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The User Guide to Life...

The Moral Diet

Supawan P. Panawong Green
The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet

Supawan P. Panawong Green

ISBN 978-974-8092-10-2

Copyright 2007 by Supawan P. Panawong Green
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced,
in whole or part, in any form, without the prior written permission of
Supawan P. Panawong Green

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“My humblest gratitude and respect
to the greatest teacher in the world,
the Buddha.”

When Sue first asked me to write this foreword, I felt
firstly honoured, then nervous. What could I write about
her book? After all I am just an ordinary housewife with
two children, two dogs and an overworked husband to
look after, then it occurred to me that this was the precise
reason why Sue wanted my point of view. If somebody like me
(certainly not clever, scholastic or religious) could be reached
by her teaching, so could every other person whatever his
or her position or status in life.

I first met Sue at her Tai Chi class held locally. I didn’t
really know what I was looking for at that time, something
vaguely about relaxation and something that might help me
cope with the stresses of everyday life. I had no fixed idea on
what to expect. Within the first half-hour of being in her class,
I knew I had found something special and someone unique.
I can always remember her words. She said she could deliver
mental peace, inner calm there and then, not next week or
after years of practice, but actually at that moment. True to her
word as the class progressed, by slowing down my Tai chi
movements, observing my sensations and watching the thoughts
and feelings passing through my mind, I achieved a state of
peace that I had not previously known. From that first class I
was hooked! If this could happen in the first hour, what yet
could be achieved?!

Now nearly three years later, I realize that Sue is in fact
teaching Buddhism, but in a very unique way. She brings
this ancient wisdom to us in words that we all can understand
and by methods, which can be used by anybody sitting at a desk
or doing the ironing. In The User Guide to Life she is very
clear and honest with us, and tells us of her own experience
and insight. She states what is required of us and offers herself
as a guide to those who choose to walk this path, with the
ultimate destination being inner peace and happiness.

‘Life’ is a big subject, full of twists, turns and endless
complexities. Sue comments on these issues of life with
frankness and compassionate understanding, everything from
the age-old problems, sex and relationships, euthanasia, to
modern day dilemmas posed by the advance of science such as
the Human Genome Project and so on. The challenges of life
are common to all people regardless of what beliefs we have.
This is when Sue’s teaching skill becomes very helpful to us.
Sue’s language, even when explaining the intricacies of Karma
and the even more mind-boggling Buddhist time scales, is always
simple and direct.

The User Guide to Life will prove invaluable reading to
someone hoping to find meaning and purpose to their life.
The greatest recommendation I can give is that Sue’s teaching
has done this for me, and for that I am eternally grateful.

Juliet Banyard
Birmingham, UK
9 February 2001

Foreword by Juliet Banyard 4

Introduction 13

Chapter 1 My Eureka experience! 17

Chapter 2 Words of agreement 21
- Two types of guides 21
- Depending on holy map 22
- A new ball game 22
- Mental journey 24
- Different words but same meaning 25
- Mental tourist! 27

Chapter 3 Why we must stick to our moral diet! 29

Chapter 4 Don’t kill, don’t steal 37
- Thou shall not kill 37
- You have only one choice 38
- Who is going to kill animals for food then!? 38
- The butcher and the little pig 39
- Do you have to be a vegetarian? 41
- Just to survive 42
- Never boast about your humility 42
and compassion
- How should a vegetarian act? 43
- Hui Neng 44
- Split view 45
- It is about how you eat 45
and not what you eat
- The noble lady and the ailing Bhikkhu 47
- Don’t steal 48
- Take the meat with you! 50
- Pao Boon Jin 51

Chapter 5 Love, Sex and Relationship 55
- Don’t commit adultery 55
- Don’t do it again 55
- Do the right thing and be very patient 56
- Being single and hoping to have 57
a stable relationship
- The strategy for procreation 57
- Reward 58
- The ingredients of Love 59
- Sex without love 60
- Midlife crisis 60
- Craving for sweets 61
- The degrading human 62
- What makes human excel above animals 63
- Cultivate love 64
- Responsibility and commitment 65
- The amazing network of pregnancy 65
- Maternal instinct 66
- Equal share 67
- Traditional family 67
- Nature’s will 69
- Ladder to peace and harmony 69
- Tampering with nature 71
- Bypass sex 73
- Self respect 74
- Compatibility 74
- The karmic factor 75
- Nothing is perfect 76
- The quicker you know, the better 77
- Overture 78
- Sirima 78

Chapter 6 Lies and Intoxication 87
- Don’t lie 87
- Truth hurts 88
- White lies & talking nonsense 90
- Virtuous lies 91
- Ar Peng 91
- The crucial precept - intoxication 97
- The preparation 97
- Soberness is a must 99
- Social protocol 100
- Summary 101

Chapter 7 Giving 103
- Selfishness hurts 103
- Mental journey belongs to mental self 105
- A size zero ego 105
- Pushing camel through needle’s eye 106
- Kindness counteracts selfishness 107
- Giving can be trained 108
- Breaking the spoon 108
- This following guideline will help you 109
to loosen your selfishness.
- Two fingers up 113
- Never say one penny is less 115
and ten thousand is more
- The mean master 122

Chapter 8 The Simple Diet 131
- Checking the goal again 131
- You cannot have it all 132
- Misconception 133
- How to practice simplicity? 135
- Moral and simple dieting 135
- The danger of wealth and fame 136
- Invisibility and denial 137
- Everyone wants to feel special 138
- Bruised ego and havoc 139
- Doing a big job 140
- An overflowing cup of tea 144
- Kwai Shane Cane 147

Chapter 9 Dealing with death 151
- Fear of the pain 151
- Tragic death 152
- The tsunami ghosts 154
- Are you prepared to be a lost soul? 156
- Arranging a good death 158
- Fear of the uncertainty 159
- God believers 160
- Big zero believer 160
- Make room for wisdom 162
- Death is a natural event 164
- Wish you all die accordingly!? 165
- The three old ladies and my parents 166
- Relevent to age and status 169
- Titanic 169
- Do you know what is around the corner? 171
- When death is inevitable 171
- Euthanasia 172
- Hypocritical attitude 174
- ICU culture 175
- Enlightening culture 176
- Misconception 176
- Facing death 177
- Death drill 178
- Getting ready 179
- Following the guideline 181

Chapter 10 Dealing with death, continued 183
- Visakha 183
- The Venerable Katjayana 185
- Kisa Gotami 188
- Simple teaching 192
- The weaver’s daughter 192

The original edition of The User Guide To Life was
written some thirteen months before the second millennium,
which was just over a year after my Eureka experience in 1997.
I was inspired to come up with something that my Tai Chi
students could follow after they have left my class at the
University of Birmingham.

It has been nearly seven years since the first publication
of this book, which the first 3,000 copies were sold out for
quite sometime. During the editing process before this second
publication, I have realised that my skill in writing and expressing
English has moved on along with my spiritual knowledge. I then
made quite a significant change in the contents of this book,
one of which is to separate the old version into two books
instead. This book you are holding is the first part and will be
followed with its sequence: The User Guide to Life...The Law
of Karma. I have also replaced the first two chapters with the
new ones.

My Chinese spiritual teacher, Tang Mor Sieng, told a very
good story of which I would like to recount. It was a story
about a Buddhist poet. Every poem he wrote, he would take it
to a market place and ask either a market vendor or a housewife
to read his poem. If these people nodded their heads as a gesture
of understanding, he would keep that poem. If they shook their
heads and said they did not understand, he would rip the paper
apart and throw that Buddhist poem away.

To me, this story says that the essence of Buddhism is
about simplicity and how to achieve it. This story also
corresponds to the scientific precept attributed by Occam Razor,
which says if all things are equal, the simplest explanation is the
right one. I have always known that the difficult Buddhist jargon
is the barrier preventing people from understanding Buddhism.
I hope this book is simple enough for you to follow. The above
story also gave me the idea of giving the honour to one of my
students, Juliet, a housewife and a mother of two children, to
write the foreword for this book. I think it makes a nice change
from listening to an intellectual point of view.

This book is very much like a ‘life map’ which is aimed
at giving you a step by step guideline so that you have clear
ideas of how to walk this spiritual path with the end result in
finding the truth about your true self.

May I take this opportunity to thank all my readers, Thai
and non-Thai alike who have given me support and strength.
My gratitude also goes to Jess Koffman, my co-editor for this
book and all my Thai supporters who have been working for
me as well as organising retreats. All their hard work is very
much appreciated. I couldn’t have got this far without them.

I wish you all the best of luck in life journey.

Supawan Pipatpanawong Green
14 February 2007
Birmingham, UK
Chapter 1

My Eureka Experience

It happened in a spur of a moment and most unexpected,
on one Tuesday afternoon of October 1997 while I was in the
Dojo teaching my Tai chi students at the University of
Birmingham. I had been teaching my students meditation skills
for quite some time without telling them that it was, in fact,
based on the Buddha’s knowledge. Since that class was my
dedicated advanced students, I thought it would be in their
advantage to know the proper Buddhist terminology, just
in case they come across it in books or passing conversations.
At least, they would know that they had actually engaged in this
Buddhist practice from my Tai chi class. I decided to write ‘the
four foundations of mindfulness’ and ‘vipassana’ in the bracket
on the white board and also put down the short descriptions as
what to the focus on regarding each foundation.

As I was writing the description of the 4th foundation
of mindfulness, unlike the first 3 foundations which I had
confidence in the knowledge, I told myself that I would have
to come clean with my students by telling them the truth that
I didn’t have a clue what it meant by ‘dhamma-nu-passana’ and
they had to compromise with the original descriptions without
any extra help from me. I usually am able to simplify the difficult
concepts to plain words but not this one since I didn’t quite
understand myself.

Finished with the writing, I then walked away from the
white board to standing in front of my students. As I was
opening my mouth, I also glanced back to the white board some
5 or 6 small steps away to my right; that was the moment when
all heavens broke lose. It was the most magical moment when
I had to whisper softly to myself in front of the students:
“Oh…my god, I know it!”.

Suddenly, it was as if a tidal wave of acute wisdom
rushing through my mind which allowed me to KNOW the
answers to a few really significant questions I had been searching
for many years earlier. One of the pieces of knowledge was, of
course, the pending meaning of the 4 th foundation of
mindfulness that just moments ago I was totally in the dark.

The knowledge, flowing through my mind at that
moment, gave me the most powerful and insightful illumination
that I had never experienced before in my entire life. The
combined brightness of 10 suns still cannot be compared to
the light of such wisdom I was stumbling upon at that moment.

18 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
The scattered pieces of jigsaw-puzzles about life and death and
beyond suddenly clicked into places. That significant knowledge
came along with the enormous sense of great relief. I strongly
felt that I had every right to say to myself: “I am free at last!” –
freeing from the bondage of ‘not knowing’.

Overwhelmed by this most astonishing encounter and
trying to take in the knowledge that suddenly presented itself
to me, I began to realise that 7 pairs of eyes were staring at me
expectantly and that I still had a tai chi class to run. I resolved
to tell my students I was going to confront them with the truth
about not knowing the focus point of the 4th foundation of
mindfulness but something had just happened to me and I had
now got the answer for them. I then conducted the class as
normal but with more confidence in the knowledge I delivered.
From that moment on, my knowledge has grown steadily.
All my literary works are the direct result of that eureka
experience happening on that autumn afternoon.

The overall message I wish to put across to you is: there
is a nature called ‘the ultimate truth’. Finding this ultimate entity
is the same thing as finding our ‘true self ’. This is the sole reason
we are here and where eternal happiness exists. The direct path
to it is the four foundations of mindfulness, which I coined
‘bringing our mental self back home’.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 19
I hope this chapter can help you to have better
understanding of this book, which prepares you to embark on
a journey in search of your real self.

20 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
Chapter 2

Words of agreement

Two types of guides

If you want to get to a new destination you often have
to rely on a guide to lead you. It is also possible that your guide
might not have been to that place either. However, he can still
be guide because he has a map in his hand while you do not.

This guide will have to rigidly follow the map. There
might be a shortcut that is not shown on the map, but such
a guide will not know. Should the map be misleading, the guide
and his followers will get lost and waste time.

There is, however, another type of guide who has been
to the place of destination before. If he has been there several
times and had many chances to explore the area, he will know
much more than what is shown on the map. It is very likely
that he will know the shortcuts too. The benefit in having this
type of guide is that you will save time and it is a guarantee
that you won’t get lost.
Depending on holy map

All spiritual teachers can only teach according to what
they know. They can teach less than what they know if they
want to but they certainly cannot teach more than what they

Right now, I cannot say what else there is ahead of me
because I do not know. However, I can tell you what I know up
to this point. I know that my first book, ‘Dear Colin...what is
the meaning of life?’ which was written between 1991 - 1994,
showed the phase of me being a guide and not knowing the
place of destination. My guidance was very much based on
the strong faith I had towards the Buddha. I, therefore, had to
rely on the map or the holy book quite rigidly. My teaching was
fragmented; I could not connect all the different issues together
as clearly as I do now.

A new ball game

Then came my Eureka experience in 1997 when a total
new ball game had just begun. This was the year when I wrote
‘Can a Caterpillar be perfect?’ in which I introduced newly
invented terminologies such as ‘Tom and Jerry’, mental
hologram and ‘the innocent perception’. These coinages were

22 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
aimed to boost readers’ comprehension towards this eastern
concept of life. Although I thought my experience was very
clear and definite at the time, it was merely the stepping-stone
towards my present knowledge. Comparatively speaking, for
the first time this guide had just arrived and realised with
a high degree of certainty the place of destination and that
the exploration of the different routes was about to begin.

Two years from then, I had more time to explore the
routes to the ultimate destination. I finally realised that the
Buddha had thought about it all so thoroughly. The four
foundations of awareness (vipassana) are indeed the shortcut
to the ultimate destination of life.1 I could do nothing more
than he had already done but humbly surrender to his most
ingenious and matchless wisdom. What else could I do but to
propagate and confirm his knowledge to humankind; the only
thing I could add was probably trying to make the language
and approach a bit more accessible to people of this time and

‘A Handful of Leaves’ was the result of this stage of
my practice in which I could depict a clearer picture of the

Please know that the four foundations of mindfulness (awareness),
vipassana and ‘bringing our mental self back home’ have exactly the
same meaning. I will, however, use the term vipassana for short writing
in this book.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 23
structure of life. The content of this book, apart from
confirming the ultimate purpose of life, also confirms the
shortest means leading to the goal – the four foundations of
mindfulness. In this book, I found that I had more freedom
in expressing myself. I felt that I didn’t have to cling too much
to the holy book like I did before.

Having seen the place of destination with my own
(mental) eyes has created a totally new ball game for me when
I talk to people. It means that I can explore the route myself
with my own language and my own approach as well as knowing
I won’t get lost again. No matter what route I take, I can always
come back home. This is the ability I did not have when
I wrote the first two books.

Mental journey

This book, The User Guide to Life…The Moral Diet,
is yet another attempt to help you to get, at least, half way to
the place of destination. A mental journey is based on the
same principle as a physical journey in the sense that you
must initially know where you are going first. Once you
know the goal, you will then engage in the actual travelling –
moving from A to B. Knowing the place of destination (the
ultimate purpose of life) is of the utmost importance. You
cannot set off on a journey without knowing where you want

24 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
to go, can you? If you did, you would be seen as someone ‘not
quite right in the head!’

A mind journey is much trickier than a mere physical
trip. Unfortunately, people are doing exactly that: walking
around not knowing if they are coming or going! This is the
main reason why people’s minds are so confused, messed up
and in pain. Should you know exactly what you are doing and
where you are going, it will certainly make life easier for you
and you will feel a whole lot better. My duty as your guide is
to create shortcut as well as a clear path to your mental

Different words but same meaning

Following my Eureka experience, I now know where
we must head for. I shall give you a list of terminology in
both religious and scientific terms. Please remember this simple
logic: if there is an ultimate truth at all, there has to be just
ONE very final state and no more. So please bear in mind that
whenever you see any of these words or phrases in this book
and my other written works, they all refer to the same meaning,
more precisely the same experience. This ultimate encounter is
the final destination of life where every single human being
must go and do their very best to achieve.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 25
Here are the words and phrases referring to that ONE
truth. They are as followed:
1. The ultimate enlightenment
2. Nirvana
3. The Kingdom of God
4. The Tree of Life
5. Godhood
6. Tao
7. Eternity
8. Immortality
9. The ultimate (absolute) truth
10. The ultimate reality
11. The grand ultimate (the meaning of Tai chi)
12. The absolute ruling point in nature (Einstein’s
concept, the run-up to the Theory of Relativity)
13. The absolute simplicity
14. The absolute ordinariness
15. The absolute normality
16. The true self
17. The real self
18. The eternal peace, harmony
19. The ultimate freedom
20. The end of suffering
21. The true (real) happiness
22. Here and Now

26 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
23. The final frontier
24. The innocent perception (my coinage)

This wide range of terminologies can diminish your
confusion and help you to have better perspective concerning
the ultimate destination of life. You can now clearly see that
humankind, God believers and non-believers, share the
common goal in life. Our religious differences, which often
lead to political conflicts and violence, in my view, are merely
the result of misinterpretation of the different jargons due to
the lack of true ultimate experience (mainly among religious
leaders). We can easily live in great harmony should we be led
by wise leaders who are well equipped with the right

Mental tourist!

The significant point is that if the guide (life coach,
religious officers) doesn’t know the actual place of destination,
how can they know what the kingdom of God or Nirvana looks
like? Comparatively speaking, many tourists visiting London
are standing right in the middle of Covent Garden but they
didn’t have a clue that they are actually there already, so they
still looked into the map, trying to find the way to Covent
Garden. This problem can easily be solved by asking local people
where Covent Garden is.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 27
Likewise, as far as mental journey is concerned, you
need a local guide who knows exactly the actual experience of
those words. Only then will he/she be able to lead you to the
final destination without getting lost in your mental jungle.

Without my Eureka experience, I won’t be qualified to
be your local guide as I would be like you – a mental tourist!

28 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
Chapter 3

Why we must stick to our moral diet!

Our massive misdirection in life causes us to create
a world society that is badly infested with social diseases:
conflicts, wars, global terrorism, vast economy migration,
deforestation, animal extinction to global warming. Consequently,
every human along with the animals and plants on this planet
has their equal share of suffering.

All the tragedies either brought upon by Mother Nature
or by men and the advance of science are few of the main
reasons that weaken people’s faith and make God become less
important. Star celebrities, pop and sport idols are more
popular than the almighty God and are widely worshipped.
Churches and temples have been replaced by shopping malls
or pubs. This causes the subsequence moral crisis.

In every society, there is a set of moral value, which
helps to keep society in good order. When moral standard has
become low in society, laws have to be imposed. While moral is
a self-restraint, law is an enforcement. Society that has more
laws, in fact, has failed to keep up its moral standard and this is
just the beginning of social problems leading to more turmoil
and suffering.

Let’s spend a bit of time investigate into the cause of
our moral decline. I have no doubt that the main reason that
causes our moral dilemma is because most people don’t know
why they have to be morally good. To think good, speak good
and act good are not easy task. It is extremely difficult.
Responding to our desire brought upon by our thoughts and
feelings is a much easier thing to do. We also have the examples
of people who can make their way to worldly success by
immoral means. In reality, there are people who get away with
murder. There are plenty of people who become extremely
wealthy by selling drugs, weapons, and even humans.

We also live in the world that fuelled by media frenzy,
young people nowadays can hardly distinguish reality from
their dream world. The messages given out through
entertainment industry, especially computer games are quite
shocking. They mainly aim to teach our youngster that violence
and killing are the right thing to do. Why not come along and
learn how to kill! These are the reasons that brought moral
down to our knees. We shouldn’t be too surprised.

Not until people know the reason behind moral values
and why we must have moral discipline, will we be able to

30 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
retrieve morality back to mankind and see glimpse of hope
in humanity. Our religious and education establishment have
failed to deliver this important message to our children. Judging
from the shameful front page scandals caused by clerics and
teachers, it is very likely that they don’t have the answers
themselves. If our ideal applicants failed to give us answer,
who can be our role model then? It looks like we have a classic
Catch 22 situation here, haven’t we? And who is going to
break this tedious cycle?

I will try. Bluntly speaking, due to my Eureka experience,
I have found out that there is an entity in nature called ‘the
ultimate truth’, which is the same state as our ‘true self ’. Once
you find one, you will always find the other because ultimately
everything blends into one. Should you succeed to find that
ultimate entity, you will also find the subsequent eternal
harmony and be able to live happily ever after. This ideal ending
is very much possible in real life if only you know how to
find your real self.

The image of the triangle below will give you a clear
perspective as why we need to observe our moral precepts.
I shall place the words: the ultimate truth, true self and eternal
peace on the top end of the triangle. The bottom left hand
corner will be written moral ladder whereas the right hand
corner will be meditation ladder. Now, can you see the reason

Supawan P. Panawong Green 31
why we need to observe our moral values? Ultimately, it is for
our own mental stability and harmony, not for others.

What has really gone wrong in our society is that
we have no real wisdom that can guide us to a real purpose of
life – finding our real self and the real peace. Without such
crucial knowledge, we compromise with secondary happiness
revolved around gaining more wealth, higher status and power.
We think that as long as we have money and power, we can
buy happiness. As the poor and the unprivileged struggle up
the social ladder, trying to earn their piece of joy, the rich and
the powerful already know that there is no such thing called
‘happiness’ at the other end of the ladder. If there is, it is only
temporary, not long lasting anyway. No one can take credit cards

32 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
to their graves. But everyone has to find out for themselves,
haven’t they? So we are back to square one again because the
struggle for happiness and peace has become the very reason
for our turmoil, restlessness and the endless complexities of life.

The real wisdom will tell us an entirely different story.
According to the diagram above, morals are the straight ladder
to happiness. Should we want harmony, we must stand firmly
on our moral ground and not waver despite temptations. Never
mind what other people say.

It just so happened that Mother Nature bestowed on us
a precious gift called a conscience. This crucial tool naturally
prevents us from stepping over our moral threshold because
it hammers our thinking onto ethical grounds. It is good that
when we do something immoral, we feel really awful about it
and cannot respect ourselves. Not until we mend our wrong-
doings by admitting our guilt will we feel better. Then a lesson
is learnt. We also learn not to repeat our mistake twice. As we
grow older, we should have enough experience to know that
moral brings stability and immoral brings turmoil. This is
a brilliant process that has united communities in the past. It
works because of this gifted ingredient.

Whatever action we are about to take, if we can sense
any shame and guilt, it must have something to do with our

Supawan P. Panawong Green 33
conscience. When temptation strikes, we must stop right away
and think hard about it first before taking any further step as
we can’t reverse the clock back.

Actually, not to mention killing people; butchering big
and even smaller size animals like cows, pigs and chickens is
not an easy task to do at all unless we train ourselves to do it.
How many people can slit the throat of a chicken for their
Sunday roast? I don’t think there are many. This is the reason
we have Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Morrison so that they can do
the job for us.

Unfortunately, conscience has been wiped out from
a great number of people’s mind. Merchants make huge sum
of money out of immoral businesses and cause immense
human suffering, yet they feel neither shame nor guilt. Killing
humans has become a much easier task to do as if pulling
a carrot out of the ground. Killers don’t even feel remorse
anymore. We only have ourselves to blame because we teach
our children to kill in the first place. Complex world politics are
also a main factor for all of these killing sprees going on in
the world right now.

Once conscience is taken out of the equation, it is
extremely difficult to bring back and anarchy is imminent.
Without the sense of right and wrong in humankind, global

34 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
conflicts will spiral out of control at some point. Unless real
wisdom can make its way into worldwide education, we might
see glimpse of hope in humanity. We must steer our civilization
towards the right direction in life. Initially, we must tell
people the distinctive purpose of life. We are here for one
sole reason only – to find our true self. Only then will we attain
our long lasting peace.

