Q&A: Why do temples strike the bell 108 times during Chinese New Year?


A devotee asked me why temples strike the bell 108 times during Chinese New Year.
Here’s some sharing on it.

Within the Buddhist teachings, hearing the sound of the bell, one is reminded of the teachings and become mindful of one’s body speech and mind, quelling the defilements and agitations of the mind.

In the Chinese Mahayana tradition, there’s the following verses that are recited and reflected upon as aspirations before striking the bell.

願此鍾聲超法界  鐵圍幽闇悉皆聞
May the sounds of this bell transcend the (ten) Dharma realms,
To be heard even in the far reaches of the remote and dark outer rims

聞塵清淨證圓通  一切有情成正覺
Hearing thus, may all purify the dust (of defilements), attaining to complete mastery,
and all sentient beings attaining to Buddhahood.

聞鐘聲  煩惱輕  智慧長  菩提生
Hearing the sound of the bell
Defilements lighten, Wisdom grows, Bodhicitta arises

離地獄  出火坑  願成佛  度眾生
Departing from Hell, exiting from the fiery pit
Aspiring to become a Buddha, liberating sentient beings

108 corresponds to the defilements that arises due to the 108 types of feelings/sensations [1].

The striking of the bell is done on days like CNY … to mark our aspirations to work towards quelling our defilements and suffering.

Happy Chinese New Year!


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?