Ouija Board: What moves the planchette?

Below is a video by National Geographic on the ouija board.

The ouija (/ˈwiːdʒə/ WEE-jə), also known as a spirit board or talking board, is a flat board marked with the letters of the alphabet, the numbers 0–9, the words “yes”, “no”, “hello” (occasionally), and “goodbye”, along with various symbols and graphics.

It uses a planchette (small heart-shaped piece of wood or plastic) as a movable indicator to indicate a spirit’s message by spelling it out on the board during a séance.


So what moves the planchette?  Is it really spirits from beyond?  Ghosts of our loved ones, demons, gods?  Some religions consider the ouija board to be occult and dangerous and have even banned their followers from using it.  Is it really dangerous?  Who are we reaching out to with the ouija board?

Watch the video clip below and find out.



Letter to Sr Theresa Seow and Ms Chua, and Her Reply

Below is an exchange of emails between Mui Hoong, ST Forum editor and myself that started because of the article Quiet contemplation on common ground.

10 Jan 2012 10:07pm Here’s the letter to Sr Theresa Seow and Ms Chua.

11 Jan 2012 11:45am Letter to Straits Times Editor.

11 Jan 2012 14:00pm A reply from Ms Chua.


Letter to Sr Theresa Seow and Ms Chua

Dear Sr. Theresa and Mui Hoong,

Hope this email find you well.
I am writing regarding the article “Quiet contemplation on common ground”.  I mentioned to Sr. Theresa earlier today that there is an unconscious misrepresentation of Buddhist meditation in it and I hope to share with you what it should be.
As emailed to you through facebook earlier in the day (around 3+pm), I’ve posted a short piece on facebook and a more comprehensive article on my blog http://buddhavacana.net/2012/01/10/do-buddhist-meditate-to-reach-god-through-silence/ .  I have not heard back from you and hope to clarify through this open letter.


In summary, Buddhists do not have a belief in a creator God and also do not meditate to reach God through silence.  We meditate to cultivate Samadhi (Concentration) and Prajna (Wisdom).  This wisdom culminates in Nirvana, i.e. complete Cessation of Suffering, attaining the fruit of Arahanthood or Buddhahood.  This is not communion with god/God(s).

The common ground seminar started something noble and beautiful that can bring about even more interfaith peace and harmony.  Let’s not allow this to be marred by the unconscious misrepresentation of Buddhist meditation.
I urge your good self to post an update so that readers may get the right understanding of Buddhist meditation and Buddhism do not get unwittingly misrepresented.
Please contact me at this email, facebook or my mobile @ ####### for clarifications if needed.
PS: I’m posting this email on my blog as an open letter and will update facebook shortly.
In cc:
Ven. Sik Kwang Sheng, President of Singapore Buddhist Federation, Abbot of Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
Felix Toh, Dharma Propagation Division, Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery
Sincerely, with metta,

Shi Chuan Guan (Shi ZhiXing)
“Have a nice day! … unless you have other plans!”Let’s make this world a better place … … I’ll start with myself, and if all you folks do the same, we should get there some day!

11:45am  Letter to Straits Times Editor


Dear Straits Times Editor,

Below is a feedback to Ms Chua Mui Hoong on her article “Quiet contemplation on common ground” dated 10th January 2012 on Straits Times main section page 2.
I’m writing to clarify her article that when the
various religions come to meditate, ” … they are all engaged in a practice both unique to their tradition and common to all faiths: reaching God through silence.”.
As stated in my letter to her below, Buddhists do not have a belief in God nor meditate to reach God through silence.  As I was the speaker presenting Buddhist meditation during the seminar, I feel that she have unintentionally misrepresented Buddhist meditation.
It would serve the general public and Buddhists alike to have my letter published so that right understanding can prevail and the common ground seminar may achieve its intended goal, interfaith peace and harmony.
Please contact me through this email or my mobile at #######.
Sincerely, with metta,

Shi Chuan Guan (Shi ZhiXing)

Dharma Propagation Chair

Singapore Buddhist Federation

Reply from Ms Chua

from: CHUA MUI HOONG muihoong@sph.com.sg

to: “Shi ChuanGuan (ZhiXing)” <wakeupnow@gmail.com>

cc: Daulet Manecksha ,  “[DPD SEM] Felix Toh” ,  释广声 Venerable Sik Kwang Sheng, stforum@sph.com.sg, stonline@sph.com.sg, Theresa Seow

date: Wed, Jan 11, 2012 at 1:13 PM

subject: Re: Clarifications on the article “Quiet contemplation on common ground”



Hi Venerable,

I am so sorry for being tardy in my response. I just saw your email to me personally and this email. I noticed from your email that you had sent me a message via Facebook – I have an account but have not checked my messages for a couple of weeks!

