Reserved Seating


Every now and then, there would be a STOMP posting of someone occupying a reserved seat and refusing to give up their seat for someone who needs it more.  Or it would be a post of some young person occupying the seat with empty seats nearby.

These posts quickly find their way on facebook and are typically flooded with outcries of disgust and contempt.  The mob calls for a witchhunt.  Hysteria ensues.

Lost in all these noise is the curious question of what “Reserved Seating” is and why it exist.

In December 2013, the “Land Transport Authority (LTA) installed new reserved seat designs in the new DTL1 trains … to encourage commuters to give up their seats whenever someone else needs it more than they do.

This is part of three ideas that came from a study conducted by LTA and the Singapore Kindness Movement between February and July 2013.

It is a wonderful idea and is aimed at promoting kindness.  With the seats in place for the past 2+ years, we do see people giving up their seats for others.  But does it mean that people were not giving up their seats before?  No.  There were people who give up their seats and those who simply won’t.  Not even with the reserved seats in place.

Short of passing a bill to fine those who do not offer their seats, commuters have started featuring those who fail the kindness bar.

No, passing a bill will not get people to be kind.  Kindness must come from within.  Passing a bill will only get people to pay the kindness “tax” of giving up their seat.  Like giving to charity, it must come willingly.  Once enforced as a rule, our intent gets warped somewhat, and it becomes a mechanical act of following a rule rather than doing it because we want to, or because it is the right thing to do.

Which brings us to the matter at hand.  Doing the right thing.

What is legal is not always ethical.  What is ethical is not always legal. Read More …

40 Things In Our Life

Hello my friend.  How’s your day so far?  It’s the 6th day of the Chinese New Year, and the 44th day of 2016.

How has 2016 treated you so far?  How have you treated 2016 so far?

One day late last year, I was on my way to the toilet when I was thinking through the various items on my plate.  (Readers, do not try this at home.  haha)  I thought about how each of these projects would take a certain duration of time to reach fruition.

In particular, there’s this mini project that I’m writing (Leave and OT claims system that is slowly becoming a mini-HRM!) and I was thinking about how given that each program requires a certain amount of time to write, that there is a certain limit to the number of programs or apps that I can write in a year.  This is what I fondly call my little ECA (Extra-Curricular-Activity … what Singapore schools called the activities that students took part in, outside of classroom time).

That got me thinking.  By inference, there is only that many programs I can possibly write in my life!  And in turn, if we apply this to the other aspects of our life, after all, not everyone write code, then there is a finite amount of things that we can do.

No rocket science here really.

But I wondered, how many things in my life?  In our life?  Given that the average person is most effective between 25 – 65, assuming that our early years are spent learning things and honing our skills, and our post 65 years, we may find ourselves dwindling in health, energy and mental faculties, so we have the magic number 40.

This has a close proximity to 42, which as we all know, is the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.  However, it is a mere coincidence.  Either that or, there’s a miscalculation in Deep Thought.  But I digress.

If we consider any non-trivial major event or thing we set out to accomplish, it would probably take up anywhere between 3 – 6 months, some even taking up to a year, or years.  So, if on average, each item take up a year, then we would have about 40 things that we can do in our life.  Things that matter that is.

Things like bathing, eating, sleeping, etc, is what I call utility activities.  Things that we need to do to get by.  Essential but not quite our life goal.  Now, for those of you whose childhood dream is to do that when you grow up, I’m not judging you.

Another major utility activity we engage in is work.  It is something that we do to pay the bills.  Great if you also like it, especially if your colleagues are nice and your boss is amicable.  But if you don’t get any of these, remember, the contract T&C is about you producing work / results, and the company compensating you for your time.  Ever wondered why the salary is also called compensation?  haha

Don’t get me wrong.  By all means, find a job that you have passion for.  But don’t fret if your job is not something that you have a lot of passion or interest in.  There’s a term for that.  It’s called a hobby.

When people come to me for work / career counselling / life coaching, and they tell me that either the pay is lousy, or the work is tough, or the boss is demanding, etc, I ask them this.  If the pay is good, the work is easy and the boss is easy going, why hire someone to do it?  The boss can do it himself!

Anyway, like it or not, we spend approximately 2/3 of our wakeful hours at work.  9-11 hours out of 16 hours (assuming 8 hours of sleep).  And guess what, we mostly work from 25 – 65!  The effective and productive years of our life!

There’s no crime and shame in earning our keep.  But it means that we are spending almost 2/3 x 40 = 26 units of the 40 things we can do on work.  We are left with around 14 things to do.

