The House is on Fire

The fire alarm went off as fire engulfed one of the units in the building. The family in that apartment scramble to try to put out the fire.

In other floors, other families continued with their morning ritual. One family came out to take a look and ask around, while other families just kept to their own business as it was not their apartment on fire.

As the fire spread and smoke start to engulf the building, it became clear that everyone is going to be affected. Soon individuals started coming out to check out the situation.

“Why is their house always on fire?”

“Their stupid father refuse to let the son activate the fire alarm earlier, else the fire would have been put out already.”

“You know I heard that it was because they were having a barberque in the house … tsk tsk tsk”

More and more people join in the discussion on who started the fire, why it started, how it started, but very few was trying to put out the fire.

Some families quickly took actions and kept the fire under control in their own places while others, too busy with speculating on the fire, discovered a little too late that their own house was on fire too.

When the firefighters arrive to fight the fire, they even had to grapple with some bystanders who insist on finding out the who, what, when, where, why, how of the fire before putting it out.

If your house is on fire, put out the fire. If others’ house is on fire, help them put out the fire.

There will be time to investigate all you want.

The fire is defilements, the house is our mind.

And yes, it can refer to the covid-19 pandemic too.
The fire is the virus, the house is our own country and the building is earth.

Let’s put out the fire, defilements or virus … … we can investigate and finger point all we want when we are done.

Of Paper Planes and Dharma

Engineering without science, you have planes falling;

Science without engineering, you have paper planes.

Practice without Dharma, you practise blind;

Dharma without Practice, it’s a nice theoretical idea.

Hope 2019 has treated you well. Hope you have treated 2019 well.

If not, try again next year.

Happy 2020! 

PS: One could also say that there’s no engineering without science, just as there is no real practice without Dharma.

To eat or not to eat … meat that is!

Original post

Dear Shifu, I get this from Theravada monks who say that it is someone’s bad karma to be born as animals and as such must undergo such sufferings… therefore, it does not matter. As long as it is dead when we buy from market, we don’t bear the karma. is it true? How can i reply? But i always thought if the buying stops, the killing stops.

Dear Audrey Ho, first off, while some may have such views, it does not necessarily reflect the view of the whole community, at least increasingly not.

On the principle that because it is their bad karma, so animals much undergo such sufferings … applying the principle to all sentient beings, then the Buddha should not have taught us Four Noble Truths and Eightfold paths to help us be free of suffering.

Such a view is fatalistic and seem to encourage and perpetuate harm, justifying it with karma.

This is similar to telling people in broken relationships that it is their karma to suffer in it, so let it be. That is just plain wrong.

On eating meat itself, as long as it is not live food, i.e. animals dying directly due to your order, it is allowed under the 3 exclusion clause, where out of compassion, one does not take meat from an animal seen, heard or suspected to be killed for oneself.

It is not too complicated to see the indirect link between buying and killing, as many including Ng Xin Zhao has highlighted. When we see images of sharks being cut for their fins, we feel sad. Why not other animals? One day I wondered, which animal can survive with their limbs severed?

As a side note, alms round in the Buddha’s time is irregular as the monks and nuns move from places to places every few days. Today in countries where alms are offered, it is a fairly regular, daily thing. As a result, all food that is offered is directly prepared for the monastics, and if certain animals are killed in bulk for these alms, then it would fulfill the clause of being directly killed for onself, and should not be accepted.

Unfortunately, there is no easy solution, especially when it has become a cultural identity or feature. In some countries, the five precepts are recited daily, only for the individuals to go on to prepare roadside hawker food, killing hundreds of shrimps, insects, as livelihood.

And on identity, I sometimes wonder if a strong stand on vegetarianism can sometimes backfire and dichotomise Theravada and Mahayana Buddhism, serving ironically as a fault line between the two, when it was meant to be a cultivation of compassion.

Big Brother … boon or bane?

Sometimes in Singapore, we wish that the state or system would uphold some form of social justice. But when some country really do it, it seems scary.

As a Singaporean, we grow up with our NRIC like it is the norm, but in some countries like US, it is often seen as a form of intrusion of privacy. And to some others, it may even remind them of how Nazis tracked Jews and foreigners and gave them IDs.
And again, even after knowing all that, I still feel ok with NRIC and feel that it is one of the good thing that makes the Singapore efficiency work.

So I wonder, how bad is this ‘social credit’ system really?
Personally, I am concerned with two things:

1. Manipulation of the system can mean cause people to be denied access to basic amenities such as high-speed rail transport. Abuse.
2. While the intents may perhaps be good, an attempt to institutionalise ethics, can good behaviour be truly inculcated in this way?

Or perhaps it is not so important as long as the outcome is good behaviour, much like a huge part of the legal system. You may still want to steal, as long as you don’t the law leave you alone.
While not ideal, perhaps if this can give some respite to today’s crazy where people go at each other over traffic, or try to shoot each other (‘s plane) … maybe it is the better of the two evils?

The Dangers of Infallibility

First off, what is Infallibility?  It is the notion or state of never being wrong.  The question is … is it possible?  How do we know if we are infallible or not?

Most of us would not outrightly think that of oneself.  But in some cases, we may unknowingly, harbour such a view, a pernicious one if I may add.  What are the features or tell-tale signs you ask?  Here’s what to look out for:

If you often think

“Why am I always the one at fault?” … or “Sure they are wrong too?”

This is a sign that we are not able to admit one’s wrong or mistake.  Granted, there are times where we are indeed right, but the point is whether we do see that we are sometimes wrong.  

“I cannot be bothered to argue with you”

There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to argue, but if this is our default to any disagreements, it may point to our latent wish to not have our view point torn down.  We wish to continue to be ‘right’ in our bubble.

Or maybe we really cannot be bothered in that one particular case.  Only one person know the real reason.  Ourselves.

“I lost the argument only because … I do not know how to argue
… out of respect
… XYZ”

If we often think in this way or if this is the default reason, alarm bells should be going off anytime … now!  If our default is this, then it means that we are never wrong.  It means that we are infallible.

The danger of such thinking is that anytime there is a difference between our view and others’ … we automatically think that others are wrong.  This shuts the door for learning, for the very premise of learning begins with recognising that there is something that we do not know.

To think that we are infallible, is in other words, to think that we know everything, hence cannot possibly be wrong.

In a sense, to know that we are not infallible, that we do not know everything … yet … is quite an exciting proposition.

It is like watching a movie and not knowing whatever plot is to come.  There is that sense of wonder, of curiosity … in this case, not just of the movie plot … but the plot of life itself!

I don’t know about you, but if I am you, I would embrace it and jump in and ride the crest of life, to explore, to discover, to realise!

Have a nice day … unless you have other plans … …

… … or if you know everything already … in which case, it will be the day that you already know … and why are you still reading this … since you already know everything … ha!