I enjoyed your talk and some of your words remain with me, especially the bit on “dog poo” and how we should learn to let go of misfortune and bad events and not dwell on them. Thank you for your sharing.

I am aware that Buddhists do not have a belief in a creator God.

My article mentioned several times that meditation is a search for the divine, or God, or Ultimate Reality. I also mentioned the need for mindfulness and being attentive to the here and now. It is clear from the overall article that I am not referring exclusively to the concept of a Creator God. I hope the article as a whole does not misrepresent Buddhist beliefs.

The bit where I referred to reaching GOD in silence is in this paragraph: “So when a Christian sits and centres herself with a prayer word like Yahweh or Maranatha (Aramaic for Come, Lord), when a Buddhist meditates on loving kindness, when a Taoist follows the rise and fall of his breath to harmony, when a Muslim chants the various names of Allah, or a Hindu engages her chakra in
meditation – they are all engaged in a practice both unique to their tradition, and common to all faiths: reaching God through silence.

On hindsight, it would be more accurate to say “reaching God, or the Ultimate – through silence.”

I hope Buddhists reading the article will pardon the use of the word God in this paragraph without qualification. Any offence is unintended and I do apologise if any has been caused.

The article is attached below with the relevant paragraphs highlighted in bold and underlined.


Mui Hoong

PS: You are most welcome to post this reply on your website or Facebook.

Article here:

Quiet contemplation
on common ground

People of different faiths pray together in powerful expression of harmony

By Chua Mui Hoong, Review Editor

I SPENT the weekend just past holed up in an auditorium with nearly 400 others, listening to religious leaders share insights on the contemplative dimension of their faiths.

They focused oncontemplation and meditation – the common search for meaning and the journey to God, or the Ultimate Reality or the Divine Consciousness, through the path of stillness and silence.

What was particularly special was that after some of these sessions, the lights would dim, and we would all sit in silence and meditate together.

We tried to clear our chattering monkey minds of external thoughts, and used different techniques to tether the grazing cow of our wandering brain to an anchor point, a focus. Some used a prayer word from the Bible; others a Sanskrit mantra; some watched their breaths; some fingered prayer beads and recited the names of Allah in prayer.

Some fidgeted; a mobile phone or two rang; some used the meditation time to take photos or update their Facebook.

But for an amazing five sessions of 20 minutes each, we sat in companionable silence, engaged in the individual, intensely private yet intensely communal practice of silent prayer.

The event aptly titled “common ground” was organised by the Catholic Church’s Archdiocesan Council for Inter-Religious and Ecumenical Dialogue and the World Community for Christian Meditation. It was also supported by the Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) of Singapore.

In his opening remarks, IRO president Ashvin Desai from the Jain community noted: “We are living in a fast changing world where we are witnessing a mushrooming of spas and retreats, together with large number of people taking up yoga, meditation and other forms of individual exercises. Clearly there is strong demand for individual time and escape.”

As Mother Mangalam, a Hindu aged 85 and the life president of the Pure Life Society in Malaysia, put it, there is a crying need for periods of silence in today’s noisy, busy world.

If this sounds new ageish and mumbo-jumbo, it is not.

Meditation is at heart the ancient practice of sitting still, in silence, being attentive to the here and now – being attentive to life in oneself, life around us, and the Life Source in us.

Different faith traditions use different words, but many teach the wisdom and insight that the Divine resides in each of us, a wellspring of peace and love to be tapped.

So when a Christian sits and centres herself with a prayer word like Yahweh or Maranatha (Aramaic for Come, Lord), when a Buddhist meditates on loving kindness, when a Taoist follows the rise and fall of his breath to harmony, when a Muslim chants the various names of Allah, or a Hindu engages her chakra in meditation – they are all engaged in a practice both unique to their tradition, and common to all faiths: reaching God through silence.

