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! 🙂

Happy Mothers Day!

Happy Mothers Day dear friend!

Today, people all over the world shower their mother with love, cards and flowers to express their love and affection for them.  Tomorrow, please remember the cards, the flowers and affection you expressed.  Remember to love your mother by being considerate to her, being appreciative of her, be loving to her.


The Buddha described our mother and father as “Brahma”, as “early teachers” and “those worthy of veneration” [1].

“Living with Brahma are those families where, within the home, mother and father are respected by their children. Living with the early devas are those families where, within the home, mother and father are respected by their children. Living with the early teachers are those families where, within the home, mother and father are respected by their children. Living with those worthy of adoration are those families where, within the home, mother and father are respected by their children. ‘Brahma,’ bhikkhus, is a term for mother and father. ‘Early devas’ and ‘early teachers’ and ‘those worthy of veneration’ are terms for mother and father. For what reason? Because mother and father are very helpful to their children, they take care of them and bring them up and teach them about the world.”

Mother and father are called
“Brahma,” “early teachers”
And “worthy of veneration,”
Being compassionate towards
Their family of children.

Thus the wise should venerate them,
Pay them due honor,
Provide them with food and drink,
Give them clothing and a bed,
Anoint and bathe them
And also wash their feet.

When he performs such service
For his mother and his father,

nThey praise that wise person even here
And hereafter he rejoices in heaven

Care for her.  Pour her a glass of water.  Accompany her when she goes to the market.  Spend time with her.  Listen.  Look at your mother in her eyes, and listen with your eyes and your heart.

Do it today.  Do it tomorrow.  Do it everyday.  Do it for as long as you love your mother.

Happy Mothers Day!

Photo of a mother walking in the rain while her son is sheltered by umbrella [2]


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.  

I’m Doing This For Your Own Good … My Mom Used to Say …

I do not know about your mom, but my mom would always say that she is doing this and that for my own good.  Many times I would challenge her.  Not exactly the easiest son to bring up. ;p

Now, years later, I look back in hindsight, the advices she gave me, the caution she pointed out, not to mention the parties and outings she forbade me … and I wonder how my life would have turned out if I
ignored her advices.  Would it have turned out differently?  Will I be a better or worse person?  One can only guess or speculate.  No one knows.

For the most part, her advices were fairly sound.  Like she would tell me, “study first, play later” or “when you finish your studies, I won’t bother if you play your games (or write them!) … “.  She didn’t know that I would take her word for it.  When I finished my studies, I played games practically, for all intents and purposes, non-stop for two months.  I played until my best friends like got worried for me.  I played until my mom started asking when I’m gonna find a job.  To which I’m like “Didn’t you say that … ” … ;p … tough arguing with that!

I played until my counselling-mentor supervisor at Shanyou recommended me to a company.  No, they didn’t know I was playing games like there was no tomorrow! ;p … I played until my sister got me the Recruitments page from ST, circled a few positions with a highlighter and thrust it at me.  Okay okay … I get the message!  I’ll go get a job!

I was able to do that because I listened … more or less listened to my mom’s advice to study first and play later.  It was a privilege I earned.  But it was possible also because my parents did what good parents did, took care of the family, the kids and most importantly also took care of our home learning 家教.  Without any of that, it would not have been possible.

But there were moments when I didn’t listen to their advices.  I ate eggs, chicken and drank chicken soup on the very evening I was admitted to CDC for chickenpox.  I even bathed!  Fortunately there was the anti-biotics medicine to prevent complications from the water bubbles.  ;p No harm done I guess.

I also got my sis to pull out all my hair one day, ‘cos I was sick of being told that three white hairs would grow in place for each one you pulled.  I challenged that and put myself on the line.  In principle, the statement did not specify the duration for the growth to take effect.  So that’s a blank cheque and loop hole.  So we counted the number of white hairs she plucked and waited.  No, not on the spot silly!  I sorta gave it a month … nothing happened.  But of course nothing short of the usually hair growth happened.  But having disproved it, I rest safe to pull out white hairs if I wanted to.  I never repeated that experiment. hehe

Let’s see, what else did I do?  Oh yes, I also pointed at the moon with my fingers, thumbs and what have you got.  My ears are still intact.