We, then, tell our children with plain words that moral
is the step ladder to achieve that goal so that we can reach real
harmony. Teach them the five basic moral principles and show
them how to climb that moral ladder by being their role
models. Theoretically, it means parents, priest, teachers,
Government ministers along with all the respectable career
people have to behave themselves to make the moral
mechanism works. Oops…catch 22 again!

You must think I am living in a dream world to suggest
all those. I am not really. That’s why my work actually focuses
only on you who are reading this very sentence. I don’t want to
change the world because I know I cannot do it. But I certainly
hope that I can change you. Should you want your mental
stability and tranquillity, do your very best to stick with your
moral diet. This moral regime, despite its difficulty, can take
you, at least, half way towards your ultimate enlightenment.
I hope this book, you are holding, might be able to guide you

Supawan P. Panawong Green 35
along should you face any moral dilemma. You must also pay
attention to the other ladder on the right hand side of the
above diagram, meditation, I coined ‘bringing our mental self
back home’.

I strongly believe that our individual inner peace
can be the centre point where humanity of all believers
can meet, religious and impious alike. Inner peace is
universal. So are tears and laughter. Should we put black,
brown, white and yellow babies in the same room and shut the
door, would we know which crying and gurgling belongs to
which baby? No, we wouldn’t. Should we want humanity to
survive an eventual apocalypse, we must ditch all the different
religious and racial labels and share the same aim: achieving
long lasting harmony.

World peace is nothing more than a huge pot of
casserole with the ingredients of individual inner peace thrown
in together. Only then can this unique pot of casserole be
relished by humanity alike.

36 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
Chapter 4

Don’t kill, don’t steal

Now that you know the reason behind moral, we are
going to tackle each precept in greater details.

Thou shall not kill

Although this precept tells you not to kill, in fact it
includes any bodily harm inflicted upon people and animals
too. Killing is, however, the worst harm that one can do to
them. I will, therefore, talk about killing first. At this stage,
it means all the direct and straightforward killing from
people to animals, big and small – ants, flies, etc. are included.
Straightforward killing begins from having the intention to
kill and ends at completing the killing activity. Without the
intention, the action will not happen. Let’s put all the indirect,
unintentional and necessary killing aside for the moment, such
as: killing germs, diseases, parasites, pests, killing animals for
testing, putting animals down due to either being sick or
dangerous, killing enemies in wars and capital punishment. The
moral in those killing can be clarified and understood when
you engage in your vipassana practice but not now since
they are not straightforward and there is no black and white

You have only one choice

Please understand that I am now talking to you who
wants to walk the path to eternity. All these words are not for
anyone else but especially for you who wants the best thing
in life. So should you make a living from either killing
animals or other form of ‘necessary’ killing and you also want
to go to the Kingdom of God, I will strongly advise you to
change your occupation. You must stop killing right now. You
cannot have it both ways. You have to choose one way or the
other. If you want to go to hell, carry on with your killing but if
you want to go to heaven and to be with God, you must stop
killing now. It is as simple as that.

Who is going to kill animals for food then!?

How will people get fed if no one kills animals for food?
Don’t worry; there are always people who will do this job,
plenty of them, in fact. My words won’t make an iota of
difference in our present killing industry, trust me. Even the
Buddha couldn’t stop his family from killing one another. So
if you are worried that no one is going to do the necessary
killing business, please don’t. There will always be people

38 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
doing such a job; let them do it and you should move on to do
something else which takes no part in killing because you have
a rendez-vous with God.

The butcher and the little pig

I often used to tell this story to my children when they
were little. I heard it from my late Chinese spiritual teacher
Tang Mor Sieng. I have been listening to his dhamma collection
for nearly thirty years. He claimed that it was a true story
which happened somewhere in China.

There was a butcher who lived in one of this long row
of shop-houses. Every morning he had to walk past a house
where the owner had a little pig roaming around the household.
Every time the butcher walked past this house, for some
unknown reason, the little pig would run out in a flash and bite
the man’s leg. The butcher would then kick the pig away and
swear at it. This was an everyday event between the little pig
and the butcher. He noticed that the pig had never bothered to
attack anyone else but him. After he had a good kick and swore
at the pig, he would stare into the little pig’s eyes and grunt
angrily, “One day, I will buy you off your owner and
I’ll make sure you will be on my meat stall in no time at all.
Now, get away from me, you stupid pig!”

Supawan P. Panawong Green 39
The butcher did buy the little pig off the owner in the
end. After handling the money over, he brought the pig home,
held him tightly by his neck, stared into his eyes and told him
to be ready to die the next day. The butcher was woken up in
the middle of the night by a terrible nightmare, which had
something to do with the pig. He sat up in his bed sweating
heavily, his heart was pounding with fright. He nodded his
head slowly and groaned: “That’s why this pig doesn’t like me
and insists on biting me all this time. I have killed so many pigs
in my life. They’re bound to come back for me sometime.”

He then got up and walked to see the pig he had tied up.
The pig looked at him with sad eyes. The butcher, by now,
became mellow and said, “If I kill you today, this kamma will
have to be paid off and when is it going to end? I have decided
not to kill you today, but what should I do with you then?”

Later on that day, the butcher went to the nearby
temple and had a long talk with one of the elder monks to
whom he confided his dream. He then came home to fetch
the pig. Everyone in the neighbourhood thought that he was
going to take the pig to the slaughter house. To everyone’s
surprise, the butcher said, “No, I am going to leave him in the
temple instead.” He also changed his occupation and became
a handyman in the nearby village. Every now and again, he

40 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
would visit the pig in the temple. The pig, hadn’t been well
fed and remained skinny, ran to him but this time it didn’t
attack the man like before. Instead, the pig would sniff and
stroke his head against the man’s leg and wanted to play with
him. One day, the man bent down, stroked the pig on his head
and whispered softly to him: “Thank you for telling me before
it was too late. You gave me the chance to have a new life.”

Do you have to be a vegetarian?

If you are already a vegetarian and very happy to be
one, fine, keep it up. However, if you aren’t one and you are
not ready to be one yet, it is also fine; you don’t have to be
a vegetarian in order to find your true self. If you are a meat
eater, please follow these guidelines:
Always buy meat, poultry and fish. Never catch and
kill them by yourself, even fish.
Don’t praise about how delicious or how tender
the meat, poultry or fish tastes, as do most. Always remember
that if the roles were reversed and you were on the plate
instead, how would you feel? After all, it is a life we are talking
Don’t eat meat, poultry and fish with pleasure but
with humble feeling, just to survive.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 41
Just to survive

My teacher at Suan Mokkh in Southern Thailand often
told this story: A man, a woman and a young baby walked
across a desert. The baby didn’t survive. When their food ran
out, the man and wife were forced to eat the meat of their
own baby so that they could live.

They didn’t eat the meat with joy and pleasure but
with a repentant feeling for the sole purpose of survival. There
was indeed a real life drama which was similar to this story:

When a plane carrying a group of Argentinean cricketers
crashed in the Andes, they were stranded in the mountains for
72 days before being found. When the food ran out, the living
were forced to eat the flesh of their deceased friends just to
survive. They too had to eat the meat with apologetic feelings.

Never boast about your humility and compassion

The above story should be the way you eat meat. Having
said that, there is no need to be dramatic about it. It should be
done very quietly in your mind so that no one else knows about
your intention. Otherwise, it could be a mocking issue among
people with whom you live. There is no need to create an
unnecessary atmosphere. Apart from that, in keeping it quiet

42 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
you can also avoid white sin catching up on you. Boasting about
your humility and compassion is white sin and can be very
difficult to detect. This is one of the many pitfalls on this path
to the ultimate truth. It would make you think that you are
a better person than the rest because you have compassion and
other people don’t. So be very careful!

You still eat your burger in the same manner as your
friends do when you go out for a meal but when everyone
begins to praise the meat on their plates, you have to be tactful
enough not to join in. Silence is a good way out, better still,
leading the party to change the subject of conversation.

How should a vegetarian act?

If you have been a vegetarian because you don’t
believe in killing animals for food, that is a very noble and
compassionate thought. Good for you and well done.
Nevertheless, there is something that you have to be careful

The vegetarian, however, should not patronise meat
eaters or feel disgusted by them. Eating meat has likely been
with humanity since day one. You have to admit that this is part
of the food chain and survival. This fact of life will be very
unlikely to change. So you must adjust yourself to fit in with

Supawan P. Panawong Green 43
others and cause as little fuss as possible. Never make people
feel uncomfortable in your company; respect their acts.

Eating meat does not make one become a worse
person in the same way that eating vegetables doesn’t make
one become a better person. Both vegetarians and meat eaters
have equal chance to enter Nirvana.

Hui Neng

When Hui Neng, the sixth Buddhist supreme patriarch
in China was on the run because people were after his life, he
spent a period of time in hiding with a group of hunters in the
forest. Hui Neng was already an Arahant, a fully enlightened
one, and was also a vegetarian. To the huntmen, Hui Neng was
just another man. There was no chance for the holy man to
practice vegetarianism while living with a bunch of hunters.
However, the wise man made no fuss, he chose to eat just the
vegetables cooked together with the meat. The bush men never
took any notice what Hui Neng ate.

Hui Neng story had coined a phrase neg pee chai, (Tia
Chew dialect) which means, ‘vegetable by meat’. My mother
first told me this true story and taught me to practise neg
pee chai when I had to. Although people nowadays are quite
open to vegetarianism and there is no reason why a vegetarian

44 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
should have to do that, this practice can, nevertheless, make
life easier for vegetarians under some eventual circumstances.

Split view

There are split views about whether Buddhist monks
should be vegetarians. One side says that monks should
propagate loving kindness and compassion and should be role
models for others; they should not eat flesh. The other side
argues that monks should lead a simple life and not create too
much fuss for people on whom they rely; they should eat
whatever they are given. This has been a debatable issue for
a long time. It is also a question whether the Buddha and his
followers ate meat or not. Most Thai monks are not vegetarians.

It is about how you eat and not what you eat

Whether you eat meat or vegetables, you must
contemplate that you are merely eating the four elements of
earth, water, air and fire so that you can survive and live to
fulfil your duty as a human being, that is, to enter Nirvana.
The Buddha set this discipline up so that you don’t eat your
food with greed. Indeed, both meat eaters and vegetarians can
eat their food with greed if they are not aware of themselves.
Vegetarian food can be elaborately prepared and taste
absolutely delicious so that one can easily forget meat.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 45
As a lay person and having to taking care of my family,
cooking delicious meals is my duty as a mother and a wife.
Like many others, delicious foods make my heart melts easily.
In the past, I often ate with greed when I put food in my mouth
too quickly. A few years ago, I found myself a way to eat food
with less greed by observing my taste buds. Before eating,
I would look at the food in front of me and watch my taste
buds. If the saliva came out, I would wait and keep on staring
at the food until my taste buds stopped producing saliva.
Then, I ate. It worked splendidly! I could overcome temptation.
After a few years of practice, I now have better control of my
taste buds every time I eat and I don’t have to stare at the food
as long as before. I want to pass on this practice to you.

You might think this concept is aimed to kill all joy
in eating, which obviously defies human nature. Please don’t
forget that we are on our mental journey to eternal peace.
Overcoming temptation is one of the uphill tasks you must do.
This has something to do with changing your bad mental
habit where temptation is placed. To change your mental
habit is to change your way of eating and not what you eat. You
can, therefore, either contemplate the four elements before
you eat your meal – the method of which Buddhist monks
must do – or you watch your taste buds instead. Please stick
with whichever way that may suit you as long as it prevents you
from eating food with greed. This noble way of eating will, in

46 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
return, increase your level of self-awareness, which is a very
good mental habit. This favourable mental routine will speed
up your journey to the Kingdom of God. You will be surprised
that it isn’t as bad as you think once you put it into practice.
You will have a totally new experience in eating. Try it!

The noble lady and the ailing Bhikkhu2

The following story can cover the two issues above
about eating food with contemplation and the historical fact
that the Buddha and his disciples might have been meat eaters

There was a noble lady during the Buddha’s time who
regularly made offerings to the Bhikkhus. One day, she knew
that an ailing Bhikkhu wished to eat meat soup. Unfortunately,
it was a lent day and there was no meat to buy in the market.
The lady decided to cut the flesh off her thigh and let the
servant make soup to be offered to the sick monk. The Buddha
came to the noble lady’s household on the next day and didn’t
see the lady. He knew that the lady had been in bed with a high
fever due to the wound. The Buddha performed a miracle
and the lady’s wound was healed. When the Buddha came back

Bhikkhu means Buddhist monk. This is the term that the Buddha used
to address his disciples.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 47
to the monastery, he visited the sick monk and asked him
whether he had contemplated the four elements before he ate
the soup. The monk answered that he hadn’t done it. The
Buddha condemned the monk’s wrongdoing and told him to
contemplate the four elements every time he ate food.

This factual story might indicate that the monks during
the Buddha’s time were not vegetarians. This fact might be
confirmed by yet another truthful event. Devadhat, the
Buddha’s cousin and disciple, once had conflict with the monks
and left the order to establish his own school of teaching. One
of the disciplines in his new establishment was calling for his
followers to be vegetarian so that he could distinguish his new
practice from the traditional doctrine led by the Buddha.3

Don’t steal

This moral precept means that you don’t take what does
not belong to you. The principle is the same as with the first
precept. Just follow your instincts and avoid anything that you
know for certain is wrong.

Devadhatt was the equivalent to Judas in Christianity. He was jealous
of the Buddha and made a few attempts to kill the worthy one but to
no avail.

48 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
The world has become very complex. Stealing on
a wider scale through economic manipulation and the banking
system is indeed happening. You can easily be part of this
immoral system without your knowing. Don’t worry about
that because you need to earn a living to feed yourself and
probably your family too. If you can choose a job (career) that
you know is totally stealing proved, it’s great! If not, it doesn’t
matter. We cannot do much about it because it means we
have to change the whole concept of how to run the world
economy. This might have to wait until you became the
president of the United States of America! By then, should your
mind not be corrupted by the invincible power of a state man,
you could then create a moral friendly world for us all. And
may God bless you all the way, protecting you from
assassination! As for now, let’s be realistic and stick to our
controlled action of not stealing…eh?

You may want to ask about ‘moral’ stealing, like Robin
Hood did while he was living in Sherwood of Nottingham.
I am not sure if we have many people liken Robin Hood these
days. However, if you are engaging in any form of moral
stealing, you should follow the rules in Thai wisdom:
1) Never rob from a poor family.
2) Never hurt or kill the people from whom you rob.
3) Take only what you really need.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 49
I honestly cannot imagine any robbers these days who
would follow such noble guidelines, but I am quite sure that it
did happen in Thai society when the enlightening culture was
flourishing. Both robber and the host had respect for each other.
The following story also depicts the generosity and the spirit
of giving of the Thai ancestors.

Take the meat with you!

It is a well known fact that old people sleep less. Being
in a warm country, old Thai people often got up before the
crack of dawn and sat quietly in a dark corner of the house,
chewing their betel nuts away. This also happened to an old
lady in this particular household. She had been up for some
time and sat in her usual corner by her betel basket preparing
her betel leaves and nuts. This early morning hour, before the
first light had been cast over the world, was the best time for
a thief to do his job. A thief quietly went up the few steps by
the kitchen and stole something. The old lady could hear the
sounds but she didn’t say or do anything to scare the thief away
until she was quite sure that the thief had finished his business
and was about to go down the steps. She called out towards
the kitchen which was only a few metres away from where
she sat. The old lady spoke gently in her usual kind voice as if
the intruder was one of her family’s members:

50 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
“ There is a piece of meat on the shelf. I cooked it
yesterday. Take it with you as well!”

The thief accepted the offer and disappeared into the

Pao Boon Jin

This following Chinese story happened during the time
when China was rich with ethical and moral teaching influenced
by Confucius. It also involved stealing which needed a very wise
judge to trial the case.

There was a father who had two sons. The eldest son
was well off and the other was poor. Although the father was
living with the elder son, he was not very happy because the
son was very careful and tight with his money. The father had
a very small allowance from his wealthy son each month, and
the poor brother received nothing. The father had to limit his
own spending so that he could give some of his monthly
allowance to his other son who had to struggle to get by. Out
of self-respect, the father would not ask for more money
no matter how short he was at times.

There was a time when the younger son urgently
needed more money. He came to his father as usual and told

Supawan P. Panawong Green 51
him about the problem, to which the father replied, “I am sorry
son, I really cannot help you this time because I have given
you all my monthly allowance and I have nothing left with me
at the moment.”
The son begged, “But father, you must talk to big brother
for me. If you talk to him, I am sure, he would help me out.”
The father found that it was too humiliating for him
to ask his own son for money and didn’t know what to do. In
helping his young son, the father decided that he would steal
from his elder son instead. He knew that his son kept his money
in a drawer by his bed.

The father waited until the middle of the night
when his son was fast asleep. He crept into the dark bedroom,
pulled out the drawer and searched for money. The son was
woken up by the noise and thinking that it was a burglar,
he grabbed hold of a baton underneath his bed and hit the
intruder as hard as he could. He heard the scream of pain and
the sound of a person fall to the floor. He quickly lit a candle,
and found to his horror that the man who lay dead on the floor
was his own father!

This case was brought to a local judge who passed
a verdict of ‘not guilty’ on the son. The simple reason was that
the son did not deliberately kill the father; he thought it was
an intruder and he had the right to defend himself. However,

52 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
the public’s views were split and most of them were not happy
with the verdict but could not find enough reason to support
their views. In the end, the honourable Poa Boon Jin (sometime
called Poa Gong) was called in to reopen the case. He was
very famous for his wisdom and his use of moral judgement.
The son was once again brought into the court room and this
time in front of the wisest judge in China. After he had studied
the case, Poa Gong condemned the local judge for lacking
insight and being unable to solve this case wisely. To Poa Gong,
the nature of the case was clear enough to deserve the guilty
verdict. He said the two famous lines which subsequently had
a great impact on people. They were:

“Father steals because of bad son. Having good son,
father has no need to steal”

Poa Gong looked angrily at the prisoner with his head
bowed down in front of him and said:

“Had you practised your filial piety and not been too
stingy with your own father, he would have been happy to live
with you and felt free to talk and discuss anything with you.
Your father was forced to steal from you because you didn’t
practice your filial duty. You deserve to be punished.”

Everyone in court cheered and was happy with the
explanation and the guilty verdict.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 53
Chapter 5

Love, sex and relationships

Don’t commit adultery

In a world where people are facing moral chaos,
committing adultery has gradually become a common event.
This is a very big issue to talk about. I can only share with you
the major points that are relevant to your need. I certainly
do not expect everyone to agree with me but I hope that you
might since you have agreed to walk the path to find your
true self.

Don’t do it again

It may be that you are married and you have
committed adultery before. Let’s say your marriage hasn’t been
too bad and your adultery was a genuine mistake. You might
have been found out by your partner or you might not. I am
sure that you experienced lots of guilt and shame as well as
trouble. If you have been forgiven but your guilt and shame
still bother you, my advice is that you must try to forgive
yourself. You cannot turn the clock back – what done is done.
Learn from your mistake, make it up to your partner and don’t
do it again. You won’t be qualified to walk this path and you
will not find your real self if you keep on making the same
mistake over and over again. It doesn’t matter how many
times you have cheated on your partner, once you pick up this
book and you want to carry on with this mental journey, you
must stop right away. You have to be strong and get your
moral act straight right now.

Do the right thing and be very patient

If you are very unhappy with your marriage for
whatever reasons, sort your problems out in a righteous
manner as best as you can. Divorce if you must so that you
can keep your sanity intact. If you have no choice and are
cornered to bear the suffering because there might be children
involved, you are doing the right thing because you put your
children first. Please be very patient, my work is designed to
help you. At this point, it is important for you to be extremely
patient. If you are, however, experiencing a great deal of mental
pain because of your rocky relationship, I advise you to engage
in vipassana meditation sooner than later.

56 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
Being single and hoping to have a stable relationship

If you are single and quite young, mid teens to twenty
something, you probably have found out about the whole new
experience of sex and relationships. For some reason, you
have also been drawn to this book and you want to give it a go.
How are you going to handle sex and relationships from this
point onward?

I am going to give you a little bit of sex education
which is rather different from what you have learnt. No, it isn’t
about birds and bees. This sex education, however, is on the
basis of understanding the intention of Mother Nature. I am
a mother of three teenage sons and also see the ultimate truth.
This probably earns me the right to talk on behalf of Mother

The strategy for procreation

Every existing natural phenomenon has its own reason.
Instinct is placed in humans and animals for a reason too.
Instinct is the term that scientists use when they cannot explain
phenomena logically and rationally. To Mother Nature, instinct
is an integral tool she uses so that certain jobs can be done
for her. As far as instinct is concerned, both humans and animals
follow it naturally without having to learn much.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 57
Sexual instinct is the most powerful feeling that Mother
Nature bestows on humans and animals for one sole reason –
procreation. Mother Nature gradually prepares boys and girls
by giving them the hormones so that their bodies will be ready
to reproduce. Puberty is the stage when the physical body
begins to get ready for the sexual act. The instinctive powerful
sexual attraction resulting from hormones (chemistry) at the
right age is also Mother Nature’s strategy in trying to bring
a man and a woman intimately together so that they will be
ready to do the reproductive work for her.


Sexual intercourse is a painful act that no one wants to
do without a reward. So Mother Nature gives us an incentive,
which is substantial enough to make two people perform
sexual act. Without the bribery such as the intimate bodily
pleasure and orgasm, humanity would be extinct in no time
at all. Apparently orgasm is supposed to be the best physical
feeling that a human body can ever achieve.

Nevertheless, the whole of the sexual act, which
happens instinctively, exists for one sole reason and that is to
add another human being to the world. Without the tools of
hormones and orgasm, sexual acts would not happen. Humans
and animals are equal as far as sexual activity is concerned. We

58 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
basically do the same thing to serve Mother Nature’s purpose.
This is the way I see sex from Mother Nature’s point of view.
Anyway, these are all about the chemistry and the mechanical
sides. You may wonder where would love fit into all these?

The ingredients of Love

It isn’t easy to understand love. There is no straight-
forward feeling or act that can be called love. However, we can
express our love towards someone by being kind, caring,
understanding, thoughtful, gentle, helpful, considerate, patient
and so on. Once these moral ingredients are thrown in together,
the outcome is a big pot of love. Only human are capable of
expressing such beautiful emotion such as love. All those
ingredients are moral emotions which are also gifts from
Mother Nature and they distinguish human from animals.
Without love, people would act according to their sexual
instincts, which is no different from that of animals.

So the factors that cause two people clicked and
intimately bond together are chemistry and love. If you have
both combinations, you will be a very lucky person. You are
able to experience the most special and enjoyable physical and
mental feelings humans can achieve. Without love, the sexual
act is merely instinctive. There are four functions in which
humans and animals are equal; they are eating, getting rid of
the excess, sleeping and having sex.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 59
What makes human head and shoulder above animal is
our moral emotion, obligation commitment and responsibility.
These beautiful qualities can be well cultivated in humans;
animals cannot do as well as us. Should a couple want to have
a long lasting relationship, they have to cultivate love and not
just having sex. But when you are young and sexually active, it
is very difficult to separate love from sex. This is the part
where you need not only experience in life but wisdom too.

Sex without love

We all know that a relationship based on sex and
without love does not last. This type of relationship can be
easily spotted. When one partner doesn’t have enough sex, there
are a lot of sulking, discontentment, agitation, frustration,
emotional blackmailing, etc. going on in the relationship. Things
can turn very nasty if one partner has no love towards the other.
This type of relationship usually incurs domestic violence when
wives are often raped by their own husbands and cornered to
scream in silence.

