Who Slammed the Door?

Sometimes when a door or window slams, do you find that someone, sometimes ourselves, would respond with a “Who was that who slammed the door (or window)?”. And if the response is “Oh, it was the wind”, then almost magically, the agitation or annoyance subsides or disappears! If it turned out to be someone responsible, then a further exchange may take place. The annoyance becomes directed to the person responsible.

We like to find people to blame (or praise), don’t you think? This tendency to do that is preceded by the habit to affix a persona behind any experience or phenomena worth noting. In a way, this habit is also driven by the need or habit to blame. So this two tendencies are mutually supportive of each other.

Sometimes when we find that there is no person behind, say the slamming door or window, we are not satisfied. We are very smart. We use our intelligent mind to further investigate. Then we ask “who left the door open without securing it?”. And if that turned out to be indeterminate, we may continue pursuing until we find someone to blame. We are so full of energy when it comes to blaming people ya?

No, we are not like that? Yes, most people are not like that usually. But when we are in this energetic mode, then all hell breaks loose. We drill and question and conduct forensic analysis, just to get to the bottom of things! “Justice must be served” we might even exclaim!

What is the purpose of this “Justice” or “Rights and wrongs” if all it gets us into is this find-someone-to-blame-mode?

Coming back to the slamming door example, consider both possibilities, where someone slammed it or where the wind blew it shut, slamming it. In both cases, there was energy imparted to the door, causing it to move. Kinetic energy from the wind did the job in the latter, while kinetic energy from someone did it in the former. Both are energy. Does the door know the difference between the two sources of energy? No. Does the door slam differently in either cases? Nope, except when the energy imparted is of a different intensity.

Does the door slam with a “Ah Beng slammed the door” or “The wind slammed the door”? Nope. Yet, we impute additional meaning to the slamming door. I’m not denying that it is either the wind, Ah Beng or some sources that did it. I’m saying that

1) if the distinction of the sources is not meaningful in our and others’ happiness, then it is not meaningful to discern and cling strongly to such distinction.

2) the distinction is imputed, because the direct cause of the slamming is basically kinetic energy!* Not some person, or a being.

Discernment #1 is easier to accept and do, and it appeals to our pragmatic wish to be happy. It, however, only mitigates one’s problem. Discernment #2 is easy to understand, but harder to recognise internally or apply directly. If one is able to do so, then one weakens the root of the problem (Sakaya-ditthi) and in due time, cuts the very cause of suffering!

Many years back, I was at the Fa Yun monastery and was having lunch one day. One of the duty person dripped gravy onto the outer surface of my alms bowl. Being the unenlightened monk, a thought arose “Aiyaya! How careless!” After awhile I caught myself and reflected somewhat mindfully and all was well. Then another time, when I was on duty serving, I dripped some gravy on my own bowl! I simply wiped it off without a second thought or agitation. Then a thought arose “HA! …. ….”

I will leave you to ponder what followed that “HA!” … ^_^

* — If one observes rupa (form) mindfully with respect to the four elements, one sees
clearly that the slamming door, the wind or a “person” slamming it are basically a function of the wind element. In modern speak, kinetic energy.

Shifu Can I Do This or That?

Shifu, can I do this?  Shifu, can I do that?  Can I kill insects?  Can I drink whisky?  How about beer?
Can I pay for less bus fare than I travelled?  How about overtime pay?  Can I dock in more hours than I worked?

The answers to the above, would be yes, yes, yes … and more Yes!
If you had asked, can I breathe through my lungs underwater unassisted, it would be a no.  It would be a no to “Can I have an unassisted controlled flight?”, and by controlled flight, free-falling is not included.

Before you quote me saying that I allow you to do all the above former, think again.  You may think that I’m forgetting about the Buddhist precepts that advocate non-killing, non-stealing etc, ala the five precepts (Panca-Sila in Pali).  You see, what most people are mistaken about the Buddhist teachings is that it does not stipulate a “The Buddha says you cannot kill” and impose it upon you.  Instead, it says, killing is harmful to others (apparently!), is in turn unwanted by ourselves, results in pain, suffering and/or stress, amongst other things, and is to be avoided, for the sake of one’s welfare and happiness and that of others.

When we observe the Buddhist precepts, we are really declaring to ourselves and others that having considered carefully, we are choosing not to kill, because doing so (killing) is not fruitful and leads to much suffering.  Further, we recognise that all that are
alive and sentient, cherishes their life; so we seek to protect and care for their well being.  It is not that we are unable to or cannot, it is that we actively choose not to kill.

It is also not that we choose not to kill, so that we can placate the Buddha and ask for blessings.  Instead it is because we choose not to kill, that this positive wholesome karma (or energy if you will) “protects” us.

As Buddhists, we should use our intelligence and common sense to learn the precepts so that we can make well-informed choices and do the right thing on a daily basis.  This can and is what blesses us!  It is our actions, through our body, speech and mind, that if pure and wholesome, protects and blesses us. The Buddha blesses us through his teachings.

For that matter, even if you are not a Buddhist, does it not occur to you that having angry feeling is unpleasant?  And if that anger fester, it may lead to ill-will arising in you?  And if this ill-will, which is unpleasant as well, is left to nuture, you may physically harm someone.  Without being a Buddhist or subscribing to its teachings, would it not make sense that the above train of thoughts and course of actions is unpleasant and leads to stress in oneself and others?  Further, after harming others, would we not feel anxiety of being discovered later?  These are applicable facts or truths that one can observe and see for onself without having to believe in a god or deity or declaring oneself to be a Buddhist.  And seeing clearly, one avoids the path that leads to suffering, and takes that which is more conducive to happiness.

That is why the Buddha’s teachings are declared as Truth, open for enquiry and investigation; ready for us to see for ourselves.  The teachings (Dharma in Sanskrit or Dhamma in Pali) can be adopted by all without going into a sectarian dispute.  It is in many ways, common sense.

So, fellow humans, wake up to your common sense, and do something sensible for someone today! 🙂

Human Rights vs Human Responsibilities

The one place you would not expect to find demand of “Human Rights” would be in a college, a Buddhist College I mean. One would think that 1) a Buddhist College would be extolling values above and beyond mere human rights and 2) students (monks in this case) would not really care much about human rights (HR). Afterall, Buddhism as a whole seem to point towards an attitude of non-attachment and non-self (no-self or not-self if you will!), it seem strange that they while working towards these ideals, would be so concerned with human rights. After all, without a self, who is to enjoy the rights or suffer their absence?

But this article is not about that. This article is about what I think Human Rights is and its place in an Asian society vs the role of Human Responsibilities. Read More …