To Repair or To Get a New One – Of Monitors, Things and Relationships

Yesterday, I went on a mini-quest with my long time friend Yong Hee​ to fix a flickering LCD monitor. 😉


A quick trip to SIM LIM Tower got us the components.

Total component costs: S$6.50 (inclusive of spares)

If we do not repair it, it may just be sent to the dump. This will put an end to all the resources, manpower and energy put in to manufacturing the monitor. By replacing the 6 capacitors, the monitor’s useful lifespan has been extended by say another 2 – 4 years. With the spare caps, we estimate that it will continue to be useful until the CFL die out. ^_^ (y)

To Repair or To Get a New One
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Year End Reflections 年末思旅

It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.
Reflect over the year … no matter how great it was, it was possible only through the kind help and support of many others. Be Thankful and Grateful.

No matter how lousy some days were, we survived it. There are many others who did not. Be Strong!

No matter how we are sometimes impatient and lose our temper, we can and should try again … and again. Have more patience and compassion for others, but even more so, have patience and compassion with ourselves!

Join me in changing the world in 2015 … … starting with ourselves!
May all be safe, healthy and peaceful,
may all be guided and protected by the Buddha, Dharma and the Sangha in the new year! 阿彌陀佛!



回憶回憶 。。。



来,与我—起在2015年改變這世界 。。。 。。。从我们自身做起!

(Susanna 譯)

About a $100 a day

A while back, a devotee who is a cab driver was driving me back after a lunch offering and was having a counselling-on-wheels session with me.

He was rather troubled by some past injustice and just can’t help but want to do something about it.  He wants justice.

At some point, I realised that he was bent on spending a lot of his time and resources (more money) to fight and get some justice.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I am all for justice.  Where possible, there should be justice.  But sometimes, for some twisted reasons unbeknownst to this world, justice may be very remote or may come at a price greater than the cause itself.  Then I wonder if it is worthwhile pursuing this justice. Read More …

Reflections from Nepal

It’s been over a month since I got back from Nepal for a 10 days mini-retreat-pilgrimage.  Many asked me to share about the trip, others ask me if there were new revelations or insight.  For a month now, I’ve been dragging my feet, or pen, or keyboard.  There was just much inertia to write.  Maybe it’s because it’s been awhile and I’m having writers’ block, or maybe the retreat got me quietened, so I have nothing to write! ha!

Below are my reflections … I mean ramblings from Nepal … ;)

Take a look at the above picture and soak in the surreal scenery.  It was around 5+ in the morning at Nargakot, Nepal and the sun was barely breaking dawn.  Clouds and fog were indistinguishable.  For that matter, both are moisture in the air, just given different names!  (insight alert! haha)

The Start and the End

The above view is so breathtaking, one could just stare at it for a long time.  Or at least as long as the sun had not completely risen.  The sunrise is nice only when it is rising.  Once it’s risen up, most people don’t bother.  When the sun is setting, the whole world take on a different hue.  Kinda like how we look at people, events and things in our life.  We are concerned about the start and the end, and usually don’t bother too much about the middle!  Yet, it is quite the middle that the whole earth get its much needed daily supply of solar energy for the trees, plants and all living beings.

Misleading Picture

The above picture is also very misleading, because it is so postcard type of view.  So I took another picture.

Here, I stepped back and shot a picture of the visitors / tourists who were snapping away at the sunrise!  Just a few steps away and what a different view!  Suddenly, it is less surreal or romantic as someone had pointed out about the first picture.

Sometimes I hesitate to take pictures.  I feel that the pictures only ‘capture’ a perspective and only the visual perspective.  Maybe videos will do better, but it just feels different from being there in person.  In the past when cameras were on 35mm film with 16, 24 and 32 … not GB but picture cartridges, one had to really choose wisely what picture to take.  And after that, it is a mystery what was captured.  When it’s developed into print, getting the photos back was always an exciting moment to see what shots were brilliant and what is under or overexposed.  Then there were the Mr-Ms-shaky-hands or Power-Finger photographer, who never fail to apply more than 30lbs per square inch force on the puny snap button.  The result is fantastic blurry pictures!  But I digress…

I took another shot to show the viewing tower in its full glory!

Here you see the tower with tourists lining the perimeter and ah yes, that’s a communications dish and there are multiple telco gsm transceivers all over!!  You don’t get to see this in postcards! ;)

So which picture would you send to your friends?  Which is the misleading picture?