This contemplative tradition common in many faiths lies beyond doctrine and dogma, and thus lends itself to meaningful interfaith exchanges.

Interfaith dialogue begins with cognitive understanding of each other’s religions. With understanding comes respect for each
other’s differences.

But there can also be commonality in diversity, as the religious leaders stressed at the seminar. This is not to say that all faith traditions are the same. They are eminently not, bound as each is to certain historical periods and culture and teachings. But faith practices have common elements, and prayer is one of them.

Sitting together in meditation, whether known as dhikr, jing gong, samayik, samatha or centering prayer, is religious harmony in action, a visible expression of respect and tolerance for other faiths. The act of praying together says more than words can, of how much I respect and value your faith tradition and honour it as being different from, yet equal to, my own practice.

This point was not lost to participants and speakers. Many marvelled that such an event was taking place in a region and a world riven with religious conflict.

Many also thought it fitting that Singapore play host to such an event, as a multi-faith society with a long tradition of respect for religious diversity. Or as Father Laurence Freeman, a Catholic and a Benedictine monk from Britain, put it, Singapore had a “particular opportunity” to be a “witness” to the potential of interfaith friendships across religions.

A few leaders also ventured the hope that an interfaith centre could be set up to provide space for people of different religions to spend quiet time together.

Habib Syed Hassan Al-Attas, the Imam and Head of Ba’alwie Mosque in Singapore, shared insights on contemplation from Islam, ending his talk with a show-and-tell. He pulled out from his robes a string of prayer beads – and then another – and another. Soon, the Muslim prayer beads, the Buddhist strand, the Catholic rosary, the Hindu prayer beads, were all strung around his arms.

Then he beamed beatifically and made the observation that these prayer chains, whether they had 108, 99 or 150 beads, were all expressions of, and paths to, the common ground in our different faiths.

I left renewed in my own faith tradition as a Catholic, resolving once again to be faithful in this practice of silent prayer. I left with an immense pride in my society, my country, that has got so many things right, it could be a beacon for others of such interfaith exchanges.

And most of all, I left the seminar feeling I had touched common ground – the wellspring of the divine that resides in humanity of all faiths – and it is holy.


CUA Mui Hoong (Ms)

Review Editor
The Straits Times, Singapore
Tel: 6319 5301
Fax: 67320131
1000 Toa Payoh North
News Centre
Podium, 2nd storey





Do Buddhists Meditate to “Reach God Through Silence”?

This morning started off as Tuesdays do for me since 2009 September.  My Dharma brother Cheng Soon and I would meet at the Buddhist Library and we would do translation of the Buddhist teachings, from Chinese to English.  Today was no different.  Except when I read the sms from Sister Theresa Seow about the Straits Times article “Quiet contemplation on common ground” by review editor Chua Mui Hoong.

Over the last weekend (7th & 8th January 2012), representatives from various faiths came together for a seminar on “The Contemplative Dimension of Faith”.  The theme and title was “common ground”, representing the contemplative practice (meditation) that is common in many religions.

As I read the article before lunch today, a line grabbed my attention.


“… they are all engaged in a practice both unique to their tradition, and common to all faiths: reaching God through silence.”

I reread the article and line a few times but did not seem to figure out how that came about.  I’ve posted the picture below on my facebook wall to highlight that it is either a misrepresentation or misinterpretation of Buddhist meditation shared during the seminar.

In my article in the handout given during the seminar, I explicitly highlighted that “Buddhists have no belief in a creator God”.  This almost did not survive the final edition due to … a space constraint … but made it to print after the organising team managed to resolve it.  I’m glad I insisted because even with that clear assertion and my session where I pointed out the clear path, fruits and goal of Buddhist meditation, Ms Chua unfortunately went away from the seminar with the wrong understanding.

Buddhists do not meditate to reach God through silence.

Simply put, Buddhists meditate to cultivate Samadhi (Concentration) and Prajna (Wisdom).  This wisdom culminates in Nirvana, i.e. complete Cessation of Suffering, attaining the fruit of Arahanthood or Buddhahood.  This is not communion with god/God(s).

There are some Buddhists and moderate theistic persons who may wonder why this monk need to highlight this.  After all, isn’t a
common ground more meaningful for peace and harmony than picking on the details?  As they say, the devil is in the details.

