me on the path to become a Physicist. Amongst the 10 certs, this is the 1st one I obtained chronologically, during my high school years, 1 year before entering NUS.

The second one I obtained would be one year later, just before matriculating into NUS.

7. The International Board of the IPhO awards the Silver Medal to Ng Xin Zhao from Malaysia at the 39th International Physics Olympiad held in Hanoi, Vietnam July 20-29, 2008.

It was the one that got me into newspaper at last! And the one that I bragged on (in)famously during my first (and second) year in NUS. It was also the time when I learned that my name sounds similar to “Hello” in Vietnam. Making me famous there too. It was partially also with this confidence in the interview that got me into SPS.

Now you had seen: First 4 University Programmes, next 3 International Programmes, and the next 3 are the ones that I treasure the most: Spiritual development, or for those without religion, Co-curricular activities.

8. This certificate is hereby awarded to Ng Xin Zhao for services rendered to NUS Buddhist Society as the Deputy Dharma Director of the 31st Management Committee. February 12, 2011.

This cert represents a lot of hours attending and organizing NUSBS weekly and annual activities with 14 other friends who are kind and nice. It gives me meaning in my second year of University life and gradually changed me from the Study Machine into someone who is balanced and happy!

One of the toughest moments in my NUSBS life that I burned out, but rekindled in the next cert you see. Amongst the 10 certs, this is the 7th one I obtained chronologically, during the Dana Lunch 2011, middle of sem 6 for services rendered during sem 3 and 4.

9. This certificate is hereby awarded to Ng Xin Zhao For his services rendered to NUS Buddhist Society as the Vice President of the 32nd Management Committee AY 2010/11

This is the year when I was at my peak in NUSBS. Doing more jobs than I did in the past year that I did not thought possible, fulfilling a lot of successful events, managed a cool team of people who are nice and kind and good in their own way, and the one year that made me prouder than ever for being in NUSBS. It does gives me a lot of work to let go later on. However, while it lasted, it was nice. Nice to the full end of nice. I miss the 32nd MC! (Which we have been keeping in touch too, more of that next time.)

It was also reminder of one of the few events in NUSBS that I helped out after stepping down. Yup, hard for me to let go…Dana Lunch 2012 where this cert was given was one such event, making this the last of the cert that I chronologically obtained, in the middle of sem 8. Another activity that I helped out was a bit earlier, it was:

10. Certificate of Participation Awarded to Ng Xin Zhao For the successful completion of Intervarsity Youth Leadership Dharma Camp 2011 (24 to 25th September)

One of the few things that made this event and Dana Lunch 2012 worth mentioning is that it is when a lot of Buddhist Organizations were involved. In Dana Lunch 2012, the TIBS was invited with 12 External Buddhist Organizations sharing about themselves. In the Intervarsity Youth Leadership Dharma Camp 2011, it was Fo Guang Shan who hosted the TIBS in assisting us to share our common problems and solutions to them. It was a tremendous morale boost to all who participated and I was glad to be one of the few who represented NUSBS in the planning stage, and in the sharing stage. Being the 8th cert I got, in the middle of sem 7, it also serves as a reminder to not delude myself, and a dangerous reminder of just how easy it was to fall back into delusion without a proper ending to safeguard the mind and senses. Perhaps only one person would understand this, but oh well. I’ll still put it here.

Now that you’ve seen my University life, you can roughly conclude that I was:

Playful and arrogant during Sem 1, so I didn’t got Dean’s List then,

A Study Machine in Sem 2, so I got the Dean’s List,

A research intensive person in Sem 3, part of the reason I am proud to be in SPS,

Getting into more Spirituality in Sem 4, with a meditation retreat in the middle of my internship!

Receiving and making good fortunes in Sem 5, where I got a recognition I didn’t anticipated, and decided to be Vice President of NUSBS,

Got more involved in spirituality than in studies in Sem 6, wherein I still didn’t get Dean’s List and was planning for big things to happen (Intervarsity Dharma Camp and Dana Lunch 2012).

Trying to let go, very hard no less, in Sem 7, wherein I was still involved in NUSBS and

Finally, involved in mentoring in Sem 8, as mentioned in the SPS part.