If you wait until the surrounding is perfect … …

The retreat was spent in a homestay guest house in the outskirts of Kathmandu, so we were away from the hectic rush of city but still had basic amenities like lights, toilets, 3g mobile, internet access, LCD TVs, curry, nepalese food … wait, did I mention 3g mobile, internet access and LCD TVs?  Yes I did!  I was expecting a countryside homestay but we got more.  Apparently Ncell was available all over Nepal, even when we were in the mountains … which the locals insisted were hills. haha

After being in the homestay for a day, I started to realise one difference it had with a monastery.  First off, most monasteries I’ve resided in had no televisions, and if they did, it was as a teaching aid for us to attend recorded Dharma lessons.  The television was perpetually showing something and there was always someone chatting, discussing or something.

It was an interesting experience trying to meditate there and we did for awhile, then we tried meditating on the roof area or in the ground floor when it was too sunny or rainy.  As a senior monk once advised me, “If you wait until the surrounding is perfect before you cultivate (meditation), then you will never cultivate!”.

Birthday at Lumbini or Not

We spent a few days on the road and was to visit Lumbini, the birth place of the Buddha.  We managed to visit it but owing to the schedule of the ground guide, we had to decide whether to insist on staying for another day or not, so I might spend my birthday at Lumbini.  In the end we didn’t.  It was a nice idea, but will it help me progress in my cultivation?  I don’t usually celebrate my birthday anyway and definitely did not celebrate it at Lumbini for the past 39 years anyway.  In Buddhism, attachment even to the Buddha’s birthplace can become a point of contention!  For that matter, attachment to anything!

In the end, there is nothing wrong with the birthplace nor with the idea of celebrating one’s birthday at Lumbini, but if one becomes attached to it and insist or demand for it to happen, to have it our way then we can get all stressed up.

I didn’t celebrate my birthday in Lumbini but I didn’t let that give ‘birth’ to stress or unhappiness. :)

A flat Tire and a Dried Out Carburetor

Along the way back from Nargakot, the car broke down with a flat tire and when we returned from Lumbini, the jeep broke down with an overheated carburetor just 20km away from the perimeters of Kathmandu!  Talk about uncertainty.  Things do break down.  We should maintain it where we can, but “Subject to change are all conditioned phenomena!”.  Realising this, we won’t be so surprised when our MRT breakdown or the JEM ceiling collapse … oh wait, let’s not go to the other extreme of becoming resigned to ‘fate’!

Some people think that Buddhists are and should be resigned to ‘fate’ or ‘karma’.  But the reverse is true.  The teachings on karma is not a passive resignation to our lot in life.  It is a teaching on how our actions (karma) have consequences and we are responsible for them!  However, if we have done our best and things still fail, then we should recognise that there are no suitable conditions and accept the results with equanimity.  Knowing the difference is Wisdom!


I sometimes find my ‘insights’ funny.  Like after a novice retreat almost 13 years ago, my fellow Dharma brothers each shared their aspirations to cultivate and practise, my take away from the retreat was that I don’t need so much food, so my post-retreat ‘practice’ was to eat lesser, just enough was enough.

Hope you had a good laugh at my ramblings from this mini-retreat!  At the very least, enjoy the misleading pictures! haha

Decline of Religions in the West

[1] Norway goes secular, removes Lutheran Church as state religion
OSLO – Norway, which is one of few developed countries to still have a state religion, passed a final hurdle Thursday to separate the Protestant Lutheran Church from the state, parliament said.

… …

In practice, the change will give the Church the authority to name its own bishops and deans, without having to bow to the government’s final say on such issues, as the situation stands today.

The current requirement for at least half of all government ministers to be members of the Church will also be scrapped, and even the minister of church affairs will no longer need to belong to the church.

In Singapore, the mass media regularly highlights the rise of Christianity both locally and overseas, meanwhile, in Europe and North America (United States and Canada), Christianity is waning.

Is the behaviour of society as a whole similar to that of a rebellious adolescent, unwilling to conform to the status quo, rebelling without a cause?  Do we have a tendency to choose what our parents are against or are there more reasons for it?  Is it true that Asians are embracing Christianity or is it just a selective bias that the media may unwittingly have?  Does such reports influence the receptiveness of it?