By highlighting this in the handout, talk, on fb and here, I’m clarifying what is and is not Buddhism.  If this remains unmentioned, Buddhists and non-Buddhists alike may start to think that Buddhists also pray to God, just using different names, when in fact we do not.

Further, by highlighting this here, and especially during Geylang Serai Inter-Racial And Religious Confidence Circle (IRCC) and other dialogues in Singapore, I am trying to promote understanding and not mere ‘feel good, we are the world, hands together’ homogenised world religion type of understanding.

Common ground is a very noble and beautiful effort by the Christian community towards interfaith harmony and understanding.  Inter-Religious Organisation (IRO) and its members supported this seminar precisely because of that.  But common ground was not meant to and should not lead to homogenisation.  Homogenisation can and I believe has led to the exact opposite: Fundamentalism.

As I mention in numerous talks, Buddhists do not have a belief in God (boys and girls, how many times have I mentioned this?   Sunk in yet?), but this does not make theistic believers our enemy nor Buddhists yours.  And that is very important moving forward, both in peace and harmony, but also nurturing in-depth understanding amongst faiths.

In parting, I believe that as Sister Theresa communicated to me through sms, Ms Chua was sharing her personal experience in good faith.  But I believe it would serve the readers and public better if her sharing reflect what is reality.

EDIT: Updated for formatting and typos.

Update: 10 Jan 2012 3+pm, I sent Ms Chua a fb message pointing to this blog and the fb page.  Hope to hear from her.

Update: 10 Jan 2012 9:22pm. Have not heard from Ms Chua as yet.  I am sending Sister Theresa and Ms Chua an email (sent around 10:03pm) to help Ms Chua have a better understanding of Buddhist meditation and also to request her to post a correction to the article so that Buddhism do not get unwittingly misrepresented.

Update: 10 Jan 2012 10:07pm Here’s the letter to Sr Theresa Seow and Ms Chua.

Assisi 2011: Some Thoughts and Reflections

Some folks asked if I got to see the Pope, shake his hand or kiss his ring.  Others asked if I got to speak at the conference and how everything went.  Here are some thoughts and reflections.

A few things about the conference was inspiring.  For one, the Pope in his speech declares that “As a Christian I want to say at this point: yes, it is true, in the course of history, force has also been used in the name of the Christian faith.  We acknowledge it with great shame. … “.  I thought this is an interesting acknowledgement on his part.  There will be naysayers … but oh well, there will always be.

The other thing is the sheer number of volunteers involved from various centres in Italy who are not directly from the Vatican or the Pontifical Council.  They did a great job making all the delegates feel welcome and at home!

Then there is the public.  They really went wild … in a good way! 😉 … they cheered, they clapped, they shook our hands, took our pictures … we felt like stars! hehe … I think it was partly because Italians are really warm, smiley and friendly people, and partly because some of the public were tourists. … have I mentioned that Italians are very warm, smiley and friendly?

the event, I did get to talk to some fellow delegates and priests from the Pontifical Council.  While the Pope’s message was encouraging, I shared some concerns with them.

Firstly, in practically every inter-faith dialogue, there is an unspoken (or perhaps spoken!) assumption that all religions believe in God(s).  I’ve shared at a few inter-faith dialogues that Buddhists do not have a belief in a (creator) God.  This is often to the temporary horror and shock of the participants and organisers.  Then I tell them that despite this, it does not make us Buddhists, their enemy nor they ours.  To me, whitewashing this fact or glossing over it will undermine inter-faith dialogues and cause our mutual understanding to remain superficial.

In the Pope’s message, “…the denial of God corrupts man, robs him of his criteria and leads him to violence”.  Buddhism proves exactly the opposite while Atheists are protesting repeatedly online that lack of belief in God (or religion) does not necessarily make one immoral or violent.  Buddhism do not have a belief in creation or in God, but I think Buddhists has so far proven to be of the meeker lot.  While I can understand the Pope’s point of view as a Christian, inter-faith dialogue should recognise that religions include those without a belief in God and that peace is possible and has been attained through such religions as well.

