Q&A: Internet addiction, chanting Buddha’s name and pungent roots

Question and Answers

Below is a repost of some questions and answers that I thought would be helpful for all.

Reformatted for clarity.

Hi venerable!

Thanks for answering my questions, I really appreciate it! I have a couple of questions to ask the venerable:

1)Regarding my question on internet addiction, let’s say that the person surfs the internet for a total of 6 hours( 3 hours in the afternoon, another 3 hours at night) and has started to neglect his studies, what can he do to reduce his addiction and concentrate on his

2) Also, can chanting a buddha’s name really enhance a person’s wisdom? Can I chant the buddha’s name( or Bodhisattva’s name. Say, Manjusri Boddhisattva’s name) so that I can memorise and understand a lot of Mathematics equations well?

3) Why is it that Mahayana Buddhist are encouraged not to eat the 5 pungent plant?

Thanks for answering my questions!

Hi Pandaboy,

Apologies for the delay in replies. Hope this is still helpful!

1. Internet Addiction

What makes you Tick?
The first thing one should perhaps do is ask oneself why the addiction should be dropped. It has to be one’s personal reasons. And by personal, I mean, reasons that matter to you and not from some guidebook.

Only when you have good enough reasons to do so, will the suggestions below work.

Peer Support/Pressure
A way to reduce the addiction, is to Change the cycle. And by that, I don’t mean stop using internet. I mean, using it in a different manner.

Tell someone you trust about your situation and see if they can help you out. Access the internet with him/her and limit it to that period. It should not be someone who also uses the internet for 6 hours or more a day!

Telling someone about it and making the above arrangement creates peer support so that you get someone you trust to help you out. Because you’ve made your plan open, you also get a little positive peer pressure to do it right!

Cold Turkey
Another way is to Break the cycle.
Get involved in other activities that does not require the internet. Let your friends know in advance that you will be off-line for a few weeks. This may be tricky if your school requires you to correspond on subject matters using the internet. If possible, get a trusted friend to assist in this area.

Path of Least Resistance
We humans typically choose the path of least resistance. Make it harder to access internet. Say, cut off your internet access at home? This may only prove to be useful if you are under direct supervision of your parents or guardian(s). If not, it is likely that you will circumvent the very obstacles you setup and then go on an internet-binge thereafter.

Whoever you are trying to help break the addiction, it may be helpful to bring the person to seek help in person.

2. Chanting of a Buddha’s name

Reciting the Buddha’s name has been endowed with numerous “powers”. My personal take is that while such claims had been experienced by individuals, it may be helpful to see how it can be practically put to practice.

For one, reciting the Buddha’s name is a form of simple meditation that can lead to inner calm and tranquility. This clears up our mind and make it easier to focus and learn. In that way, recital of the Buddha’s name can be helpful for your wisdom and studies. But you still need to do the studying!

It is like the sharpening of an axe; you still need to do the chopping!

3. The Five Pungent Plants

The avoidance of the five pungent plants fall under the Bodhisattva vows. The five pungent plants are said to be strong stimulants that can agitate the mind. The aim of avoiding them is to reduce the impact of stimulants on our mind. This is especially true for those striving to be a Bodhisattva.

For most people who are not training on the path, the impact of the pungent plants may seem negligible. This is because our mind is already agitated by our constant pursuit of our wants, desires and cravings. It does not however mean that there is no impact; it just mean that we are unaware of the impact because our mind is too desensitized already.

Consider how we can hear clearly something drop in a (quiet!) library while we are oblivious to many things when we are in shopping mall. In the former, there are little distractions, while in the latter, we are too busy with all the attractions
out there to see or hear anything else.

Hope this clear things up for you.

With metta,


Letting go 放下

Someone asked me on facebook about the Buddha’s teachings on “Letting go”, below is my reply. (English right below)



First off, don’t let go.  Start by observing the people, matters and things that we cannot let go and find out what all this is about.  Apply the Buddha’s teachings on impermanence, dependent arising, emptiness (of inherent nature) or no-self to reflect and observe.

When we slowly see clearly the inter-dependent-arising relationship between all of us, we would not be so attached to our self and esteem, and our unreal projection on others will cease.