But there were other times I got myself burnt, hurt and cried my hearts out.  Sometimes it is physical trauma, other times emotional ones.  Color me crazy, but I do not regret the emotional ones.  Physical traumas are ones that … given a choice, I would rather not go through it again.  But, having gone through them, I sorta know my threshold for physical pain.  So, maybe it was not so bad after all?

Emotional hurt is another thing altogether.  Meeting a person, getting to know each other and somehow clicking, is something that perhaps will never be synthesized by science.  Given a choice to live my life again, I would go through the relationships again.  Except that this time round, I would be more understanding, more giving, more caring, more patient, more loving, more thoughtful, more forgiving, less flustered, less jealous, less demanding (really?? ;p), less selfish, … … well, if I don’t succeed in ending samsara … many more chances … hahaha …

I learnt a lot from relationships.  From the care and love from the other person, I instinctively extended that to my parents, my sisters, friends and people around.  As I admired the qualities of the other person, I tried to emulate them, growing in the process.  Through loving the special other, I learn to love even more, my parents, my sisters, friends and people around.  As I speak gently to her, I learnt to speak gently to others (but not in the mushy way I hope!
hahaha).  As I cared about how her day was, I learnt to care about the day of others.  As I feel for how she felt towards how I acted, I learnt how I must have hurt my parents so many times.  I think I come out better.  Not by much I must say, but perhaps we have to learn a lot … a lot a lot … through experiences, before we become Perfect, become Enlightened, become an Arahant, a Buddha.

Sometimes relationships are strange as well.  When one or both parties start to act like mommies, things get really strange.  Then we get one person trying to act in the best interest of the other, supposing the best for the other.  Such a relationship can sometimes backfire.  It can backfire in a parent-child relationship, much more in that of an adult couple relationship.  Couples should have confidence and respect for each other, enough to trust that the other person can make his or her decisions and not need to mother over them.  Granted, there are exceptions, but sometimes we have to realise that relationships are not balance-sheets, you cannot account for everything.

Relationships are also not businesses.  It is not about being efficient or productive.  If you want that or be calculative, go start a business.  Countless people spend countless hours, days and nights, making small little things to express their admiration or appreciation of their special other.  We say that it is the thought that counts, but the effort behind also speak volumes.  After all, “mind is the forerunner of all” – Dhp 1, the mental effort behind those physical effort must be tremendous!  If one were to try to be ‘efficient’ then maybe one can and should just buy this or buy that … or …

But in some ways, relationships are also like businesses.  If one were to spend too much time worrying about the outcome, one may never start a business.  In Singapore, we have a joke about how most graduates are workers, albeit executives, while non-graduates are businessmen.  You see, after pondering, calculating, speculating, discussing, planning, anticipating, charting, mulling, and all other “ing”s, they get too frightened, drained or immobilised, they give up altogether.  I’ll leave you to figure out about why non-graduates are businessmen.

In this aspect, relationships are similar.  If one try to chart out a relationship from start to end, one would never start it.  Why?  Because you either suffer first or suffer later.  Having said that, I say that if you want to begin a relationship, go in, give it your best, give your whole totality in it.  Otherwise, don’t.  If you fear being hurt, and so you don’t love, you won’t have love.

To love or be in love.  Do you care more about the other person’s feelings and well-being (to love) or do you care more about your own (good feeling of being in love)?  Sometimes in relationships, there comes a time when you see that the other person is hurting just to see you.  While you know that they want to see you, and yet for whatever reasons, your presence causes them to feel pain, grief or agony, what would you do?

If seeing the other person means hurting them, then I would rather not.
If hearing my voice means causing them grief, then I would rather not.
If thinking of me means making them feel sad, then I would rather not.

Are you ready to love like there is no tomorrow and still be without fear of pain?

Or will you listen to your “mommie”?

Pondering kindly is ezi

During Mother’s Day, At Least Don’t Give Trouble to Your Mother! And Not Just During Mother’s Day, Everyday, Don’t Give Her Trouble. That Way, You Show Your Love and Respect For Your Mother by Not Giving Her Trouble

I find Bhante’s delivery during the Mother’s Day lunch very meaning, practical and close to heart. As I recall, one part that resounds deeply with me, goes like this:
“… During Mother’s Day, at least don’t give trouble to your mother! And not just during Mother’s Day, everyday, don’t give her trouble.
That way, you show your love and respect for your mother by not giving her trouble. … “

The same goes for our father.