Midlife crisis

When the so called ‘midlife crisis’ finally arrives, it is
the challenging time for you to prove to yourself how much
you understand and value love. When sexual performance is on

60 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
the decrease, without wisdom, most men and probably some
women too would think they are less attractive and begin to
lose their confidence. You might think that Viagara is a godsend
and the best thing that technology could bring to men. The
wisdom says this magic pill is nothing more than the
compensation of the missing reward or sweets that Mother
Nature grants us for doing the big job for her. Entering
middle age doesn’t necessary have to be a ‘crisis’. In the contrary,
the experience of those past years should give middle-agers
enough wisdom to understand life better than fresh young
people. This life experience should allow them to step over
this significant threshold with dignity and confidence, and not
the other way round.

If you value love more than sex, you will stick with your
marriage vow until death us do part. Unfortunately, judging
from the shocking divorce statistic which has shaken the
backbone of our family institution, it can only point to one
thing – people haven’t understood love well enough.

Craving for sweets

Without the real wisdom regarding the intention of
Mother Nature, human takes the reward for granted and
become greedy. The way grown men and women craving for
their sexual rewards is no difference from the way young

Supawan P. Panawong Green 61
children cry for their sweets. Every time kids see a chocolates
bar or a bag of sweets, they would excitedly jump up and down
with eyes wide open. So would adults with sex. This is the main
reason why the majority of serious crimes happening in society
right now are sex related. Finally, they are led to one thing –
craving for sexual sweets.

The degrading human

The abuse, the corruption and the exploitation of this
bag of sexual rewards has degraded humans below the animal
level. The powerful sexual instinct and the will to procreate
make men and animal equal. But if we look closer, animals have
sex only during the mating season so that they can produce
their offspring for Mother Nature – the assignment. When the
time comes, some animals like salmons, crabs and penguins
would make the most spectacular journey of a life time to their
breeding ground so that they can lay eggs and complete their
life duty. Then, animals would go off sex until the mating
season comes round again, some don’t live till the next round!
They don’t have excessive sex like human do – especially sex on

Animals don’t exploit Mother Nature of her rewards
either. The contraception and viagara are ways of eating the
sweets without wanting to take the responsibility. Still, these
two items can be compromised for the sake of some (worldly)

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happiness that presumably we are entitled for. But how can
we place ourselves head and shoulder above animals when we
have all these sex-related problems such as rape, paedophile,
prostitution and human trafficking? Animals cannot turn sex
into a multi billion pound industry and reduce human to sex
slaves, can they? Human trafficking is one of the most brutal
international organised crimes that inflict immense suffering
on their own kind. All these sex-related problems have made
human far worse than animals and we should be ashamed of

What makes human excel above animals

You can see that this third moral precept – not
committing adultery all the way to sex related problems – is not
easy to practice at all if you don’t understand the intention of
Mother Nature. The only way man can excel above animals is
our artistic skill in cultivating and expressing love as well as
taking responsibility of our own actions. If man can exploit
the gift of moral emotions like we do with sexual sweets, our
global society won’t be in this mess. This is also to guarantee
that when Mother Nature wants to take her bag of sweets
away, we can easily let go and move on to something that is far
greater than sex – love. Without this wisdom, we are wasting
our time and resources in trying to solve the sex-related crimes,
which are the tail of the problems.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 63
Cultivate love

When you are young and lack experience in life, it is
very difficult to separate sex and love. Love can only be
understood through age, maturity and life experience. When
two people spend 30 years or so of their life together, raise
children and go through thick and thin, in sickness and in
health, love grows in between those times like a tree spreading
its branches, leaves, flowers and fruits. As long as both persons
nurture this love tree with plenty of moral emotions and
responsibility – kindness, care, understanding, forgiving,
patience, etc. – it will certainly grow stronger just like any tree
that is well looked after. This is an experience that you can only
learn through the process of life, and unfortunately there is no
short-cut to it. There is no definite formula of how to make
the love tree grow either. Everyone is an individual; you just
have to learn and pick up your own ingredients to make this
love recipe work for you. Though I am certain of one necessary
ingredient to make love grows – patience and plenty of it!

When you reach the state and age where sex is less or
not at all involved, and when you look at your partner’s wrinkled
face, you can still see the beauty through those age-lines and
you can naturally express your moral emotions without realising
it, this is when you can truly claim that you know love. And
you are a very lucky person indeed because by doing all those

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difficult tasks to keep your marriage and family survive, you
will have better chance to know your true self and earn your
long lasting peace.

Responsibility and commitment

We cannot talk about love, sex and relationships
without talking about responsibility and commitment. Mother
Nature brings two persons together for one sole reason and
that is to add another human being into this world. Once again,
mother nature uses her crucial tools – hormones and instinct –
to make sure that a young new life will be looked after, taken
care of and survive. The whole of the pregnancy, child birth
and the bonding between mother and child is pure magical
work of Mother Nature that needs no scientific explanation.
Everything has been carefully and perfectly worked out so that
a human can be born, grow up and live to fulfil its own life

The amazing network of pregnancy

When a woman is pregnant, the body is amazingly
prepared to hold a baby until it is ready to be delivered. Despite
its most complex network, the whole system runs smoothly
and amazingly. Only women can experience the most powerful
maternal instinct towards the baby to whom she gave birth.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 65
All nursing mothers have the experience of their breast milk
rushing to their breasts every time their babies cry for feeds. I
had a taste of such a beautiful and special experience, so much
that I had to tell myself I was so lucky to be a mother! Without
such beautiful moral emotions, all mothers would just have
one child and no more or none at all and the human race would
be extinct!

Maternal instinct

My Eureka experience gives me the licence to go a bit
deeper into the heart of Mother Nature and allow me to
understand why such beautiful feelings are given to a mother.
Once again, this is the bribery – yet another bag of sweeties –
that the almighty bestows on mothers but this time we call
‘mother instinct’. This series of wonderful moral emotions (gift)
is to guarantee that a woman would look after her new born
so that this baby can survive and live into his/her adulthood
and another cycle of life will begin. Without this healthy
instinct (bag of reward), who is going to burden this huge
responsibility of looking after an infant who does nothing
but cry, sleep, eat and dirty itself ? Looking after babies and
children is extremely hard work. This is a well known fact
that all mothers know. Therefore, Mother Nature grants this
amazing moral obligation such as the powerful maternal
instinct so that mother and child can emotionally cement

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together. This is the most unique bonding relationship between
two humans that no other relationship can ever match.

Equal share

As a matter of fact, human and animals have equal
share of this bag of sweets. Animals have the duty to look after
their brood just like human have. But with our physical
advantage (bigger brains), we have better opportunity and skill
to harness and elaborate this divined gift. It is an extraordinary
privilege for a mother to be able to devote her consistent care
and affection to her infant. Without this unconditional parental
love, humanity and the entire animal kingdom will never

Traditional family

A natural family is cemented by the biological bonds
and natural affections between parents and their offspring.

All mothers instinctively have a close bond with their babies. Societies
that have more mothers abandon their babies show the sickness of that
society. This event is on the increase in our society. In the end, we have
to come back to blame the cause that makes mothers break away from
that fundamental powerful instinct; they mainly stem from political,
financial and social reasons. Female infanticide in China is purely politics.
It means that something has gone very wrong in that society. In the end,
we have to talk about the right kind of culture (enlightening culture)
which can help to maintain the balance of nature.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 67
Having both parents to bring up a child is a natural function
of which people nowadays have begun to lose track. Nature
creates both male and female with distinctive purposes. Apart
from procreation, male and female are supposed to play
different roles in bringing up a child. One is a provider and one
is a homestead. A healthy family unit means both male and
female play their parts right. A man needs a woman and
a woman also needs a man. A well balanced child needs to have
the input from both father and mother. The family itself reflects
the needs of all the parties especially of a child who requires
many years of care and attention.

It doesn’t matter whether the couple is married or not.
As long as they are living together as a family unit, love, take
responsibility and commit to one another through thick and
through thin, those are the real matters. Love is moral in itself
even without a piece of legal paper. A traditional family is the
natural lay out engineered by Mother Nature with which
humanity should not tamper.

Social change has caused a great number of children
these days to grow up in a single parent family. All single
parents realise how difficult it is to bring up a child on their
own. Research has shown that children from a single parent
family tend to have more psychological problems than those
from two parent families. This result tries to tell us that it is

68 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
unnatural for a child to grow up in a single parent family.
Women have proved themselves that they can do what men
can in a lot of aspects. It is indeed a great liberation for women.
Nevertheless, this freedom doesn’t come without a price.

Nature’s will

I know that I would be crucified for saying that
a woman’s job is at home. I don’t totally adhere to that point,
but I am still very much in favour of mothers spending more
time with their children because this is nature’s will. I cannot
stop the world from spinning, nor could I stop social change. I
even know that working class families need to have two incomes
to make a family survive even in rich countries, not to mention
the poor countries where all mothers have to work extremely
hard to support their families. Nevertheless, I need to emphasise
that a traditional family is the intention of Mother Nature.

Ladder to peace and harmony

Family institution is the backbone of every society
since…God knows when. Why? Because this is the key factor
for a well-balanced and peaceful society and a nation. A child’s
heart is liken a clean new canvas, on which parents could paint
whatever pictures. As children grow into their adulthood, not
only their shoes sizes grow with them, but also their moral

Supawan P. Panawong Green 69
behaviour. The emotional and psychological qualities, good or
bad, are the outcome that parents have painted on their
children’s heart. Ultimately it is mothers’ hands and hearts that
shape and mould the nation in the rear. For every good man,
there is a better woman behind.

It then comes down to governments to make life easier
for couples so that they can raise a successful family without
much financial struggle to begin with. If every child could be
brought up in a warm and stable family, the final outcome
will certainly affect all of us because we will be part of a stable
and harmonious society too. I don’t go as far as achieving a
crime-proof society but less havoc way of life will do – which
already seems like a far-fetch concept. Let’s not forget our
prime purpose of life which is to find eternal peace. This aim
can be achieved easier should we have a chance to live in a more
stable and peaceful society. And how we can build such an ideal
culture, it must begin at this backbone institution first – family.

That’s why we need to back and tie this idealism into
the enlightening culture. When religious and political leaders
have wisdom as described above, and respect the workings of
nature, they can at least make this mental journey to ultimate
freedom possible by creating the right kind of culture.5

The enlightening culture has been elaborated in my book called
A Handful of Leaves

70 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
Tampering with nature

As far as a natural family unit is concerned, it is alarming
to see humanity tamper with nature even further. The advanced
technology which can engineer the procreation of humans
causes new social phenomena which could have never
happened in the past. We have entered into the new era of
making designer babies. Let’s see what this columnist described
our horrifying futuristic society.

“We are clearly moving to a situation in which children
are created to some ideal specification and only loosely
connected to those from whom they receive their genes. That is, if
the genes are not themselves produced in the laboratory. We are
told that, within the next 20 or 30 years, it will be commonplace
for women to store their eggs before the age of 30, for them to
choose sperm from donors who fit their ideal specifications, for
them to actually produce their children – or have them produced
by someone else – when they are in their 60s, or later. There will
be clones and vats full of eggs and embryos, waiting on the
convenience of selfish adults, to be used or thrown away at will.”6

Artificial insemination has allowed a single woman to
have a child without having to live with her male counterpart;

By Anthony O’Hear, Daily Mail, page 10 Monday, May 8, 2000

Supawan P. Panawong Green 71
lesbian couples can also have children in the same way. Gay
couples have begun to have children through surrogacy.
Pregnancy has been delayed for women to pursue their career.
The IVF program makes it possible even for women at post
menopause to have children. But please don’t think that we
can have it all without paying a price. It has been reported that
babies conceived using fertility treatments – induced ovulation,
artificial insemination and in-vitro (test-tube) fertilisation – are
more likely to have birth defect. All these social events are
unnatural and defy nature. This has plunged our already
complicated society into deeper impediment, which is totally

There was a story about the dilemma of the surrogate
twins who were born without identifiable biological or
legal parents. Six-months-old Emma and Danielle were
conceived in a Greek laboratory from sperm donated by an
anonymous American at a Danish laboratory and the eggs of
an unknown British woman. They were implanted into the
womb of a British surrogate mother who had made an
arrangement with an Italian man and his Portuguese wife. When
the couple found out that the twins were girls, they didn’t
want them and told the surrogate mother to abort the twins.
Instead the surrogate mother went through an agency in
America who provided her a lesbian couple who wanted to
adopt the twins. As the story went, now the surrogate mother

72 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
and the lesbian couple have fallen out over the 25,000 medical
bill. The babies are looked after by a nanny.7

We are treading on very dangerous ground when we
foolishly think that we can overcome nature. No matter what
good reasons are brought up, the bottom line is that we are
seriously tampering with nature. It is Mother Nature who has
the last say and certainly not us humans. Maybe the HIV virus,
AIDS the return of bacteria that resists any antibiotics and all
kinds of weird diseases can tell us something. This is, however,
a time bomb that we might not live to witness the pending

Bypass sex

Buddhist monks especially those who are ordained at
a young age may defy the powerful sexual instinct and bypass
sexual experiences, but only a handful of them truly survive –
the determined ones who honestly commit to their ultimate
enlightenment. Provided that monks stick with their strict
regime of practice, which involve heavily on meditation, they
will experience the more refined inner peace. This, in return,
can smooth over their powerful sexual desire and compensate
their sexual needs.

Daily Mail. Monday, May 8, 2000

Supawan P. Panawong Green 73
Although monastic life is a short cut to eternity, it is
certainly not for everyone. This book is therefore designed
for you who want to lead a normal life as well as wanting to
find eternal peace. Although it is much more difficult to do so,
it is not at all impossible if only you try a bit harder.

Self respect

The journey to discover your true self requires high
level of self-respect. So never do anything that might make you
lose your self-respect, especially if you are a woman. Follow
your instincts of shame and guilt. Life isn’t worth much if you
lose your self-respect! More importantly, you will never succeed
in finding your real self should you lose your self-respect.
Resisting temptation is the most difficult part of this mental
journey, that’s why this book can take you only half way to
your place of destination. To reclaim your true self, you must,
later on, pay attention to cultivating your meditation skill –
bringing your mental self back home.


Choosing the right partner who has the same level of
understanding as you is the most important factor to make
a marriage work. Never rush into a relationship until you are
sure about it. According to the Buddha, the significant factor

74 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
that can bond a couple together is the moral compatibility of
the two people. If one partner has much higher moral ground
than the other or vice versa, it is very unlikely that the
relationship will survive. Therefore, it is very important to
choose someone who is morally compatible. By sticking to
your own set of moral, it is very likely that you will attract
the type of person who has similar quality to yours.

The karmic factor

If you are single, hate to be alone and desperately
want to find Mr. or Miss Right to be your intimate partner, I
do understand your feelings. Apart from the physical attraction
and the chemistry that make two people clicked, there is, in
fact, a third factor – karma! The karmic factor will engineer
two people to find each other somehow – and sometime in the
most unexpected and amazing situation. The factor might
correspond to this famous saying: “you don’t find love but love
finds you.” But please don’t get too carried away just yet. It
isn’t a black and white matter.

As far as karma is concerned, it can be both your
previous good and bad karma that cause you to stumble upon
a total stranger and end up spend a lifetime together. If it was
your good karma, it is very likely that the relationship would
be less troublesome, which is a more truthful approach. I don’t

Supawan P. Panawong Green 75
want to give you a false concept such as that if your previous
karma was good, everything would be all rosy. That is not
the reality because life is liken to a big roller coaster – the ups
and downs are part of true living. In the contrary, if it was the
bad karma that brought two people together, it could be
paying debt time – can be quite scary! It depends on who owed
who in the past. I am sure you have seen enough examples
from people surrounding you as well as in the daily papers.
Sometime it is very difficult for the third party to understand
why certain people don’t just walk away from their brutal
relationship, why take the punishment and bear the immense
pain. Well, this is karma for you.

Having heard that, please don’t be panic. Bad karmic
consequences can be diluted and made less serious provided
that you understand how karma works. It very much depends
on the present karma, which are totally within your control.
It is very important you understand the law of karma so that
you know what to expect as well as having a chance to plan
your future a bit better. I will talk about karma in my later

Nothing is perfect

No matter what kind of life you lead, married or single,
with or without a family, remember that no one can possibly

76 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
have everything perfect in life. Everyone has problems
compatible to their age, gender and status. Remember that
life is nothing more than a continuous roller coaster. At least
you can get off one at a theme park but not in real life, not
until you die. For your information, death will not end all
your problems either, not yet! Without knowing the true
purpose of life, we won’t be able to straighten all these
important issues of life.

The truth about life is that even though you don’t
look for trouble, trouble will look for you one way or another
and thrust on you without invitation. So there is no need to
compare, compete or get jealous of anyone. Trust me, everyone
on this planet – rich or poor, high or low – has equal share of
problems all the same. Should you know the ultimate purpose
of life and succeed to find your true self by walking this noble
path, you will be able to overcome challenges and obstacles
that life throw at you.

The quicker you know, the better

When you can understand all I said above, you’ll have
a better chance to grow your love tree so that you can cherish
the beautiful relationship with your loved ones. The sooner you
know, the better. Don’t forget the crucial ingredient, which
makes a relationship work – patience and plenty of them!

Supawan P. Panawong Green 77
Before I tell you a love-related story, please bear with
this brief overture. Love doesn’t only burn but also bites
terribly too. There is hardly anyone who can escape from the
pain resulting from love, sex and relationships. The following
story tells us how love and infatuation could bite and burn
a young monk and how the Buddha taught his disciples to
overcome such powerful instinctive feelings. Western people
may find this story rather offensive and even class it as a taboo.
Please do understand that this event happened in India over
2,500 years ago and the Buddha merely stated the painful truth
of life. I urge you not to use our modern standard to judge
people of a different time and culture. Instead, please try to
capture the significant concept that this story intend to deliver.


During the Buddha’s time in the city of Rajagaha (or
Rajgir in modern India) ruled by King Bimbisara, there was
a very famous prostitute named Sirima. Every man not only in
this city but even far away had heard of her irresistible charm
and most striking beauty. It was a well-known fact that men in
Rajagaha would pay up to 10008 so that they could spend

The money currency used in the Buddha’s time was called gahapana
but I use pounds sterling here just for the sake of easy writing and

78 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
a night with Sirima. It was hardly a surprise that Sirima had
made a great fortune out of her profession since there were
plenty of men queuing up just to have a glimpse of her.

Once, Sirima was approached by a woman named
Utara who gave her 7000 so that she could entertain her
husband for her for seven days. Utara was a devout Buddhist
and wanted to make a great offering to the Buddha and the
Sangha (monk order), but her husband was not a Buddhist.
To be able to get on with her alms offering, her father sent
7000 to his daughter and advised her to hire Sirima to
entertain her husband so that she could be relieved for seven
days. This arrangement worked out very well. The husband
was overwhelmed by Sirima’s magnetic beauty and charm. He
completely forgot his wife and let her get on with the alms
offering without bothering her.

On the seventh day, the husband looked out of the
window and saw his wife busy in the kitchen. She was covered
with sweat and soot from cooking over the huge charcoal
stove. From the distance, the husband actually looked at his
wife with disdain and smiled with contempt. However, Sirima
did not know the true intention of that smile. Although she
was hired to do a job, she couldn’t help feeling possessive
towards the man whom she was paid for to be with. Then, her
jealousy had the better of her. She was curious to know at

Supawan P. Panawong Green 79
whom her client was smiling. She looked out of the window
in the same direction as the man did and she saw Utara.

Acting out of fierce resentment, Sirima left her client
behind in the room and rushed downstairs heading towards
the direction of the kitchen and had every intention to hurt
Utara by any means. Her renowned beauty was suddenly
overshadowed by her ugly rage. Utara was, by contrast,
a noble, intelligent and kind lady. She could tell right away
what was on the prostitute’s mind when Sirima suddenly
stormed into the kitchen and went straight towards the hot oil
pan. Utara quickly prayed to the Buddha and asked for her good
karma to protect her from any pending danger.

In front of all the horrified faces of the servants,
Sirima attempted to throw a spoon of hot oil on Utara’s face.
Although the danger was imminent, Utara appeared to be calm
and remained in control of herself. She was praying to the
Buddha for his protection all the while the horrifying incident
was happening. Her prayers were answered when Sirima’s first
vicious attempt failed. The hot oil although splashed onto
Utara’s face, it didn’t burn her for some reason. Sirima tried
again for the second time but this time she missed and so did
the third time. The whole kitchen was overpowered by
terrified screams of household workers, except Utara who
managed to keep her calm. The servant didn’t know how

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to stop the frightening heated situation that unexpectedly
pounced on them.

After the third failed attempt, Sirima suddenly retreated
all by herself. She felt as if she was just woken up from
a very bad dream and abruptly came to her senses. She then
realised how wrong she was and felt terribly guilty in letting
anger had the better of her. She fell down onto her knees,
head bent with both hands clutched hard together and her
whole body trembled with fright. Utara not only had no hatred
towards her supposed to be enemy, she also expressed her
worry and kindness for Sirima. She slowly moved towards the
guilt-stricken prostitute and kneeled down beside her. The noble
lady gently put her hand on Sirima’s shoulder and gave her
a soft squeeze in a consoling manner. As she was gently stroking
Sirima’s dark and shiny hair, Utara said in a very calm tone
of voice:
“Sister, why did you choose to do such awful karma?”
Having heard the serene voice, Sirima slowly raised her
head up and looked at the land-lady whom she had intended
to hurt moments ago. Sirima was taken aback by the most
unusual kindness she was receiving. Had Utara shouted at her
and showed her anger, she would have felt better. The unique
compassion of the noble lady made Sirima feeling even more
guilty. She cried uncontrollably and her voice trembled as she
tried to say:

Supawan P. Panawong Green 81
“Mistress, why aren’t you angry at me? You are
supposed to be jealous of me and not the other way round.
I attempted to do the most wicked karma to you but how can
you not hate me and be angry with me? How can you be so
calm and kind to me?”
“It is the sublime Buddha who taught me how to remain
calm and at peace. It is him who taught me how to overcome
anger and jealousy. Now, you can understand why I hired you
to look after my husband for seven days so that I could have
the time to do the great offering to the Worthy one and his
Bhikkhus,”9 Utara explained.

Sirima listened attentively to Utara. Her heart was filled
up with great delight on hearing the word “Buddha” and how
he could transform people’s lives. She begged Utara to take her
to see the Buddha. Upon the first meeting with the Buddha
and listening to his teaching, Sirima attained the first level of
holiness. Sirima became a faithful Buddhist and gave daily
offerings to eight monks at her home. But monks who were
not yet holy, looked forward to visiting Sirima and her
enchanting beauty.”

One day a monk who had heard of Sirima’s beauty finally
had the chance to collect alms food from her. Sirima was ill

Bikkhus means monks

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on that day, but she was still so beautiful and the monk could
not help taking glimpses at her. He was filled with lust and
infatuation the whole day, and would not even eat the food
she gave him as it was his only link to Sirima.

On that night, Sirima died suddenly. Since she was one
of the main supporters of the Buddha, King Bimbisara
informed the Buddha about the news. The Buddha straight
away found a way to teach his love bitten disciple as well as
many other monks who were drawn to Sirima’s beauty. The
Buddha passed on the message to King Bimbisara and told
him to shift Sirima’s body to the open grave situated in the south
gate of the city.
“Set up guards to watch over Sirima’s body and make
sure that no animals can get hold of it. Then, tell the subjects
to get everyone in town to gather at the graveyard three days
from now,” the Buddha sent the message to King Bimbisara
who granted his wish right away.