However, this gradual “letting go” in reality does not exist.  Without attachment, there is no need to “let go”.  Further, “letting go” is not “giving up”.  “Let go” of our deluded thinking and attachment, not give up on people, matters and things.

Amituofo. 🙂


Different people, different strokes

Tonight as I retired for the day, I saw on facebook a comment that mentioned me (Ven Chuan Guan).
I was like … hmmm?

Taking a look at the original post https://www.facebook.com/yiantay/posts/10152138416583927 , it was just a Vesak well wishes by Yian Probsolver Tay.  Things sure escalated quickly.

Below is my reply that I decided deserves a blog entry of its own. 🙂

Read More …

FAQ: Eight Precepts


1) Drinks such as milo considered liquid is allowed after noon? What are the beverages allowable or only plain water allowed?

Milo while liquid is a food drink. It is allowed if one requires medication etc. Plain water and non food drinks are allowed, eg tea, coffee etc. In some traditions, coffee and tea are respectively forbidden for various reasons but not due to this rule.

Fruit juice without pulp is allowed. Avoid sweetened drinks as it causes the stomach to be more acidic.
Lime juice is excellent and surprisingly does not cause churning.

2) Wearing of watches considered jewellery ? If not wearing but putting in bag ok for reference of time?

Wearing of watches for time keeping is generally not an issue unless it is more ornamental in design. If one has a mobile phone, keep it in flight mode for retreats and you can use it as a time keeper.

3) Will watching of internet blogs or facebook considered breaching the Entertainment precept?

It depends on the nature of the articles or materials that one view. Many blogs are very informative and youtube has a huge selection of academic videos. If one is in a 8 precepts retreat, then one should refrain from all these altogether. But as a lay person observing the 8 precepts on various days in a month, it is ok to browse blogs and facebook for information etc.

4) Are general hotel or hostel single beds considered high beds?

Hotel beds are usually quite posh. Some would put the blankets on the floor to sleep. Hostel beds are usually quite spartan in design and so are mostly ok unless layers of mattresses, comforters and quilts are piled on with the air-con blasting … then it defeats the whole point! haha

5) Can face or body moisturers or lip gross or sunblock lotion be applied if it is non fragrant (no perfume)?

Moisturisers, lip balm and sun-block lotion are allowed as they serve to protect the body and not to embellish it. The mild fragrant some of these contain is not an issue as long as the purpose of application is not for relishing in such scent!

6) Any good weblink to reference to share with other friends who are also unsure of the 8 precepts adherence?

More Q&A About The Teachings

Question and Answers

Below are some questions that I received from a student and my short replies.

1) Does the concept of realms (6 realms, 31 planes of existence) belong to the Relative Truth (in the 2 Truths)?

The teaching on the realms comes from what the Buddha observed and is part of the conventional truth.
While seeing ultimate reality or ultimate truth is what gets us enlightened, we must also not forget about conventional truth or dismiss it.

eg, the driving convention in Singapore follows the left sided driving, where we drive on the left side of the road, and the driver is seated in the right side of the car.  It is not an absolute truth that driving must be done this way and is in no way morally more superior or wiser than the other driving convention, such as the one used in US.  But if one drives on the right side of the road in Singapore, one is sure to get into a lot of trouble! 😉

2) In the 2nd of the 4 Seals of Dharma, it states that All contaminated phenomenon are unsatisfactory ( in the nature of suffering due to Karma and mental afflictions), how can realizing of Emptiness have an effect on negating this ‘unsatisfactory-ness’?

Four seals?  Are you referring to impermanence, suffering, no-self and emptiness?

It states that all conditioned (not contaminated) phenomena are suffering.
Realising emptiness, one sees that the objects of craving and attachment are as illusory as fleeting clouds in the sky, ephemeral, insubstantial and … that even if one wants to cling onto, there is nothing that one can cling unto.

Conceptually, one may understand it but one may still be form attachments.  It is when one truly sees that there is really nothing permanent, independent, substantial or inherent out there, that one’s cravings and attachments gradually and ultimately ceases.  With that, one stop having unrealistic expectations of how things can or should be.  Worry, disappointments, stress etc ceases consequently.

