What Wisdom is Not


Had an interesting chat today with  Elvin​ Seah after lunch. He mentioned that there was someone who claims to have wisdom so high that he can suppress 压 all the Buddhist monastics in Singapore.

Here are some thoughts.

Wisdom is not for suppressing others. It is for liberating oneself and others, from wrong views, from ignorance, from agitations in our mind, from grief, from pain, from worry, from fear, from suffering.

Whatever above said person has which is so high that he can suppress others, that cannot be wisdom.


Is There Destiny? Are Our Life Pre-Destined or Planned?


Someone asked me recently

I would like to ask, do in Buddhist believe in Destiny?
Do our life are destined or planned?
Maybe for example are you destined to be a Monk?
Or some people are destined to be a great man, or certain people are destined to just suffer for his whole life?


Buddhist do not believe in Destiny / Fate, at least not in a fixed one, nor do we believe that our life is totally random, nor determined by some divine being or power.

Our life is a combination of past actions and present conditions, and how we think, speak and act now affects our life moving forward.

Am I destined to be a monk? Hmmm … conditions led to me becoming a monk, but it is in a way not fixed. But the inclinations were stronger than most people I guess.

No one is destined to suffer, but we do sometimes get stuck in mindsets or wallow in our own misery, refusing to snap out of it. If that duration is long enough, it may last several days, weeks or even years.

From the view point of a stranger looking at such a person in a year, it may seem like he is ‘destined’ to suffer for that one year. But one can change. How easy it is depends on how willing we are to give up mindsets, cravings and attachments that are hurting or harming us.

So for some, it may seem to be ‘destined’ while for others not so.

But there are also external conditions, such as when a person is born in a war torn country. The external situation is not necessarily due to him, but affects him directly, sometimes fatally. In such a case, the general suffering or happiness level is somewhat ‘fixed’, unless something drastic happen in a large scale.

But even then, a person with a positive and wholesome mindset can be relatively ‘happier’ than one who is negative or pessimistic.

As Buddhists, we should try to help improve those factors for others and try not to make it worse.

Hope this clarifies.

Addendum to Tonight’s Heart Sutra Workshop Class

Much appreciation to Tenzin‘s queries into the story of Queen Mallika’s rebirth that I share in class, it got me piqued and first thing when I got to the library, I checked up on the section from the text “Great Disciples of the Buddha“, page 262 – 263.

I made a mistake in missing out the part that Queen Mallika’s rebirth in hell was due to a “twofold transgression”, “1) her sexual contact with the dog and 2) her mendacious attempt to free herself from blame”, and not merely due to bestiality.

My sincere apologies for the forgetful omission.  See picture below for reference.

May this clarify and lead to right understanding. Sabbe satta sukhita hontu!



When Not to Quote It! 諸惡莫作,種善奉行,自凈其意,是諸佛教-幾時不該用!

To abstain from all evil, to do all good, to purify one’s mind,
this is the teaching of all Buddhas.

When not to quote it?  What can possibly go wrong?  Let me relate to you a funny incident.

Some years back when I was still training in a monastery in US, the Abbot, received a call from another venerable, an abbot of another monastery.

He called to express his displeasure with a Chinese New Year card he received from a person who trained in our monastery.  My abbot wondered what could possibly go wrong with a CNY greetings card.

This is what happened.

In the card, it reads (something that goes like this … )


祝你在這新春 『諸惡莫作,種善奉行,自凈其意,是諸佛教』

Translated, it means:

Dear Venerable,

This New Spring (Chinese New Year), wishing you

“To abstain from all evil, to do all good, to purify one’s mind, this is the teaching of all Buddhas.”

While it is a perfectly valid quote, it can be read as an exhortation or admonishment to the recipient “to abstain from all evil” and “to do all good”, possibly implying that the recipient is a doer of all evil and not a doer of good!

You can imagine the comedy that ensues!  Not so funny to the other abbot I tell you!

So when sending well wishes to others, one should be tactful on the possible misunderstanding if we are careless.

Also, between a junior to a senior, we usually send our regards and beseech the senior to have compassion to us and further teach and propagate the Dharma while a senior to a junior may exhort the junior to strive on, practise and progress towards enlightenment.  I always thought this is common knowledge, but it seem to escape some. :p

Lastly, a point to note about 『是諸佛教』.  There are a few ways to break this up and read it, and the two renderings below show how different it means:

是諸-佛教 – Is (as) all Buddhism.

是諸佛-教 – Is as taught by all Buddhas or Is the teachings of all Buddhas.

The second rendering is closer to what is meant.  『佛教』 or Buddhism as a term did not quite exist in Buddha’s time nor at the time of translation of the Dharmapada 《法句經》.  Comparing the Chinese translation with the Pali text and its translation reveals that the second rendering to be the right meaning.

So dear readers, wishing you “to abstain from … ” erm, nah, I’ll spare you the “well wishes” for now and stick to the usual

Suki hontu! May you be well and happy! ^_^