Three days later, a crowd of people began to build up at
the graveyard according to the order of the King. Only old
people and children were allowed to stay home. The Buddha
told all his Bhikkhus to follow him to the graveyard. The love
sick monk was so pleased that he was going to see Sirima for
one last time. He had not been sleeping nor eating since the day
he saw Sirima.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 83
Just like any other corpse in the graveyard, from once
being a beautiful lady in town, she had now been reduced to
a discoloured and festering corpse. Liquid was dripping out of
the different splits of her body. There was no sign of beauty
left any longer. While waiting for the Buddha to arrive, the
crowd could not help but turn their heads away from the
decomposing body.

At the graveyard, the Buddha was standing at
a prominent place surrounded by his Bhikkhus, Bhikkhunis,
male and female followers. He then asked King Bimbisara who
was standing by his side:
“Your majesty, who is that corpse?”
“That is the body of Sirima, my Lord,” the King
“So, that is Sirima,” the Buddha confirmed the
King’s answer and nodded his head slowly. He then continued:
“Your majesty, please ask one of your servants to
speak up loudly in the crowd right now. See if there is any
man who is willing to pay 1000 for Sirima.”
The King’s servant took the order and shouted into the
crowd and asked people whether anyone would be willing to
pay 1000 for Sirima. The crowd was unusually quiet. Most of
the men’s heads dropped low and avoided looking at the
King’s man for fear that they might give out the wrong
message. The king’s servant gradually dropped the price down

84 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
from 1000 to 500, 100, 50, 10, 5, 1, 50 pence to one
penny but no one spoke up to claim Sirima. King Bimbisara
informed the Buddha that no one would have Sirima even
though she was given away for free.
The Buddha paused a little and said: “Listen carefully
Bhikkhus. Look at Sirima. This is the woman who used to be
the most desirable object for so many people. Just not long
ago, men in Rajagaha would queue up to pay 1000 just to be
with her for a day. There have been only three days since she
died but no one wants her even for free. This beautiful body
has ceased to live and is being conditioned by the law of change.
This is the truth of this body. What happens to this body also
happens to other bodies. What happens to other bodies also
happens to this body.
Listen Bhikkhus, look at this rotten body which gives
out a horrible smell. It has bones, blood, flesh and skin which
had been created so perfectly by karma. This body is very sad
indeed because it is subject to the law of change and it is not
long lasting. Yet, ignorant people still think of this body with
great pleasure, easily develop infatuation and want to cling to
No sooner had the Buddha finished his teaching than
a great number of Bhikkhus and lay people understood his
teaching and gained different levels of enlightenment. The
young monk who had been bitten by love and infatuation, also
reached the first level of holiness.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 85
Chapter 6

Lies & intoxication

Don’t lie

Lying is yet another difficult precept to observe. This is
because wrong speech comes out so quickly that it is often too
late to stop by the time you realise what you have said. Besides,
the real world we are living in revolves around lies, either true
lies or white lies. Someone said: without lies, humanity would
perish of despair and boredom, and the world might stop

A straightforward lie often comes with fear and greed.
Fear and greed are the two feelings that lean against each other.
If you want something so badly, you might lie to get what you
want. Once you have it, you are afraid of losing it. The most
common fears are that of losing material wealth and of losing
face. These two types of fear cause people to lie through their
teeth, which is common in our modern society.

Speaking the truth make you feel good and don’t
invite worries that will grow into unnecessary trouble. Please
remember that being truthful can cleanse your mind. This will
lead you to easily uncover your true self later on. Observing
this precept is like taking a thick layer of dirt off your mind
first so that you can easily deal with the more subtle dirt when
you engage in your vipassana meditation. It is therefore
important to do your best to keep up with this precept.

At this stage you should really stop all kinds of untruthful
words which directly get other people into trouble. These are
straightforward lies and cheating that you should
not find difficult to stop if you want to walk the path. Apart
from that, you have to use your own judgement and listen to
your instincts of guilt and shame again. If there is anything
that you need to say while you hear the echo in your head
that tells you not to say it, you must resist your temptation.
Think well before you say it. Silence is always a good solution.

Truth hurts

Telling the truth is not always easy. It very much depends
on to whom you talk and what his or her personality is like.
Some people can take constructive criticism, but some can’t.
Facing the negative truth about ourselves is always painful. You
need a great deal of courage to handle it. If you are the one
who has to tell the truth and your truthful words will definitely
hurt people, especially your loved ones, these are a few tips.

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1) Check your intention. Make sure you want to point
out the truth to someone because you mean well to that person
and not for other reason. Don’t do it to boost your own ego.

2) Be tactful and choose the right time. Never humiliate
and belittle people especially in front of others. Work out all
the pros and cons especially if you know the person is mentally
fragile. You must also be able to handle the situation if the
person you confront could not handle the truth and/or react

If the other party do not want your help, you might need
to back off, let go for now and know that it is their loss. At
least, you have done your best. Apologise if you must and end
the matter in a friendly term. There is no definite formula of
how to do it; you just have to use your own judgement to work
it out. Make sure you have all the facts right first.

3) If you are the one who has to face the truth yourself,
listen carefully and face it with great courage. If it isn’t true
because the fact isn’t right, do not get angry; explain in a calm
manner and end the matter in a peaceful way. Don’t make the
other party feel guilty and awkward. Smile and remain friendly.
If the criticism is true, be thankful and have gratitude
towards that person who has good intentions towards you.
Regard that person as someone who points out a hidden

Supawan P. Panawong Green 89
treasure for you. If you don’t know your faults, how can you
possibly improve yourself ?

White lies & talking nonsense

Although white lies are often harmless to people, I still
think that it is better if you can avoid them. Not to say anything
can be an alternative to white lies. White lies which help to bail
people out from embarrassment, awkwardness or to boost their
confidence are quite acceptable as long as they are not over the
top. However, trying to suck up to people by saying untruthful
things just to boost their egos in an attempt to gain something
is unacceptable. To enhance someone’s confidence is noble but
to encourage someone’s ego to flare up is damaging to both
parties. Having a big ego is not healthy as far as walking this
path is concerned. You must care for other people too and do
your best in trying to keep their egos down. One day that person
might want to walk this noble path to find his/her true self like

This precept doesn’t only mean untruthful speech but
includes talking nonsense or rubbish, making disparaging
remarks, fault finding, being judgmental, having a sharp tongue,
swearing and so on. Talking nonsense and rubbish often comes
with excessive talking. If you want to observe this precept
effectively, talking a bit less can help enormously. Talking too

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much will allow you to make more mistakes as far as false speech
is concerned. Be aware of what you are going to say. If you feel
uncomfortable about what you are going to say because it is
not totally true, though maybe harmless, it is better not to say
it. Don’t make any promises that you cannot keep.

Virtuous lies

There is however another type of lying that can be
justified as moral. Your speech can be totally untruthful but
you do it for good reason and not for your own benefit. In the
real world, apart from having people lie through their teeth
to save their own skin, it is delightful to see that there
are also people who say virtuous lies to save someone from
embarrassment or to protect someone from getting into trouble.
This kind of lie can be morally justified as long as the result
of that lie causes no trouble to anyone else.

Ar Peng

This story was told by the late teacher Tang Mor Seing.
It happened in ancient China.

Once there was a young man who was serving his
apprenticeship far away from home. Young men would learn
their trades and skills by living with the person who took

Supawan P. Panawong Green 91
them on and there was no payment in return. Ar Peng had been
doing his printing apprenticeship for two years. Three days away
from the Chinese New Year, his kind owner said to him:

“Well, Ar Peng, you have been working with me for
two years now and you haven’t yet gone home. You told me
that your mother has arranged a girl for you to be married.
Why don’t you go home and spend the New Year with your
family and perhaps you can get married too.”

Ar Peng answered:

“It is very kind of you sir to let me go home but I
think that I will wait another two years. Once I finish the
apprenticeship with you, I can work for you for a year to earn
some money and then I will go so that I can have enough money
to give to my parents as well as spend it on my wedding.”

“That is not a problem. I will give you 300 yuan as
a gift for the New Year. This should cover your journey for you
to spend the New Year with your parents, and probably it is
enough for you to get married too,” the kind man suggested
and handed Ar Peng a red envelop containing 300 yuan.

Ar Peng was very happy and touched by the kind gesture
of his old boss. He expressed his gratitude and set off for

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a long journey on the next morning. It was a two day journey
and he had to check in at a local inn and spend a night there.
That evening, after he had his meal, he had a chat with an old
men sitting by the inn. As the conversation went on, Ar Peng
heard the noise like someone crying. He was a bit unsure at
first and asked the old man if he heard it.

“Oh yes, you heard it all right. is such a sad
story.” The old man shook his head; his face was filled with
sadness and he continued with his story.

“The crying sound comes from that house. A mother-
in-law and a young daughter-in-law with her four-year-old son
are crying because they will be separated tomorrow. The man
left his mother and his wife not long after she had the baby.
There was some news at first but suddenly it stopped. They
spent all their savings to keep the family alive but the money
ran out a few months ago. They had to go to the loan shark in
the village to borrow some money hoping that they could pay
back when the son would send some money home. They kept
on waiting all these months but there is still no news from the
family man. Now, tomorrow the loan shark will come to take
the daughter-in-law away as a means to pay off their debt. That’s
why they are in great distress. In fact, they have been crying for
days for fear of the parting.”

Supawan P. Panawong Green 93
Ar Peng attentively listened to the tragic story of this
family. He then asked the old man about the son’s name and
the reason he went away.

“Well, the son was actually a well educated young man
and he went away to search for a fortune. So his mother said. It
could be the war that stopped him from sending news and
money. Who knows?”

Ar Peng made an excuse to get away from the old
man and disappeared into his room. An hour later, he came out
with a letter in his hand and he walked straight to the house
where the women were crying. He knocked on the door.
The older woman came to open the door with her eyes all
puffed up.

“Sorry to bother you. You don’t know me but I have
a message from Tay Toh Hui. I believe that he is your son.
Well, someone has passed on this letter to me with this red
envelope when he knew that I was passing this village. The
person asked me to deliver this letter to you,” Ar Peng said
gently to the old woman.

The old woman opened the letter and found that it was
written by her son. In the letter, the son said sorry to his mother,
his wife and son that he hadn’t been able to get in touch for

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a long time because of the war. He had, however, made a trip
to a foreign land and would return home soon. In the meantime,
he had made contact with his friend and arranged to send
300 yuan for the family to spend.

The old woman shared the good news with her daughter-
in-law and they were elated with great relief that they would
have enough money to pay back the debt and tie them over for
some time. They both said thank you to Ar Peng for bringing
them the good news and never suspected anything.

Indeed, Ar Peng had forged the letter and also gave
away his New Year money to the family who desperately
needed help. He then realised that he didn’t have the money to
go home for the New Year. He decided to go back to his boss
and concocted a story that he was robbed of all his money
during the journey and he was willing to stay on working for
his boss. His boss didn’t suspect anything and told him not to
worry about the money.

A year later, Ar Peng was offered by his kind boss again
to return home. He repeated his journey he did a year ago and
once again he checked into the same inn. He was unaware that
he was spotted by the old lady with whom Ar Peng had had
a brief encounter. Later on that evening, a respectable man in
his early thirties approached him and asked him to write a few

Supawan P. Panawong Green 95
words on a piece of paper. After the man had looked at the
words on the paper, he asked Ar Peng whether he had come to
stay in this inn the year before. Ar Peng said yes. Right away,
the respectable man was on his knees and paid respect to
Ar Peng who was only in his early twenties. Everyone was
surprised by the event. The respectable man was Tay Toh Hui
who then told the people in the inn that this man had saved his
family from separation the year before. It was time for him to
show his gratitude to this young man.

He asked Ar Peng home to see his mother, wife and
son who also kow towed to him with great respect. The house
was more prosperous compared to a year before. That was
because three months after Ar Peng had left the letter and
money for the ladies, the son came home with a big fortune
from foreign land. Ar Peng’s lies had turned out to be a blessing
to the family. The family offered Ar Peng a big sum of money
to start his own business. Ar Peng refused at first and said
that he had to pay back his gratitude to his boss. Without the
kindness of his boss, he wouldn’t have had the 300 yuan to give
to the old lady in the first place. Then, Ar Peng told his side of
the story.

Finally, Ar Peng went back to his home town and
married the bride chosen for him by his mother. With the
generosity of Tay Toh Hui, he then set up his own printing

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business and asked his kind old boss to retire so that he could
look after him alongside his own family.

The crucial precept - intoxication

This precept is also another very difficult one to observe
in our modern society where drinking alcohol and using drugs
are embedded in the culture. You naturally want to know how
exactly you can observe this precept if you are keen to have
a drink from time to time. I put the stress on drinks because
it is the mainstream culture, but in fact, this precept includes
taking all kinds of intoxicants. However, using some kinds of
alcoholic drink as well as some forms of drugs for medical
and health reasons is the exception as far as this precept is

The preparation

To understand the significant need in taking this moral
precept, we must come back to our final goal of life again. Please
look at this picture on the next page.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 97
To uncover your true self, you need to climb both
ladders – observing moral and doing vipassana meditation. Both
ladders will prepare you to have the very high level of self-
consciousness. The fully enlightened person is also the one who
has the full and total self-mindfulness. The vipassana meditation
ladder on the right hand side is, therefore, aimed to increase
your self-awareness to the maximum level. The more often you
practice bringing your mental self back home, the higher level
of self-consciousness you will achieve, which means the better
chance you have in revealing your true self.

For this reason, the moral ladder on the left hand side is
to prepare you to have at least the basic level of self-
consciousness. This can be achieved only when you abstain

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from alcohol and especially drugs (including some prescribed
drugs) because these substances can decrease the level of your
self-awareness from below the accepted normality to entirety.
This makes you have less chance to reunite with your true self
or no chance at all if you become an addict. Your life then could
easily spiral downward, completely out of your control, which
is very scary. That’s why you need to resist your temptation and
never get yourself into a mess before you realise it.

Soberness is a must

As a matter of fact, this Buddhist moral precept is the
most serious one among the five fundamental precepts. Once
you lose your basic consciousness, you can easily violate the
other four precepts without your knowing. Drunken people,
apart from being boring, they also have no shame and guilt.
They can do all kinds of shameful, degrading, offensive and
even violent acts, which they would not do if they were sober.
Once they are clear-headed, they would feel awful towards their
shameful behaviour and if they don’t have the inner strength to
fight, they would turn to drink or drugs to forget their problems
again. The vicious circle begins; such a life is no life - a cast off!

That’s why the majority of the crimes in society are
alcohol and drugs related. Alcohol and drug abuse also the main
reason that wrecks our family institution. Now, can you

Supawan P. Panawong Green 99
understand why the British government allow pubs to open
24 hours a day? In one hand, they try to solve crimes, which
mainly resulted from alcohol and drug abuse anyway; on the
other hand, the government let pubs open 24 hours a day.
It’s just like trying to put the fire out by throwing more petrol
into the fire instead. Not to mention the enormous amount of
money spent on health care in trying to cure the smoking,
alcohol and drug related diseases. Do all these contradictions
make any sense to you? This is a global issue that need to be
tackled with immense wisdom. Otherwise, we are wasting our
time and resources in trying to curb the tail of the problems.

Can you understand why I want to help just only you?
Anyway, your soberness is a must if you seriously want to find
your true self. It is as simple as that.

Social protocol

It can be difficult at time or almost impossible to follow
this precept if you have to observe social protocol of which
having a social drink is a big part. In this case, you have to
answer for yourself. I can’t give you any advice because to me,
alcohol doesn’t taste nice at all. I cannot share the drinking
pleasure with anyone because I don’t drink. However, I will
not make you feel guilty because you need to have a social drink
from time to time. You have to know your own limit.

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Moderation is important. Always bear in mind the reason I told
you above.

Although this precept is difficult to follow, I do believe
that if you are serious about returning to your normal self, you
must have certain qualities inside you already and drinking
heavily is not one of them.


Although there are only five basic moral precepts to
follow, you can see that they are easier said than done. If
they were easy to follow, this world wouldn’t be in this mess

At this stage, I would like you to do your best. I don’t
expect you to be whiter than white. At the same time I don’t
want you to make too many excuses either. Follow your
instincts of shame and guilt. These ethical feelings are gifts from
Mother Nature, which help to prevent you from crossing over
the moral thresholds. If you have done anything that makes
you feel ashamed and guilty, learn from your mistakes and
try not to do it again.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 101
Once you begin to climb the moral ladder, you will
soon find out the complication and some really tricky
situations that I didn’t talk about. Life in relation with the
universe we live in is an enormous issue. There are, in fact,
a lot more unsettled questions about moral issues. All these can
only be clarified when you gain your own wisdom through
vipassana practice. Most importantly, your ultimate goal of life
has to be crystal clear first. Otherwise, all these scattering
pieces of jigsaw puzzles about life will not be clicked into right
places. Once the goal is clear, the means to the end will begin
to make a lot of sense to you. Otherwise, you will always have
some loose puzzles here and there. Hence, it is best if you
can climb both moral and meditation ladders at the same
time because they are supporting each other. You cannot do
one without the help of the other.

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Chapter 7


Apart from the five basic moral codes, giving is also yet
another factor, which can boost your mental journey to find
your true self. When I talked about the enlightening culture
in ‘A Handful of Leaves’, I also talked about the spirit of giving
among the Thai people. In this chapter I will however put
more stress on the aspect of how giving can help you to excel
along this path.

Selfishness hurts

Before you can appreciate the goodness of giving, you
must know the harm of the opposite quality first – selfishness.
Generally speaking, we all used to be selfish in one way or
another and to a greater or lesser degree. I would like you to
recall the feeling when you were cornered to give something
away or, rather, to give up or lose something unwillingly. Can
you remember the horrible feeling in your heart and stomach?
It was an agonizing feeling, wasn’t it?
People are different. Some people are kind-hearted and
their giving is almost a natural thing for them – so easy to do.
Whereas some are extremely stingy even to their (supposed
to be loving) partners and their own children. We can’t believe
how mean some people can be. Let’s not talk about those who
pretend to be kind and generous to others because they want
something in return. Such people use their wealth to buy their
way through life, as long as they have money, of course.

I am going to talk about normal situations, which
happen to people of all status, no matter you are rich or poor.
Let’s say you are a normal level-headed person and even
a kind-hearted one. Once in your lifetime, you must have
experienced such a feeling when you had to give something
away. That thing might have some meaning for you. After you
had given it away, you felt regret and wished you could have
that object back. But it was too late, so you grieved over it for
a little while until you forgot about it. It is a very common
human experience, which appears to do no harm to anyone,
isn’t it?

But this is precisely the point that I want you to look at
should you seriously want to unravel your true self. Although
such unpleasant feeling does no harm to others, it does bite
and sting you quite a bit while it lasts. If you let such foul
mood happens too often without correcting it, it will certainly

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slow down your mental journey to your place of destination.

Mental journey belongs to mental self

The Buddha said that the door entering Nirvana (the
Kingdom of God) is indeed very narrow. If you pull a single
strand of your hair out and cut it into three parts, even one
part of it is far too big to go through the entrance of Nirvana.
To reach God’s Kingdom, we must use our ‘mental self ’ to
enter and obviously not physical self. So how can we know if
our mental self is big or small? And if it is too big, how can
we shrink it to a small size so that we can squeeze through this
extremely narrow door of Nirvana?

A size zero ego

Unlike mental self, the wide range of bodily size is, at
least, visible. Should we become oversized, we can, in any case,
see it and do something about it. Mental size is invisible, which
make it more difficult to know if it is big or small. But if you
could relate your mental self with the word ‘ego’, it will give
you a better clue as how large, medium or small your mental
size might be. Judging from what the Buddha said, it looks like
your mental self need to fit into a size zero before you can
enter the God’s Kingdom.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 105
Despite its invisibility, mental sizes can be judged by
one’s selfishness and uncharitable character. They are the
unfavourable qualities that make up the different sizes of mental
self and bar you from showing your kindness, which enables
you to give and be generous. Your mental size will expand or
shrink according the level of selfishness and self-interest you
have within yourself. The more you have, the bigger your ego
will become and vice versa.

This following story, which is not far from the true
picture we have in the world nowadays, can give you some clue
as what size your mental self might be.

Pushing camel through needle’s eye

There was a time when Christ was preaching the
word of God, when he was approached by a merchant with
his caravan of goods.
“What must I do if I want to enter the kingdom of
God?” the merchant asked.
“You must love God more than anything else,” answered
“I have already loved God more than anything else.
What must I do next?” the merchant pursued.
“If so, you must learn to love your enemy and your
neighbours just like you love yourself,” said Christ.

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“I have also done that. Please do tell me what else is
left that I can do if I want to go to the Kingdom of God.”
the merchant insisted.
Christ looked at the merchant in the eyes and said firmly:
“If you have done all those things, you must leave
behind all your possessions and follow me.”
The merchant paused for a little while, he then turned
his camel round and walked away without saying a word.
Then Christ said:
“It is easier to push a camel through the eye of a needle
than for a rich man to go to the Kingdom of God.”

The Buddha said exactly the same thing:
“It is easier to push an elephant through a needle hole
than for a rich person to enter Nirvana.”

Kindness counteracts selfishness

I want to make a clear connection for you that to
unravel your true self is the same task as to flatten your mental
self to ground level. While selfishness inflates your mental self,
giving will shrink it. All these positive elements such as: kindness,
compassion, hospitality and generosity can counteract
selfishness, stinginess, meanness, greediness, self-interest and
so on. The trouble is practising all these constructive elements
can be quite painful especially if your mental self is on the
bigger size to begin with. Well, this is the bad news!

Supawan P. Panawong Green 107
Giving can be trained

But the good news is that these positive qualities can be
trained and cultivated as long as you know exactly why you
want and need to do it. Practising giving can be compared to
bending a metal spoon, which is very hard to bend at first.
If you are a selfish and self-absorbed person, it is difficult to
give and cross over that painful threshold to begin with. There
are a lot of resistance – hard to bend or difficult to give up.
Nevertheless, if you try harder and keep on bending the spoon,
the metal will get softer, the resistance will become less and less
depending on the effort you put in. The more you learn to give,
the more you can chip off your selfish element, the easier you
can offer and the better you feel.

Breaking the spoon

Your target in bending this spoon is to break it in half
because you have set the goal to enter the God’s Kingdom.
The entrance to Nirvana requires a size zero mental self, doesn’t
it? That’s why you need to break this spoon. In other words,
you need to flatten your mental self down to earth level. Only
then will you be able to squeeze through that extremely
narrow door of Nirvana, where you will find your true self. By
then, you will experience no pain in giving. Your charitable heart
will have no limit. You will be able to express your loving

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kindness unconditionally. This is the supreme quality, which
your true self can reach.

This following guideline will help you
to loosen your selfishness.

1. Break the word ‘selfish’ up; you will see that ‘self ’
is fishy and smelly. Being selfish doesn’t make you smell good!

2. Learn to get rid of rubbish first! If you have never
had the habit of giving before and find it very difficult to give
even the things that you don’t need, you can begin your giving
habit from there. Look into your cupboard, wardrobe, pantry
and garage, if there are things that you don’t need and will
never use and are still in good condition. Give them to a charity
shop or people whom you know and who need them. Never
give anything that is too old and too damaged to people. Throw
that stuff away!

3. Give away the less meaningful objects. You might
be the type of person who always gets rid of the rubbish in
your house but you still find it difficult to give away things that
are in good condition even though they have less significance
to you. You can either give them to charity or to someone who
might need and appreciate them. You might find that you have
to bargain with your resistant thoughts and feelings. Be strong,

Supawan P. Panawong Green 109
once you put that object in a bag, don’t open it again until you
give it away.

