Sharing at a Christian Meditation Seminar

Earlier last month on 7 / 8 January 2012, I was invited to share at the Christian Meditation Seminar "Common Ground" in Catholic Junior College.

It was eye opening to hear speakers from five different religions coming together to share their religion's way of meditation as I was for the longest time under the impression that meditation was found mainly in Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and various Indian religion.

As most religions were theistic, meditation was for them,  a way to "reach God through silence".  For Buddhist, meditation was a way to purify our mind.

What to me is a step forward was to have people from different religions, using different meditation techniques to meditate together, without a need to convert the other, or to prove that "mine is better than yours".  

During the seminar, I took the opportunity to share the "common human experience" that we all shared.  When we don't get what we want, we fret, we are disappointed, we are unhappy.  Depending on the degree of our want, craving or attachment, we may experience suffering differently.  This does not depend on your gender, age, race, beliefs or nationality.  It is a fact, a Truth of our human condition.  The First Noble Truth of Suffering and the Second Noble Truth of the Cause of Suffering (Craving and Attachment).

Most non Buddhists are quite taken aback when they realised that they just agreed to the Buddha's teachings on the Four Noble Truths … or at least the first two.  For the most part, non Buddhists may not have a chance to readily or easily get to know the teachings of the Buddha, so half the time, they may reject Buddhism based on hearsay or misconceptions.

Beyond the above sharing, I also shared with them "Dog Poo".

Yes, dog poo.  I quote myself based on what someone noted down of my talk

"What happens when you step on dog poo", asked Ven Chuan Guan. Your exclamation of disgust is followed may be by a tap dance, you look for a patch of grass/a bit of
wall. You take a plastic bag, clean it off your shoes, wrap it up, tie a nice knot, keep it in your pocket. Keep it warm. Then you go home, tell your family, show it to them: all smell, have a whiff. It was a dalmation, a german shepherd.

Your family says “that’s nothing, let me show you mine”.

So it is with emotional dog poo which does not taint the body but dirties the mind, We choose to live this cycle or choose not to bring home dog poo. Meditation helps.

Visit the Catholic News (Singapore) web site to read more. 

Perhaps all religious leaders, senior and youths alike should be required to attend interfaith events so that we can learn about other religion's teachings.  In learning, it is not to relinquish our own teachings or belief and accept other religions, but to have understanding and appreciate the goodness in others even if it flies under a different banner.

Attack by Vandals Destroys Nearly 30 Buddhist Statues in a Maldives National Museum

Once again, vandals are at work.  This time, the target was 30 Buddhist statues in a Maldives National Museum.

 

“The whole pre-Islamic history is gone.” said Mr. Waheed, the director of the National Museum.

It is not gone.  The statues are gone.  But one cannot change or remove history simply by destroying the statues.  Instead, they have written history, of how in modern day Maldive, inspite of the destruction, Buddhists do not return blow for blow, hatred for hatred.  They have helped affirm the Buddhist teaching on loving kindness, compassion and true inner peace and calm.

Fellow friends, keep in mind.  The expression of the Buddha's and Bodhisattva's qualities and teachings in the statues can be destroyed, and has been harmed and destroyed numerous times.  Dharma books can be burnt, and has been burnt numerous times.  Teachings memorised in our heart can be lost if we die or are killed, and has happened before.  

But the Truth pointed by the teachings, the learning and application of the teachings, the fruit of inner peace and calm, and the unshakable cessation of suffering, Nirvana … that cannot be harmed by words and blows nor destroyed by guns and bombs.

 

 

MALE, Maldives — The broken glass from an attack by vandals on the National Museum here has been swept away, and the remnants of the Buddhist statues they destroyed — nearly 30 of them, some dating to the sixth century — have been locked away. But officials say the loss to this island nation’s archaeological legacy can never be recouped. [1]

 

References

[ 1 ]  The New York Times

The Two Abilities We All Have, and a Third We Can Have.

All human beings, young or old, man or woman, regardless of race, language or religion, nationality or beliefs have two abilities.

When faced with agreeable, pleasant people, situations or things, we can get happy, joyful, at ease, calm and do nice stuffs, say nice words.  That’s easy.  We all can do that.

