Faith & Society: Leadership Amidst Controversy

Shared at “Pathways Institute 2013 in Singapore” this evening.
Faith & Society: Leadership Amidst Controversy (At NUS campus)

My talk was “Forgive and Forget: Can we truly put our past aside and have Peace and Harmony?

We often hear the adage Forgive and Forget.  But if we forgive because we forget, then when we remember the incident, long gone hurt may rise again.

Instead, we should try to forgive but don’t forget.

Buddhist approach is to learn to use Wisdom, Love and Compassion to see people or things that irritate us. That way, even if we remember something that used to irritate us, we would gradually and ultimately not be irritated. 😉

In this way, we can forgive without forgetting. The way the Buddha’s Love and Compassion encompasses all sentient beings unconditionally, with equanimity. 😀

Today, I also picked up a few valuable things during the Q&A session:

1. Is it possible to learn and practise Buddhist meditation without dropping one’s faith / belief.  (Yes.  Many Christians & Jews worldwide are practising Buddhist meditation and benefiting from it without denouncing their religion.)

2. The muslim community made a statement denouncing the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues.  (Perhaps we should establish closer ties with fellow religious heads, so that such voice of reason can be heard over
the chaos)

3. The muslim community hope to reach out to the Buddhist community in Myanmar to help resolve the conflict in Rohingya and promote peace.  Participant gave a good example of how the Dalai Lama’s effort in North India helped in restoring peace in that region.  (Again, some means to foster inter-faith peace talks is needed.  Perhaps it is even more important to do so before conflict arise.  Fortunately for Singapore, we have IRO since 1949!  IRO for every country, anyone?)

4. Christians do not try to convert others, ‘cos in their belief, conversion is strictly speaking done by God and not by human; they are only sharing their faith.
(Hmmm … maybe it’s just me?  IMO, it seem to border on “換湯不換藥”。Calling it “sharing” and not “converting” just means that *unsolicited* “sharing” is inappropriate and distasteful.  Hmmm … …  :s )

5. A nice reminder about how South East Asia was once pre-dominantly Buddhists.  Eg the Borobudur temple in Indonesia.  (I like the suggestion to give a balanced coverage of both positive and negative incidences.)

6. Religious beliefs is just one belief in the sea of beliefs that people have.  Should it be treated differently?

My sharing focused mainly on negative incidences as these are points of contentions, which are detrimental to peace and harmony.  My thoughts were that if we manage to overcome the negative incidences, then positive ones would naturally build on those successes!

Note to self:  I must mindfully moderate the level of positive and negative info for interfaith talks in future. 🙂

Thanks to John and Asha from Pathways Institute and the participants for having me this evening.  We really overrun the schedule with Q&A!  Special thanks to Farid for the link up, without which I would not have shared tonight.

Sabbe satta sukita hontu!
May all beings be Well and Happy! 🙂

Q&A: Laziness and Internet Addiction

2) Can the venerable give me some advice on how to cope with laziness and internet addiction?

Hmmm … laziness and internet addiction. Quite an interesting pair … ‘cos laziness is inactivity, while addiction is not.

We can be lazy about many things. For example, I’m “lazy” when it comes to killing mosquitoes. So I’ve not killed one (in my knowledge) for many many years. I’m also “lazy” with making money. So I’ve quit my job and become a monk, and have not made any cash for all these years; the up side is that you cannot be retrenched as a result! :p We are lazy about some things and passionate about others, even to the point of being addicted to them. The difference between the two, lies in interest.

We are lazy about things that do not interest us. Life, unfortunately and frequently, requires us to do things that are less than interesting. Take work for example. Most of us are not interested in our work. Really. We are driven mostly by what it can bring us or others. Sometimes that is monetary gain, sometimes it is a sense of satisfaction derived from identifying ourselves with the profession. Without the motivation behind, we would naturally be lazy, and I say that without condoning or condemning it.

To fight laziness, one would then need to find the value in the thing or activity. This value may then generate interest and in turn drive and energy. Cutting internet addiction on the otherhand, would require one to see the effects such an addiction brings you. You may need to share with me the extent which the person, with internet addiction, is surfing the internet. The frequency and duration etc. Is it serious enough to be considered an addiction? How is using the internet affecting the persons’ life? Is it hampering his normal daily activities such as studies, work or personal life? These information would be
helpful for a start.