4. Give away the more meaningful possessions! This
kind of giving requires a great deal of courage. It is quite normal
for people to keep the best for themselves. The term ‘best’ could
mean item of monetary or sentimental value, or something you
simply like most even though it doesn’t have much value. Find
an expensive item that you no longer use but still cling to its
value as important, and find a suitable place or person to give
that object away. It will be more painful to part from that
item. Be strong and courageous. If you succeed in doing it, it
will take a big chunk of your ego away. However, if that item
has very high sentimental value, and is not a photograph, pass
it on to your children if you have any and don’t ask what they
will do with it. If you don’t have children, find a good place
for it.

5. Entertain your guests with the best food in the
house. Don’t tuck away any good food in your fridge or freezer
so that you can have it for yourself. Bring them out and offer
them to your guests. Difficult at first but will get easier.

6. If you have a very comfortable life and never have
to worry about money, it means that you are able to give away
your excess more than those who don’t have much. Don’t

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leave too much money behind in your will unless they are
property-related. You cannot take money with you when you
die. You came to this world naked; you will also leave this
world naked. Remember that it is much nicer to be able to give
and enjoy seeing the happy faces of those who need your help
while you are very much alive. They can be your family
members, relatives, close friends, neighbours or even a maid,
a cook or a caretaker you know at work. Help them out when
they are in trouble. As a reward, you get to see their happy
face and appreciation.

7. Give money to charity from time to time according
to your capability. One man might give just 1 to charity and
another man might give 1000 to his favourite charity. You
might think that the latter man is more charitable compared
to the first one. That is not always the case. The first man might
happen to be more generous than the latter if he earns 2.50
per hour and has three children and a wife to look after while
the other man earns up to 1000 per hour and is listed as one
of the richest in the country. The Chinese have a saying: ‘Never
say one penny is less and ten thousand is more’. That is because
when it comes to giving, the result is the same. One penny from
a beggar and ten thousand from a rich merchant, once given
away, yield the same consequences: reducing the chunk of

Supawan P. Panawong Green 111
8. Never be too stingy with your own parents. While
they are still alive, make their lives comfortable for them, look
after them well in whatever way you can. Treating your parents
well is the best giving you can ever do. They represent a field
where you can do your best deed. Grow the merit tree on your
parents; it can help take away a big chunk of ego. If you live
in a Buddhist country, you will be quite lucky to be able to
give daily when monks come for alms.

9. Always find a way to give, if not materially, it can be
your labour, ears or time. Giving your ears, time and patience
to people who need to talk is important and very helpful.
This is also the best way of giving when you don’t have much
money or material to help others. Chunks of selfishness can be
taken away in this manner.

10. Once you have given something away no matter it
was objects, money, labour or time, don’t boast about it. Even
when it enters your mind and you begin to feel proud, be aware
of such feelings and let them go. Don’t keep on licking your
ego even though no one knows about it.

You might be able to think of something else that you
can do to take away your selfishness and greed: do it without
any hesitation.

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Two fingers up

I heard this story from the late teacher, Tang Mor Sieng.
Being tight-fisted can haunt you to your deathbed. You will
certainly take along this bad quality to the beyond.

Once there was a Chinese man who had a wife and
two sons. He owned a pawn shop and gave out loans with
high interest. His livelihood had made him very rich but very
infamous among his relatives and customers. He hardly had
anyone whom he could proudly call ‘friend’. People knew
that he was extremely stingy and mean to everyone, even to his
wife and sons. Although he had enough money to last him one
or two lifetime, he wouldn’t spend it unless there was very
good reason. All the expense in the household was carefully
budgeted. They ate only cheap food. Although they had a big
house with many rooms, only one light was allowed to be
turned on at a time. They perpetually lived in a very gloomy
and depressing atmosphere.

When his two sons reached the right age to get married,
he tried to find brides through matchmakers but the
arrangements often fell through one after another. He couldn’t
agree on the requested dowry from the woman’s side. Deep
down he was prepared to give next to nothing away. Those
who knew his tight-fisted reputation did not wish to relate

Supawan P. Panawong Green 113
with him anyway. He often moaned to his wife who was rather
fed up by her husband’s meanness but didn’t know what to do.

“They are too greedy. I am not going to give them that
much money. I am sure there are other families who can
appreciate what I offer. No...I am not going to pay them. I’ll
wait. Too greedy...too greedy” he shook his head slowly from
side to side while he was moaning.

A few years went by and he was more worried for
his sons’ future. However, he couldn’t see that it was his
selfishness which caused his distress. Finally, he was sick and he
did not recover from his illness. It reached the point that he
couldn’t talk anymore.

On the last day of his life, his servant, who had served
this household for many years, was serving him some water,
but he refused to take it. For some reason, he kept on sticking
his two fingers up. The servant quickly fetched the mistress to
see her husband, assuming that the master might want to say
something before he died. The wife came and sat beside him.
The dying man looked at his wife and raised his two fingers

“Don’t worry about our two sons. Although they are
not married, they are adults now, they can look after

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themselves. After all, we have our family business. They still
have a livelihood, you must not worry, husband.”

The wife gently consoled her dying old man. To her
surprise, her husband’s face turned red and angry. He tried to
say something but there were no words coming out. He still
stuck his two fingers up and pointed upward. While the wife
was in bewilderment and tried to work out what her husband
was trying to tell her, the old servant, who was standing nearby,
suddenly grasped the meaning of the two fingers. She quickly
walked to the corner of the room and switched off one light
bulb. No sooner than the one light went off, did the wife see
the great relief in her husband’s face. Then, he died.

Never say one penny is less and ten thousand is more

I also heard this story from the late teacher, Tang Mor

Once there was an old master who lived with his young
disciple in a temple. One day, the old monk had to go out early
to see someone in the nearby village. Having practised
meditation until he had gained super-knowledge, the master
could foresee the future. Before he left the temple, he told
his young novice:

Supawan P. Panawong Green 115
“You guard the temple well today since a noble and
rich lady will come to offer alms. You must make her feel
welcome. I will come back late afternoon.”
“Yes, master. I will mind the temple and look out
for the rich lady.”
The young disciple bowed his head successively a few
times to his master as a gesture of understanding the master’s
order. He was pleased to hear that a rich and noble lady
would come to offer alms. It meant that he would have
a delicious meal that day. He was very happy and spent that
morning in anticipation of her arrival.

In the meantime, in the nearby village there was an old
lady who was very poor but kind-hearted. It was her birthday
and she wanted to give alms to the monks. Being very poor, she
had no money to buy good food for an offering. She decided
to go into the rice field early in the morning and pick all the
grains scattered around the field, even though some were
damaged and dirty. She brought them home and decided to
cook a bowl of rice porridge. Adding a bit more water to the
rice would help to increase the quantity of it.
“This should be good enough to offer to the two
monks at the temple.”
The old lady talked to herself proudly while she was
looking at the bowl of porridge in her hand. She was very happy
that she could, at last, cerebrate her birthday by giving alms to

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the monks. She slowly walked to the temple and carefully held
the bowl of rice with her two hands.

When she reached the temple gate, she could see the
young novice stretching his neck looking past her as if he was
trying to find someone in the distance. It was only fifteen
minutes before the offering time ended. (Monks are not
supposed to eat after midday). It was obvious to the old lady
that the young monk looked a bit impatient and restless. She
approached the young novice who still did not pay much
attention to her and said gently with a smile:
“Is the old master in? Could you please let him know
that I have come to offer alms today because it is my birthday?”
The disciple then looked at the old lady with a bowl of
rice porridge in her hand. The bowl was not covered and by the
time it reached the temple, bits of dirt and small leaves had
fallen into the bowl and mixed with some floating damaged
rice on the surface of the water. It looked rather unappetising
to the young monk especially as he had been looking forward
to the glorious and delicious food from a rich lady as he was
told. Having waited all morning for someone who had not
turned up, the young monk became more and more agitated
and restless when it dawned on him that he might have to eat
this bowl of porridge if the rich lady did not turn up in that
short time. He answered the old lady with an abrasive tone of

Supawan P. Panawong Green 117
“No, the old master left early this morning. He won’t
be back until late afternoon.”
The old lady felt unwelcome and was taken aback by
the monk’s unexpected reaction. However, she thought that it
was still all right if the young monk accepted her offering instead.
So, she said:
“If so, could you please accept my offering then since
it is my birthday. I intended to make merit so that I could be
rich in my next life.”
The monk could not refuse the offering from the old
lady. He reluctantly told the lady to follow him to the shrine
room where the offering would take place. He couldn’t help
casting another look towards the path leading to the temple
gate with a glimpse of hope that the rich lady might turn up,
but there was still no sign of the noble lady and no glorious
food. The time for offering was nearly up, so his hope of having
good food was gone. The young monk was very disappointed
and annoyed that he had to have the dirty rice porridge for his
meal today instead of some well prepared mouth-watering

The novice’s impatience turned into resentment and
anger. No sooner had the old lady walked towards the temple
gate, than the monk came out from the shrine room and threw
away the whole bowl of porridge on the temple ground for
birds. It was the same moment when the old lady happened

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to turn around and red-handedly catch the novice’s nasty act.
She was very stunned and shocked by the hurtful scene and
very disappointed by the monk’s outburst. The old lady stood
trembling with anger by the temple gate and shouted at the
“How could you? How could you throw away
my offering? That’s it. From now on, I will have nothing to do
with monks anymore.”
Following that unexpected and most disappointing
event, the old lady never did another offering and never set her
foot in the temple again. She condemned and cursed the monk
openly to people. She died a few days after and took with her
the bitterness and the anger she had towards the monk.

Meanwhile, the old master came back to the temple
that afternoon. The first question he asked was:
“Well, did the noble and rich lady come today for
the offering?”
The novice was still very annoyed and disappointed
because he had missed having a delicious meal as he had
expected. He answered the master with a grumpy face.
“What do you mean by rich and noble lady, master?
I’d been waiting all morning but no one turned up except this
old lady with a bowl of leftover porridge which looked most
revolting. I didn’t even bother to eat it. I threw it away for the
birds instead.” The novice explained.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 119
The master could not believe what he had heard and
“Oh...Buddha helps! You don’t realise what you
have just done to this old lady. When I said that there would be
a rich and noble lady coming to give alms, I meant this poor old
lady. She was rich and noble because she was very kind,
generous and tried her best to give alms despite her poverty.
She had spent all morning picking each grain of rice from the
field just to cook that bowl of rice porridge for us. You have
brutally turned her generosity away.”
The young monk was shocked by the master’s speech.
He felt very ashamed and guilty of his cruel and unforgivable
behaviour. He asked his master what would happen to him and
the old lady. The master paused for a while and sadly said:
“Well, what will happen is that this old lady who
will die in a few days will be born rich in her next life because
she had done her merit. But the anger she had towards you will
make her do more bad karma towards the triple gem. This bad
karma will cause her to have a rebirth in hell. You will then
become her son in one of your rebirth and you are going to
help her when she will be in hell.”

In one life, this old lady was born into a rich family and
she was married to a rich man who was a devout Buddhist but
died before he could reach his old age. With the bitterness and
anger she took with her from her previous life, the wife was

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very angry that her husband did not live long despite being
a pious Buddhist. She did more bad karma by insulting the
triple gem, had no respect for monks and did not give alms.

It had now reached the time of the Buddha Gotama.
The young novice, however, came to be born as Maha
Moggallana, the Buddha’s left hand disciple who also had the
super-knowledge in performing miracles. After his mother had
died, he went to heaven and hell to find out where his mother
was. He found his mother being born as a hungry ghost in hell.
He quickly performed a miracle and gave his mother a bowl of
rice and water. In not wanting to share the food with anyone,
the hungry ghost accepted the bowl, putting her arms and
hands over it so that she could have the food all to herself.
Suddenly, the food turned into red charcoal and she was unable
to eat it. Moggallana tried again and the same event happened
endlessly. He quickly came back to ask the Buddha how he could
rescue his mother from hell. The Buddha advised him to give
alms to monks in four directions and ask the monks to share
the merit with his mother. He quickly did so. Through the merit
that Moggallana had sent to his mother in hell she was later
born in heaven.

I wrote this story down exactly in the way that it was
told by the late teacher Tang Mor Seing. It was based on the
Mahayana Buddhism. The teacher concluded that the significance

Supawan P. Panawong Green 121
of the half year festival in the middle of the seventh month
celebrated widely among the Chinese is based on this story
when Moggallana wanted to help his mother escape from hell.
Millions of Chinese cook a variety of dishes and offer them to
hungry spirits so that they can be free from their suffering

The mean master

This is another story told by Tang Mor Seing. It is quite
relevant to the topic, so I would like to share it with you.

Indian society has a very narrow band of middle class;
people are either very rich or very poor. Once, there was
a millionaire who owned a very big house with a fleet of
servants. Unfortunately, no one liked him at all. This included
his entire staff, and even his wife and children loathed him.
Indeed, he was a miserable, penny-pinching man. Despite his
overwhelming wealth, his selfishness took his popularity away
and left him without any friend. Gossiping about the meanness
of the master was a pastime enjoyed by the servants and people

Only the Buddhists have the tradition in passing on the result of their
good deeds (called ‘boon’ in Thai) to the beings in other realms. This is
a way to help and reduce the suffering of those who have bad rebirth.
I will clarify this concept in my next book: The User Guide to Life…
The Law of Karma, which will be released in due course.

122 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
in the neighbourhood. Although he had a proper name, no one
knows and everyone called him ‘the mean master’. While other
millionaires in town would set up food shelters and fed
hundreds of beggars every day, the mean master was far from
being a philanthropist, he had no intention of doing so. Most
beggars knew about his tight-fisted reputation and often walked
past this rich household without bothering to beg.

The great King Sakka or Indra was the supreme leader
of the heavenly beings called Tavatimsa – the realm of the
Thirty-three gods. He often looked over the events on earth
and put the world to rights. One day, he thought that he
would correct the character of the mean master. He then came
down to earth. By using his heavenly power, he made himself
look exactly like the mean master. It was the day of a festival.
Everyone dressed up in their best clothes and went to the fair
except the members of this rich household. They not only
had no best clothes to wear like others but also had no extra
money to spend at the fair. Life went on as usual in this
miserable household.

However, the mean master went to the fair by himself
without asking his wife and children to come along for fear that
he would have to pay extra for everything they might want to
buy at the fair. He took with him a few loose coins. He went
through nearly every food stall in the fair and could not decide

Supawan P. Panawong Green 123
what he would have to make spending his money really
worthwhile. However, he had soft spot for sweets, and his
mouth watered terribly when he stood by a stall watching a man
making all the colourful candy floss. It suited him right to the
ground because that was one of the cheapest sweets they sold
in the fair and he didn’t mind paying just two coppers for
something he really enjoyed eating. He walked around with the
candy floss in his hand and ate it joyfully.

“I must be the luckiest millionaire in town to be able to
walk around in this fair and eat the most delicious candy floss.”
Said the mean master to himself. His selfishness allowed him
to see only what he wanted to see and nothing else.

No sooner had the mean master left the house, than
King Sakka arrived at the entrance appearing exactly the same
as the master of the house. He walked into the front courtyard
with a smiling face and greeted all the servants with kindness
and warm heartedness. Everyone was shocked, and could not
believe that this jolly man was the mean master. That was
because the mean master never smiled to anyone; he only
moaned and groaned to people. At first, the servants thought
that it was the mean master’s twin brother. The great deity knew
exactly what was going through everyone’s mind. He called
everyone to gather around the front courtyard and said:

124 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
“Don’t worry, I know what you are thinking. Today is an
auspicious day and I have decided to be a changed man. From
now on, I will be kind and generous to every one of you. Soon,
you will call me the kind master instead of the mean master.
So, right now, I want every one of you to have a day off and go
enjoy yourself at the fair. But before you go, I want you to help
yourself to some new clothes. I have plenty of new clothes
tucked away in the back room. Go and help yourself. You will
also have some money to spend at the fair. Raju, my head
servant, will hand out money for you before you leave.”

No sooner did his speech end, than the thundering sound
of cheers and joy burst out from all the members in the
household. Everyone greeted the good news with great delight
although some were surprised by their master’s sudden change
of heart. Nevertheless, the whole house was filled with smiles,
joy, and happiness. People began to sing, dance and tease one
another while they went to choose their new clothes and
prepared to leave for the fair. They were all very happy to see
that at last their master had turned into a philanthropist.

The great heavenly being in human form then turned to
the wife and children who were still in shock and could not
believe their old man’s sudden altruistic behaviour, and said:
“Now, I know that you always want to give to the poor
and beggars. Why don’t you do it today? You know where

Supawan P. Panawong Green 125
everything is. Just help yourself to whatever you want to give
away. You don’t have to ask me. Just do it.”

The wife and children bent down to touch the feet of
the husband and father as a gesture of respect, not knowing
that it was the great Indra from heaven. Then, they went off to
do exactly what a millionaire was supposed to do – give to the
poor and beggars. With the help of the children and a few
servants, they managed to give food, clothes and money to the
poor and the beggars in the neighbourhood. The news quickly
spread and soon there was a long queue waiting.

In the mean time, while the mean master was enjoying
himself at the fair, he was greeted so happily by some of his
servants who had just arrived. Some of them even bent down
to touch his feet and say thank you. The mean master was very
surprised by his servants’ behaviour because no one in the
household ever greeted him with a smile let alone giving him
such high respect. He could not understand what made them
so very happy. Then, he suddenly spotted that all the servants
who came to greet him had brand new clothes and some money
with them to spend. He began to get suspicious and knew the
only way to find out was to go home.

As he turned round the corner of the road which would
lead up to his house, he saw a long queue of beggars lining up.

126 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
When he stretched his neck up trying to see where the queue
came from, he was quite sure that there was a big crowd of
people right at the main gate of his house. Fear quickly set in
his heart and he couldn’t imagine what was happening in his
household especially to all his wealth. He could hear his own
heart beating like a drum at high speed. He ran straight to his
house, used his hands pushing people away so that he could get
through to the main gate.

The mean master was frozen by the picture he saw right
in front of him. His mouth was dry and his eyes were wide
open. He couldn’t speak and was in deep shock. What he saw
was the picture of his smiling wife, children and a few servants
busy handing out food, clothes and money to the poor. Then
suddenly, the mean master burst out with a big shout:

“Stop, stop, everyone stops right now!”

His face was red and filled with anger. Then, silence crept
in and spread from that small area to the outer circle. Everyone
stared at the mean master and tried to understand the situation.
Suddenly, the great heavenly being, Indra, appeared right in the
middle of the crowd before anyone could say anything. The
king of the heaven still appeared to look the same as the mean
master. Indeed, both of them were standing facing each other.
The silence pierced even deeper when the crowd saw the two

Supawan P. Panawong Green 127
men facing each other looked totally identical. Indra broke the
silence first and said:

“I am Indra, the great king of Tavatimsa – the realm of
the Thirty-three gods. I came down from heaven today to give
this selfish man a lesson. The reputation of your meanness had
reached heaven and made my seat hot. That’s why I had to come
down to sort you out.”

No sooner had his words finished, than his body
transformed into the most magnificent and glorious man
who was every inch a divine being. The crowd cheered with
a thundering sound, then stopped suddenly and everyone was
down on their knees including the mean master who was now
trembling with fear.

The great king looked at the shaken mean master and

“I know that your fear of losing your wealth right now
is much greater than your fear of me. You are a despicable
person. Your selfishness had made everyone loathe you. I
wanted you to have a taste of being liked, loved and having
respect from others which are something you never had before
because you love your money too much.”

128 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
The mean master began to recall the feeling he
encountered briefly at the fair when his servants came to greet
him with happiness and touched his feet. Although he was
bewildered by the most unexpected event, he had to admit that
it was indeed a very good feeling knowing that someone liked
him and had respect for him. The words of the great king hit
him right in his heart. He began to see how miserable he was.
Judging from the happy faces of his wife and children when
they were giving made him realise how much his family had
to put up with his selfishness.

Following the divine speech and having put everything
in perspective, the mean master began to feel ashamed of
himself and wanted to offer a sincere apology first. He then
crawled pitifully a few inches to the great king from heaven,
placing his hands on the divined feet, head down and face
touching the ground. Suddenly he was taken over by the fear of
death. He spoke with a trembling voice to the holy man:

“Please do forgive me, my lord. I promise I will change.
I will have a change of heart from now on. I promise. Please
don’t take my life away. I will be a good millionaire and give
charity everyday.”

The great king of Tavatimsa was pleased to hear the
answer from the mean master who was about to have a change
of heart. He then said:

Supawan P. Panawong Green 129
“Good, that is what I want to hear and you’d better
make sure that you keep your promise. Otherwise, I’ll be back!
By the way, don’t worry. All the clothes, food and money that
these people had today are not yours, they are all mine.”

Right at that instant, the great king of Tavatimsa
disappeared into thin air along with all the clothes, food and
money which were waiting to be handed out earlier. The mean
master stood up and took over the situation. He proclaimed
loudly to the crowd:

“Please wait for a moment. I will bring you more
clothes, food and money.”

The crowd cheered with great joy towards their
master’s philanthropic gesture. The mean master disappeared
into his house. A short while later, he came out again with a
row of his servants who carried food and fine clothes. He
himself carried with him a big bowl of coins.

From then on, the kind master, which was his new
name, regularly gave to the poor. He had finally joined other
kind millionaires in town and become a proper philanthropist.
He was well loved and respected by his family, servants and
people. He had never had another visit from the great king again.

130 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
Chapter 8

The Simple Diet

Checking the goal again

You must have realised by now that the door to
Nirvana is incredibly slim and only a size zero mental self will
manage to get through it. For this reason, we are still hovering
around this ego concept as how can we find more ways to shrink
this ego of ours to ground level? To reduce the size of ego
might be a difficult concept to western people because
western culture, to some degree, emphasises on boosting
people’s self-esteem by allowing one to have a bit of an ego.
This is considered to be a significant factor for challenge and
success to some certain extent. How can we survive this highly
competitive world without looking after our own self-interest,
which build around self-centeredness?

So once again, it is important that you must check
against your ultimate goal of life, if not, you will get muddled
up, otherwise. It just so happen that the size zero mental self
is such an extreme concept to even the Buddhists, let alone the
non-Buddhist especially westerners who are not brought up in
the Buddhist culture. This is the whole point why you must
have your final goal in clear perspective and you also want to
achieve that goal so badly too. Or else, you will get terribly
confused and see no reason why you have to defy what the
rest of the world think.

You cannot have it all

Should your goal be crystal clear, you can understand
that it is the misdirection in life that causes people to see no
harm in having an ego as well as allowing the sense of self to
flourish because this would prevent you from reuniting with
your true self and achieve the on going happiness that everyone
is talking about and yearns for. Without this final goal, the
misdirection will constantly create the classic catch 22 situation
that is hard to break free. This tedious cycle will cause more
contradictions and confusions among people and is an ideal
recipe for social chaos.

I am afraid to have to say that you cannot have it all
but have to choose one or the other. You cannot use your
egocentric personality to pursue your worldly success while you
are at work and when you come home, you put on an altruistic
character so that you can have a taste of inner peace. This is
very much like putting a little lamb in the same cage with

132 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
a hungry tiger and you want to know if this lamb might
survive or not. Your soul (mental self) can only be in one place
at a time. You cannot choose to have an oversized mental self
and expect to squeeze through the narrow door of God’s
Kingdom at the same time, can you? It doesn’t work like that.
I am afraid.