When faced with disagreeable, unpleasant people, situations or things, we can get unhappy, sad, frustrated, angry, and may do crazy stuffs, say angry words.  That’s also easy.  We all can do that too.

These are the two abilities that all unenlightened beings have.  Conversely, it is true as well.  If you can only react in this two ways, then you are probably unenlightened.  But don’t fret about it, ‘cos you are like the rest of us 99.9999999999999999999999% sentient beings.

But wait.  There is a third ability we can have.

When faced with the agreeable … or disagreeable … we can still have inner peace and happiness. &
This inner peace and happiness is somewhat different from the happiness above.  The happiness above is based on getting what we want.  This is worldly happiness.  Losing what we want brings unhappiness.  This is worldly suffering.  Both are intertwined, like two sides of a coin, not quite the same, not quite apart.

Inner peace and happiness is quite different.  It is not gained from getting what we want, and not taken away when we lose what we want.  It is the inner contentment when craving and desire ceases.  When we see the true quality of worldly happiness, desire and craving for it diminishes and goes away.  We don’t have to force it away.  It just do not arise anymore.  Attachment loosens itself and fades away.  Again, not forcibly taken out, but it has nowhere to attach itself to.

This is the inner peace and happiness that we all can have.

The path to it has been shown to all.

A very special person rediscovered this 2600 years ago.  A person who reached the ultimate of human potential.  He surpassed all Gods and human beings.  He surpassed all realms of existences.  He surpassed all defilements and limitations.  He is known as the Buddha, the Awakened One.  The Teacher of Gods and Man.[1]

 

We already have the first two abilities, and we’ve honed them to mastery level.  About time we develop the third ability?


References

[ 1 ]  Majjhima Nikaya 12 – Maha-sihanada Sutta: The Great Discourse on the Lion’s Roar

Say Yes to Religious Harmony

 

Facebook page "Say Yes to Religious Harmony" http://goo.gl/4Mabw

We request the Presidential Council for Religious Harmony to make a stand on this.

This page is for people of all faiths (Baha'i Faith, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, Judaism, Sikhism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism*) and people with no religion.

Recently Campus Crusade for Christ has made some insensitive and seditious promotional materials against Buddhism & Islam. We call upon the Presidential Council of Religious Harmony to issue a strong statement against such acts of abuse from one religion to another.

Like this page if you believe in Religious Harmony and respect for all faiths and practices.

Let the voice of the silent moderate majority be heard!

 

Facebook page "Say Yes to Religious Harmony" http://goo.gl/4Mabw

Say Yes to Religious Harmony today!
Go to the facebook link above, Click Like, Share with your friends, share your interfaith experiences and thoughts on the page!
 
Religious Peace and Harmony is a reality!  Do your part!
 
Note: These are the ten religions recognised by the government in Singapore.

Perception ~ Coloured by the External Environment and Our Inner Preconception, Can We Truly See This World?

In an experiment conducted by Washington Post [1] back in 2007, they explore questions such as

“Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment? ”

Will one of the U.S.’s greatest violinists be noticed in a D.C. Metro stop during rush hour? Joshua Bell [2] experimented for Gene Weingarten’s story in The Washington Post: http://wpo.st/-vP (Video by John W. Poole)

Video after the break.


Do we truly see things as they are?  How coloured are we by the external environment and our inner preconception?

Do we see the goodness in our friends or do we judge influenced by the above factors?

When we study in school, do we learn the most from the teacher regardless of the environment and our perception of him?  Or do we blame it on the teacher when we fail?

At work, who do we consider our friends?  Are there enemies or as they say, in business and politics, there is only common interest?  Do we allow ourselves to see the world with tainted glasses or do we peer through the colourings and see how things truly are?

Being influenced by our perception, we may respond or act differently, affecting how we interact with them and the environment.

Take our studies as an example, the following table models what can possibly be our “subject absorption” rate [3].

Subject Absorption Rate

T x S

Teacher (subject + teaching skill) T%

30%

60%

90%

Student

(attention + mindfulness + interest )

S%

30%

9% C1

18%

27%

60%

18%

36%

54%

90%

27%

54%

81% C9

 

How well our teacher knows the subject and can teach is something we cannot quite change while we are in the classroom or lecture theatre.  We can choose how attentive and mindfully we listen and how much interest we give it.

