Faith & Society: Leadership Amidst Controversy

Shared at “Pathways Institute 2013 in Singapore” this evening.
Faith & Society: Leadership Amidst Controversy (At NUS campus)

My talk was “Forgive and Forget: Can we truly put our past aside and have Peace and Harmony?

We often hear the adage Forgive and Forget.  But if we forgive because we forget, then when we remember the incident, long gone hurt may rise again.

Instead, we should try to forgive but don’t forget.

Buddhist approach is to learn to use Wisdom, Love and Compassion to see people or things that irritate us. That way, even if we remember something that used to irritate us, we would gradually and ultimately not be irritated. 😉

In this way, we can forgive without forgetting. The way the Buddha’s Love and Compassion encompasses all sentient beings unconditionally, with equanimity. 😀

Today, I also picked up a few valuable things during the Q&A session:

1. Is it possible to learn and practise Buddhist meditation without dropping one’s faith / belief.  (Yes.  Many Christians & Jews worldwide are practising Buddhist meditation and benefiting from it without denouncing their religion.)

2. The muslim community made a statement denouncing the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddha statues.  (Perhaps we should establish closer ties with fellow religious heads, so that such voice of reason can be heard over
the chaos)

3. The muslim community hope to reach out to the Buddhist community in Myanmar to help resolve the conflict in Rohingya and promote peace.  Participant gave a good example of how the Dalai Lama’s effort in North India helped in restoring peace in that region.  (Again, some means to foster inter-faith peace talks is needed.  Perhaps it is even more important to do so before conflict arise.  Fortunately for Singapore, we have IRO since 1949!  IRO for every country, anyone?)

4. Christians do not try to convert others, ‘cos in their belief, conversion is strictly speaking done by God and not by human; they are only sharing their faith.
(Hmmm … maybe it’s just me?  IMO, it seem to border on “換湯不換藥”。Calling it “sharing” and not “converting” just means that *unsolicited* “sharing” is inappropriate and distasteful.  Hmmm … …  :s )

5. A nice reminder about how South East Asia was once pre-dominantly Buddhists.  Eg the Borobudur temple in Indonesia.  (I like the suggestion to give a balanced coverage of both positive and negative incidences.)

6. Religious beliefs is just one belief in the sea of beliefs that people have.  Should it be treated differently?

My sharing focused mainly on negative incidences as these are points of contentions, which are detrimental to peace and harmony.  My thoughts were that if we manage to overcome the negative incidences, then positive ones would naturally build on those successes!

Note to self:  I must mindfully moderate the level of positive and negative info for interfaith talks in future. 🙂

Thanks to John and Asha from Pathways Institute and the participants for having me this evening.  We really overrun the schedule with Q&A!  Special thanks to Farid for the link up, without which I would not have shared tonight.

Sabbe satta sukita hontu!
May all beings be Well and Happy! 🙂

The Power of Love and Compassion by a Buddhist Monk’s Prayer Jolts the Chinese

We sometimes underestimate the power of Love and Compassion through our prayers.  A Buddhist monk touches the Chinese people as he held "the dead man’s hand, bowing and praying for his final peace".

There are many images that could compete for a “2011 photo of the year” award in China. But few would have bet that the picture of an unknown monk praying over a dead man would turn out to be among the most popular.


Memorise a sutra or mantra today!  When you meet someone who is down or in fear, a gentle recitation can go a long way to help.

As always, common sense apply. If the person need some water or food, give water and food for the body, and offer a prayer for the mind and heart.  

Thailand Flood – Tzu Chi Foundation Moves In to Bring Aid and Support

Thailand Flood Aid Video #1
Flood aid in Thailand and survey in Philippines

Parts of Thailand have been inundated by floods for over two months now. Recent storm systems only brought more rain to the country, and the weather forcast predicted more rain is on the way. As the country bolstered its flood defenses, Tzu Chi volunteers arrived in Pakjan Township of Ayutthaya Province to help those in need.