As a matter of fact, there is a real profound meaning
and the precise reason for it. If you look at chapter two under
the heading ‘different words but same meaning’, you will see
the list of words and phrases that share the same ultimate
meaning and experience, one of which is the absolute (ultimate)
simplicity (no.13). Nirvana is the same experience as the ultimate
simplicity, which is equivalent to size zero mental self. You
might have also come across the Buddhist terminologies such
as: void and no-self – which I have avoided to use. That is
because such terms create a great deal of misconception about
Nirvana. They denote the sense of emptiness, hollowness and
nothingness, which may frighten people off especially if you
are a non-Buddhist and doesn’t grow up in Buddhist culture.
It is quite hard to take in such extreme defying notion about
the existence of life. Even devout Buddhists struggle to
understand such thought.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 133
Nevertheless, you must listen to the wisdom of the
enlightened ones who echo the same tune regarding the ultimate
experience. All wise people will tell you the same message that
Nirvana is void and have no sense of self but it isn’t an empty
space as such. It isn’t like that at all. You must trust me on this
one as I have seen it. As a matter of fact, everything remains
exactly the same; there is only one thing goes missing – the
sense of self. I, therefore, try to take away your fear of empty
space and misconception by introduce such words as: simplicity,
ordinariness, the size zero mental self and true self. I think
these may represent the ultimate experience better than void
and no-self. You can also make a connection that the fully
enlightened ones are those who have the complete (absolute)
simplicity and ordinariness embedded in themselves. This sheer
simplicity even caused the Buddha to be inclined not to teach
at first for fear that no one would understand.

I can’t win really. If you are a type of person who is
not keen to be ordinary and simple, you won’t give this concept
a second thought, will you? That’s why I gave you a list of
24 terminologies to choose from so that you can at least find
one that may inspire you to walk this difficult path. True self is
also another attractive term that I prefer to use. Anyway, I can’t
worry about everyone, can I? I am only working with you. Let’s
move on, shall we?

134 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
How to practice simplicity?

Perhaps it might be easier to see the opposite qualities
first. People with sizable egos tend to have at least one or more
of the following characteristics about them: they are arrogant,
conceited, superior, smug, difficult, pretentious, overconfident,
expensive, fussy, demanding, hard to please and the like. These
downbeat qualities inflate your mental self towards the larger

On the other hand, the following qualities will shrink
your mental size right down. They are: easy-going, unpretentious,
down-to-earth, level-headed, ordinary, practical, trouble free,
undemanding, uncomplicated, unfussy, basic, modest,
economical, unaffected, humble, natural, unnoticed and the like.
All these altruistic ingredients will make up a good recipe for
a ‘simple diet’. Should you be able to stick with this diet, you
will certainly take a few inches off your ‘mental waist line’ and
your mental self will gradually deflate to size zero.

Moral and simple dieting

The higher status you have – whether that status is
brought about by having wealth, fame or power – the more
likely you will be to lose touch with your simplicity. High
status allows your ego to bloom and flourish. It could invite

Supawan P. Panawong Green 135
complications into your life even though you don’t ask for it;
nothing seems to be straight-forward before you know it. High
profile life style can certainly prevent you from being simple
and ordinary. Unless you know your goal and insist on sticking
with your ‘simple diet’, you can remain level-headed. Without
the strict regime of ‘simple dieting’, it is very difficult to take
a few inches off your mental waist line and you mental size can
expand before your realise.

The danger of wealth and fame

Whether you want to admit it or not, wealth, fame and
power find their ways to destroy people one way or another.
Apart from turning some people into egomaniacs, they make
you lose touch with the real world, especially with the poor
and the unprivileged. When you are extremely wealthy and
powerful, with just one snap of the fingers, everything is done
on your demand. In the end, these people don’t even know how
to open doors for themselves. It is very sad if you can view it
differently. Should disaster be happened in global society,
these so called ‘lucky people’ wouldn’t know how to survive
and will definitely die first. Unfortunately, most people cannot
see the harm in this type of life style and try to live up to that
level – wanting to join the ‘celebrity’ clan.

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Worse still is that our mainstream culture (or just the
Hollywood culture) is geared up to fulfil that false dream for
people. This bogus fantasy has added a great deal of problems
and complications into society. It creates more competition,
greed, selfishness and cause people to violate their moral
precepts further. A classic catch 22 situation subsequently
arises, which adds more confusion and trigger more moral-
vacuum society.

It is, therefore, very important that you often remind
yourself of the supreme goal of life and do very best to stick
to your ‘moral and simple dieting’. Even religious people such
as monks and clerics are not safe if they allow worldly values –
wealth and fame – to creep into their lives. The religious
uniform won’t shield them from egotism. They have equal
chance to be as egocentric as lay people. Quoting the holy texts
do not make one become a holy person without committing to
the practice of giving up one’s ego.

Invisibility and denial

The trouble is that, people with big ego cannot see
themselves because mental self is invisible. Therefore, when
mental self inflates because of one’s ego, they don’t realise. It is
even more so when the responsible party is in denial. They
cannot see how oversized their mental selves are. Physical size

Supawan P. Panawong Green 137
can, at least, be seen. Should one be overweight, plump, fat or
obese, the hard evidence is all out in the open and one can do
something about it.

This is not the case as far as mental self and ego are
concerned. Mental self can grow from size zero to the other
end of the spectrum – whatever that is! – yet, the owner
doesn’t even have a clue how egoistic one has become due to
its invisibility. For this reason, it is very important for you to
set your goal crystal clear first and widely open your heart for
all these painful truths such as: confronting your moral
impediment and accepting your egotism. Only then, can you
accept the radical change in your life.

Everyone wants to feel special

Among all the simple qualities I mentioned earlier,
making yourself unnoticed is also very healthy especially if you
have a great deal of talent in you. It is quite difficult to do in
our modern society where most people want to be noticed in
one way or another and willing to do anything even just for
a five minutes fame so that their egos can be massaged. This is
what the living television is thrived on. I also remember a sad
story line, which was depicted on the television drama ‘London
burning’ and was quite true to life. The firemen wanted to
find out who kept on setting off the false alarm at a hospital.

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They finally found that a window cleaner did it. When he was
asked why he wanted to do that, he answered that he wanted
to be noticed and it brought some excitement into his life
because he was bored to death by what he was doing – cleaning
windows every day! As a matter of fact, some people go to
a great length even faking illnesses and willing to undergo
surgery so that they can be noticed by nurses and doctors. This
whole process makes them feel special. These are all the
variety of mental symptoms building around our mental self
or ego. It also shows that we are social animals and need
human contact especially ‘tender loving care’ (tlc).

That’s why I have the inclination in not to believe that
the magnificent crop circles were done by hoaxers. Such very
talented people can make a huge fortune and will definitely be
recorded in the history of mankind. Yet, they don’t want to
reveal themselves in this day and age. I don’t buy that. The
hoaxers who had, however, revealed themselves couldn’t do the
intricate patterns. But please don’t ask me who did the most
fantastic crop circles, your guess is as good as mine.

Bruised ego and havoc

A great deal of mental turmoil is caused by bruised
and dented ego. Some people can react very badly should their
egos have been crushed for whatever reasons. The reaction could

Supawan P. Panawong Green 139
be rage that leads to aggression and violence. If the combined
bruised egos are the result of political or religious conflicts,
the collective anger among the public can trigger the state of
hysteria and lead to widespread upheaval. This is what egotism
can do to both individuals and society as a whole. The genocides
either done by Hitler, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot or other mad
leaders are the direct result of their extreme oversized egos.
Once an egomaniac is well equipped with political power, human
tragedy and widespread mayhem are imminent. You can add
up for yourself how many human lives were wiped out from
the surface of the earth and how much suffering they have put
humanity through by the hands of those few utterly mad and
egocentric leaders. Despite the immense damaging effect, the
public don’t seem to realise the harm in having the big ego.
There is no way to straighten this knotted ball of string until
you find the beginning or the end part of it – knowing the
ultimate goal of life.

Doing a big job

In the contrary, should you do well in your ‘moral and
simple dieting’, your mental self will shrink towards size zero
for certain. Only then, will you be able to do big job; it will be
possible for you to face challenges, big and small alike, without
feeling the pain. Mental pain is struck on mental self (ego).

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Should your ego be small, you won’t feel the pain as much.
Therefore, those who will survive daily challenges are likely
to be the ones with small ego or none at all. Politicians are
notorious egotists but will thrive well if they are genuinely
altruistic, which allow them to show their loving kindness and
compassion to the public.

Kind-hearted individuals have to work very hard on
reducing their ego sizes so that they can gain enough inner
strength to carry on helping people. Without this regime, no
one will survive. They must not expect anything in return
apart from hoping to reclaim their normal self back in the end,
which doesn’t sound much in the eyes of most people. For
altruistic individuals, it is a long stretch road of pure giving
without being noticed or recognised; worse still, despite the
hard work, some might be wrongly understood, publicly
humiliated or even persecuted. Nevertheless, this is the price
one must pay to earn one’s ‘holy status’, this might be the only
way to obtain unconditional love. The means and the end will
narrow down and mingle into one. To practice selfless is to be

Only selfless people can truly love anyone and want to
give people the best thing only – the ultimate knowledge of

Supawan P. Panawong Green 141
The following is a check list which can help you to
stay in touch with simplicity and ordinariness.

1. Working too much with your brain and less with
your hands can make you lose touch with simplicity. Simple
tasks around the house are healthy. The lower the job you can
do, the simpler you can be. If you are young and still live at
home with your parents, don’t let your mother wait on you.
Clean up your own mess. Do things by yourself, cooking,
ironing, washing and so on. All these works can keep you very
grounded and you will survive better in the real world.

2. Never think you are too important that you cannot
clean a toilet. Don’t let the toilet cleaning be your mother’s or
a cleaner’s job. Do it yourself sometimes. This toilet job can
shrink your mental self quite quickly!

3. Gardening work is also very healthy. It keeps you
down to earth.

4. Never be too arrogant that you cannot say sorry and
bow your head to someone especially when you are in the
wrong. See what category you are in:
If you can calmly take a criticism from someone above
you, you are wise.

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If you can calmly take a criticism from someone equal
to you, you are noble.
If you can calmly take a criticism from someone beneath
you, you are a saint.

5. It isn’t at all easy to take criticism from anyone
because it bruises your ego. Most people will react with
resentment, if not with anger even though the comments may
be true. If you can take criticism calmly without feeling
defensive even if the critic didn’t have the fact right, it means
you must have a great deal of simplicity in you. Should you
want to correct them, do it without anger; keep your cool. If
not, let it go as long as you know yourself well enough that the
criticism is not true. The smaller ego you have, the less pain
you get. Whether you can take it up to the level of being a saint
or not is something you can work on. This book is trying to
help you towards that direction. So, if you can begin to work
on it now, you might not have to work so hard later on.

6. Giving respect to those who deserve it is also very
healthy, i.e. parents, teachers, elders, holy places and people.
Carefully observe the cultural differences and give respect to
whatever is important to the members of that society. It makes
your mind soft, gentle and simple.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 143
7. Never boast about yourself and show off your
success. It is better to make yourself unnoticed. Boasting about
something you have is understandable though it is not healthy,
but to boast about what you don’t have is unacceptable and
emphasises your egomaniac.

8. Always make people feel comfortable, warm and at
ease especially if you are on a high rung of the social ladder
whether it is because of your wealth, profession, fame or
power. Always give notice to those whose status is beneath you.
Don’t take them for granted, especially people who do menial
jobs for you. Show them your gratitude. Your smile can mean
a lot to them and is worth much more than money. Take one
minute to stop, talk and praise the good job they have done for
you. Show them your appreciation. If people could do this,
that window cleaner I mentioned above would not have to set
off the false alarm and many others wouldn’t have to do silly
things just to get themselves noticed. The higher the status you
have, the more you can do to make people happy. You can only
do this when your ego is small and you have a high level of
simplicity in you.

An overflowing cup of tea

Once there was a scholar who had heard about an
enlightened Zen master. He intended to find that master and

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ask intelligent questions. Upon his arrival, his head was full of
questions that he wanted to ask not to fulfil his inquisitiveness
but to show his vast knowledge of Buddhist texts.

The master sat calmly with the tea set in front of him
and observed the young scholar as he entered the room, paid
his respects and asked the questions. The wise teacher serenely
listened to the young scholar talking about his Buddhist
interest and then the questions. The master nodded his head as
a gesture that he understood what the student had said. Instead
of answering his questions, the master began to fill his tea pot
with water and pour the tea into the cup. The young man
looked at what the master was doing while he kept on talking
to fill the silence, hoping that the master would interject with
answers. Despite his attempt, the teacher did not correspond
to his wishful thought. Instead, he slowly nodded his head and
kept on pouring water into the tea cup until it was overflowing
into the tray. The young student, by now, felt rather uneasy.
He could not handle the awkward silence. So, he kept on talking
and tried to reassure the teacher even more that he had great
interest in Buddhism and really wanted to learn from him.

The master finally put the tea pot down, looked at the
young scholar, smiled gently and said:
“Well, how do you like my answer to your questions?”
The young man was surprised and intrigued by the
master’s questions.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 145
“What do you mean by that, sir? I have asked you
many questions but you did not answer me at all. I just saw you
pour the cup of tea. How could I possibly know if I like your
answer or not?”
“Ah…but my pouring cup of tea was the answer to
all your questions!”

The young scholar was spontaneously enlightened!

Using few words to spark off simultaneous enlighten-
ment is the characteristic of Zen teaching. Admittedly, I didn’t
crack the meaning of this story when I first heard it. Please
don’t think that I am patronising you. Just in case you don’t
solve it either, I should explain a little bit.

The master tried to tell the young scholar that his head
was already full of knowledge and could not absorb any more,
which was like the overflowing cup of tea. Basically, the wise
man tried to take away the young man’s self-importance which
barred him from learning.

If you are intellectually clever, you should take a great
deal of notice to this case. Arrogance, pride, overconfidence
and self-importance are very negative qualities that would bar
you from walking the path. It is very difficult to get rid of such
qualities if you have them. You need to be very honest with
yourself and have a good teacher to help you.

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I train my Tai Chi students to have the simple and
humble quality as soon as they come into my class. I suggest
the eastern culture of bowing to each other to them as a package
deal in attending the Tai Chi class with me. The purpose
behind is to rid of their self-importance. If students can bow
to me and one another with genuine respect, their hearts will
have room to learn. Those who find it difficult to do this will
leave. It is a way that I use to sieve through my students. A real
teacher will choose his or her pupils and not the other way
round. The students might think that it is their choice whether
or not they want to learn Tai Chi with me. They might choose
to come to my class but I am the one who chooses whether
they are qualified to learn or not. Those who survived my class
are the ones I choose to teach even if there are only a few left
in the end! I couldn’t hold on to this noble attitude in the past
but not now.

Kwai Shane Cane

Having talked about how a real teacher would choose
his or her own students, I remember a famous film called
Kung Fu, which included a scene where the teacher tried to
recruit the most suitable pupil to whom he can pass on his
knowledge. Martial arts in ancient China were linked very
closely with Buddhism and its practice. It indicated that when
Buddhism reached China, it made quite a big impact on the

Supawan P. Panawong Green 147
Chinese culture as well as martial arts. Shao Lin, was not only
a famous martial art school in ancient China but also a Buddhist
temple. Martial art was initially taught in a Buddhist temple so
that students would gain knowledge about how to lead a noble
way of life. This included the introduction to the ultimate goal
of life and the path to it, which meditation was the big part.
Along the process of learning, students would be taught to
identify the true face of their enemies – defilements. Students
would then know that real enemy was not a person whom they
hated and were ready to take revenge. The real enemies were
their own greed, hatred, envy, anger and delusion which build
around their egos. Therefore, before any martial art could be
taught, students had to learn to deal with their inner enemies
first, such as: greed, hatred and self-importance. This is the only
way to guarantee that martial artists would not use their
knowledge for wrong reasons. If there was any reason for
a martial arts practitioner to fight at all, that reason had to be
based on the ground of protecting righteousness only. Without
this wisdom, martial art would be reduced to a mere self
defence, if not a tool to boost one’s ego.

Kung Fu, acted by David Carradine, depicted exactly
the right concept of what martial arts should be like. Many
people expected to see a lot of violent scenes when they heard
the title of this film. It was quite the contrary; this film stressed

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a martial artist, Kwai Shane Cane, who formed a close
relationship and gained wisdom from his blind old master.

The film began with a group of 20-30 young boys in
their early to mid teens sitting in front of the main gate of
Shao Lin temple waiting to be selected. Every morning, an elder
monk would come out and pointed to certain boys and said:
‘You go home. You go home...’
The boys sat through days and nights, wind, rain and
storm. The number of the boys dwindled as time went by until
there were only four boys left. They were invited into the
temple’s tea room. As they were sitting around a table with the
cups of tea, the teacher invited the boys with a waving hand
gesture and said:
“Please, help yourself. You all must be very thirsty.”
The three boys thankfully responded to the kind gesture
of the master and reached their hands to pick up the tea cups
in front of them, all except one. When the boys had finished
sipping their cups of tea, the master told them very calmly:
‘You three boys can go home now.’
The three boys left the tea room and the master asked
the only boy who was sitting with his head bowed:
“Why didn’t you drink the tea like the others?”
The boy answered the master calmly:
“It is only appropriate for me to drink after the
elder sir.”

Supawan P. Panawong Green 149
Finally, Kwai Shane Cane, was the only boy who was
chosen to enter the gate of the Shao Lin temple.

As the story moved on, Kwai Shane Cane formed a very
close relationship with his blind master who taught him how to
listen to the sound of the grasshopper and the wind, how to
walk on a long piece of rice paper without leaving any traces
and so on. They were indeed all the different meditation
techniques that the master passed on to the young novice. It
was a long process of how to help the young boy to deal with
his inner enemies and find truth. Young Cane grew up within
the walls of the monastery and learnt the most precious
knowledge. By the time he left Shao Lin, he had become
a grown man with a good heart, well qualified in the martial
arts. He never wanted a confrontation and led a humble way of
life. He soon learned that the world outside the temple walls
was very different from the one he knew.

This film was based on Buddhist concepts and was very
well depicted. In ancient times, the relationship between
a spiritual teacher and a novice was very intimate, which was
correctly portrayed in this film. I advise you to watch this film.
Modern martial arts films which stress mainly on violence and
vengeance are very far from the true wisdom it teaches.

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Chapter 9

Dealing with death

To most people, death is one of the most fearful events
that can always send chill down your spine. It is because we all
love our lives so dearly and want to cling to them for as long as
we can. This topic is, therefore, almost seen as a curse; we talk
about almost everything under the sun but when it comes to
the dying issue, we often dismiss it. But how can we dismiss
something that is most certain and even defeat the ‘never say
never’ maxim, which works every time until it comes to death.
Hence, it’s high time we talked about death and dying in the
same manner as we talk about the weather – tackle it with
courage and understanding and hope that we will be able to
reduce the fear of death by the time we finish with this chapter!

Fear of the pain

Theoretically speaking, you cannot be afraid of anything
that you have never experienced before. For instance, you know
that fire is hot because you have been burned in the past. You
then stay away from fire because you are scared of the painful
consequence. Death is something you have never experienced
before and you have no idea what it is like, have you? Therefore,
you should have no fear of death. The fearful thoughts and
feelings that most people have towards death are, in fact,
the association with the pain, the suffering, the hospitalisation,
the treatment and so on. All these are actually part of living,
the phase of life prior to death. They are not the death itself.
Sickness and hospitalisation are another fact of life that we
must also learn to face with great courage.

Pain and suffering result from illnesses are something
that we can relate to because we have had a taste of them before.
If not, we have seen other people gone through such suffering.
Consequently, we are afraid of the pain and suffering which
often bring subsequent death.

Tragic death

It is quite correct for some people to say that they are
not afraid of dying but have more fear of how they are going
to die. This can lead to a few more examples about tragic death
and the suffering prior to death.

The increasing rate of violence and crime in society
nowadays causes people to feel vulnerable and insecure towards
their own safety. We can no longer take it for granted that our
own homes are safe place. Sadly speaking, we are all potential

152 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
victims as far as offences and violent crimes are concerned. I
don’t know about you but I used to think that bad people don’t
hurt children, pregnant woman and old people. I didn’t actually
know what paedophiles were capable of, not until after I
married and lived in England. This proves how na ve I was.
The alarming thing is that as the age of the crime victims has
become younger, so has the criminals. (There was a chilling case
in one of the European countries, when two six-year-old boys
attacked and killed a girl of the same age in the playground.)
The vulnerability and insecurity among the public certainly
gives us enough reason to be afraid of how we might be victims
ourselves – good business for security firms to sell their security
products though!

If not crime, political upheaval, suppression, terrorism
and anarchy can also inflict immense suffering and the fear of
death among people. Anyone at all can be caught up in such
widespread fearful predicament. As far as terrorism is
concerned, no one is safe on earth. You could be having a pint
of beer in your local pub, dining with your family in your
favourite restaurant, sight-seeing on a magnificent historical
place, working in your office on a 100 floor building or sitting
comfortably on a plane, and suddenly all hell can break lose.
Before you know anything, you are one among many others in
the carnage resulted from a terrorist attack. In war-torn
countries, innocent people are captured, tortured and

Supawan P. Panawong Green 153
persecuted in mass numbers. Under such fearful circumstances,
it is very difficult to dismiss the thought of death and its whole
package – pain and suffering!

In a lesser degree, you could be caught up in some
horrific accident or widespread natural disaster when you are
subjected to a great deal of pain and suffering before dying.
The Asian tsunami on the Boxing day of 2004 have made
a great number of people put life in better perspective.
Although this giant wave has brought an unimaginable scale of
suffering to our fellow humankind, it also confirmed the painful
truth: no one is invincible and even the almighty God cannot
do anything about it! This should hopefully open your heart
a bit wider and try to understand death with courage. I am also
here to help you to overcome this eventual fear.

The tsunami ghosts

Having talked about the Asian tsunami, I have recently
read an article in British newspaper where the writer talked
about the sighting of the tsunami ghosts in Phuket and other
tsunami hit area in the south of Thailand. The author explained
that the sudden death didn’t prepare the dying to the after life
as the natural or prepared death did. Those who had the near
dead experience described similar incident of a bright light
tunnel with their loving relatives on the other side or having

154 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
seen their dead relatives by their bedside. Should people be
taken ill and death is imminent, both the dying and the deceased
relatives are prepared and the guiding into the new world may

This doesn’t apply to sudden and tragic death. As a result,
the dead literally didn’t know what to do or where to go from
there. There were no loving relatives around to guide them
into the new world especially when the sudden death happened
far away from home. It is very likely that they didn’t know they
had died. Consequently, their souls were trapped in the time
capsule, which was like a permanent dream – or nightmare rather
– and they were unable to wake up!

I also heard similar story from one of my Thai students
I met during my retreat teaching in 2006. Tao and four of her
friends drove back from Phuket one evening, in the distance,
everyone saw a farang (westerner) man hitchhiking by the bus-
stop, they stopped the car intending to pick the hitchhiker up
but he disappeared into thin air!

Apparently, the spirit sightings were mainly foreigners
and not the local Thai. The writer of the article explained that
this might have a lot to do with the culture. The Thai, at least,
grow up in the Buddhist culture which train people to believe
in the law of karma and the cycle of rebirth. There are also

Supawan P. Panawong Green 155
ceremonies that the livings can send the results of their good
deeds (boon) to the deceased spirits so that their souls can move
on to the good places in the after life. Such ceremonies have
been done right away to the Thai victims, either arranged by
their own families or by the monks in local temples in
a communal ceremony. Consequently, the local spirits knew
exactly what to do or where to go but not the westerners a lot
of whom are non-Buddhist and atheist.

Are you prepared to be a lost soul?

Please don’t quickly judge that I am trying to convert
you into a Buddhist. You should know me by now that I do no
such thing. My main concern in bringing up the tsunami ghosts
is to urge you to seriously make a room in your heart for my
advice. Having lived in the West, I have come across many
concepts regarding after life from various people. Many seemed
confident that they would certainly know more after they die,
whereas some are sure that everything will be vanished into
thin air – turning to be a big zero – at the instant of death.
I find it rather difficult to understand such superficial and
irrational thoughts. If you seriously consider the after life
is another holiday resort you have never been, yes, you might
know more or rather you know yet another place where you
have never been before. But the after life is far from another
holiday resort, is it?