 

A simplistic 30%, 60% and 90% is presented for both teacher and student.  Assuming a loss-less
knowledge transmission, each of the nine squares above shows the outcome from a simple Teacher-Student matrix.

The cell C1 shows the worse case scenario of 9% subject absorption while the cell C9 shows a win-win high 81% subject absorption!

Of interest is the last row, where the student maximizes his learning regardless of the teacher, and the first row, where the best teacher cannot help the student who does not give his best in class.

Missing from the table is a student’s own flair for the subject.  That cannot change on the spot in class, and hence is not shown in the table.  While it does affect the outcome, it has more or less a uniform impact across the nine scenarios above.

The ‘payout’ is that regardless of the teacher’s subject and teaching ability, the student who gives 30%, has to consistently put in much more effort after class to catch up while the student with higher attention, mindfulness and interest need to put in lesser effort after class.

How about the way we perceive people around us?  Do we choose the best case scenario or set ourselves up for the worse case?

How about the video above?  Without a stage, is the violinist any lesser?

Do we listen to advices because of the environment, or the speaker, or the message itself?

If the words of wisdom from the various renowned teachers are shared with you by a perfect stranger, an unknown clergy, priest or Buddhist monastic, would you learn and benefit as much from it?

If we meet the Buddha today, will we learn something from him?

When the student is ready, even the rustle of the leaves teach the Dharma!

References

[1]  Washington Post article “Pearls Before Breakfast – Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let’s find out.”

[2]  Joshua David Bell (born December 9, 1967) is an American Grammy Award-winning violinist.

[3] This table was formulated by myself after my second year academic meltdown.  I stopped blaming my lecturer for my failure, picked myself up and moved on to complete my degree in Computer Engineering, working in R&D and consulting before doning the robes!

Freedom … …

A peaceful response to an insensitive posting?

http://news.insing.com/tabloid/nus-christian-student-group-insults-other-religions/id-8d303f00 *updated*

I just read a couple of different blogs and forum postings on the latest of "Christians vs Buddhism" religious knock-out matches.  Actually, for the most part, it is "Christians vs ________" 'cos we Buddhits were not invited to the match, so it is mostly some of these evangelical Christians doing a one-man boxing match, on their rounds of spreading Fear-Uncertainty-Doubt, to borrow a term from the tech industry where I came from before donning the robes.  

This turn, it is the Christian Crusade for Christ (CCC) NUS chapter, who put up a denigrating poster on Buddhism and Thailand, and one on Islam.  Click the images below for a bigger clearer picture.

    

According to Rubati (Dominic Foo), author of "Logic of Faith", he is "offended for Singaporean Buddhists".

From Logic of Faith, Rubati writes

"I am offended that the NBS would insult Buddhists in NUS and Singapore by insinuating that they are so insecure about their faith and joy in Buddha that they would have to resort to censorship to answer this slanderous attack by the CCC. "

 

I am offended that the NBS would make Buddhists out in Singapore to be the equivalent of paranoid Medieval Christians who had to resort to inquisitions and burning of books and opinions to stamp out false charges against them. 

 

…. (See links below or click on image above for full text) 

First off, it is not about security or not in one's faith,
it's more about mutual respect towards other's faith.  Name calling in religious discussions only does one thing, it shows us what is in your mind, what is in you as a person, as a group — Lack of sensitivity and mutual respect for others.

The irony of it all is that Rubati should compare NBS (NUS Buddhist Society is the correct acronym if that is the society he is referring to) with the Medieval Christians, 'cos the Crusades is precisely from that era of Medieval Christians where one either surrender to the gospel or the sword.  See references below on What is the Crusades?

Is NUSBS resorting to "inquisitions and burning of books and opinions to stamp out false charges against them"?  If so, then NUS provost is, according to Rubati, equally guilty.