So on one hand, we should try to find something we have passion and interest in, on the other hand, if we can learn to take interest in what we are doing, and find ways to make a difference, then the 26 units of work don’t go to waste.

We can limit ourselves to just doing X things in the 9 – 11 hours per day at work.  Or we can ask ourselves, how can we learn something new everyday at work?  If we can do more, why not?  It is our precious human life, our 26 units that is spent, whether we while our time away at work or we learn something new, or we help someone through our work.

And beyond work, what are we doing with our remaining 14 units?  If all we do is work, then it is like buying a car just to wash it and pump it with petrol, driving it just to burn the gas so that we can pump more petrol into it.  If one were to buy a car, drive somewhere.  The car is a tool to get us to our destination.  Work is likewise, our tool to bring us somewhere.  Don’t get caught up with the tool.

But what about life itself?  What is the destination of our life?  Is it simply to use up all the gas in the tank?

My dear friend.  I used up a bit of my gas writing this blog.  I hope it will help you to think about the 14 or 40 things in your life.

Oops, I have about 22 things left to do.  What 40 things are you gonna do with your life?

Handle or not, that is the question!

Ullambana is just around the corner, and every year, kind and thoughtful devotees would do offerings to the sangha to support us in our basic amenities and in our Dharma work.

One item that is often donated is shavers. In most cases, it is better to simply donate the refills, ‘cos we most likely already have the handle and just need shaver cartridge refills.

If you look at the packing, look out for the one with refills. Else we end up with a lot of spare handles and limited shaving cartridges.

Thank you so much!

If I have a Special Power


A friend asked me what I would like to have if I can choose any special power.  Anything at all.  Here’s what I would like to have:

I would like to be able to just snap my finger and have all sentient beings be completely, perfectly free from suffering, to be perfectly awaken, to be perfect, to be Buddha!

But alas!  No one can make others enlightened.  We must work on our own liberation, we must do the cultivation ourselves.  Enlightenment is not granted or or conferred.  It is not given.  It is through our own humanly possible effort that we work on shortcomings, flaws, faults, defilements and agitations in the mind.  To work on the habitual tendencies that compels us to repeat our mistakes.

Until one day, we cut the fetters that bind us.

That may seem bleak to some, that no one is there to save us, that we have to do it ourselves.  The good news is that we are not alone in doing this.  We have the teachings of the Buddha as our guide and instruction manual if you will.  What it means is that we are responsible for our happiness and no one else.  It also means that we are in charge and do not have to submit to someone else’s whims and fancy, to placate or please, to cajole or beg for liberation.

Two weeks from now, we celebrate Vesak in Singapore.  We celebrate this conquering of suffering through humanly possible effort.  We celebrate this potential, this Buddha nature, that is in all of us, in every sentient being, regardless of our race, language or religion.  Or for that matter, species.

May all beings be free from fear, free from harm,
May all be well and happy!

PS: So my friend, what super power would you like to have? 😉


Dhammapada XX: Maggavagga 275 – 276

275. Walking upon this path you will make an end of suffering. Having discovered how to pull out the thorn of lust, I make known the path.

276. You yourselves must strive; the Buddhas only point the way. Those meditative ones who tread the path are released from the bonds of Mara.

Giving Thanks to Mr Lee Kuan Yew


Thanks Iris tan, for the question on the four gratitudes in Buddhism.

The four groups to whom one should have gratitude are
一、父母恩。Gratitude towards one’s parents
二、众生恩。Gratitude towards sentient beings
三、国王恩/国家恩(国土恩)。Gratitude towards one’s nation/motherland/ruler
四、三宝恩 (佛、法、僧) Gratitude towards the Triple Gem, namely the Buddha, his teachings, the Dharma, and the Sangha, the community of monks and nuns and the enlightened ones.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew, is our founding prime minister, and is deserving of our respect and gratitude as founding father of our nation, under the third category of gratitude.

Emotions run high this week (23 Mar to 29 Mar 2015), and it is understandable that some may adorn him with high praise, and sometimes perhaps overdo it.

Mr Lee Kuan Yew has done much for Singapore, and from the out-pour of appreciations from other nations, we can see that he has also left a positive indelible mark in people’s life in lands far and near.

He does not need over-adornment or more accolades to make him a greater man.

He is great as he is.

As the PM, Mr Lee Hsien Loong has said in his eulogy, if anyone seeks Mr Lee Kuan Yew’s monument, we can reply proudly: ‘look around you’ “.

Thank you Mr Lee Kuan Yew.

Wherever you are,
may you continue to be of help and benefit to others.
may you find peace, joy and rest.