156 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
If this subject is that easy to smooth over, how are you
going to explain the phenomenon of those lost souls following
the tsunami? As far as I am concerned, those bewildered spirits,
trapped in a limbo land, have absolutely no idea what to do
with themselves and especially how to move on from there.

Right, if some of you don’t believe in that tsunami ghost
story, it is very difficult for you to move forward. There are
a few absolute certainties in life and death is definitely one of
them. Unless you want to take a risk, wait until the actuality
happens and find out for yourself that there is, indeed, an after
life and nothing vanishes as you had imagined, will you then
believe in the ghost story. That’s fine, but I hope you can see it
will be too late. By then, you will be one of those lost souls
yourself. Unless you are prepared to be trapped in a limbo land
or in a permanent dream, I advise you to, at least, hear me out
first and don’t do any pre-judgement. The notion about the law
of karma and the cycle of rebirth that I will talk in my next
book will give you better perspective about the after life. As
a matter of fact, my entire work is to prepare you to know how
to live, to die as well as how to handle the after life.11

In reducing the contents of the original edition of The User Guide to
Life, I have decided to carry the whole contents about the law of karma
and the cycle of rebirth to the successive book titled: The User Guide
to Life…The Law of Karma, which will be released soon. You may
find out the updates on my website.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 157
Arranging a good death

If you are afraid of the stage before dying when you
might have to suffer a great deal of pain through serious
illnesses or long term hospitalisation, I would like you to put
your mind at rest first as you might be able to arrange a good
death, especially if you are still young. Admittedly, it does sound
a bit outrageous to even suggest something like ‘arranging
a good death’. Some of you might think right away that I am
talking about arranging a suicide pact like some cult leaders did
to their followers. No, absolutely not. As a matter of fact,
committing suicide – no matter how good the methods are – is
definitely not a good death, not to mention a coerced suicide

In fact, ‘arranging a good death’ in my meaning has
everything to do with following the guidelines in this book and
its pending sequence when I shall talk about the belief in the
law of action (karma), which will make you think about the
consequence of your own action. Only then, will I tell you exactly
what you can do to arrange a good death. In the meantime,
I just want to put your mind at ease and let you know that
there might be something that you can do to have a peaceful
dead. You can see for yourself that in the real world not everyone
has to suffer before passing on. Some people can leave this
world very painlessly and peacefully. At the moment, just

158 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
know that you should not be afraid of death and look forward
to finding out what you can do to secure yourself a good death.
What a thing to look forward to…eh?!

Fear of the uncertainty

I said earlier that you cannot possibly be afraid of
something that you have never had any experience of before,
such as death. Then, I went on to explain that your fear is more
likely to be linked with the pain and suffering prior to death
and not the actual death itself. I even went a bit further in trying
to pacify your mind by suggesting that you might be able to
arrange a good death. Although you may understand all those
notions I have put across, some of you may find that the fear
of death is still there. Although the words and reasons make
a lot of sense to your ears but you can’t bypass the churning in
the stomach and the fright in the heart when the death subject
is brought up. If this is the case, it is very likely that you are
afraid of the uncertainty, the mystery and the unknown which
lies beyond your physical death. Can you see that it is very
difficult to bypass the knowledge about the after life? Unless
you can easily go into the after life and come back to share the
experience, once again, you must listen to the experts who have
knowledge. This is one of the most difficult subject to talk

Supawan P. Panawong Green 159
God believers

At this point, those who have strong faith either in God
will be able to handle this type of fear better. If you are a God-
believer, a good enough person and strongly believe that you
will enter God’s Kingdom after you die, you should have no
fear of death at all, should you? It means you will get what you
want – reuniting with the almighty. This comforting thought
should be able to smooth over your fear of death. But if that
notion still doesn’t help you, you then have to question your
belief and especially the concept of God. To question the
concept of God is to question the ultimate destination of life –
the very notion I talked about at the first two chapters of this
book and indeed my entire work. This would bring you to the
full circle. I hope you can begin to understand why I used
24 terminologies to represent the ultimate experience. No matter
what subject you want to bring up and talk about, sooner or
later, you will have to stumble onto this ultimate issue.

Big zero believer

If you, however, believe that everything will be vanished
in the instant of death or turning into the big zero of void
where there is no heaven and hell waiting to greet you, you
should be jumping up and down with joy and have no fear of
death whatsoever. It means your actions, good or bad, yield

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no result. You don’t even have to take any responsibility to
your actions while you are living. Why should you be afraid of
dying if you are so sure that everything will be vanished into
a huge void?

So, it might be a good idea for you to thoroughly scan
your feelings regarding death and beyond. If you are a devout
science follower, you can only think rationally and logically,
you might dismiss the after life concept and the tsunami ghost
as something totally silly or even laughable. If so, you shouldn’t
have any problem about dying and what lie beyond: once the
mass of this body break down, life vanishes into thin air!
We are just a lump of science!?

If you, however, can still sense some uncertain feeling
in the far end of your heart, which crash with your rational
belief, it means you are confused. You might be using the ‘total
in denial’ approach to deal with your fear of death and the
uncertainty that lies beyond. Your denial might smooth your
fear over when you are young and have some 40-50 years ahead
of you. But no one gets younger, you will descend into your old
age for sure, only then will you find out how strong your
scientific faith will be. Also, don’t forget the unexpected sudden
death brought to you prematurely either by accident or disaster
I talked earlier. Before you know anything, you might be a lost
soul trapped in a limbo land yourself. So, please be very honest

Supawan P. Panawong Green 161
with yourself and make sure that your denial plays no role in
your belief.

Make room for wisdom

Should the belief in God and in void be able to help you
to take away your fear of death, I advise you to cling on to
them for the moment. Nevertheless, not everyone can manage
to inject such strong beliefs in their heads and stick with them.
Even the strong believers, who are a minority, can waver at some
point. The majority of people still have fear of the unknown,
similar to the way that we have fear of the darkness. Such fear
cannot be easily eradicated.

I would be a total fool if I told you that I know what
lies beyond our physical death. I don’t know either. I have to
listen to the expert too and that is the Buddha. The point is to
be able to understand the profound concept about the after
life, there are requirements. You need to follow the Buddhist
practice until you gain your own wisdom first. The level of
your comprehension will correspond to the level of the wisdom
you have reached. I have gone through the practice until I
have reached the level of wisdom when I have enough
confidence to be your guide. As a result, I am working on the
requirements that will pave the way for you to understand the

162 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
after life: the content of this book and its sequel as well as the
practice of ‘bringing your mental self back home’ (vipassana).
If you could follow my ‘user guide to life’, you will have enough
wisdom to understand life, death and the beyond. Consequently,
your fear of death will slowly disappear too; you will be able to
handle death like a pinch of salt. I think this is the most you
can do for yourselves as far as death is concerned.

I hope you can see that you are in a no-win situation
because if you dismiss the after life concept as being
nonsense and irrational and you happen to be wrong. You will
subsequently carry your false belief to the after life; your
ignorance will go with you wherever you go. Have you ever
questioned that your false attitude you are having right now is
the result of the ignorance in your previous life that you carry
along with you to this life? In my next book, I will talk
about how karmic force influences the formation of our gene
and DNA, which we are led to believe (by science) are the
blueprints creating individual human being. To the Buddha,
the real architect that makes us become an individual human
being is ourselves – our own thoughts, feelings and actions.
I’ll tell you more later. In the mean time, it is very important
you put your scientific defence aside and make room in your
heart for the pending wisdom to enter. This is the only way
that you will learn.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 163
Death is a natural event

In the mean time, let’s find different ways of thinking
that might help you to take away the fear of death, one of which
is by trying to view death as a natural event. Birth, aging, illness
and death are the natural life cycle of which no one can opt
out. All life forms come and go all the time. Try to think that
everyone in the past died and everyone on earth right now will
die all the same and everyone who comes in the future will die
too. Birth and death are like two sides of the same coin. You
cannot choose one and opt out the other; they come as
a package. Where there is birth, there is death always.

I don’t know why I want to compare death to childbirth.
When I was a girl, I couldn’t imagine how a woman could
give birth to a baby. I was terrified of such a thought in the
same way that I was terrified of death. When I was expecting
my first baby, that fear was still there. Then, I tried to reason
with myself by thinking that all women in the past have gone
through childbirth as well as women now do, and women in the
future will do. Giving birth is one of the natural events that
most women have to go through. If other women could do it,
so could I. Just bite the bullet and get on with it! So I told

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That reasoning did help me to have less fear of childbirth
and went through it three times within 5 years! I know going
through childbirth is nothing like dying. But if you can apply
this reasoning with death by viewing it as a very natural event,
you might be able to smooth some fear over. I might be the
only person in the world who tries to advise people to view
death in the same way as going through childbirth! My apologies
to men and women who cannot benefit from this advice!

Wish you all die accordingly!?

This true story might help you to gain more wisdom
concerning death.

Once, there was a Chinese family of four generations
who went to see a famous fortune-teller on the 90th birthday of
the great grandfather. The family expected the fortune-teller to
say a lot of kind words and bless the family to continue having
their great fortune, health and prosperity. The old fortune-
teller looked at the expanding family with a broad smile on his
face. As he was gently nodding his head, he pointed to each age
group of the members from the oldest to the youngest and
“You die first, you die next, you die after and you die

Supawan P. Panawong Green 165
The family was dumbfounded and asked for an
explanation. The fortune-teller smiled again and asked the
grandfather calmly:
“Do you wish this baby to die before you?”
Suddenly, all the elder members of the family
simultaneously came to their senses and nodded their heads up
and down as a gesture of showing their agreement. The fortune-
teller then continued:
“Well, then. If you can all die according to your age,
it is considered a great fortune for your family, isn’t it?”

The three old ladies and my parents

Many years ago, on British television, there was
a programme call ‘Beyond the Cloud’, which showed the day
to day life of people in Lijieng province, China. Among the
few families and people whom they filmed, there were four old
ladies who spent a lot of time together chatting and catching
up with their daily gossip. One of the old ladies sadly talked
about her past and said:
“I went through so much hardship and suffering
during the war and the famine. I can now put all those behind
me and look forward to my death.”

The way that those old ladies talked about death was
amazingly natural. They had no fear and were totally relaxed

166 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
about it. You might want to dispute that after living through
Moa dictatorial and brutal regime when starvation, hardship,
torturing and persecution were routine, they had very good
reasons to look forward to their passing away. Yes, that is
true also, I don’t argue with that. Nevertheless, I still think that
such relaxing attitude can hardly be seen in western society.
I don’t say that all eastern people are totally relaxed and look
forward to their death. I don’t go that far but it is still true to
some extent, which, I believe, has something to do with the
Buddhist rebirth and karma concepts.

The old ladies’ attitude was very much the same as those
of my parents. Many years ago, my father, in his late seventies,
sent me some photographs. It looked like a day of a big family
outing: my dad, my brother, his wife and their children. In
the letter my dad told me that the photograph was taken on the
day when they went to view a place for his burial ground!
The Chinese are very fussy about their burial place, it must
have good Feng Shui so that the family will be guaranteed
of their good fortune.12

My dad passed away in 1995 and. The Chinese have
a festival called “sweeping the tombs” some time in April. This

Feng shui is an ancient Chinese belief that the way your house is built
and the way you arrange objects affect your success, health and
happiness. Family tomb especially must have good feng shui.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 167
is the time when most Chinese families will go to visit the
tombs of their ancestors. They will pay respect to their ancestors
by preparing nice foods for offerings at the burial ground.
After that, it is very much like a family picnic when all the
family members will eat and enjoy a day out together. Above
all, it is a day to remember their parents and grandparents. My
family too have followed this tradition ever since my father
was buried in that piece of land he chose for himself. It was a
big family outing followed by a trip to the nearby waterfall.
Living far away from home, I do miss the event. I think that it
is a very good tradition to keep up. Younger generations can
still have some link with their ancestors by keeping this
tradition alive.

I went back to Thailand on my father’s first anniversary.
There was one evening when my mom, eighty years of age,
was surrounded by five of her seven children and a few
grandchildren, and we all chatted about this and that in
a very warm atmosphere. A while later, the whole conversation
shifted to talking about my mother’s funeral. My mom told us
exactly how she wanted her funeral to be. She was very relaxed
and feeling at ease about the whole issue. Three months after
that family gathering and seven weeks after I had returned to
England in 1997, my mom passed away. We gave our dearest
mother a good send off, exactly the way she had asked us to do.

168 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
By the way, my mom didn’t choose to be buried by my dad.
She would rather be cremated and had her ashes scattered in
the sea. They weren’t that good friends, unfortunately!

So, the stories of the old ladies and my parents are
what I mean by viewing death as a natural event. I hope they
help you to gain some wisdom.

Relevant to age and status

The fear of death is relevant depending on age and
status. No one wants to die young, of course. If you are,
however, old and have poor health, you might be surprised
to see yourself looking forward to passing over just like that
old Chinese lady I mentioned above. Those with easy
comfortable life do not want to die too quickly whereas those
whose lives are a long series of struggle and hardship might
see death as a blessing. It is all relevant depending a lot on
your life circumstances.


Viewers can extract and learn whatever they want
out of a film. To me, ‘Titanic’ was a particularly good film
because it depicted a true event, which could easily happen to
absolutely anyone and anywhere, even now. When death is

Supawan P. Panawong Green 169
inevitable and only a few breaths away, you have a choice of
either accepting it and getting on with it just like going
through childbirth, or you let fear take you over and try to run
away from the claw of death as best as you can. No matter
what your choice is, the end result is the same – death.

Now, please think very carefully; if you were under
such critical circumstances where there is no escape whatsoever,
which is your best choice? Presumably you have seen the film,
Titanic. Your first choice is to accept death, be prepared and
get on with it with some degree of dignity and hopefully
peace. The characters who chose this first choice were the
captain, the architect of the unsinkable ship, the old couple
who lay embracing each other in bed, the mother who tucked
her young children in bed, the musicians who play the music
till the very last moment and the priest with all his faithful

The other choice is to struggle to flee the doomed ship
with a glimpse of hope to survive. By doing so, you will be
taken over by sheer terror and the absolute fear of death,
which was the choice that most characters chose in this film.
I know that they are not much of a choice to choose from but
if you must choose, which one would you take?

170 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
Do you know what is around the corner?

Since the turn of this millennium, humanity has
witnessed enough overwhelming human catastrophe either
caused by terrorism or natural calamity. The 9/11 event in
2001 and the Boxing day Tsunami in 2004 should be the wake
up call telling us loud and clear that it could be anyone of us.
I do not view it as a curse, an omen or some bad luck in
talking about it. I can only see the healthy side of it; such wake
up call should make us be prepared for the eventual incident.
The truth is we cannot know what is around the corner. Life
is full of surprises and often they are really nasty bombshell
that you don’t wish on anyone especially not on us and our
loved ones. Even though you are psychic and know the future,
it doesn’t alter an iota. If your number is up, that’s the end of
it. That’s why it is important for you to learn all these facts of
life and try to overcome your fear of death. Better still is to get
out of this tedious cycle of rebirth for good. That’s why I am
here to help you.

When death is inevitable

If I must answer the above question concerning how
I would choose to die, I would undoubtedly choose to die
with some degree of peace and dignity. So would you and
many others, I am sure. The trouble is our wishful thought is

Supawan P. Panawong Green 171
one thing, reality can be something else. But this is also the
whole point; you can be trained to die in peace with all your
dignity intact. I will tell you exactly what you can do if you
want to leave this world as peacefully as possible. Once again,
I know it sounds a bit outrageous, but this is something that
I can really promise you. What you have to do right now is
trying to pass all the requirements by following the guidelines
in this book.


While most people like to assume that no one wants
to die, there are, indeed, certain people who don’t share the
idea. Euthanasia or mercy killing is a subject that has been
debated widely in the past decade and the supporters have
been trying so hard to legalise this action. There are people
who want to die in real life. Holland is the first country in
the world to legalise euthanasia (December 2000) although
mercy killing has been practised illegally since 1973. More than
3,000 people were helped to die by Dutch doctors last year
including an 89-year-old who was not ill but merely said he
was ‘tired of life’.13 In the same article was a moving story of
a 46-year-old mother who had four children and had been
suffering from MS. She said:

Daily mail Saturday December 2, 2000

172 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
“The news from Holland gave me such hope. Now
people like me who want to choose the time of their death are
at last pushing to an open door. When the game is up, you must
have the right to leave the field. I will know when enough is
enough and I want the right to say so. I know that the God
I love is compassionate and won’t hold an act of euthanasia
against me.” She has already planned the kind of death she wants
and speaks about it the way people talk about a wedding.

When we are young and healthy, death is another world
away but we are all potential victims to illnesses. Not until
we are the very sick patient ourselves can we truly understand
why some people welcome death. I also think of the recent
great discovery of humankind, the Human Genome Project
which can offer a human life span of up to 1000 years. I suppose
we have no idea how we should feel when we can truly live
pass a few hundred years. But I think the profound story of
the 89-year-old man who was simply ‘tired of life’ can sum up
a lot. Don’t you think? I also believe that many old people
are tired of life too but they don’t have enough courage to
admit and be honest about it. That is because the western
culture doesn’t allow people to do so.

As I am writing this topic, the headline on British news
today (12/2/07) is about a 30 year old woman and wife who
has been suffering from an illness all her life and in constant

Supawan P. Panawong Green 173
pain. She has attempted suicide a few times but failed. She now
wants to take her case to court so that her lawyer can argue
for her why she has enough of living and wants to end her
misery. Kelly hopes that the jury would understand and let
her doctor assist her to die successfully without facing
a criminal charge. The news also reported that there was
another British lady who went to Zurich so that she could have
euthanasia treatment. Following Holland, Switzerland and
Belgian are two more countries where euthanasia is legalised.
As for Kelly, she sees no reason why she has to do that. She
would rather die in the home environment surrounded by her

When the Buddha says life is suffering, he really means
life is suffering. It is a matter of time before you can truly see it.

Hypocritical attitude

I myself have no objection to euthanasia. Think of this
story: a father and son went mountain climbing and the son
fell off the cliff. The branch of a tree went straight through his
chest. He was in great pain and it was just a matter of time
before he died. He begged his father for help. How could you
help your son if you were under such predicament? You know
that your son has no chance to survive. You can help your son
by either quickly ending his misery or you think that life is too

174 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
precious and you must prolong his life which prolongs his

We can be quite hypocritical regarding this issue because
we have done mercy killing to animals for a long time. When
we take sick animals to the vet’s and have them put down,
we view such action as being kind to our pets. But when it comes
to human, it is another story. I think if we can really work out
a way to practise euthanasia without it being abused, I see no
reason why it should not be legalised. This means that the doctor
or relative who wants to carry out this act must set their mind
on the compassionate level and genuinely want to help the
patient to end their pain. The patients themselves also must
prepare to leave this world in a very peaceful manner. However,
I also understand that this practice can easily be abused.

ICU culture

As a matter of fact, if we didn’t have modern technology,
euthanasia wouldn’t be an issue. This has a lot to do with the
ICU culture. Without the medical technology, sophisticated
drugs and ICU, very sick patients will die quite naturally. This
matter does not exist in the poor countries due to the shortage
of medical care. Euthanasia only comes into it because sick
patients are not allowed to die naturally.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 175
Enlightening culture

In the past, committed Thai Buddhists would treat
their passing away as a natural event. When they reached their
old age and illness arrived, they would refuse hospitalisation
and medication. They didn’t consider the ailment as an illness –
just simply old age! Should their conditions got worse, they
would refuse food. When the old people began refusing water,
the family would know that they were quite ready to leave
this world. This was a common practice and considered part of
our ancestral enlightening culture.


When there is no real wisdom, people tend to think
that saving life is always the right thing to do and therefore
we must keep this heart working. We sometime bend over
backwards to save lives and we don’t allow very sick patients
to die quickly. The trouble is if we don’t know the true purpose
of life, keeping the heart going is not really the answer to
saving life.

The real life saving is to help one to free this mammoth
prison of samsara or leaving this cycle of rebirth for good.
If you don’t, you will come back and repeat the process of

176 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
living and passing away exactly like what you are going
through now. This is not the first time one moans about being
tired of life. Sentient beings have been moaning for eon, yet
we don’t have a clue.

Due to the shortage of real wisdom in our contemporary
society, we create misconceptions about living, immortality and
eternity. We think it’s all about maintaining eternal youth
and extending our life span for as long as we could. Such
misconception encourages the ICU and the ‘nip and tuc’ culture.
To solve all these problems, you need to know your ‘true self ’,
which take you back to the beginning of this book again. Wise
people would know exactly how to live and how to die – in
peace and in dignity.

I will not confuse you at this stage; you will find out
more in my next book that physical death is really nothing
to worry about.

Facing death

Facing death is the loneliest experience on earth. No
one can possibly share such feelings with you. Even if your
most loved one is holding your hand and tells you to be brave,
you still have to face death alone and leave this world alone.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 177
Knowing how to handle that short moment just prior
to death is a skill that you can learn while you are living, one of
which is, first of all, to reduce the feat of death. Once you have
less fear, you won’t be panic and a good dead can be arranged.
I am quite certain that all believers and non-believers, once they
are on the verge of passing over, they are curious to know
where they would be going next. I can’t see how people can get
round it without listening to the wisdom from the past.

So, let’s suppose here first that there is truly a soul which
survives physical death and you (your true self) have to move
on to the next dimension – whatever you want to call it. Let’s
assume further that there were indeed heaven and hell waiting
to greet you. If we can agree on this, I just want to make sure
that you can, at least, go to a good place, heaven perhaps. I
don’t think anyone wants to go to hell unless they are forced to.

Death drill

To guarantee a good send off, it resulted in me coming
up with a bizarre idea of how to prepare my Tai Chi students to
face the last moment of their lives. I let my students practise
what I call ‘death drill’. This might give you the creeps but
it does help.

178 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
You will either like it or hate it. I do not introduce it to
my beginners’ class unless it is towards the end of the term
when they have trained with me for some time. Even so, I used
to wipe away almost the whole class by just talking about
this issue. This made me realise how fragile western people are
as far as death is concerned. Nevertheless, I also had some
very positive responses in my advanced class when my students
told me that this drill could help them to overcome the fear of
death. Once, one of my students, Christopher from Austin,
Texas, even cheerfully requested me to play this game when
I was about to skip to do something else in class. It must be
very difficult for you to imagine what I do with my students in
class! Apart from Tai Chi, I do all sorts of other things too
from hockey-cokey to death drill!

Getting ready

Suppose at this moment you are my student and you
are taking part in this death drill with me. First of all, please
lie down and choose the position that you want to die in so
that you can improvise an inevitable situation when death is
only two minutes away. Close your eyes and imagine that
there are only two whole minutes left in your life. There is no
escape from death, you have to go through with it and that
is final. Let’s assume further that you are so lucky that your
death involves no physical pain at all or as little pain as

Supawan P. Panawong Green 179
possible and you are not in a coma either. Therefore, you are
still fully conscious.

Naturally, there will be many thoughts and feelings
rushing through your head and heart during those two minutes.
Among them are the fear and the worries towards all your
loved ones you are about to leave behind in this world. If you
are a very kind and caring person, this fear might take over
the fear of death itself. If this happens, you must tell yourself
to let go first because there is nothing you can do about it
now. Life goes on even after you die. Your loved ones will find
their ways to live and survive.

To be able to let go at this final stage means you
have practised letting go before while you were up and about.
If you have never done any letting go before, it is very unlikely
that you can detach your soul from your painful thoughts
and feelings during those two crucial minutes prior to death.
So, when I told you to detach, I assumed that you have
practised detachment before and you can do it. (The whole
contents of this book aimed to help you to letting go.) This will
prepare you for a good death and your spirit will travel to
a better realm.