3) What is the difference between exhaustion of negative karma and purification of negative karma? What happens to the negative karma when it is purified? If karma can be purified, then why didn’t Maudgalyāyana purify his negative karma and had to ‘pay’ with his life? What happens to a person’s karma when he reach Enlightenment? Must a person’s ‘Negative Karma bank’ be emptied before he can attain Enlightenment?

Good question!  Exhaustion of karma, negative or positive, refers to the ripening of them while purification of negative karma refers to 1) repentance of negative karma, ie acknowledging the err in those actions and making a resolve not to repeat.  This resolve is the mental state that does not resonate with the negative karma and hence does not nurture the existing negative karmic seeds / imprints nor trigger their arising / ripening.

The negative seeds are still present but are not nourished nor ‘activated’.
In this way, there is purification of negative karma.

One’s “negative karma quota” does not need to be emptied before attaining enlightenment. But if a karmic seed has
already reached maturation and ripened into a fruit when the person reach enlightenment, then the results will be experienced by the enlightened one nonetheless.

4) All Buddhas and Bodhisattvas have Pure land right? Is it against the Buddha’s teaching if one does not believe in Pure land? In the 18th of the 48 Fundamental Vows of Amitabha Buddha,  It promises that he will take all sentient beings that recite his name sincerely to his Pure Land when they die, what happens to our negative karma then?

All Buddhas have purelands.  Purelands are basically the result of the vows of the Buddhas to have a suitable place for sentient beings to learn and cultivate the Dharma.  More like a retreat centre than a heaven.

The negative karma has no condition to ripen, hence no suffering while in pureland.  But when a person cultivate up to a certain level, one returns to this world as a Bodhisattva and those negative karma, given the right conditions, may still ripen.  At that point, unlike an unenlightened being who will fret and be upset or filled with fear, an enlightened one would face the fruit with calm and equanimity.  He will willingly “repay” whatever wrong he has done.

5) If sentient being exist in different forms depending on their karma, does that mean there is a finite number of sentient beings, just that they take different form when they go through rebirth. (This was a question from a friend who majored in Maths! He said that if being reborn is to take different form only, surely there are a fixed number of beings around, minus those being who gained Enlightenment along the way). I remember at the end of the movie ‘Little Buddha’, a few kids was identified as taking the manifestation of the person who passed away, so one mental continuum could be reborn into a few bodies right?

The question of finite or infinite sentient beings is not answered, though in our Bodhisattva vows, we undertake to liberate innumerable sentient beings!

Whether or not there are finite or infinite sentient beings, if we have unrealistic expectations based on incorrect perception of ourselves and this world, then we are bound to suffer.  The reverse is true, of not suffering.

The movie “Little Buddha” … is a movie.  😀

6) Arhat exist within the 6 realms right? Can an Arhat accumulate negative karma? If they do, what will happen?

Arhats are those who are free from defilements.  In their final life after enlightenment, they would not accumulate negative karma anymore.

7) Does Karma exist outside the 6 realms?

As far as unenlightened beings are concerned, there are only the 6 realms that exist.
So the question is invalid to some extent.

Purelands can be seen as existing within the 6 realms, but not subject to the same nature of suffering, so some classify it as beyond the 6 realms.

In that sense, Karma do not function outside the 6 realms in pureland the way it applies for us.

8) There are 3 or 4 kayas/bodies, I find it quite confusing, could you help to explain it in a simpler way…

For a start, leave the kayas alone.  Focus on the teachings that help you work with your defilements, the challenges in your life.  That is more pertinent and helpful.

9) Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva dont want to gain Enlightenment because he want to help sentient beings, why is it that he can’t help when he is a Buddha? What can a Bodhisattva do that a Buddha can’t do?

It is not that Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva don’t want to gain Enlightenment, he has already attained Buddhahood many eons back.  Now the condition is for Bodhisattvas to help to teach, so the Buddha manifest as a Bodhisattva.

When there is still the Buddha’s teaching, like in our
world now, no second Buddha will appear because it would be redundant.
Buddhas only arise when there is no more Dharma teachings in this world.
Apologies for the delayed reply!!

Have a blissful year ahead!!  🙂