Thus Have I Seen (T.H.I.S.) Buddhist Film Festival 2009

Dharma In Action is pleased to present Thus Have I Seen (T.H.I.S.) Buddhist Film Festival 2009. 10 films showcasing Buddhist values and cultures from all over the world will be screened from 13 to 19 September 2009 at Lido Cineplex.
Visit www.thisfilmfest.com for more information and visit www.sistic.com to purchase your tickets now!

FYI: Naming Trivia for Monastics

Here’s a short article about how monastic names come about. Just so you know. 🙂

The surname adopted in the Chinese Mahayana monastic tradition is Shi “釋”. It comes from the Shi “釋” in the Buddha’s name “釋迦牟尼佛”, a transliteration of Shakyamuni, meaning the sage of the Shakyan clan.

My ordination name was 釋智行 Shi ZhiXing and it was given by my late teacher,
and ordination Master, Master Miu King 上妙下境老和尚 when I was given the “going forth” in 2002.

In Singapore, I’m commonly known by 釋傳觀 Shi ChuanGuan. This name was given by my mentor Master, Ven. Kwang Sheng when I took mentorship under him in 2006.

So, 智-Zhi and 傳-Chuan is the ‘generation’ character. Under the lineage stemming from the Buddha to the Chinese masters, the Chinese sangha adopted the naming convention in use by the Chinese. so a monastic from a certain lineage would have the lineage / generation (middle) character that follows a certain order. Based on one’s lineage / generation character, one could trace your Dharma lineage accordingly.

行-Xing and 觀Guan is the ‘name’ character. Depending on the master or community, there may be some naming convention in place.

IMHO, this elaborate system can be useful to avoid undue duplication of names when there were hundreds or thousands of monastics. Kinda reminds me of the IP address system (InternetProtocol), ###.###.###.### …. (Comp. Engr or Comp. Sc. students should have a chuckle on that! 😉 )

Therefore, “Shi” is the surname, and “Chuan-Guan” is the complete name, and not Guan-shi or Shi-Chuan or other permutation! ^_^

Say, for a fictitious monk by the name Shi Mou Jia 釋某甲, in formal writing, one may refer to him as Venerable Shi Mou Jia, while in spoken form, one would simply address him as “Venerable Mou Jia”, “Mou Jia fashi 某甲法師” or “Mou Jia shi 某甲師”.

In some writing convention, it is also common to join characters together if they are meant to be joint as a phrase or name. Eg, Ven. Moujia instead of Ven. Mou Jia.

In various communities, both Theravada and Mahayana, it is common that a monastic may be known not by his ordination name, but by a common name based on the location this master came from. Eg, Chanmyay Sayadaw, means the Meditation Teacher from Chanmyay (a place in outskirt of Yangon, Myanmar).

Another example would be Master Tang San Zang 唐三藏. This indicated that he is a Tripitaka master from the Tang dynastic empire. The tripitaka reference may also point to his pilgrimage to India to bring back the teachings (tripitaka) instead as his motivation for the trip was to clarify certain discrepancies in the existing texts. His dharma name was 玄奘 Xuan Zang (or Xuan Zhuang) and is what is commonly found as the translator for various sutras in the Mahayana tradition.

In Buddha’s time, Dharma names were not explicitly given to new monks. Rather, they were simply known by the existing names. Eg, Upatissa became known as Ven. Upatissa. Upatissa was the name of Ven. Sariputta. Sariputta means “Son of Sari”, “Sari” being the name of Ven. Upatissa’s mother.

While the tradition of giving and receiving Dharma names came later on, it can serve monastics in a meaningful way, to mark a departure from our lay life as we embark on our spiritual journey towards Nibbana.

Hence, if you have a friend who has went forth as a monastic, it can be better to start addressing them by their Dharma name. Even though words and names do not make one enlightened, it can remind both parties of the change in role and path in life, and gently urges the monastic onwards in their daily endeavour on the path.

So, now you know! …
With metta, ^_^

An Interesting Feature about Google Maps

If you are reading this blog, you probably know what google is.  It is the search (advertising) company who’s name has become a verb, i.e. “I googled and found the meaning of ‘ergo'”.  Besides providing search services, it also provides the popular gmail, calendar, google docs, and map services etc.

Dynamic Scaling

Recently, I discovered that on google maps, as you tour the globe fairly smoothly without leaving your desk, the little scale legend at the bottom left corner dynamically changes.  The scale tells us how large or small the map actually represents.  So if you are looking at some region, and it displays the scale marker is one inch length and the number reads 500mi, it means that one inch length on the map at that scale represents 500miles in real life.

This means that with a fixed-sized scale, two regions of different sizes would appear to be of different sizes accordingly.  With a dynamic scale, as I mentioned earlier, two regions of different sizes may appear to be of a similar or identical size when in fact they are not.

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Why Do That?

Why are they doing this?  I don’t know.  This could be a feature to allow users to remain focus on finding useful information without having to dabble with zooming in and out of a region unnecessarily.  However, this also gives a false impression as far as the actual comparative size between regions are concerned.

Another reason could be technical.  The map data stored in the google servers could be optimized at different scales, and hence the easy way to represent the maps would be to adopt the native scaling stored in the database.  This reason however, does not quite cut it.  Given the engineering strength of Google’s R&D, normalising the scale of the stored map data before representing them visually should not be a problem.