If you, however, don’t worry about your loved ones
apart from the fear of death, you must think in the way I
guided you to do in this chapter. Tell yourself that death is

180 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
a natural event; everyone has to go through it all the same. Now
it is your turn, you are going to face it with great courage.

Following the guideline

I asked you to let go and view death as a natural event
so that you can regain your self-control as quickly as possible.
Then, follow those of guidelines below that are applicable
to you.
1. If you are a devout Christian and have a strong
belief in Christ and in God, you must focus your mind on
either ‘Christ’ or ‘God’. By chanting just one of the words
repeatedly can reduce your fear, calm your mind down and
allow you to be at peace. Do this until the last breathe of your
life comes.
2. If you are a pious Buddhist, you can either repeat
the word ‘Buddha’ or ‘Arahant’. Keep on chanting that word
until the last breath of your life comes.
3. If you are a void (big zero) believer, you must
focus your mind on the emptiness or void by chanting it.
4. If you have no belief at all, don’t let your mind
float around, fully focus on your breath until the last moment
5. If you cannot do any of the above and have too
much fear, chant the phrase ‘have no fear, go back to nature’.
This won’t be easy but try it anyway.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 181
Although it is a bit premature to tell you the above, it
is necessary just in case something, God forbid, might happen
to you before you have a chance to learn more from me.
Should death be inevitable, at least you have some idea of
how to handle that last moment of your life and secure
yourself a good after life. I must emphasise again that letting
go cannot just happen at the snap of your fingers, it is like
bending a spoon, you must practise and learn to let go while
you are living.

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Chapter 10

Dealing with death, continued

I decided to carry these following stories – all link to
death – to this chapter instead of making the previous chapter
too long. They were recorded in the Tripitaka (the Buddhist
scriptures) and therefore were based on real historical events
which have been told and heard countless times among devout


Among the female lay supporters during the Buddha’s
time, Visakha played the most important role and did a great
deal in helping the Buddha establish Buddhism, one of which
is building a temple called Pubbarama.

Although Visakha could let go of her material valuables
so easily, when it came down to losing her loved one, she
struggled to set her heart free. Sadly, Vanna, her favourite
granddaughter, was hit by a serious illness and died at young
age. According to the ancient Indian tradition, whenever anyone
died in the family, it was a custom for the elder relatives to soak
themselves in the river so that all the sin could be washed away.
After Visakha submerged herself in the river by the temple
where the Buddha was residing, her fine clothes and hair
were dripping wet. Visakha was struck down by grief in losing
her beloved granddaughter so she didn’t even go home and
get changed; instead, she went straight to see the Buddha. The
Buddha looked at the grief-stricken Visakha with kindness and
“Visakha, if all the people in Savatthi were as good
as Vanna, your beloved granddaughter, would you wish for
them to be your children and grandchildren and would you
love them all the same?”
“If all the people in Savatthi were as good as Vanna,
I would, of course, like them to be my children and I would
love them all the same, my Lord,” Visakha answered.
“Now, tell me Visakha, how many people die each
day in Savatthi?” asked the Buddha.
“Well, some days there are about a hundred or so
but other days there might be just nine or ten. Nevertheless,
there is at least one who dies each day.” Visakha tried to give
the best answer.
“Now then Visakha, if it is so, does it mean that
you have to get soaked, wet and in tears like this every day?
There won’t be any day that your clothes and hair will be dry
at all and so with your tears. Isn’t it true?”
Visakha listened to the simple logic that the Buddha
gave her. She went silent for a short while and slowly nodded

184 The User Guide to Life...The Moral Diet
her head in terms of understanding the meaning of those simple
words. She dried her tears and said:
“It is true, my lord. If I love all the people in
Savatthi just like I love my granddaughter, there will not be
any day that I can stay dry; I would have to soak myself in
the river every day.”

“Visakha, can you see that where there is love, there
is suffering, grief and sorrow when you lose your loved ones.
If you love a hundred people, your grief will mount up to
a hundred-fold. If you love ten people, your sorrow will mount
up ten-fold accordingly. The more people you love, the more
grief and suffering you will have to bear when you lose them.
That’s why I teach my disciples to go beyond love so that
there won’t be any suffering to bear,” the Buddha explained.

Visakha was very impressed by the teaching of the
Buddha and said: “I do not wish to have a big family anymore.”
That simple logic helped her shift the weighty grief off her
chest. She thanked and paid respect to the Buddha and went

The Venerable Katjayana

Ven. Katjayana was an Arahant (the fully enlightened
one) and one of the Buddha’s disciples who had helped to
propagate Buddhism while the Buddha was still alive. Once he

Supawan P. Panawong Green 185
arrived at a kingdom whose king was in deep sorrow due
to losing his beloved wife. The king had previously asked
a sculptor to carve an image of his wife out of fine marble and
he spent days and nights by the lifeless statue. One of the
subjects had informed the king that the Buddha’s disciple
who was also a fully enlightened one had come to town. The
grief-stricken king was overjoyed and hoped right away that
the enlightened monk might be able to bring the life of
his beloved wife back. It is quite normal for people who are in
great desperation to think that miracles might happen to them.

Katjayana was brought to meet the king at the palace.
The king was so happy because his heart was filled with high
hope. He told the worthy monk that he would do anything at
all to help the monk retrieve the life of his dearest wife.
Katjayana did not say much. He looked at the king and
gently asked:
“Your majesty, could you please go into your garden
and kindly break off a branch from that big tree for me.”

Thinking that the branch of a tree was part of the sacred
ritual, the king quickly rushed into his garden and broke
a branch off the tree as requested. He came back to the monk
with sparkling eyes and a smile on his face that had vanished
ever since his wife died. Katjayana took the branch from the
king. He then looked attentively at the king who was waiting

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patiently for the next move. Then, Katjayana raised the branch
up with both his hands and offered it back to the king and said
very calmly:
“Now, your majesty, please take this branch and
put it back on the tree.”
The king did not quite understand and said:
“But you can’t do that. The branch has already
been broken off. There is no way I can put it back like before.”
Then, Katjayana kindly said to the king:
“Could this be the same answer for your dead wife,
your majesty?”
The king looked at the branch in his hands and tried to
digest the meaning of those few simple words. Although the
answer was not what he had anticipated, it helped him to bring
some sense back to his life. He nodded his head slowly showing
that he could understand what the monk had tried to tell him.
He then thanked the worthy monk and invited him to come
back to the palace for his alms on the next day before leaving

Katjayana took the opportunity to teach the king and
his subjects about the noble truth of suffering and how to end
suffering. The king finally got over his grief and became
a committed Buddhist ever since. So did a great number of his

Supawan P. Panawong Green 187
Kisa Gotami

According to the Hindu caste system, Kisa Gotami was
born in a family of the lowest caste. However, her beauty
had led her to meet a man in a higher caste who fell in love
with her. He married her and Kisa Gotami was among a family
who constantly looked at her with disdain. Her fate changed
for the better when she gave birth to a baby boy. For the
first time in her married life, since the birth of her son, she felt
happy in being accepted by her husband’s family.

Life, sometime, is full of cruel surprises. Sadly, her
happiness did not last very long at all. When the baby was
only eight months old, he died for some unknown reason. Kisa
Gotami was devastated. Apart from the pain that she had to
bear in losing her first-born, she could not imagine how she
would be treated by her husband’s family. In a state of a shock,
Kisa Gotami could not accept that her baby had gone
for good. She completely broke down. She held her baby
tightly to her chest from the early morning and wailed
uncontrollably. Later in the morning, she left home and asked
everyone she bumped into to help her bring the life of her baby
back. Some people looked at her with great sympathy but
some shook their heads, laughed and taunted her.
“You mad woman, your baby is dead. How can
you bring him back?”

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Kisa Gotami finally met a kind man who told her:
“You must go to the Veluvanna monastery and ask
to see the Buddha. He can help you.”
They were the first comforting words she had heard all
morning since she ran out from home, still clutching her dead
baby to her chest. She didn’t waste any time and ran straight to
search for the Buddha. Once she had arrived, she placed her
lifeless baby right in front of the Buddha and begged him to
help her.
The Buddha kindly looked at the distraught young
mother and said:
“Yes, of course, I can help you but you must do
something for me first. You must go to search for a handful of
cabbage seeds.”
The Buddha had not really finished what he was going
to say. Kisa Gotami quickly got up, was ready to go and get
some cabbage seeds with the hope that the Buddha might
want to make some kind of potion out of them. The Buddha
then quickly stopped her and said:
“Wait Kisa Gotami, wait, please listen to me
carefully first. I don’t want just any cabbage seeds. You must go
to find a household where no-one has died in that family
before. Only the cabbage seeds from such a family would help
you. Now, you can go, and bring your baby with you,” the
Buddha explained.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 189
The mother’s heart was filled with great hope. She
quickly dried her tears, picked her baby up and left the
monastery. She then knocked on every household door and
asked for a handful of cabbage seeds. But when she asked
them to confirm whether anyone had died in the family before,
she had to reluctantly return the cabbage seeds with great
disappointment. As the afternoon went on, Kisa Gotami could
not yet find a single family who never had anyone die before.
They were either grandparents, parents, uncles, aunts, brothers,
sisters or sons and daughters. She also found out that not only
old people die but young ones even newborn babies too can die
all the same. She began to realise that it wasn’t only her who
faced such a great loss in life. In fact, other people too were in
the same predicament as her and they had to bear the same
kind of pain and grief, no less than her at all.

By evening, the corpse of her baby began to smell
because of the heat both from the sun and her body. Only then
did she notice the weight of the dead baby in her arms. She
sat down with exhaustion and placed the baby on the ground
right in front of her. She looked at her dead baby but this
time from a much clearer perspective. Her tears had dried up
and she didn’t feel like crying anymore. She picked up her
son again and walked towards the river where people were
cremating their dead relatives. She too joined in with the custom
that had been passed down for endless generations in India.

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While she was watching the fire burning her baby, she was
surprised that she had not realised this fact of life any sooner.

That night Kisa Gotami went back to the Buddha. The
Buddha asked whether she had found any cabbage seeds at all.
“There were plenty of cabbage seeds around but
there were none from a family where no one had died before,
my Lord,” the young mother answered calmly.
The Buddha smiled a little and said kindly:
“I assume that you have learnt something about
life then.”
“I have indeed, my Lord.”
“Now, where did you leave your baby then?” the
Buddha asked with curiosity.
“I have already cremated my baby by the river,”
she answered.
“What would you like to do now then?” the Buddha
asked, although he knew that this young woman’s karma was
ripe enough to be enlightened.
Kisa Gotami by then realised that there would be no life
for her in her husband’s household. They were not going to
accept a daughter-in-law who had lost her firstborn son. They
would make her life hell for her. She then asked the Buddha to
be ordained as a Bhikkhuni. The Buddha accepted her. Kisa
Gotami then worked hard with her practice. Not long after
that, she was fully enlightened and became an Arahant.

Supawan P. Panawong Green 191
Simple teaching

We can easily relate to the above three stories which
happened during the Buddha’s lifetime. Dealing with grief due
to losing our loved ones is always difficult no matter what
time and age we live in. The pain of a mother who loses her
baby or a spouse who loses his or her life-long partner is still
the same pain as of those people thousands of years ago – no
more and no less. Nevertheless, I would like to urge you to
notice that neither the Buddha nor his disciple said anything
or did anything particularly extraordinary in helping those
people to understand death and overcome grief. They were
simple words with plain reasoning yet, extremely powerful,
which gave direct impact to the listeners. It was also very much
about saying the right thing at the right time. When people’s
minds are struck down by grief or other extreme emotion,
they cannot think straight and all reasons are out of the
window. Having someone to talk with can certainly help to bring
some sense back. As for Kisa Gotami, the Buddha knew that
her grief was too great that she couldn’t possibly understand
any teaching other than to find out the truth for herself.

The weaver’s daughter

Once the Buddha and his followers arrived at a place
called Arawi. It was a great honour to the Araweens and they

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gave the Buddha a great welcome by offering him and his
disciples wonderful food and requisites. The exalted one
returned his gratitude by giving the people a sermon. It was the
most auspicious day for the Araweens and the congregation
was packed with a big crowd. Among them, there was a fifteen-
year-old girl called Kumarika. She was the only daughter of
a local weaver.

The Buddha chose to talk about the mindfulness of
death. He said:
“Listen to this, Araweens: life is impermanent but
death is certain. It is definite that every one of us must die one
day, sooner or later. Death is the end result of every life. Thus,
you should all have mindfulness of death. Those who have never
thought about death before, when death arrives, you will be
terrified and taken over by fear as if you were facing a fierce
and angry animal. On the other hand, people who always
practise mindfulness of death will not be startled and afraid
when death arrives.

“People’s lives are very short. We all have to move on to
the next life; quickly do your good deeds and lead a holy life.
There is absolutely no one on earth who can choose not to die.
Even people who live a long life may only reach a hundred
years old. There are very few who can live longer than that.
You must not be complacent and feel proud that you might
have a long life. You must quickly do good karma as if there

Supawan P. Panawong Green 193
is fire is on your head and you must quickly put it out. You
should have mindfulness of death and be glad that you can live
until this very moment and that no danger has yet come to
harm you. That’s why you must listen to the words of all

“How often should you practise mindfulness of death?
One might think that it is often enough to be mindful of death
every day, every half a day or even every hour. You are wrong
if you think that is frequent enough. Ideally, mindfulness
of death should After the sermon, the Araweens paid their
respects to the sublime Buddha and went home to their work
and the struggle to make ends meat. They soon forgot about
the teaching, but not Kumarika. While she was walking home,
she thought to herself:
“Oh! The words of the Buddha were magical and
most inspiring. I have never heard such beautiful teachings
before in my whole life. I must do exactly what the great
teacher said. I will practise mindfulness of death.”

She then practised mindfulness of death both day and
night, at every breath as well as she could manage. She soon
found out that the mindfulness of death could really help her
to find inner peace and free her of binding fears. She gained
awareness and saw the sad truth of life, which revolved around
birth, ageing, illness and death. She kept the practise going for

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three years, gradually developed her skill and gained good

One morning, the great teacher, the Lord Buddha
Gautama telepathically looked out for someone whom he could
help, which was the tradition practised by all the Buddhas in
the past. He then saw Kumarika, the daughter of the weaver of
Arawi, enter into his mind. When he carefully looked into it,
the Buddha knew that Kumarika had taken his advice on the
mindfulness of death and she had done it for three years now.
The Buddha could foresee that she also had the dhamma habit,
which meant that she deserved to become a Sotapanna (the
first level of holiness). Thus, the Buddha told himself that he
should go to Arawi and ask the four questions to Kumarika,
which would lead her to reach the fruit of Sotapanna.

So the exalted Buddha along with his hundreds of
followers set off on a journey for Aravi. The news of the arrival
of the Buddha spread rapidly. The Araweens quickly came to
pay respect to the Buddha and looked forward to listening to
his teaching. Kumarika too was thrilled when she heard of the
news. Her heart was pounding with great joy and excitement.
“My father as well as my teacher has arrived. It has
been three years since I last saw the Lord Buddha who has
the golden complexion. Today, I will have a chance to see him
again and listen to his most inspiring teaching. “

Supawan P. Panawong Green 195
While she was getting herself ready to go out, her father
“Oh Kumarika, I am on my way to see one of my
customers now. He wants me to weave him a piece of fine
cloth for a special occasion. I have already started but I need to
find out a few more details about the pattern and I have also
run out of yarn. Can you spin more thread for me so that I
can carry on weaving when I come back?”

Kumarika did not expect her father to give her a job so
suddenly. She was very disappointed because her heart had
gone to be with her spiritual father, the Lord Buddha, but she
could hardly say no to her father for fear of getting herself into
trouble. She told herself that she had better stay and quickly
finish the work and then she could go to see the Buddha later.
She hurriedly spun the basketful of balls of cotton into yarn
to be ready for her father to use when he returned. Her mind
was, however, not with the work like it used to be. She was so
anxious to see the Buddha that she did not finish spinning all
the balls of cotton as she intended to do. She decided to leave
the last few balls of cotton behind.
“Father should have enough yarn to weave when
he returns. I will quickly come home to finish the rest of these
balls,” she said to herself. She then swiftly tidied and cleaned
herself up and headed for the Vihara.

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Meanwhile, the Araweens came to the Vihara with all
the well-prepared foods for offering to the Buddha and all his
disciples. It was a Buddhist tradition that after the meal, the
Buddha would return the gratitude by chanting the holy
words of blessing to the congregation (anumodana). It is a way
to rejoice and approve the meritorious deeds of the people.

When it reached the time of anumodana, the leader of
the congregation approached the Buddha. He expected to see
the great Lord handing his alms bowl to him so that the Buddha
could do the anumodana. The worthy one looked into the
congregation well packed with people. He could not see
Kumarika in the crowd. The Buddha then thought to himself:
“I have travelled thirty yojana14 so that I could
teach the daughter of the weaver. She has not yet arrived. I will
wait until she comes and then I will do the anumodana.”
The Buddha did not hand over his alms bowl to the
Araween leader. He sat in his most serene manner, looked into
the crowd and remained silent. When the Buddha was quiet, no
one else would move or whisper a sound. The silence gradually
spread to the whole of the congregation. Suddenly,
it was as if no one was there. If the Buddha refused to speak,
no one in the three worlds could make him talk. The silent

Yojana is the measure of the length of distance in ancient India. One
yojana is equivalent to 10 miles or 16 kilometres

Supawan P. Panawong Green 197
atmosphere went on for quite a long time until Kumarika
turned up and stood by the edge of the crowd near to the
entrance. She looked straight to the greatest teacher of the
world and was eager to admire his graceful appearance and
golden complexion. She could see that the Buddha stretched
his neck to look out for her and then everyone in the
congregation looked in the same direction as the Buddha.

Kumarika was an intelligent girl. For some reason, she
knew that the Buddha was waiting for her. She finally reached
the Buddha whom she had regarded as her spiritual father for
the past three years. She carefully paid great respect to the
Buddha and offered the basket with the reels of cotton to the
Buddha. The Buddha accepted the gift and put it down to one
side. He kindly looked at the girl and asked:
“Kumarika, where do you come from?”
“I don’t know, my lord,” she answered.
“Where are you going to?” the Buddha asked again.
“I don’t know, my lord,” she answered.
“Don’t you know?” the Buddha asked further.
“Yes, I do know,” Kumarika nodded her head.
“Do you know?” the Buddha asked again.
“No, I don’t know, my dear father.” Kumarika
slowly shook her head whilst she answered the last question.

No sooner than the conversation between the Buddha
and the girl had finished, the crowd showed their discontent

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towards the daughter of the weaver. There were angry reactions
and whispers among the crowd:
“How dare she talk nonsense to the Lord Buddha?
Why couldn’t she answer the truth that she came from her
father’s house?”

The Buddha knew about the angry reaction and the
harsh words towards the young girl. He then raised his hand
and the crowd went quiet again. The Buddha subsequently asked
the girl:
“What did you mean by saying that you didn’t know
where you came from?”
“I knew that I came from my father’s house but
I don’t know where I was before I came to be born in this
world, my lordship,” Kumarika explained.
“What did you mean by saying that you didn’t know
where you were going?” the Buddha asked.
“I knew that after I leave here, I will return to my
father’s home again but I don’t know where I will be going to
after I die from this world, my lordship. I don’t know whether
I will come back to be born as a human, an animal, a hungry
ghost, a hellish being or a heavenly being in one of the upper
realms sir.”
“And what did you mean by saying that you knew?
What exactly did you know?”

Supawan P. Panawong Green 199
“I know that I must die one day, sooner or later sir.
That is what I know for sure.”
“Then, you answered my last question by saying
that you didn’t know. What did you mean, Kumarika?”
“I meant that I do not know on which day I will die.
I also do not know how and where I will die, my lordship.”

The Buddha rejoiced at every answer clarified by the
weaver’s daughter. He then talked to the crowd:
“Listen to this, everyone. You blamed this girl
because you did not know the profound meaning of the answers
she gave me. Now that she has explained her answers very clearly,
I fully approve and bless her. She answered all my questions
correctly. Those who have wisdom can understand easily.”

The Buddha paused for a short while and looked around
at his congregation. He then continued:
“This world is utterly dark. The majority of the
people are still blind. There are very few people who could be
enlightened. There are very few people too who could go to
heaven. Most beings are trapped in the darkness just like
birds trapped in the net of a hunter. There are very few who
can break free from it. This world is completely dark not
because of the lack of sunshine but because of the ignorance
and the misunderstanding that people have towards their own
lives. People have been living in the darkness of ignorance until

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they have got used to it. Not until they have a chance to come
out of the dark and slowly experience the light will they reach
the point where they can compare the difference between
the light and the dark. Only then will they know that living in
the darkness of ignorance is full of danger, threat and hazard.
It is a very vulnerable and risky life. There is nothing pleasant
about it at all. On the contrary, living in the light of wisdom
can bring a great deal of joy, peace, true happiness and a chance
to witness the truth. It is a great shame that there is only
a handful of people who can see this.”

Immediately after the Buddha had finished his discourse,
Kumarika entered into the stream of holiness and become
a Sotapanna. Although the Buddha aimed to teach and helped
Kumarika to be enlightened, a great number of people in the
congregation also gained wisdom from his teaching. They were
very pleased and rejoiced in the worthy one.

When the crowd dispersed, Kumarika hurried to return
home and intended to finish the job that she had left undone.
When she entered the room, she saw her father sitting in front
of his hand loom. Apparently, he had dropped off to sleep
while his right hand was still holding the flying shuttle. Kumarika
did not want to disturb her weary father. She quietly sat down
by her basket with a few balls of cotton left in there and
was going to spin more yarn for her father. Suddenly she

Supawan P. Panawong Green 201
dropped the wooden reel on the floor, the loud noise woke
her father up. Whilst the weaver was trying to gain full
consciousness, he automatically threw across the flying shuttle
in his right hand. Without full control of what he was doing,
the flying shuttle did not stop and flew straight out from the
other end of the loom. The sharp end of the needle went straight
into the chest of Kumarika who was sitting on the left hand
side of the loom. She screamed with a loud noise. The father
got up and rushed to his only daughter who by now was lying
flat on the floor. She was covered with blood. The father did
not know what to do and shouted out for help. The doctor
came but there was nothing he could do for her. She had died

The weaver cried out with immense guilt and pain at
losing his only daughter at such a tender age. He could not face
such a huge loss nor could he live with so great a shame. He
knew that the Buddha must still be at the Vihara. He quickly
left to search for him as he was certain that the Buddha was the
only one who could help to take away his immense suffering.

Sitting and sobbing uncontrollably in front of the
Buddha, the despairing father asked the Buddha for help. The
exalted one looked at the poor man with great kindness and
gently consoled him with the words of truth.

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“Listen carefully Pesaka:
Please do not be so sad. The length of this samsara is so
long that no one can possibly know the beginning and the
end of it. We all have lost our loved ones before. This is not the
first time that you have lost your dearest daughter. The tears of
people who have suffered because they lost their loved ones
somewhere in this samsara are as much as the water in the
ocean, if not more. At this moment, your daughter has already
become a Sotapanna. She has known the way to get out of
samsara. She will not be born in any realm lower than that of
human-beings. The gateway to hell has completely shut down
for her. You must not worry.”

The weaver attentively listened to the Buddha’s
teaching, which was full of good reasons. Unlike three years
ago when he did not think much of the sermon, now he could
absorb all the profound meaning of the dhamma, which
penetrated his heart. Suddenly, the grief and deep sorrow were
lifted off his chest. He decided to follow the footsteps of the
Buddha and humbly asked the worthy one to ordain him.
Pesaka worked very hard with his practice and not long after
that he became an Arahant, a fully enlightened one who has
permanently left samsara behind.

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