In post world war Europe, one of the school of thoughts to have gained traction was Existentialism.  At its forefront is Jean-Paul Sartre, a French Existentialist who said that “human beings have no essence before their existence because there is no Creator.” Thus: “existence precedes essence”. [2]

From a wikipage on Jean-Paul Sartre,

This forms the basis for his assertion that since one cannot explain their own actions and behaviour by referencing any specific human nature, they are necessarily fully responsible for those actions. “We are left alone, without excuse”.

Some suggest that the atrocities of the two world wars led people to doubt and question the existence of God, and divinity, for if there was an omnipotent and benevolent God, then how can such atrocities and suffering be allowed?

In a series of works, such as “The Trial of God” [3] a 1979 play by Elie Wiesel and “God on Trial” [4][5] a 2008 BBC/WGBH Boston television play by Frank Cottrell Boyce about Jewish prisoners who put God on trial in absentia for abandoning the Jewish people, such question and doubts are expressed.

While these are focused predominantly on the Abrahamic faiths, the same principle can be applied to any beliefs that espouses a divine being that is both omnipotent and benevolent.

And in David Hume’s (1711 – 1776) [6] formulation of the problem of evil in Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion (1776) [7][8]

“Is he willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then is he malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then is evil?”

In Philosophy, Epicurus [7] [9] is generally credited with first expounding the problem of evil, the “Epicurean paradox”:

Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing?  Then
he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing?  Then whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing?  Then why call him God?

In the Bible itself, we have Job put to the test of his devotion to God.  Job questions the reasons for his sufferings and is rebuked by God for questioning. [10] So this history of questioning and doubt is perhaps more ingrained in the Western society than mere reactionary behaviour to the world wars.

Perhaps all these boils down to the tendency for us to find a reason for our sufferings.  Despite our different beliefs, all human beings, sentient beings if you will, seek happiness and shun pain.  No one seek suffering.  Even a masochist derive satisfaction from pain, from self-mortification.

Making sense of this world, we try to find an answer to our experiences and encounters.  Anthropologists suggest that early or proto religions started as an answer to our ignorance of the natural world.  Consequently, earlier religions often centred around the worship of natural phenomena.  They worshipped life giving phenomena, such as the sun, the moon, the land, rain, river, spring, domesticated animals etc.  They also worshipped life threatening forces such as the lightning, the land (earthquakes), the river (flood), the sea (tsunami), the volcanoes, wild animals etc.  They worship the life giving sources in the hope that they may live, and they made sacrifices to the life-threatening ones hoping that they will be spared.

Such were the early religions.

These either developed into personifications of the various natural forces or get sub-planted by newer religions that overthrow these beliefs or assimilate them into their fold.

When man developed tools and technology to better cope with nature, we grew into more complex societies.  Religion evolved correspondingly and continued to be intertwined with its development.  For the longest time since recorded history, religion and monarchy rule maintained a symbiotic relationship.  The monarchy gave protection to the religion while the religion gave legitimacy to the monarchy.

From late 18th century to middle of the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution dramatically changed the world.

In the words of Nobel Prize winner Robert E. Lucas, Jr., “For the first time in history, the living standards of the masses of ordinary people have begun to undergo sustained growth … Nothing remotely like this economic behavior has happened before“. [11]

The living standards increased not because of kings and monarchies, but because of science and its applications.  Machines operated not because of your beliefs, but because the very principles of the physical world was unravelled by the accumulated knowledge of countless man and woman who studied and observed the natural world and formulated principles beyond the religious texts of the day.

And in the next two centuries, religion began its gradual decline.

Today, we use technology and assume that things would work without necessarily appreciating the hardship our predecessors have gone through.  Sitting in my room, I can make a connection with someone at the other end of the globe, seeing and conversing in real time (barring lag due to connection speed).  This would have been seen as magic or supernatural just a century or two ago, and depending on whether the religious establishment is able to accept such technology, you may be heralded as a saint or condemned as a witch.

Flying through the air in the relative comfort of your plane seat, one may recall that we are living like the Greek Gods of ancient times or possess spiritual powers described by religions of Indian and Chinese origins.

And yet, all these do not require your belief in a religion or in Science for that matter.  In fact, if your ‘belief’ in science cause you to skip safety checks, then uncertainty and doubt make well
work better here.