So why are they doing it?  Maybe someone can clue us in.  But you can try it out and see for yourself.

So are they lying?

Technically, google is not lying about anything at all.  Afterall, it dynamically adjusts the scales and displays it rather prominently on screen.  What is perhaps disturbing (for me) is that everything is so seamless, the scaling is virtually undetectable unless you notice the change in the scales.

Lying and Business / Work

A number one reason many people gives when asked why they do not undertake the five precepts is Work.  “I’m in Sales.”, “I’m in Marketing”, “I’m a Buyer”, “I’m in HR”, “I’m …. ”

I like to analyse this using a simple table.

Truthful Lying
Success [ A ] [ B ]
No Success [ C ] [ D ]

In the above table, there are four scenarios, A, B, C, D. “A” represents someone being successful while being truthful, while “D” represents someone who is unsuccessful while lying.

Let’s look at B & D.  Both B & D lies at work.  This is the category we are tempted to follow, believing that it leads to success, or at least success with securing our job.  Is it true that there are people who find success at work while lying?  Yes, it seem to be the case.  We always hear of anecdoctal stories of some back-stabbing co-worker who lied his or her way around deals and up the corporate ladder.  But is it true that everyone who lies will succeed?  If we really think about it, we know that it is not true as well.  While some succeed (B), some will fail (D).  So it is not true that lying guarantees success.

Next, let’s look at A & B.  These are the ones who succeed.  This is the category most are trying to be in.  Is it true that all those who succeed lied their way through?  I doubt so.  I believe there are those who used their skills, intelligence and competence to succeed without having to resort to lying.  From my experience, it takes some courage to be honest at work.  But it pays off.  You earn your superior’s trust and your peer’s respect.  Your customer knows that they can … well, trust you when they engage your services or buy your product.  Looking at A & B, if you can succeed without lying, why should you lie at all?

Now, one might ask.  What about case C?  What if your honesty does not pay off and you do not succeed.  Well, between you and me, I would rather go away without success, knowing that I can sleep at night, with my conscience clear than failing *and* worrying about integrity (case D).

So my friend, will you dish
out the Truth at work?

Mars Will Be Nearest to Earth Soon … Or Not!

An email has been floating around, urging the reader to not miss an event on the 27th August 2009.  It is indeed a rare occurrence to have Mars so near to Earth!
Though, apparently, it was closest in 2003, and not this year.

See the following links:

1. http://science.nasa.gov/headlines/y2009/09jun_marshoax.htm
2. http://urbanlegends.about.com/od/errata/ss/mars_in_august.htm
3. http://www.otastro.org/Mars2005/

According to NASA, such an occurrence happens in a 60,000 cycle, so if you miss it six years ago … you got to be around 59,994 years later. Maybe we will see it when we come around as human beings a few more times. Maybe.

The fact that Mars will pass around its orbit is quite certain (unless so catastrophic astronomical event happen); that it’s orbit and Earth’s orbit will be closest once more in some distant future is also rather certain, based on present conditions. Whether we will regain human rebirth a few more times is not certain. Unless we live humanely, observing the precepts, sowing the conditions for human rebirth. Then that is certain.

While it is another 60,000 years or so before Mars will come around, it will be many hundreds, thousands of years, aeons, before the next Buddha will arise and teach the Buddha-Dharma. However now, this present crossing of path, not of Mars and Earth, but that of the Buddha-Dharma and our human life has occurred! This is the rarest and most precious event that we have met, and should all the more, not miss it!

Friends, brothers and sister in the Dharma, let us not “sleep” through this “event”, of the meeting of the Buddha-Dharma and our precious human life. Let us arise and awake to the Truth expounded by the Buddha!

May all of us be guided and protected by the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Reference:
Samyutta Nikaya 56.48 Chiggala Sutta: The Hole
PTS: S v 456 CDB ii 1872
http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn56/sn56.048.than.html

PS: When you receive some emails you really feel compelled to forward, read again, google it and confirm its authenticity before forwarding them.

Some Thoughts about Evolution and Cancer

PS: This is a long article and in retrospect, may have more implications to Buddhism than I have explored.  I have decided to leave it as it is and perhaps explore these connections in other articles.

You know, evolution, the Theory of Evolution that is getting a lot of press time in US? Yeah, the one Darwin proposed as the manner human and the various types of animals came to exist the way they exist? That they evolve from earlier simpler forms and are evolving into more complex forms.

I’m not a scientist or a biologist. I never studied biology or anthropology and I’m not even good in Chemistry. I’m just a monk with no training in these fields. But I have an interest in science since young and of late, due to the sheer volume of online articles about the Theory of Evolution (TE), I cannot help but read a few and learn something more.

TE states that as species evolve different traits, the ones with traits that are more suitable for survival tend to be passed on to later generations through the genes, because their hosts survive. On the other hand, species with incompatible or loosing traits die out and these traits die out with the genes. In short, survival of the fittest, with the best evolutionary traits. See Evolution in wikipedia for more info.

Recently, I was thinking about how this may explain why human beings seem to be getting weaker and have more and more illnesses.
Read More …