Thailand Flood Aid Video #2
Hot meals for Thai flood victims

For the last two months, Thailand has been in the grips of massive flooding. During the crisis, volunteers from Tzu Chi have become a familiar sight for many local people. In Banplab Township, of Bang Pa In County, in Ayutthaya Province, volunteers gave flood victims hot meals, twice a day. They distributed 22,622 vegetarian meals in a week. As the programme comes to a close, Tzu Chi will be launching a mid-term disaster relief plan. Volunteers also gave blankets, medical kits, and food as a token of their appreciation to 240 local people, who helped out during the hot meal distribution.




Deadly Earthquake Hits India and Nepal


Deadly earthquake hits India and Nepal

Earthquake of magnitude 6.9 hits north-eastern India and Nepal,
damaging buildings and killing at least 16 people


Prayers and aid goes out to them.

A strong earthquake has shaken northeastern India and Nepal, killing at least 16 people and damaging buildings.

The quake, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.9, was felt across northeast India. It triggered at least two aftershocks of magnitude 6.1 and 5.3, Indian seismology official RS Dattatreyan said. He warned that more aftershocks were possible.

At least five people in India’s Sikkim state were killed and more than 50 were injured, according to the state’s top official. Nepal’s government said five people died and dozens were hurt there.

The full extent of the damage was not immediately known because the region is sparsely populated, with many living in remote areas that were cut off by mudslides triggered by the quake, Singh said.

TV stations reported collapsed buildings and cracked pavements in Sikkim’s state capital of Gangtok, 42 miles southeast of the quake’s epicentre. The Indo-Tibetan border police said two of its buildings had collapsed in Gangtok.

Rescuers were searching for anyone pinned under fallen buildings in the city, which has a population of 50,000, Singh said.

“We have sounded a high alert. Police are on the streets in Gangtok and other major towns,” he said.

Electricity and some phone services were interrupted in the area.

Power lines snapped in the West Bengal cities of Darjeeling and Kalimpong, which “are now in total darkness”, state chief minister Mamata Banerjee said.

The Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, offered to send troops to help, and summoned the National Disaster Management Authority for an emergency meeting. The air force sent five planes to help with rescue efforts.

In neighbouring Nepal and Bangladesh, the quake sent residents rushing out of their homes, offices and shopping centers.

In Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu, members of parliament who
were debating the national budget ran out of the assembly hall into a parking area. They returned 15 minutes later and resumed their session.

The quake was felt as far away as the Indian capital, with New Delhi residents rushing out of shaking buildings.

Library Collection of Donations for Japan Earthquake

The Buddhist Library is collecting donations for the Japan disaster and will be directing it through Tzu Chi 

Members who are visiting the Buddhist Library premises may offer their support and donations through the collection box at the counter.   You may also donate directly to Tzu Chi to offer your aid for the Japanese people.

Why donate via Tzu Chi Foundation?

There are many reasons why I would recommend donating via Tzu  Chi Foundation.  But of these reasons, one prime consideration is the spirit of voluntarism in their organisation.  It is said that volunteers who go on overseas relief mission pay for their own travel expenses and do not get reimbursed for their time.  This way, there is a minimum or virtually no overhead slapped onto your donation.


Instead of going through a third party, Tzu Chi volunteers personally deliver relief goods to the hands of each household in need,. Hence, all of the donations go directly to the hands of the needy.


Tzu Chi relief team assesses the needs and conditions before deciding which areas to provide aid to, ensuring that aid goes to areas where they are most needed.


Wherever Tzu Chi relief workers go to help, they must respect the lifestyle, the customs and the cultural tradition of that place. Relief workers are not superior to the victims, but reach out to them as friends.


Quick action makes relief more effective. Tzu Chi responds immediately after a disaster strikes and provides relief in a timely manner.


Tzu Chi relief team thoroughly and carefully assesses the needs and conditions in each location before conducting distributions and relief work program, providing medical services, and rebuilding in the long run. This is to ensure that the aid provided is needed and practical.