Let me know how this work out and we can follow up on it.

Q&A: Respecting Books

Below is part 1 of my reply to an open question posted on Leave a Message

1) My dad says that we must respect books because some divine beings might be living inside it, if we disrespect the book( e.g stepping on them, putting them in an untidy manner etc.), we will not get good results in examinations and will not gaining enough knowledge. Is that true?

So there are two parts to your father’s claim:
1. That there are some divine beings living inside books, and
2. By disrepecting them, there will be some consequences, such as poor exam results and being knowledgeable.

First off, there sure are beings living in books, but divine or not, I know silver fishes lives in books, especially the old ones.  There are some legends that some spiritual beings or guardians protects books, and that they may get pretty angry if anyone mistreat the books they protect.  Such legends probably evolve or develop from earlier legends about guardians of knowledge or wisdom, which books are the physical representation of.  These latter legends may themselves have been derived from the view that knowledge or wisdom is sacred and thus should be respected and held in high esteem.

Knowing this probable origin of such claims can help us relate to books in a proper manner.  Consider how paper, printing and publishing were pretty scarce in the past.  An attempt to preserve the books and inculcate a healthy attitude towards books may spin off into legends and myths quite easily.  Such development of legends can be found not just in Asian societies but in almost all countries that exist long enough for folklore to develop.  So we should perhaps see and understand this claim just as other claims from other culture or religions in a similar light, and understand the original
intention when the legend began.

The second part of the claim is that there are consequences to showing disrespect to books.  I have to agree that there are consequences here, although the consequences may not a) be due to divine being’s retribution on us and b) be the same as claimed.

To get good results, one just have to do one thing: get the right answers to the examination questions.  Even if one were to put the books on an altar and perform all the world’s religious rituals and treat it with the most respect, one will not be any better off at answering the examination questions.

Gaining knowledge from a book is done by reading, analyzing, contemplating and reflecting over the content, the meaning of the book.  To me, that is the right way to “respect” books.  Conversely, the way to show “disrespect” for books is to neglect them, and not read them.  That is one sure way to be closed to whatever the book may offer, and would thus make oneself ignorant (as far as the book’s content is concerned), and in the case of school textbooks, a potentially poorer examination result.

Just a casual note, “stepping on books, and putting them in an untidy manner” … why would anyone be stepping on books, never mind whether you respect them or not?  As for tidiness, I for one will attest to having had an untidy “organised mess” of computing reference books and yet, I say without boasting, that I excelled in programming nonetheless.  My seemingly untidiness definitely did not hinder my learning.  (ok, maybe I may become the president scholar I never was, but there is no way to find out, is there?)

I am not encouraging anyone to be untidy, but to me, it is a matter of preference.  As long as such preference do not hinder the goal of learning or result in hygiene issues, then I’m pretty ok with it.  Whether your parents are ok with it, is a different story altogether!

Howto: Sleeping Well

Recently I’ve been thinking, that since many people in the city suffers from bouts of insomnia, I could share my thoughts about it and how one could potentially deal with it.

First of, I don’t suffer from insomnia.  The one major time I couldn’t sleep was when I downed a whole tin pot of coffee-tea brew that my good friend Ivan (NTU Hall XI, you know who you are! :p ) made for me.  He did it with the best intention and in a twisted way, I’m grateful for his intentions, but boy I only managed to catch a wink at 5am only to have to wake up at 7+am to do an exam paper for Japanese.

Then there was the other time … … hmmm … … either my memory is failing, or I really don’t have problem with sleeping.

Seriously, I rarely have problems with sleeping.  But I’ve met people who face this difficulty (in some part of the world, they call it a medical condition) and here are some common traits I observe:

  1. Anxiety or worry (about some matter or their lack of sleep itself!)
  2. Bad pre-sleep habits
  3. No sleeping habits

I’ll deal with 2 and 3 first.  Then we’ll come back to 1.
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