A second point I raised to a fellow delegate is on proselytization or conversion.  While we gather as “pilgrims of truth, pilgrims of peace”, will we truly have peace and inter-faith harmony if conversion and evangelism is still around the corner?  While I know of many Christians (Catholics and Protestants alike) who are moderate and do not go around attacking other religions, there are many who do.  By remaining silent on the matter, they are unwittingly endorsing with their silence.  I know of some Buddhists who have lost faith in inter-faith dialogues because of this.  And can we blame them?  How can there be genuine trust and understanding if evangelical Christians continue to disparage and attack other religions (including Buddhism) while moderate Christians remain silent on this?  To have meaningful inter-faith dialogue, we need to address this.

The last interesting thing I want to share is my encounters with people in this trip.  There are many whom I chat with, and at least four to five who through our conversation, professed their liking and affinity towards Buddhism even if they are Catholics.  What is most striking is their reason for doing so.  In their words, they like Buddhism because “it is a religion about Happiness and Love” whereas “Christianity (and Catholicism) is a religion of Sin and Repentance”.  This totally blew me away and I wondered how interesting that Westerners are having such a very positive outlook of Buddhism while Asians (or Singaporeans?) may have a slightly different view of it.  In fact, I felt obliged to defend for Christianity in one instance, especially when the Vatican security staff very openly shared this with me, in front of a Catholic nun.  I think I almost fainted!

Ironically before my Italy trip someone just told me how she has this notion that Buddhism is all about Sin and how there are hundred and one taboo, that every other thing one do is Sinful.  Makes me wonder where she got all those ideas from.  Bad marketing on Buddhism’s end?  *gasp*

Buddhism is a religion of Happiness and Love … what else can it be? 😉

Comments On An Article On The Kalama Sutta

A few weeks ago, Meng Haw wrote an article on the Kalama Sutta

He shared it with me and asked for my thoughts on it.  I finally dragged my bony fingers to pen a reply after handling a series of emergencies and releasing the two apps for Android and Apple devices (this message was brought to you by CGZX Labs – we code to bring you the Dharma).

Here are my thoughts on it.  🙂

Thanks for your thoughts and sharing on the Kalama sutta.

Inference is a powerful tool for a start and is often what we mostly use to begin with.  But mere logical reasoning and inference alone is insufficient.  That is I believe the point that the Buddha was trying to bring across.

Most of the other criteria listed is with reference to how people in those days (and perhaps even today) accept or reject a certain teaching or practice.  The Buddha’s point was how one can and should relate to a teaching or practice and consider it based on its tangible result rather than all the other reasonings, speculations, preconception of the teaching based on the messenger etc.

In my opinion, the Buddha was very utilitarian in his approach.  Choosing to look at the purposes and results as to whether it brings short and long term benefit to oneself and others, and not based on dogmatic doctrines.

It’s interesting that you mentioned about trusting and accepting the truth from the scientists.  I’ve mentioned in my talks about how today, the younger educated generation mostly accept whatever is pandered by folks in labcoats.  While I am not refuting scientific approaches nor its discoveries, I believe our acceptance is grounded in our 10 to 20 years of education that has drilled us into familiarity with modern science and accepting them.

While doing so is mostly ok, and in fact convenient for our daily life, it actually goes against the very principle of science.  We should accept the scientific findings with the openness that it can be disproved, or that it stands or holds true within certain known parameters, beyond which it fails.  The thing science has going for it is that for most intents and purposes, our daily encounter with science and technologies fall within the parameters and
boundaries of scientific discoveries and its applications.  So we are quite safe to assume that they are “truth” although a scientist would say “it is true within the following premise XYZ”.

I take a somewhat similar approach to Buddhism.

I like to ask the question “So what?”.  So what if all phenomena is permanent or impermanent?  So what if there is God or no God?  So what if there is self or no self, big or small self?  So what if there are aliens or not?  So what if we were created by God, aliens, evolved through evolution or born, driven by our karma?  So what?

I found that asking this question is many times, more meaningful than answering or discussing those preceding questions.  While those questions are intriguing, inviting and seductive, many times, it is the implications of the conclusions themselves that serves any purposes at all.

Whether a monkey was created by a God believed to exist or evolved from single-celled organism, the fact is, if you snatch the banana from a hungry monkey, you are in some deep monkey trouble!

The same applies to us human beings, whether we exist through our karma, created by aliens or God, or evolved to where we are, if our prized possessions are snatched from our grubbing little fingers, we fret and get upset or angry.  That much is true.