 

NUS provost has issued a statement rapping such insensitivity by the Campus Crusade for Christ,

Professor Tan Eng Chye, Deputy President (Academic Affairs) & Provost in commenting further on the matter said, "NUS is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious community. We expect every member of our community to be respectful towards the religious customs, beliefs and sensitivities of others. The University does not endorse any comment or action by members of our community that disrupt religious harmony or disparage the diverse communities that live in Singapore and overseas."

Wait, NUS, the University as a whole does not endorse the actions by Campus Crusade for Christ, so does that, in Rubati's eyes, make them equal partner in "crimes"?

Free speech comes with responsibility.  If you cannot handle the latter, you give up the former.

It is amusing to read his article as all the charges he places on NUSBS is precisely what evangelical Christians are guilty of.  But in any case, his article is a digression from the matter at hand, that

1) in this day and age where we cannot do enough to strive for religious peace and harmony, CCC and other evangelical groups should still be devoting themselves to missionary trips to convert people while 

2) expressing their denigrating statements so blatantly

3) no consequences other than a slap on the wrist from the authorities

Do we really need to spread the news when in this day and age, almost everyone has easy access to the internet?

There are enough churches in the world for people to know its existence.  People can make their choice.  In Singapore, churches have access to prime location while new Buddhists and Taoists temple are relegated to light industrial estates or areas designated for associations and societies, such as Geylang.  But I digress.  

 

Christian apologetics will tell you that they are doing this out of love.  I will say that it is love with lots of misinformation and discrimination.  I can quite safely say that in all religions, followers are encouraged to share their teachings.  The Buddha urged the monastics and lay alike to share the teachings for the welfare and benefit of all sentient beings.  Fortunately Buddhitsts have the decency to share when appropriate, what is appropriate.  With all the Christian wisdom, shouldn't evangelical Christians know what is decent, sensitive and appropriate?  It is good that they are the minority.  But it begets asking, if all is pre-ordained by God, preaching to me would not work 'cos I'm meant to choose out of my free-will to accept the Buddha's teachings …. ? Again I digress. 

CCC's poster, pastor Rony Tan's video, the Christian couple charged in court, … these only surfaced in the past few years because of
technology and growing awareness in Buddhists and Taoists, that they cannot simply stand by and watch attacks on their religion go by.

But I ask this question.  Should we continue to play religious "wack-the-mole" with evangelical Christians who time and again attacks other religions or should something be done?

Each time something happen, the authorities talk to them and issue a warning.  They take down said materials and "sincerely" apologise for their misdeeds.  Seriously, unless CCC was living under a rock the past 2 to 3 years, they would have heard of pastor Rony's case amongst others.

Note that these are university students, not run-of-mill ill-informed zealots.  Thinking, intelligent, bright, crème de la crème of the nation.  They just lack sensitivity and respect for others.

Truly, can anything be done?  You can tie up a person or imprisoning him and restrict his action.  You can seal his mouth with tape and restrict his speech.  But you cannot truly restrict one's mind and views.

Calling out on these Christians' misdeeds merely trim the leaves but leave the roots untouched.  There is no end to this.

I shared with some students yesterday, that perhaps a better thing to do is for them to apologise but not take down those posters.  Let the posters stay, for six months or half a year.  Kinda like a memorial where visitors get to learn of the wrongs that were done and so that we do not repeat them.

Perhaps Rubati is right.  We should not censor these posters, we should enshrine them in a Hall of Shame, for posterity.

For seriously, the very namesake of Christian Crusade for Christ is already very telling of the very nature of this society.  Can we really expect anything more from them?


 

Aftermath There are consequences.  

Below is a page set up by Buddhists to promote Religious Harmony.  Gee … Buddhists are just too nice!

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Say-Yes-to-Religious-Harmony/173624062750703?sk=wall

This page is for people of all faiths (Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism and all other faiths) and people with no religion.

Recently Campus Crusade for Christ has made some insensitive and seditious promotional materials against Buddhism & Islam. We call upon the Presidential Council of Religious Harmony to issue a strong statement denouncing such acts.

Like this page if you believe in Religious Harmony and respect for all faiths and practices.
Let the voice of the silent moderate majority be heard!

References

What is the "Crusades"?

What is the "Inquisitions"?

Inter Religious Organisation in Singapore