Interestingly, the invention of the light bulb, candle, usage of flint stone for starting fire were each met with curiosity, amazement and perhaps even suspicion and denial.  Curiosity and amazement because it was previously thought to be impossible to make fire or produce light at will, and probably suspicion and denial as it challenges the status quo.

With each development, we discard the former and adopt the new.  Sometimes the old may evolve and adapt to the newer conditions, other times, it may linger on, and die a slow painful death.

Is religion on such a path?  Perhaps that is why the Western countries are dropping Christianity as to some, it may have failed to give reasons for our sufferings, from the world wars, to the last decade of disasters, ranging from SARS, two tsunamis, numerous hurricanes and earthquakes etc.

On the flip-side, is that also why some fundamentalist Christians [12] [13] in the bible-belt states in US are stating that disaster victims “die for their sins”?  Is this their way of making sense of human sufferings?

Do viruses really pick and choose victims based on their beliefs?  How about the various types of natural disasters?  Does the bombs and bullets differentiate its target if not for the person firing them?

So why are some Asians on the other hand dropping Asian religions to adopt something else?  While it is easy to attribute it to the aggressive tactics by evangelical groups, it may be helpful to consider other factors we have considered so far.  Perhaps the younger generations are attracted by the new age concert-style religious services, or perhaps it is also because they never had a chance to really know about the Asian religions.

I learnt from my Christian and Muslim friends that in their religions respectively, a person who wish to convert, has to undergo compulsory lessons before they can be given the conversion.  Those who are born into a Christian family would most likely receive Sunday school classes while muslims will attend Islamic studies as part of their education.  Meanwhile, there are no compulsory religious classes for Buddhists and Taoists alike.  This may explain why the younger generations are more susceptible to conversion attempts by evangelists.  (I’ll need to find out more from my counterparts from the other faiths, about how the younger folks or converts learn about their faiths).

Another factor is that many Buddhists are fence-sitters as far as religion for their spouse or children are concerned.

The Buddha taught lay couples who wish to see one another not only in the present life but also in the life to come, should be in tune in conviction (faith in the Triple Gem), virtue (morality / precepts), generosity and in discernment (wisdom) [14].  Further, the Buddha advised lay people to have conviction (faith in the Triple Gem) so that their descendents may prosper in terms of conviction, virtue, and discernment (wisdom) [15], so Buddhists should be more proactive in sharing the gift of the Dharma with their children, for their welfare and happiness.

The counter-argument from many Buddhist parents is that they wish to give their children freedom of choice.  It is admirable and comforting to know that Buddhists are not indoctrinating their children with Buddhism, dogma-style.  It is however important to note that choice is only meaningful if their children is making informed choices.  If their children do not get a chance to learn about Buddhism, and only get to hear half-truths and distortions from over-zealous evangelists, then what kind of choices are they subjecting their children to?

Further, do parents give their children choices when it comes to their education and all the enrichment classes that kids have to go through these days?  Buddhists owe it to themselves to learn about Buddhism and to share it with their
loved ones and friends.  If it is useful and beneficial to you, if it has made a difference in your life, why not share it?  When our children grow up, trust me, they will make their own choices even if you want it otherwise.  The difference is that they will be making an informed choice.

The door to the Deathless is open, the Path to True Happiness, the Cessation of Suffering has been discovered.  Ehi passiko.  “Come and see”.



Some Thoughts about Evolution and Cancer

PS: This is a long article and in retrospect, may have more implications to Buddhism than I have explored.  I have decided to leave it as it is and perhaps explore these connections in other articles.

You know, evolution, the Theory of Evolution that is getting a lot of press time in US? Yeah, the one Darwin proposed as the manner human and the various types of animals came to exist the way they exist? That they evolve from earlier simpler forms and are evolving into more complex forms.

I’m not a scientist or a biologist. I never studied biology or anthropology and I’m not even good in Chemistry. I’m just a monk with no training in these fields. But I have an interest in science since young and of late, due to the sheer volume of online articles about the Theory of Evolution (TE), I cannot help but read a few and learn something more.

TE states that as species evolve different traits, the ones with traits that are more suitable for survival tend to be passed on to later generations through the genes, because their hosts survive. On the other hand, species with incompatible or loosing traits die out and these traits die out with the genes. In short, survival of the fittest, with the best evolutionary traits. See Evolution in wikipedia for more info.

Recently, I was thinking about how this may explain why human beings seem to be getting weaker and have more and more illnesses.
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